Rating: 3 out of 3
A regular reader of mychitalka might have noticed that I give three out of three ratings very rarely. What is a three out of three rating, in my estimation? It is a book that leaves me stunned, speechless and to the point where I can do nothing else but think about the book for hours and sometimes days. The essence of the book haunts me, it has made its mark on me, and has forever become a part of my thoughts, a part of my inner world.
Obviously, there are few books that can ever meet this high qualification. This is especially true of contemporary novels, and so...I was pleasantly stunned, moved, shocked, blown away, etc. etc. etc. etc. to add one more book to the list of books that meet my highest standard. And this book is, I can say with full sincerity, perhaps the best contemporary book that I have read; that is the point to which I have been impressed.
And so, the book's title? "Submission". This is the (in?)famous French author Michel Houellebecq's latest offering. Now I would usually preface a book review with some details from the author's biography, but no- not in the case of M. Houellebecq whose private life has been muddled and maligned enough in the press. His works have been misinterpreted, misconstrued numerous times by people who undoubtably have either not read or not understood what he has been trying to say. In fact this book, "Submission" has been labelled as racist, as decadent, as who knows what, but I can say that it is none of that. It is, in brief, a brilliant, concise and captivating summary of the ultimate problems facing Western society.
The book and M. Houellebecq have been rather unfairly labelled in the press as Islamophobic, given that the book is set in a not-so-far-off alternate future wherein France elects its first Muslim majority government. Though the ruling government is ultimately moderate, the changes lead to a growing islamization of society.
This having been said, however, my reading of the book is not that it is a criticism of Islam. The book instead points to the real issue; the impotence, the lack of identity, and the lack of social cohesion which have plagued Western society, particularly since the recession of Christanity. Without a uniting belief like Christianity, a civilization will ultimately fade and be absorbed into a civilization that is more robust and united.
Even before the book reached its powerful conclusions, I was drawn in by the captivating writing. I was highlighting gems of writing here, there and everywhere... Houellebecq is really a reader's author. His prose makes you feel so close to him, as if you were in the presence of a friend, and the book- far from being a dry, political treatise, was a pleasure to read. I was disappointed, in fact, to finish it so quickly.
I expect that Houellebecq's writing may not be for everyone, and some may take issue with his fearlessness to tackle some very serious issues facing society, however, for those who appreciate the 'idea' novel, I couldn't recommend more a read of "Submission".
Houellebecq is definitely an author that my chitalka will be returning to in the future. (I read the original in French but the book is already available in English).