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“Slouching toward Mecca”

Mark Lilla has written a great article on Michel Houellebecq’s new novel in last month’s New York Review of Books.

The bestselling novel in Europe today, Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission, is about an Islamic political party coming peacefully to power in France. Its publication was announced this past fall in an atmosphere that was already tense. In May a young French Muslim committed a massacre at a Belgian Jewish museum; in the summer Muslim protesters in Paris shouted “Death to the Jews!” at rallies against the war in Gaza; in the fall stories emerged about hundreds of French young people, many converts, fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq; a French captive was then beheaded in Algeria; and random attacks by unstable men shouting “allahu akbar” took place in several cities., is about an Islamic political party coming peacefully to power in France. Its publication was announced this past fall in an atmosphere that was already tense. In May a young French Muslim committed a massacre at a Belgian Jewish museum; in the summer Muslim protesters in Paris shouted “Death to the Jews!” at rallies against the war in Gaza; in the fall stories emerged about hundreds of French young people, many converts, fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq; a French captive was then beheaded in Algeria; and random attacks by unstable men shouting “allahu akbar” took place in several cities.

… Houellebecq had gotten into trouble a decade ago for telling an interviewer that whoever created monotheistic religion was a “cretin” and that of all the faiths Islam was “the dumbest.” The normally measured editor of Libération, Laurent Joffrin, declared five days before Soumission appeared that Houellebecq was “keeping a place warm for Marine Le Pen at the Café de Flore.” The reliably dogmatic Edwy Plenel, a former Trotskyist who runs the news site Mediapart, went on television to call on his colleagues, in the name of democracy, to stop writing news articles on Houellebecq—France’s most important contemporary novelist and winner of the Prix Goncourt—effectively erasing him from the picture, Soviet style. Ordinary readers could not get their hands on the book until January 7, the official publication date. I was probably not the only one who bought it that morning and was reading it when the news broke that two French-born Muslim terrorists had just killed twelve people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

Soumission will be published in English this fall, so maybe we can start a group reading after the Percy conference.

Comments

  1. What comes as a surprise is the fact that it comes as a surprise to so many people that the avatar of religious tyranny (Islam) should be attracted to the birthplace of secular tyranny (i.e. liberalism).

  2. Quin Finnegan says:

    Ah, yes … Liberalism, the God that Fails. Or something like that.

    Interestingly enough, I came across this passage in an article by Jill Lepore, maybe an hour before I read your comment. Seems relevant.

    “There is nothing in the United States Constitution concerning birth, contraception, or abortion,” Jay Floyd told the Court in Roe v. Wade, when the case was first argued, in 1971. Floyd spoke on behalf of the Dallas County prosecutor, Henry Wade, defending Texas’s anti-abortion statutes. When Sarah Weddington, representing Jane Roe, a Texas woman who sought an abortion, was asked by Justice Stewart where in the Constitution she placed her argument against the Texas statutes, she said, in so many words: Anywhere it would stick.

    MS. WEDDINGTON: Certainly, under the Griswold decision, it appears that the members of the Court in that case were obviously divided as to the specific constitutional framework of the right which they held to exist in the Griswold decision. I’m a little reluctant to aspire to a wisdom that the Court was not in agreement on. I do feel that the Ninth Amendment is an appropriate place for the freedom to rest. I think the Fourteenth Amendment is equally an appropriate place, under the rights of persons to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I think that in as far as “liberty” is meaningful, that liberty to these women would mean liberty from being forced to continue the unwanted pregnancy.

    JUSTICE POTTER STEWART: You’re relying, in this branch of the argument, simply on the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

    WEDDINGTON: We had originally brought this suit alleging both the Due Process clause, Equal Protection clause, the Ninth Amendment, and a variety of others.

    STEWART: And anything else that might be applicable?

    WEDDINGTON: Yes, right.

    But in the Court’s decision Justice Harry Blackmun, writing for the majority, located the right to an abortion in a right to privacy, wherever in the Constitution or amendments anyone cared to find it.

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/25/to-have-and-to-hold

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