Michel Houellebecq friends

This site is dedicated to Michel Houellebecq, whose work and whose life have illuminated mine.For all those who have already discovered, or have yet to discover, the work of Michel Houellebecq, and who would like to share their feelings or their questions; for that young man in the crowd who was moved to dream by the character of Annabelle; for that lady, in Paris or at the other end of the world, who was inspired to discover Lovecraft after reading Michel’s essay about him; for all those who, deeply moved, have been transformed by a novel or a poem by Michel, and who have felt the need to share their discovery of this writer with someone dear to them. This site is for all those and for the many others who have yet, I hope, to join us.-- Michelle Levy


Biography

Michel Houellebecq pronounced «Wellbeck») was born on the 26th of February, 1958, on the French island of Reunion. His father, a mountain guide, and his mother, an anesthesiologist, soon lost all interest in his existence. A half-sister was born four years later. At the age of six, Michel was given over to the care of his paternal grandmother, a communist, whose family name he later adopted. In France, he lived not far from Paris: first at Dicy (Yonne), then at Crecy-la-Chapelle. He attended boarding school at nearby Meaux for six years. Finally, he took preparatory courses prior to entering the French «grande ecole» system.

His grandmother died in 1978. In 1980, he obtained a degree in agricultural engineering, and, that same year, married the sister of a classmate. A long period of unemployment followed. His son, Etienne, was born in 1981. Four years later, he divorced his wife. Finally, a bout with depression led to several stays at a psychiatric facility. He eventually found employment at the French National Assembly as an administrative secretary.

His literary career began when, at twenty, he started to move in poetic circles. In 1985, he met Michel Bulteau, the editor of the Nouvelle Revue de Paris, who was the first to publish his poems. It was the beginning of a long and enduring friendship. In fact, it was Bulteau who suggested that he write a book for the «Infrequentables» series, which had been launched by Bulteau at the publishing house Le Rocher. This led to the publication, in 1991, of H. P. Lovecraft, contre le monde, contre la vie («H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life»).

That same year saw the publication of Rester vivant, methode («To Stay Alive: A method»), by Difference. Then, in 1992, his first collection of poems, La poursuite du bonheur («The Pursuit of Happiness»), which went on to win the Prix Tristan Tzara.

In 1994, Maurice Nadeau published Extension du domaine de la lutte («Whatever»), Houellebecq’s first novel, which brought him a larger audience, and has since been translated into several languages. A novel of darkness and despair, it is, at the same time, full of humor.

He went on to contribute to many a literary review (including L’atelier du roman, Perpendiculaires, from whose editorial board he was later ousted, and Inrockuptibles).

Since 1996, Houellebecq’s work has been published by Flammarion, where Raphael Sorin is his editor. His second collection of poems, Le sens du combat («The Meaning of the Fight»), obtained the Prix Flore in 1996. In 1997, Rester vivant and La poursuite du bonheur, in revised form, were re-released in one volume.

In 1998, he received the Grand Prix national des Lettres Jeunes Talents for the entirety of his literary output. Later, in the fall, Interventions, a collection of chronicles and critical texts, and Les Particules élémentaires («Atomised»), his second novel, were published simultaneously. The latter went on to win the Prix Novembre, and has since been translated into over 25 languages.

That same year, he married Marie-Pierre Gauthier, whom he had originally met in 1992.

In 1999, he collaborated on the screen adaptation of Extension du domaine de la lutte («Whatever»), with Philippe Harel, who directed the film. He also published a new collection of poems, Renaissance.

The spring of 2000 saw the debut of his first album, Presence humaine, where he sings a number of his poems to the music of Bertrand Burgalat.

Currently he lives in Ireland, near Cork. A new book of photographs and text about Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, has been published in the fall of 2000.

In 2005, " The possibility of an island",an ambitioud novel.
His influences include:

Baudelaire, Brave New World and Island by Aldous Huxley, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Kant, Auguste Comte, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, The Book of Kells, and... Pif le Chien (a comic strip)

Michel Houellebecq world's

Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Schubert, Françoise Hardy, Leonard Cohen, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, David Crosby. Rhum-ginger, cigarettes and Monoprix.


