Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq (mēshĕl´ wĕl´bĕk), 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 Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Michel Houellebecq: Selected full-text books and articles

Michel Houellebecq: Humanity and Its Aftermath By Douglas Morrey Liverpool University Press, 2013
A Qualitative Stance By Klaus Nielsen; Svend Brinkmann; Claus Elmholdt; Lene Tanggaard; Peter Musaeus; Gerda Kraft Aarhus University Press, 2008
Fin-De-Siecle Tourism in Michel Houellebecq's Lanzarote By Ziegler, Robert Notes on Contemporary Literature, Vol. 39, No. 3, May 2009
The Genomic Imperative: Michel Houellebecq's the Possibility of an Island By Moraru, Christian Utopian Studies, Vol. 19, No. 2, Spring 2008
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Next Thing By Gopnik, Adam The New Yorker, Vol. 90, No. 45, January 26, 2015
Houellebecq's 'Submission': Islam and France's Malaise By Rosenthal, John World Affairs, Vol. 178, No. 1, May-June 2015
Michel Houellebecq: French Novelist for Our Times By Karwowski, Michael Contemporary Review, Vol. 282, No. 1650, July 2003
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.