Posts Tagged ‘Michel Houellebecq’
September 21, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
A cultural news roundup.
February 25, 2011 | by Lorin Stein
I’m remarrying at “a certain age.” My mother once said “You’d make some man a lovely wife if you weren’t a writer.” We can chortle at this or, do you think, we can agree that to have a life partner, male or female, hunkering down on a subject, translating perception into the written word, is difficult to live with à la longue? And how can we be authentic but also companionable in an acceptable key? —Jane Merrill
First of all, felicitations and lots of luck. I think living with somebody, à la longue, is pretty tricky no matter what he or she does for a living. So they tell me. The downside of writers, I gather, is that they spend all day alone (which makes them slightly crazy by supper time), suffer from writer’s block (ditto), and by and large are not much help when it comes to paying the rent. But many of you are such good company! And you ask such good questions! If you discover the golden mean of authenticity and companionability, I hope and trust you will let us know. (Maybe in your next book?)
Last year, I first read of Houellebecq in The Paris Review, whose Whatever and The Elementary Particles I loved. Currently, I’m enjoying Le Tellier’s Enough About Love. Can you recommend more contemporary French fiction in English translation? Also, is there a time line for an English translation of Houellebecq’s latest? —Peter S., Saint Paul, MN
I treasure Houellebecq, but I’m having trouble finding a critical opinion, in English or in French, that can really explain and defend the merit of the work. Any suggestions, links? Who are the best French critics nowadays? —Alex
Peter S., the latest issue of The Review of Contemporary Ficton is devoted to the publisher P.O.L.—source of much that is new and original in French letters today. I think it will interest you. One P.O.L. author, Édouard Levé, appears in our spring issue. (You will recognize him as the real-life source for the character Hugues Léger in Enough About Love.)
According to Houellebecq’s American publisher, The Map and the Territory is scheduled to appear in spring 2012. And while we’re on the subject: Alex, check out Ben Jeffrey’s essay in The Point and Sam Lipsyte’s in The Believer.
Have a question for The Paris Review? E-mail us.
November 12, 2010 | by The Paris Review
Journal of an Ordinary Grief, by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, is a mixture of memoir, history, dream dialogue, and political polemic. Originally published in Arabic in 1973, it has now been translated for the first time into English by Ibrahim Muhawi (who also translated Darwish’s genre-bending memoir of the Beirut war, Memory for Forgetfulness). Darwish’s prose is a miraculous, quicksilvery substance, slipping from lyricism to analysis to Beckettian humor in the space of a paragraph. His subject is Palestinian life under occupation, and this is one of those rare works able to register the complexities of that experience while also being politically and artistically uncompromising. —Robyn Creswell
This week I read my favorite essay ever on (what else?) Michel Houellebecq. It’s by Ben Jeffrey, and it can be found in The Point, a Chicago magazine devoted to literary and cultural criticism. I just took out a two-year subscription. —Lorin Stein
I picked up Montauk, the slim novel by Max Frisch, at the recommendation of a young writer. I’m now obsessed. Frisch’s writing has a way of sticking in my head, and, I’ve discovered, slipping into my dreams. —Thessaly La Force
November 9, 2010 | by Nelly Kaprielian
Now it’s midnight: We’re at the Montana drinking vodka with some kind of blue mint thing in it—“we” being a small gang rounded up by Frédéric Beigbeder after dinner. No way is the novelist and former talk-show host (one of our more energetic littérateurs) going to let his friend Michel crawl into bed with his Goncourt. “Between Michel getting the Goncourt and Virginie Despentes winning le Renaudot,” Beigbeder exclaims, “a whole generation—our generation—has finally won!” There's a brief silence, and we must all think the same thing without saying it: If we’ve won and there's nothing to fight for, it’s probably downhill from here.
