Submission

Submission

Book - 2015
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In a near-future France, Francois, a middle-aged academic, is watching his life slowly dwindle to nothing. His sex drive is diminished, his parents are dead, and his lifelong obsession-- the ideas and works of the novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans-- has led him nowhere. In a late-capitalist society where consumerism has become the new religion, Francois is spiritually barren, but seeking to fill the vacuum of his existence. And he is not alone. As the 2022 Presidential election approaches, two candidates emerge as favorites: Marine Le Pen of the Front National, and Muhammed Ben Abbes of the nascent Muslim Fraternity. Forming a controversial alliance with the mainstream parties, Ben Abbes sweeps to power, and overnight the country is transformed. Islamic law comes into force: women are veiled, polygamy is encouraged and, for Francois, life is set on a new course.
Publisher: New York, New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9780374271572
Branch Call Number: FIC Houel
Characteristics: 246 pages ; 22 cm.
Additional Contributors: Stein, Lorin
Alternative Title: Soumission. English

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e
eusebius
Jan 30, 2020

Houellebec is not in the class of Jonathan Swift or Evelyn Waugh as a satirist. His prose is flaccid and monotonous. The chapter with the priest shows a fatal lack of imagination. Is he anti-immigrant? I don't care because he doesn't.

p
Pepperpotz33
Jan 09, 2020

Great read for me as a student of French literature. Submission to Allah obviously but also to the whims of capitalism. Women's submission to men also. I loved the references to Huysmans,French political parties,French countryside, food and academic posturing. Very funny in places but also forlorn in the tradition of Baudelaire. Very interesting discussions about Middle Ages, the EU and a Mediterrean Super State. Kept me thinking for days.

e
ea304gt
Jun 21, 2019

Wrongly slapped as Islamophobic, it is a well written extremely dark satire of the Western life style. Francois seems like a disguised Michel: living the decay on his own way. He realizes his spiritual void. Tries to fill it with Catholicism, just like J.K. Huysmans. He can't trascend via _deus ex machina_, he just gets an hypoglucemia attack. Islam is the next clone and it simply happens.
The idea of unifying al Europe _a la_ Roman Empire with Islam is an interesting idea. So is the idea of distributism, a midpoint between socialism and capitalism: the center of economy should be in the family: don't let a big company do what small individuals can do by themselves.
Beyond politics and religion, however, the core remains about nihilism and existentialism, quite French in other words. It asks at the end of the day one important question: is liberty really the ultimate goal for happiness? The West says yes. Our hearts might say otherwise.

m
missingchicago
Mar 12, 2018

One of the other commenters, gvenkatesh, writes, "However, it is the treatment of the "submission" part where the novel utterly fails. Neither the submission of the Man to the Government nor the submission of Woman to Man as the consequences of that "regime" in such a passive manner is plausible in a democratic country,..." What gvenkatesh, and many other people don't understand is what the title of the book refers to. Apologists for Islamic terrorists claim that the word "Islam" means peace, that Islam is a religion of peace and that therefore all those Islamic terrorists who scream "Allahu akbar" while murdering people are not acting in the name of Allah, that they do not represent Muslims. Apologists for Islam say that their battle cry "Allahu Akbar" means God is great. No, it means "God (Allah) is greater." Because they can murder someone then that somehow proves that their God is greater than our God of the Judeo-Christian view. Islam really means submission. It means that the world can only find peace through submission to Allah.

s
stewstealth
Oct 16, 2016

Though ostensibly about an Islamic takeover in France in 2022 this is just the setting. The novel tries to equate that women's submission to man is the same as man to religion. If you like Philip Roth you probably will like this otherwise it is probably better to pass. The translation seems to be well done and it is fairly short if you decide to read it.

s
StarGladiator
Aug 06, 2016

An interesting fictional premise which has occurred already in Algeria, Egypt and is now taking place in Turkey.
In Algeria, the Islamist extremist group won the election, but the more secular, or more moderate Islamic politicians overruled that election, and continued their rule [with violent attacks against them, of course].
In Egypt, after the Arab Spring events, the Muslim Brotherhood won the election, but were overthrown in less than a year, I believe [might have been longer???] with a military coup. In Turkey, with Erdogan, it is now happening - - traditionally in Turkey, the Deep State Strucuture engineered by Kemil Ataturk [taking advantage of the warrior-scholar cultural constructs in their society, the military serves as the secular force] takes over whenever the president becomes to religionist or extremist, but Erdogan early on replaced the secular command staff of the military, and appears to have masterminded a // failed coup \\ allowing him to further entrench his rule.

g
gvenkatesh
Apr 23, 2016

Very easy to read novel that can be finished in just a few sittings. Whether it is worth doing so is a different matter.

The premise is an Islamic "regime" take-over of France in the future through a democratic process when a Trump-like opportunistic, ambitious and deal-savvy leader but of an Islamic party architects a win via coalitions in a split election. The title refers to the "submission" to this regime in the aftermath.

The premise is an interesting one of what could happen in a democratic process when an ideology that may not be palatable to the majority can still obtain power through political maneuvering and a manufactured public narrative. It has some superficial resemblances to Trump's rise within a fractured GOP in the US. So the premise is not far-fetched by itself and could have served as a basis for a clever satire of the political process.

However, it is the treatment of the "submission" part where the novel utterly fails. Neither the submission of the Man to the Government nor the submission of Woman to Man as the consequences of that "regime" in such a passive manner is plausible in a democratic country, especially one in which increasing the working hours by a few minutes via government mandate (let alone such radical changes in education and role of women) can result in strikes that bring the country to a grinding halt. The author relies on far too many flawed and tortuous reasoning and a male protagonist whose life is dominated by his libido and fears of losing it (narrated in a crude Philip Roth-like manner) and hence persuaded by what the Islamic regime can offer him in this forced narrative.

The author's shallow treatment of academic intellectuals (no Kingsley Amis or David Lodge level of humor/satire here) can perhaps be explained by his confession at the end of the book that his knowledge of the academia is obtained by reading a book not having attended an University himself. One cannot help but wonder if his understanding of women is obtained primarily by reading a book as well.

l
lukasevansherman
Apr 20, 2016

First of all, I don't really see how this is satire (See a number of comments below and Adam Gopnik's comment in "The New Yorker" that Houllebecq is a "sincere satirist.") Satire has to be funny, and this is far from funny. I think Houellebecq thinks of himself as a provocateur and what could be more polarizing right now that writing about a future in which Muslims take over the government in France and enact Islamic law? What's maybe most striking about the book is that once you get past the initial furor of the subject, it's actually a rather dull book with a repulsive main character who seems like a leftover from the sick European novels of the 20th century (Camus, Gide, Mann). He may have an intriguing and divisive subject, but he does very little with it. That said, it is less terrible than the other books I've read of his, "The Possibility of an Island" and "The Elementary Particles." If this is the best France has to offer, well, I want my euros back!

c
CDesR
Apr 14, 2016

Incredibly disappointing. Satire at it worst.

a
athena14
Mar 26, 2016

Self-absorbed, self-pitying man. Boring book.

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e
ea304gt
Jul 05, 2019

ea304gt thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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