Houellebecq, Michel mēshĕl´ wĕl´bĕk [key], b. 1958– or 1956–, French author, perhaps France's best-known contemporary novelist, b. Réunion as Michel Thomas. A literary pessimist and master of the politically incorrect, he is provocative, openly mysogynistic, and critical of Islam in his writings. His male protagonists are lost, despairing, and unfeeling, his female characters often unpleasant sex objects. He settled in Paris, publishing poetry at the age of 20 his early work also included a biographical essay (1991) on H. P. Lovecraft . His first novel, Extension du domaine de la lutte (1994 tr. Whatever, 1998), introduced his bleak view of French society. In the semiautobiographical Les Particules élémentaires (1998 tr. The Elementary Particles, 2000), two abandoned half-brothers are raised by a grandmother one becomes a sex-crazed adult, the other a scientist obsessed with human cloning. Grim, mysogynistic, yet often humorous, the novel was seen as a condemnation of the narcissistic 1960s generation and won him international fame. Houellebecq won the Goncourt Prize for La Carte et le Territoire (2010 tr. The Map and the Territory, 2011), the story of a successful painter and of a failed writer called Michel Houellebecq. Soumission (2015 tr. Submission, 2015), another dystopian novel, is largely a satirical critique of middle-class conformity its protoganist, a depressed middle-aged professor, lives in a France led by a Muslim president and undergoing Islamicization. Houellebecq's other fiction comprises Lanzarote (2000, tr. 2003) Plateforme (2001 tr. Platform, 2002), which portrays conflict between sex tourism and radical Islam in Thailand and La Possibilité d'une île (2010 tr. The Possibility of an Island, 2012), which explores the grim possibilities of human cloning. Ennemis publics (2008 tr. Public Enemies, 2011) is an exchange of letters between Houellebecq and the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy.
See studies by B. Jeffery (2011) and C. Sweeney (2015).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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