Of course, we can always wait for Houellebecq to get the Nobel. “After France, the world!” jokes Beigbeder, and everybody’s quick to raise a glass. A colleague from Les Inrocks joins us and immediately falls into a passionate discussion with Michel. When I ask Sylvain Bourmeau (an editor at France’s most important news site, Mediapart) what’s got them so worked up, he tells me “charcuterie.” And in fact, when we were all crammed into a car on the way to the Montana, Michel held forth with great precision on the subject of his car (sorry, don’t ask me the make); it occurred to me that this is what makes him so deeply charming and also, perhaps, part of what makes him such a powerful novelist: his capacity to be completely present, without any irony, whether the subject is literature, feelings, or cars. Later, a blond angel of Russian origin absconds with him, once he’s already half-asleep. This would be Maria, the young woman who served as a model for the character of Olga in La Carte et le térritoire. “All my characters are here,” Houellebecq joked during the dinner thrown in his honor at La Mediterranée. He then asked them to rise: Beigbeder, Maria, and his editor, Teresa Crimisi, who shares with Houellebecq a very sportsmanlike air of victory—all calm joy, no bragadoccio.
November 8, 2010 | by Lorin Stein
Michel Houellebecq has finally received the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary prize. As Susannah Hunnewell suggested in our current issue, the honor is overdue. Click here to read the most in-depth interview with Houellebecq available in English.
As our diarist Nelly Kaprielian reported last September in The Paris Review Daily, Houellebecq is still living hard. He has aged visibly in the last couple of years. He even tells her that his latest novel, La carte et le territoire, may be his last. We hope and trust that time will prove him wrong.
In the meantime, we send our most heartfelt congratulations.
September 16, 2010 | by Nelly Kaprielian
This is the second installment of Kaprielian's culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
11:00 A.M. Trying to write my column. I got an e-mail from Michel H. asking me not to put the photos of him bare-chested on the cover for September 8. It’s too bad, those photos are the best by far.
11:15 A.M. Still trying to write my column (nothing to say, really). Get a phone call from the French publisher of Bret Easton Ellis's new novel, Imperial Bedrooms. (It’s such a great novel. I know American critics don’t like him. As we say in French, “nul n’est prophète en son pays.”) They’re very cool about it, but they just want to let me know how badly we've screwed up their plans. We put Ellis on the cover of our rentrée issue, which came out August 18, and ran the interview he gave me in Los Angeles, but it was a month before the book came out. Usually we don’t do stuff like that. Nobody does. But this year the publishers decided to publish some very famous and interesting writers late in the season—no doubt to get coverage early on for authors who are less well known.
But the rentrée needs one or two locomotives if the books are going to get read—ditto the magazines. If you put a star on the cover, people are curious to read the article, then they read the other reviews, even of first novels. (That’s how each book finds its readers.) Also, I have to say, we’re the only magazine that puts writers on the cover at all. Everyone knows a writer doesn’t sell copies. That’s the sad reality. And it’s why I like working for Les Inrocks—we can still do it anyway.
2:00 P.M. Reading the new (to us) Philip Roth, Indignation. I interviewed Roth last year in New York. He’s one of the sexiest minds I’ve ever met. Les Inrocks are putting together a series on the greatest American writers. I wonder if an American magazine would ever do the same for French writers!
5:00 P.M. High heels? Not serious enough. An expensive bag? Too bling. Black trousers and black jacket? Too executive… Finally I opt for a black minidress and black ballerina slippers for our annual rentrée cocktail party. It takes place in a restaurant in the Panthéon cinema, decorated by Catherine Deneuve. Cozy, cool, lounge-y. Unless you're as tense as I am. It’s nice but always difficult to have all those people around. And will they even show up? If they do, what to say? How to behave? But I’m relaxing as the years go by. Now I know all you have to do is smile. And kiss. So I spend my evening smiling and kissing. And everyone is happy—me included.
10:00 P.M. Over. All the publishers came, lots of writers I like, and of course, my friends. How easy it all was. I no longer feel the need to look serious when a writer tells me his new book is about vibrators. And when a writer comes up to shake your hand, now I know that “Bravo!” is all you have to say about the book. They’ll understand. What I’ve learned over the years is that everybody needs to be loved. Absolutely everybody! And the love people need is endless. By ten, the Inrocks team seems satisfied with the party, so I can leave with my friends for Le Rostand, a café across from the Luxembourg Gardens. (Yes, Rostand is a café now. Le Balzac is a cinema. And Colette is a trendy boutique.) Read More »