Michel Houellebecq’s new novel “Anéantir” (Annihiler) anticipates the French elections… in 2027

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‘Anéantir’, the eighth novel by French writer and poet Michel Houellebecq, could be variously translated into English as Annihilate, Destroy or Obliterate.

It was released in France today (Friday January 7) and anticipates the years 2026 and 2027, when “France [is] in decline”, but the bourgeois elites are not faring so badly. France in decline, moreover, is a bit of a leitmotif in the work of the 65-year-old author, often called the terrible child of French literature. .

The English version will not appear until the second half of 2022, but the Italian (“Annientare”), German (“Vernichten”) and Greek translations will appear between Friday and Tuesday (January 11).

Houellebecq, who cultivates an image of reactionary depression, poked fun at his own success in the only interview he gave for this publication, to the French newspaper Le Monde in late December.

“I write to be applauded. Not for the money but to be loved, admired.”

Loved and admired by many, sure, but raise his name in a French bar and you’ll immediately spark a debate. Everyone agrees that he is provocative.

Between misogynistic and xenophobic remarks, stings against contemporary cultural and spiritual mediocrity and sneers at the underclass, Houellebecq’s narrator spits out his usual tirade of bitterness.

French criticism is polarized, Mediapart is clearly not enthusiastic: “All these nauseating words are distilled in small touches, like in minor mode.”

Le Monde, on the other hand, finds finesse: “The most poignant pages of his novel are those where he manages to float, in the midst of loneliness and dereliction, fleeting gestures that make you cry”.

“They don’t seem to be talking about the same book,” journalist Daniel Schneidermann concluded after reading these two extreme reviews.

But it’s not just the content that’s causing a reaction to the new work. During the Christmas period, a scandal broke out.

Internet piracy made the book available before Christmas due to an alleged leak. Ebook blogger Hervé Bienvault followed the story.

Those who bought the novel on Friday were mostly men, according to AFP, which reports that customers were primarily interested in the “content”, not the subject.

The long-awaited release should start the year well for booksellers, while the previous one ended very strongly. Many of them had to explain to their hungry Houellebecq customers that no, until January 7, they weren’t selling the new novel.

Houellebecq and politics

The 2015 “Submission” details another France of the near future, where a Muslim president comes to power.

Always political, Houellebecq’s latest work, published by Flammarion, arrives at the start of the election year in France. And the novel begins with… a presidential election campaign.

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