Saturday 16 December 2017

The star of my new novel? Me, myself and I. . .

The new novel by controversial French writer Michel Houellebecq features a depressed, alcoholic, badly-dressed and foul-smelling author called . . . well, Michel Houellebecq.

The resemblances don't end there. In this latest novel, La Carte et Le Terretoire (published this week in France), the fictional Houellebecq lives in a tumble-down house near the Shannon with the "worst-kept lawn in Ireland", whereas the actual Houellebecq resided for some years both in Cork and along the Shannon before moving recently to Spain.

Born on the island of Reunion in 1956, Houellebecq has always courted outrage -- an interview he gave to coincide with his 2001 novel Plateforme saw him charged with racism for describing Islam as "the most stupid of all religions".

He has also been accused of fascism and pornography, while his mother wrote a book denouncing him as "a liar, a parasite and someone who has done nothing with his life except cause pain to those around him".

And now, with this new book, he's under attack for being self-regarding, though he follows a line of writers who've referred to themselves in their own books: John Fowles in The French Lieutenant's Woman; Martin Amis in Money; and, most recently, Jonathan Coe in The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim.


Writing in the Guardian, Irish novelist Paul Murray, whose Skippy Dies just missed the cut for the Man Booker prize shortlist, names moviemaker David Lynch as his artistic hero.

And the reason? "He's violent and original, but most of all he's brave. It takes real courage not to make sense."

Well, Lynch is certainly good at that. I hadn't the foggiest notion what Twin Peaks was about and after an hour of both Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive I was similarly nonplussed.

But here's the thing (and call me old-fashioned if you like): I thought that the whole point of art, whether in literature or movies, was to make some kind of sense. Ah, well, another preconception shattered.

Irish Independent

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