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Converted by un confit de canard: Political Thinking in the Novel Soumission by Michel Houellebecq

Journal article
Authors Marie Demker
Published in European Review
Volume 27
Issue 4
Pages 591-599
ISSN 1062-7987
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 591-599
Language en
Subject categories General Literature Studies


From a certain perspective, literature is always political. Literature in a broad sense has been a source of uprisings and protest at least since Martin Luther nailed his theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517 - and probably much further back in history than that. Narratives are the most potent way to articulate both political praise and criticism within a given society. In his political satires, British author George Orwell reviled all kinds of totalitarianism and the idea of a socialist utopia. Swedish writer and journalist Stieg Larsson wrote explicitly dystopian crime stories targeting the Swedish welfare state. German novelist Heinrich Böll turned a critical eye on the development of the tabloid press and the use of state monitoring in German society. In the same tradition, Michel Houellebecq has been seen as a very provocative writer in his tone and in his use of political tools. He has articulated a nearly individual anarchist perspective combined with authoritarian and paternalistic views. In Soumission, Houellebecq uses the European idea of multiculturalism to explode our political frames from within. This article explores the perception of religion in Soumission, assesses the critique Houellebecq directs towards French society and European developments, and examines Houellebecq's perception of democracy and politics. The following questions are addressed: does Houellebecq's critique come from a classical ideological perspective? Does he describe any elements of an ideal society - even if only as the reverse of a presented dystopia? What kind of democracy does the text of Soumission support or oppose?. © Academia Europaea 2019.

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