France honours its most provocative author 

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.” [ . . . ]

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Is France Showing Us What America’s Next Civil War Will Look Like?

“Everything I’ve seen so far out of France is singing loudly that, yes, it’s a small world, after all – and that what’s happening on the barricades is both a reflection of what’s going on in much of the developed world and a screaming alarm for what could come next.”

It’s October 2021. America is in a state of turmoil – so much so that the ongoing felony trial of disgraced former president Donald Trump seems only a footnote. The chaos of the 2020 election has meant no honeymoon for Beto O’Rourke, the 47th president, whose narrow win over the GOP’s Nikki Haley (the Republican convention in Charlotte having rejected President Pence) had only enraged both the right and an increasingly angry left, which was still insisting that Democrats had cheated Bernie Sanders out of the nomination at their divided, brokered convention.

Still, President O’Rourke had small Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, and – after a summer of record heat waves had left more than 250 dead in the Los Angeles wildfires and seen Hurricane Gigi swamp many of the same New Orleans neighborhoods that had been inundated by Katrina – the charismatic, Kennedyesque chief executive had convinced Congress to pass, by exactly one vote in each chamber, a 40-cent-a-gallon gas tax to promote solar and wind power and subsidize electric cars.

Within hours, angry truckers had parked their rigs across the entrance to every tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. In small towns across America, protesters – encouraged by Sean Hannity on Fox News and by fake stories on Facebook that the O’Rourke administration planned to reopen Trump’s Texas detention camps for immigrants and use them to imprison tax resisters – gathered at gas stations. Many of their rallies were infiltrated by the political fringes – neo-Nazis of the right and Black Bloc anarchists of the left – and there were scattered reports of violence. In Charleston, S.C., a CNN reporter was reporting from a full-blown riot when gunfire was heard in the distance, just a cannonball shot away from historic Fort Sumter.

Paris is burning.

You’d think the rapid decline of Western civilization would get more news coverage in America – normally, flaming barricades in the shadow of the iconic Arc de Triomphe and hundreds fleeing tear gas in the heart of the French capital might be considered must-see TV, especially when the other option is a panel of aging Watergate prosecutors – but the latest chess moves in the Trump-Russia scandal and the embattled White House continue to trump most other headlines [ . . . ]

Continue at COMMON DREAMS: Is France Showing Us What America’s Next Civil War Will Look Like?