Some recent books he recommends:

Bret Easton Ellis:
— Glamorama, Knopf, 1999.
Emmanuel Carrere:
— The Adversary, Henry Holt & Company (translation to be published in 2001).
Molly Keane:
— The Rising Tide, Virago Press, 1984.


Michel Houellebecq: emotional reactions, literary talent.

As he says in Rester vivant («To Stay Alive»), «The truth is scandalous. But without it, nothing has any worth. An honest and naive vision of the world is already a masterpiece... As you approach the truth, your solitude will increase.»

Michel Houellebecq is a sort of prophet. He is gifted with the very rare capacity to perceive the world with an unrivaled degree of sensitivity. And he has the talent to convey his perceptions to us. This is what certain people have trouble accepting. They do not want to be told of the world as it is, nor of the suffering of all human beings, torn between their aspirations and reality. With devastating humor, and with lyrical touches capable of reaching the depths of the soul, he creates real characters, who live at the heart of a real world, today’s world. At first glance, we might believe him to be less concerned with the search for form than with reflection upon the state of the world. Later, we wish to go back to his books, to linger on certain pages... At this point we realize very quickly that his life and his work form a whole, that he puts himself into his art, and that each element, each theme, starting with his early essay on Lovecraft, is taken up again and developed in a later work. There is a certain coherence inherent not only in his work, but also in his various modes of production. He is not satisfied the game of appearances. He is out to create a universe, and this universe has a meaning.

This association and this site are first and foremost a response to the following lines, which I read one night while in despair: «If anyone loves me, on Earth or in the stars / Now is the time for him to give a little sign / I sense the harbingers of disaster amassing.»

Other lines, other books of his have allowed me to get closer to his sensibility and to his vision of the world. It is said that he is solitary and misanthropic, depressed and depressing. Yet, if he has touched so many people who want to show their recognition, it is because his books contain a luminous compassion; it is because he has been able to express, with rare talent, that feeling of strangeness we feel before a world which measures up to our aspirations less and less. It is also because he has used his very distinctive sense of humor to make us smile, even in our darkest hour. His books are at once poignant and soothing to the soul. His books are there to help us to live and to understand. The greatness of a work of art can be recognized not only by what it has to say about human nature, but also by the questions it causes us to ask.

His books have given rise to debates, critiques, even trials, but people everywhere have liked what he has written. This site is for his friends, famous or obscure, for his readers.

A book is capable of touching very different readers, and for very different reasons. A collection of their thoughts may be useful for the enrichment of a body of work, and useful also to its author. «Delve into the subjects that no one wants to hear about. The other side of the scenery. Insist upon sickness, agony, ugliness. Speak of death, and of oblivion. Of jealousy, of indifference, of frustration, of the absence of love. Be abject, and you will be true» (Rester vivant, «To Stay Alive»). Why is it that thousands of people, aware of the continuity that is evident in his work, await his next book with bated breath? Why are we so many who hope that he will, indeed, «stay alive»? Together, let us try to answer these questions.

Michelle Levy.
Selected quotations:

«That same evening he came across a photo taken of him at his old primary school, in Charny, and he began to weep. Seated at his desk, the child held a school book open in his hands. He was looking straight at the camera and smiling, spirited and full of joy, and what seemed incomprehensible was that this child was him. This child did his homework, learned his lessons earnestly, confidently. He was entering the world, discovering the world, and the world did not make him afraid. He was all ready to take his place in the society of men. All that, you could see it all in the child’s eyes... Time is a banal mystery, he tried to tell himself, and it was only natural. The light in his eyes went out, the joy and the confidence faded away.»
Les particules élémentaires («Elementary Particles»)

«Is it true there’s a place on the far side of death
Where someone awaits us and loves us as we are?
(...)
That human beings sometimes help each other out,
That one may be happy past the age of thirteen?
There are certain solitudes that seem without cure;
As for love, I don’t believe in it anymore.»

La poursuite du bonheur («The Pursuit of Happiness»)

«We yearn for something resembling fidelity,
Like an intertwining of sweet dependencies,
Something which surpasses and contains existence;
We can no longer live far from eternity.»

