Robert Kimmerle
executive branch in a nation of one

Friday, September 20, 2002
Since I'm on this Hunter S. bender all of a sudden, it only makes sense that I report on some bad craziness going around. Some of it seems to be centered in France, where a couple of novelists are presently being hauled into court because of their writings, which is an indubitably alarming trend, even for a country whose sense of social responsibility is this heavily entrenched. One of them is Nicolas Jones-Gorlin, who recently put out a novel called "Rose bonbon", written from the point of view of a pedophile. Under pressure from children's groups and so on, Jones-Gorlin's publisher had the novel pulled while the lawsuit is in progress. (Links in French; I haven't seen that this is on the radar anywhere that speaks English.) Government ministers are actually debating this (imagine Bush's cabinet having a public spat over literary theory?!), but self-censorship by a publisher, even in a case like this, is a vicious, vicious first step on a slippery slope.

The other instance is a bit more strange. Michel Houellebecq, generally regarded as the most provocative French writer in recent years, is under attack for comments in an interview to the effect that Islam is a "stupid" religion. (Note that, contrary to what some have asserted, this is not the same as saying all Muslims are stupid.) I happen to be a fan of Houellebecq's writing, and dedicated a substantial chunk of my undergrad thesis to his first novel; one of the things to be aware of when reading Houellebecq's work (some of it available in English, and highly worth your while in my opinion) is that he's a grotesque misanthrope, but that misanthropy is utterly non-discriminatory; he doesn't appear to like anyone, least of all himself, and he despises pretty much any social system you might care to name, so suing him for his views on Islam is pretty much a case of "to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail." The underpinnings of his comments, meanwhile, are the belief that all monotheisms (Islam in particular) profess to promulgate a doctrine of love and tolerance, but are in fact themselves based on incredibly violent texts.

[Ah, here we go: the Voice of America has a concise little article on this case.]

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