the process is the artwork

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq

I know it’s risky to recommend a movie I haven’t seen yet, but since I’m a Houellebecq fan, I should at least mention that The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq is coming out this week. Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian) writes: “He is an extraordinary presence in this bizarre and very funny docu-fantasy, a sort of Euro-realist Curb Your Enthusiasm in which Houellebecq plays himself getting kidnapped by three tough-guy amateurs who imagine François Hollande will pay €20,000 (…) to rescue the eminent littérateur. The result is a deadpan and yet cheerfully offensive romp with scabrous and uproarious scenes, as our hero airs his provocative views to his captors. It’s a sort of upended Stockholm syndrome – they get to like him. This could be a pre-emptive mockery of possible jihadist attempts to punish Houellebecq for his perceived Islamophobia, or it’s inspired by an embattled Salman Rushdie getting to know his Special Branch minders. Or maybe it’s a meditation on the writer’s life: solitary, miserable, waiting for some external “ransom” event for validation.” (ref)

Here’s two of Houellebecq many misanthropic quotes from The Possibility of an Island:

“There was not only in me that legitimate disgust that seizes any normal man at the sight of a baby; there was not only that solid conviction that a child is a sort of vicious dwarf, innately cruel, who combines the worst features of the species, and from whom domestic pets keep a wise distance. There was also, more deeply, a horror, an authentic horror at the unending cavalry that is man’s existence. If the human infant, alone in the animal kingdom, immediately manifests its presence in the world through incessant screams of pain, it is, of course, because it suffers, and suffers intolerably. Perhaps it’s the loss of fur, which makes the skin so sensitive to variations in temperature, without really guarding against attacks by parasites; perhaps it’s an abnormal sensitivity of the nervous system, some kind of design fault. To any impartial observer it appears that the human individual cannot be happy, and is in no way conceived for happiness, and his only possible destiny is to spread unhappiness around him by making other people’s existence as intolerable as his own – his first victims generally being his parents”

“Thus human life was organized in a terribly simple fashion, and for twenty years or so, in my scripts and sketches, I had pussyfooted around a reality that I could have expressed in just a few sentences. Youth was the time for happiness, its only season; young people, leading a lazy, carefree life, partially occupied by scarcely absorbing studies, were able to devote themselves unlimitedly to the liberated exultation of their bodies. They could play, dance, love, and multiply their pleasures. They could leave a party, in the early hours of the morning, in the company of sexual partners they had chosen, and contemplate the dreary line of employees going to work. They were the salt of the earth, and everything was given to them, everything was permitted for them, everything was possible. Later on, having started a family, having entered the adult world, they would be introduced to worry, work, responsibility, and the difficulties of existence; they would have to pay taxes, submit themselves to administrative formalities while ceaselessly bearing witnesses–powerless and shame-filled–to the irreversible degradation of their own bodies, which would be slow at first, then increasingly rapid; above all, they would have to look after children, mortal enemies, in their own homes, they would have to pamper them, feed them, worry about their illnesses, provide the means for their education and their pleasure, and unlike in the world of animals, this would last not just for a season, they would remain slaves of their offspring always, the time of joy was well and truly over for them, they would have to continue to suffer until the end, in pain and with increasing health problems, until they were no longer good for anything and were definitively thrown onto the rubbish heap, cumbersome and useless. In return, their children would not be at all grateful, on the contrary their efforts, however strenuous, would never be considered enough, they would, until the bitter end, be considered guilty because of the simple fact of being parents. From this sad life, marked by shame, all joy would be pitilessly banished. When they wanted to draw near to young people’s bodies, they would be chased away, rejected, ridiculed, insulted, and, more and more often nowadays, imprisoned. The physical bodies of young people, the only desirable possession the world has ever produced, were reserved for the exclusive use of the young, and the fate of the old was to work and to suffer. This was the true meaning of solidarity between generations; it was a pure and simple holocaust of each generation in favor of the one that had replaced it, a cruel, prolonged holocaust that brought with it no consolation, no comfort, nor any material or emotional compensation.

– Michel Houellebecq. The Possibility of an Island.

And here’s a BBC interview: http://youtu.be/t97G3gRH_Rg

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