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Open Access Stillness and Slowness in the Work of Michel Houellebecq

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Despite his provocative reputation, Michel Houellebecq frequently favours images of stillness, calm and contemplation and his protagonists tend to reject work and agitation whenever possible. Houellebecq presents the rejection of desire as the only solution to the stresses of consumerism. His science-fictional futures are attempts to imagine a social organization free from desire, a position that invites parallels with a Buddhist worldview. Configuration du dernier rivage (2013) also has religious echoes: the repeated sense of a lost spiritual principle or metaphysical presence, even as the thirst for the eternal is dismissed as 'douteuse et path?tique'. This godlessness is further expressed in the barrenness of the spatial metaphors in this work, which often seem like a visualization of the experience of depression. A set of love poems in Configuration suggest that depression in Houellebecq's work might be re-interpreted as romantic grief. But the redemptive value of love in Houellebecq is limited by the failure to recognize its political value, as recently proposed by Alain Badiou.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • The Irish Journal of French Studies is an annual international refereed journal published by the Association des Études Françaises et Francophones d'Irlande. Articles in English, French or Irish are welcomed on any aspect of research in the area of French and Francophone culture, society, literature and thought. Articles published within the last two years are available free online to members and may be purchased by non-members. All other articles are available on an open access basis.

    Please note that the Print ISSN listed for the journal on this website applies to volumes 1 to 10, and part of volume 16. All other volumes are published, in their entirety, on-line only.

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