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The book is set in France in the year 2022 where, with the help of the socialists, a Muslim political party is elected into government. This is the premise of Houellebecq's controversial novel. The book follows an academic called Francois who teaches literature at a university and specializes in the work of Huysmans. Before long, only Muslims can teach at the University and he loses his job. Meanwhile, education is altered and women are taken out of the workforce.

Francois struggles with his place in the world and seeks answers. Like in most of Houellebecqs books, he finds none, and only acknowledges the futility of western civilisation. And that's what the book is about: the west's slow march into irrelevance. Some have accused Houellebecq of stoking the fires (the book was published the day of the Charlie Hebdo massacre) but that's too simplistic. As I said, this is far less a criticism of Islam and far more a criticism of the West and its atomised and directionless culture. Not to mention its apparent willingness to sleepwalk into obscurity.

I must say I didn't find the transformation of French society from secular to Muslim very convincing and Houellebecq doesn't spend much time justifying that. Most speculative novels of this nature would have involved a slow build up of some kind but since it was published in 2015, Houellebecq clearly isn't very interested in doing that. For him, this is clearly a satire where the sci-fi nature of the plot is somewhat irrelevant. He wants to play around with themes rather than give you a convincing dystopian narrative.

Truth be told, this was one of the most readable books I've ever come across. I fizzed through it. The story isn't that compelling and never really goes anywhere in terms of plot but the writing is wonderful and fluid, with short chapters that fly by as Francois explores art and religion and love and the death of Europe.


The bottom line is: if you kill your own culture, don't start moaning when something fills the void.

So many books lack the beauty and the balls of Houellebecq.





Edited by Hux

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