The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Michel Houellebecq’

Never Forget Houellebecq’s Corgi, and Other News

September 6, 2016 | by

A photo of Clément from Houellebecq’s show at Palais de Tokyo.

  • If you’re in Paris, you have only a few more days to catch Michel Houellebecq’s exhibition at Palais de Tokyo. Hot insider tip: bring a pack of cigarettes—you can smoke them on the premises. True, much of his art is devoted to his beloved pet corgi, Clément, who is no longer with us. (Miss you always, Clem!) But there’s also, as Chinnie Ding writes, plenty of art that wouldn’t feel out of place in the pages of The Map and the Territory: “Vaguely oceanic sounds and slowly throbbing lighting carry us through some corridors where Houellebecq’s photographs of anonymous terrain glow and dim to the steady soporific rhythm of a fogged-out distress signal or a drowsy peep show. An all-female island-themed soft-core short, La rivière (The River), 2001, directed by the author, plays in a carpeted baisodrome In the next room, eyes adjust to blindingly glossy souvenir place mats advertising scenic French regions, such as Guadeloupe and Bretagne, which tile the floor and rebrand the nation as one turquoise-skied terroir. [Robert] Combas has contributed several glinting, convulsive paintings that look like religious icons becoming unhinged. All this nervous enjoyment, culminating in a functioning smoking room, seems convinced of an unusable past and a fait accompli.”

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The Paris Review in Paris

March 14, 2016 | by

From the cover of our Summer 1968 issue—now, for a limited time only, not misleading.

The Paris Review hasn’t been headquartered in Paris since 1973—a cause of immeasurable confusion over the years. But this week, for once, our name makes sense: our editor, Lorin Stein, is in the City of Light. Though he’s not, to my knowledge, reviewing anything there, he’s speaking at two free events, and we invite our Parisian readers to attend.

On Tuesday, March 15, Lorin joins Russell Williams and Nelly Kaprièlian at the American University of Paris for a panel called Translating Houellebecq.” They’ll discuss the global reception, significance, and challenges of Michel Houellebecq’s Submission, which Lorin translated into English last year. The talk will be held in Room C-104, located in the AUP Combes building, at six P.M.; those looking to attend should write rwilliams@aup.edu to register.

On Thursday, March 17, Lorin and David Szalay appear in conversation at Shakespeare and Company. Szalay is the winner of this year’s Plimpton Prize, awarded for his novellas Youth, from issue 213, and Lascia Amor e siegui Marte, from issue 215. Their talk begins at seven.

We urge our French readership to join Lorin before he returns to New York and The Paris Review resumes its life as a misnomer.

Letter from Our Paris Editor

December 28, 2015 | by

We’re away until January 4, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2015. Please enjoy, and have a happy New Year!

Over the half century since The Paris Review moved its headquarters to New York, we have often relied on a Paris editor to bring us the literary news from France. These Paris editors have included, at different times, Robert Silvers, Nelson Aldrich, Maxine Groffsky, and Susannah Hunnewell. Our new Paris editor, Antonin Baudry, served the French government as cultural counselor in New York and Madrid, as president of the Institut Français, and as an aide and speechwriter to foreign minister Dominique de Villepin during the Iraq crisis, an experience on which he based a best-selling graphic novel and hit movie (released here as Weapons of Mass Diplomacy and The French Minister, respectively). We heard from Antonin earlier this week. —L. S.

Dear Lorin,

I’m writing you from the Café de Tournon, where the founders of The Paris Review spent so much time back in the fifties. It happens to be my local, too. Today I ordered a café crème instead of my usual espresso. I’m celebrating your decision to make me the Paris editor of The Paris Review. I admit it sounds bizarre to me, though it’s hard to say what exactly counts as bizarre these days, around here. In any case, I will strive to do my duty by our readers … whatever that may turn out to be. Read More >>

Letter from Our Paris Editor

December 2, 2015 | by

Over the half century since The Paris Review moved its headquarters to New York, we have often relied on a Paris editor to bring us the literary news from France. These Paris editors have included, at different times, Robert Silvers, Nelson Aldrich, Maxine Groffsky, and Susannah Hunnewell. Our new Paris editor, Antonin Baudry, served the French government as cultural counselor in New York and Madrid, as president of the Institut Français, and as an aide and speechwriter to foreign minister Dominique de Villepin during the Iraq crisis, an experience on which he based a best-selling graphic novel and hit movie (released here as Weapons of Mass Diplomacy and The French Minister, respectively). We heard from Antonin earlier this week. —L. S.

Dear Lorin,

I’m writing you from the Café de Tournon, where the founders of The Paris Review spent so much time back in the fifties. It happens to be my local, too. Today I ordered a café crème instead of my usual espresso. I’m celebrating your decision to make me the Paris editor of The Paris Review. I admit it sounds bizarre to me, though it’s hard to say what exactly counts as bizarre these days, around here. In any case, I will strive to do my duty by our readers … whatever that may turn out to be. Read More »

The Lesbian Pulp Novel, and Other News

November 20, 2015 | by

From a Penguin edition of Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, retitled Carol.

