Michel Houellebecq, the enfant terrible of French literature, was awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest civilian distinction, in the New Year honours list on Tuesday.
A forthcoming novel by the celebrated but controversial author predicts the doom of western civilisation. Seratonin, due out on Friday, focuses on the festering rage in provincial France that has exploded into the “yellow vest” protests.
Like his previous books, it is set to become an instant bestseller and is already being hailed as the biggest literary event of 2019. It is also likely to enrage those who object to the views that have made Houellebecq, 62, an iconic figure for the nationalist, eurosceptic Right.
The title of the novel, to appear in English in the autumn, refers to the main ingredient of an anti-depressant that causes its anti-hero, Florent-Claude Labrouste, to suffer impotence and nausea. Like most of Houellebecq’s protagonists, he is a thinly disguised version of the author himself.
At 46, fed up with his Japanese girlfriend and his job, Labrouste returns to his native Normandy, where he meets suicidal farmers, prevented from making ends meet by EU dairy quotas. Out of despair and fury, they take to the streets and stop traffic in “yellow vest” style.
Houellebecq’s bleak view of France and Europe is much in evidence. “No one in the West will ever be happy again,” he writes. “This is how a civilisation dies, without danger or drama and with very little carnage.” [ . . . ]
Continue at THE TELEGRAPH: France honours its most provocative author