Review of ‘Submission’ by Michel Houellebecq.

I tore through Houellebecq’s ‘Submission’, loved it, and shelved it next to Raspail’s ‘Camp of the Saints’. Truly a tale from the last days of empire.

Posted on Amazon…

If I had to sum it up in one sentence:

Francois, a cynical, intellectual bachelor, meanders alone through the self-indulgent, humanist suicide of Western Civilization, finally stumbling into a reason to go on living.

Some interesting quotations:

On the secular religion of democracy:
“I’ve always loved election night. I’d go so far as to say it’s my favorite TV show.” (p58)

On the despair of post-modern civilization:
“…The life of every Western woman. In the morning she probably blow-dried her hair, then she thought about what to wear, as befitted her professional status, whether ‘stylish’ or ‘sexy,’ most likely ‘stylish’ in her case. Either way, it was a complex calculation, and it must have taken her a while to get ready before dropping the kids off at daycare, then she spent the day e-mailing, on the phone, in various meetings, and once she got home, around nine, exhausted,… she’d collapse, get into a sweatshirt and yoga pants, and that’s how she would greet her lord and master, and some part of him must have known–had to have known–that he was f*****, and some part of her must have known that she was f*****, and that things wouldn’t get better over the years.” (p74)

On loneliness and aging:
“What would it be like when I was fifty, sixty, older? I’d be no more than a jumble of organs in slow decomposition, my life an unending torment, grim, joyless, and mean.” (p78)

On companionship:
“A couple is a world, autonomous and enclosed, that moves through the larger world essentially untouched.” (p107)

On the impotent, empty, neo-marxist media:
“Those progressive mummified corpses–extinct in the wider world–who managed to hang on in the citadels of the media, still cursing the evil of the times and the toxic atmosphere of the country… the left, paralyzed by (Ben Abbes’s) multicultural background, had never been able to fight him, or so much as mention his name.” (p124)

On the insular nature Western Civilization:
“All intellectual debate of the twentieth century can be summed up as a battle between communism–that is ‘hard’ humanism–and liberal democracy, the soft version. But what a reductive debate.” (p207)

On death of civilizations:
“I subscribed more and more to Toynbee’s idea that civilizations die not by murder but by suicide.” (p208)

On the scourge of the nation-state model:
“Nations were a murderous absurdity, and after 1870 anyone paying attention had probably figured this out. That’s when nihilism, anarchism, and all that crap started.” (p210)

On the fatal flaw of classical liberalism:
“Liberal individualism triumphed as long as it undermined intermediate structures such as nations, corporations, castes, but when it attacked that ultimate social structure, the family, and thus the birthrate, it signed its own death warrant.” (p221)

On Islamo-Marxism:
“Islamo-leftism, he wrote, was a desperate attempt by moldering, putrefying, brain-dead Marxists to hoist themselves out of the dustbin of history by latching onto the coattails of Islam.” (p224)

On the collapse of Europa and Rome:
“The facts were plain: Europe had reached a point of such putrid decomposition that it could no longer save itself, any more than fifth-century Rome could have done.” (p225)

On atheists:
“The only true atheists I’ve ever met were people in revolt. It wasn’t enough for them to coldly deny the existence of God–they had to refuse it…” (p204)

The novel can obviously be interpreted many ways. I read it as a scathing indictment of secular-humanism and its attempt to replace family and divinity with the secular worship of equity, democratically-defined morality, and sovietized super-bureaucracy. In Submission, France accepted Islam–and all its backwardations–because it gave the people a reason to live that transcended the next sexual climax, drug-induced high, or national anthem chorus.

Finally a quote on authors:
“An author is above all a human being, present in his books, and whether he writes well or very badly hardly matters–as long as he gets his books written and is indeed present in them.” (p5)

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