  • In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast has landed the number-one spot on the French best-seller list—spurred in part by an interview with a woman known only as Danielle, who said the memoir helps the French “hold high the banner of our values,” even if it was written by an American.
  • Speaking of Paris—look out, world. Houellebecq is on the Times Op-Ed page, up to his usual tricks: “Despite the common perception, the French are rather docile, rather easy to govern. But they are not complete idiots. Instead, their main flaw is a kind of forgetful frivolity that necessitates jogging their memory from time to time. There are people, political people, who are responsible for the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in today, and sooner or later their responsibility will have to be examined. It’s unlikely that the insignificant opportunist who passes for our head of state, or the congenital moron who plays the part of our prime minister, or even the ‘stars of the opposition’ (LOL) will emerge from the test looking any brighter.”
  • If you’d rather not read on, head elsewhere in the Times, where high-tech Japanese toilets are on parade. (And remember, gift givers, the holiday season is approaching.) “For those who own Japanese toilets, there is a cultish devotion. They boast heated seats, a bidet function for a rear cleanse and an air-purifying system that deodorizes during use. The need for toilet paper is virtually eliminated (there is an air dryer) and ‘you left the lid up’ squabbles need never take place (the seat lifts and closes automatically in many models) … Toto, arguably the industry leader (though other companies sell them), has tried over the years to get Americans to embrace the concept. Their latest bid to toilet-train the public is the Connect+ system of the Carlyle II 1G with s350e washlet. The model offers the standard comforts, along with something Toto calls SanaGloss, a glaze that seals the porcelain and repels waste.”
  • But you don’t look for this space for hygiene advice. You’re here for literature. May we recommend a dime-store paperback, then? Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, first published in 1953, depicted a lesbian couple without putting them through the wringer: it was “a landmark book for queer America, offering readers a powerful and hopeful ending, one that didn’t see the two women at the center of the story end their affair, commit suicide, or attempt murder … As an act of secretive reading, the lesbian pulp novel formed an invisible lesbian community.”
  • On the plays of Caryl Churchill, who’s still honing her craft at age seventy-seven: “Churchill’s interest in mutable, shifting identities has remained a major theme—and from the perspective of contemporary debates about gender and the essence of identity, seems almost prophetic … Whatever one thinks of her politics, Churchill has been able to respond rapid-fire to current events in part because she has stayed away from the convoluted development processes of film and television: she remains committed to live forms. And it is hard to see how anything but theatre could give her the flexibility to write as she pleases. The early texts are rich, dense, often sprawling as they hop-skip across time; these days, the plays are pearlescent in their minimalism. Sometimes they’re as short as eight minutes: one sentence can be an entire scene.”

Tumefied and Syphilitic, and Other News

November 16, 2015 | by

Huysmans

J. K. Huysmans just relaxing in front of this crucifix like it’s no big thing.

  • Houellebecq’s Submission features many an excursus on Joris-Karl Huysmans, the nineteenth-century French writer of whom Houllebecq himself has said, “I think he could’ve been a real friend to me.” What was Huysmans’s MO? His novel À rebours, which tells of “a nature-hating aesthete named Jean des Esseintes,” has an approach to desire and spiritual malady that feels strikingly on point, even in 2015: “Subtitled ‘A Novel Without a Plot,’ the narrative concerns des Esseintes’s attempts to furnish and decorate a country home where he will be able to live without ever again having to deal with the outside world … He gets turned on by locomotive engines: their steaming, sweating loins girdled in glittering copper corsets; their disheveled manes of black smoke; their horns’ muffled, impassioned cries … Huysmans’s prose isn’t just purple: it’s ultraviolet. Everything in À Rebours is tumefied and syphilitic, damasked with ennui, liver-spotted with arcane longings.”
  • In which Gay Talese slips on a pair of virtual-reality goggles, and balks: “But this doesn’t interest me in the least! … You know why? You know why? It’s the sort of stuff you see in a documentary, but there’s no insight into the situation, into the characters … It’s just a bunch of scenes … Television is driven by imagery … There will be a lead on a slow night, the networks will lead with a forest fire in Topanga California—great visual scenes—or a bombing of Baghdad. Anything that shows you color, smoke, fire, bullets, dodging gets on because it’s visual, but you don’t get anything … There has to be face to face confrontation between the writer and the subject, and the writer has to be able to cultivate something from the subject to get something approximate to the truth of the subject.”
  • What does a debate about the abridgment of Moby-Dick tell us about reading on the Internet? Oh, nothing terribly encouraging: “Countless readers have run aground on Melville’s mountain of details on the art of whaling, or have been left behind as he plunges, like his Catskill eagle, into philosophical realms, but it is precisely in these passages where his real appeal resides … It is rather quaint to locate the manifestation of our collective ruin in a British publisher of abridgments, which have been around nearly as long as novels themselves … Thanks to the oceanic expanses of the web, there is no need to condense or abridge anything anymore, at least not for want of space … This would appear to be a problem. And it is one that is likely to get worse.”
  • Today in techno prophesy: a bunch of smart interdisciplinary types got together and decreed that by the year 2100, “libraries will be both highly distributed and deeply connected, sharing a single collection as they work to meet the emerging demands of their individual communities.” As for the physical books in the libraries, they’ll probably disappear, but only a fuddy-duddy would mourn their loss. “Library isn’t etymologically related to books at all, deriving instead from a Latin word for the smooth inner bark of a tree. It was, in this sense, a thing on which one might write rather than a storehouse of what had already been written. Whatever they become … libraries will retain that original implication, always ‘spaces for creation or curiosity,’ even if they leave the books behind.”
  • Meanwhile, in a concrete bunker seventeen feet underground, the New York Public Library is preparing to store vast, high-density reserves of print: “a new retrieval system [will] ferry the volumes and other materials from their eighty-four miles of subterranean shelving, loaded into little motorized carts … Books will be stacked by height and tracked by bar code rather than by a subject-based system, making for some odd bookfellows … The climate-controlled repository encompasses more than 110,000 square feet … It stretches from beneath the back wall of the main building, which fronts Fifth Avenue, a full block west to Sixth Avenue, and from 42nd Street to 40th Street.”