La poursuite du bonheur («The Pursuit of Happiness»)

«I’m a child who no longer has the right to tears»
La poursuite du bonheur («The Pursuit of Happiness»)

«The traditional incoherence of the poet should not really be any more surprising than the old incoherence of the human race.»
Introduction to L’odeur des jacynthes

«Given the characteristics of the modern era, love can scarcely manifest itself anymore. Yet the ideal of love has not diminished. Being, like all ideals, fundamentally atemporal, it can neither diminish nor disappear.»
Rester vivant («To Stay Alive»)

«It’s still the same light, in the morning, which sets in and grows,
Yet the world, perceived by two, has a completely different meaning.
I don’t know anymore whether this is love or revolutionary action...»

Le sens du combat («The Meaning of the Fight»)

© Flammarion. All texts reproduced with the kind permission of Flammarion, Paris.

Thanks to Richard Davis for all translations.

The outsider ( A propos du film " The trouble with Michel" BBC4)

The outsider Women in his novels all end up dead or hurt. He propositions every female interviewer he meets. And his drinking and depression can leave him semi-comatose. But Louise Wardle still didn't realise how difficult it would be to make a film about Michel Houellebecq Louise Wardle
Guardian
Friday April 5, 2002

Michel Houellebecq is a bestseller and a troublemaker. He is attacked as a pornographer and adored as a prescient genius. A stunned liberal establishment has no idea how to take him. "Perhaps he should be dead," says his friend, the novelist Frédéric Beigbeder. "If I had had a childhood like him I would have killed myself. He is a zombie back from the dead and telling us what it is like."
How could I make a film about a novelist who does sex scenes where women are crippled by savage sex, in whose novels the female characters all end up dead or damaged, who propositions every female journalist sent to do a piece on him, whose heavy drinking and depression, by all accounts, reduce him to near-coma for weeks at a time?
Why would I want to make a film about a man in whose first novel (Whatever) the central character urges his friend to indulge in the pleasures of sexual murder, and whose second (Atomised) proposes that the freedoms of the 60s brought us nothing but misery and that the solution to our misery is to clone a new species that lives in permanent orgasm.
I suppose I started to recognise that the female characters in his books are the most emotionally whole; the only ones able to love are the women.
July 2001: "Don't book into the hotel. You must stay at my house," Houellebecq says down the phone. I book into the hotel.
When I arrive at his isolated house, on an island off the west coast of Ireland, at about 3pm, Houellebecq emerges dishevelled. He is small and thin and dressed entirely in orange. He has thin, sandy hair that sticks up. As he turns away I realise that it is an expensive implant; the tufts are formed in little straight lines across the back of his head, like a doll's.
"I've been asleep," he says. "Would you like something to drink?"
He has a strange sideways walking motion. He holds his cigarette between his third and fourth nicotine-stained fingers. I follow as he drifts into a darkened room. It's his bedroom; I back out. He smiles at me as he retrieves cigarettes and a whisky glass and moves next door to a room with a skin-coloured leather sofa.
We drink and talk - about religion, and science, and what he calls "the suicide of the west", and the film I want to make, until 3am. I'm not sure how I get back to the hotel.
We meet again the next afternoon and agree that the film will go ahead. I will return to Ireland in the summer to film him at home and then go to the Canary Islands to film him looking for locations for the movie of his next book, which is about sex tourism.
"Gran Canaria is where the English go for sex; we will find swingers. My friend told me of the club we must stay at."
I leave with a sense of failure. He has not passed out in a drunken coma, nor propositioned me. He has been fascinating and viciously funny. He has giggled and played with his dog. His wife has been beautiful and kind. He did show me a movie he had just made - commissioned by the French media company Canal Plus - on the subject of erotica. It seemed more like soft porn, and starred his wife. "I don't find it pornographic at all," he said. I think he was serious.
September 4: "We must cancel everything; no book signings, no public parties, no interviews," says Houellebecq's press officer. "For his safety he must stay in his hotel room. You should go home; there will be nothing to film."
I have just walked into the offices of Flammarion, Houellebecq's publishers, before a week's filming in Paris following the launch of his latest book, Platforme. His books always cause outrage. They are loved and hated in equal measure. But his talent for causing trouble has backfired badly on him this time. Platforme is a story of love between two people who set up a sex-tourism resort. The central character, as ever called Michel, loses his lover in an Islamic terrorist attack.
France's leading literary critic has put an unexpected boot in: "Houellebecq's new book may win the Prix Goncourt... but is a prize worth a fatwa?"
In July, Houellebecq gave an interview to the literary magazine Lire, and the journalist picked up on the central character's hatred for Islam. It seemed that the author agreed with his character, or was he just winding us up?
September 5: In the corridor of a TV studio, Houellebecq's press officer chain-smokes and pops the anxiety-relieving drug Xanax. Her author, incapable of compromise and incapable of protecting himself or us from how he sees the truth, may be about to go too far again. The Arab League has issued a press statement condemning Houellebecq. "Let's hope it stops here," she says with a tight smile. Houellebecq emerges from make-up look ing uncomfortable. He is tiny and alone in the crowd of 30 press photographers, each yelling for his attention. As he signs autographs, another small man appears at his shoulder and urges quietly in his ear: "You absolutely must keep writing. Don't give up. It's important for all of us." "I will try," murmurs Houellebecq as he hands a signed book back to a statuesque blonde woman.
The TV show goes fairly well, or badly, depending on who you are: Houellebecq doesn't say anything appalling; he drinks, but only water; he doesn't get angry or walk out. He seems almost timid. The various experts around the table are thrown by his lucidity, his calm defence of what his characters say and their right to express themselves. He is brighter than all of them and has seen the way we are more clearly than them. The crazier the hysteria around him, the more his ideas seem deadly correct.
In the green room I find myself standing beside Will Self, on tour with his own book. He didn't want to do an interview about Houellebecq: "He's just a little guy who can't get enough sex. That's it, isn't it?" September 6: France's national Arabic newspaper leads with the headline "This man hates you" next to a large photo of Houellebecq looking characteristically wrecked. I must film Houellebecq's reaction. We unload the camera equipment in the street. Maybe I can get him to read the article and say what he thinks in a cafe. As I try to persuade him, out of the corner of my eye I see the sound recordist being confronted by an Arab. "Are you working with that bastard Houellebecq?"
"No, no... who? Houellebecq?" "Well he's standing right there!" "Oh... is that Houellebecq? Oh no, he's nothing to do with us." We do a quick interview in the crew car. "It's OK; they say everyone has to pray for my soul, so I'm saved," he says, deadpan. "I'm a bit worried about the photo, though; it's not very..." He trails away.
The police have advised caution; there will be no more appearances in public. Houellebecq will leave Paris as soon as possible for his own safety.
Fnac, a major French book chain, hosts its annual bestseller awards. Houellebecq is top of the list, but the Islam question has weakened his chances despite the fact that he has beaten every other book of the season by miles. And he's not allowed to leave his hotel room.
We must do an interview this evening before he leaves Paris. The press officer can't find Houellebecq. There's no answer when I call his room. Will I knock on his door?
He is dishevelled, nervously twisting bits of hair implant. He wraps his shirt tightly round him, retreats back on to his bed, and motions me to follow. "Will you call the police for me in Ireland - my wife has disappeared." I spend the next hours on the phone to Ireland issuing a missing-person description. He cannot remember the registration of his car. We phone all the hotels in Dublin, all the hospitals. The crew waits in the bar. How can I do an interview in this situation?
"Will you buy me a bottle of whisky? Jack Daniels." I dash to the nearest off-licence, telling the crew what's happening and asking them to wait just in case he will do an interview.
We're sitting on his bed now. "Louise, you can film me if you like," he says. "But I don't want to spend the night alone."
I'm saved by the ringing of the phone. I make an excuse and go to get the crew. The phone rings again. It's his wife. "She's alive, she's alive," he shouts, and bursts into tears.
Houellebecq says he will never do another interview, and that - although he'll continue to write - he won't publish another book again. It's too much trouble.

· The Trouble With Michel is on BBC4 at 9pm tonight.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002


Platform, soon a film:winner of the Price

PLATFORM, winning novel of the Price Movies Black Card! This price crowns the most film novel. It(he) will be awarded to the Conference hall on April 9 in the evening. President of the Jury: Nicole Garcia

Textes, contenu rédactionnel: © Michel Houellebecq & © Michelle Levy
Conception: David Rault & Laurent Chrétien - 2001-2013 © Tous droits réservés.