Western values and human rights, including gender equality, are now on the back burner. Some readers felt "Submission" was a provocation. Others saw it as a warning of a situation Western European nations just might face in the future. Wearing a denim shirt and his trademark green parka with a fur-trimmed hood, his hair unruly, the gestures a bit clumsy, Houellebecq walked onto the stage in his inimitable fashion.
But now that Emmanuel Macron is in office, he added, there is hope for the country's national pride.
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If the audience in Frankfurt was expecting the evening to take a political turn, they were in for a disappointment. Critics and self-proclaimed experts in France often see him as more of a sociologist or economist rather than a novelist, he said, adding he takes that as a compliment. People who criticize and judge literature are crooks anyway, he said.
Houellebecq argued that literary translators in Europe need to be paid more. European translation, he pointed out, is the only way to make sure that European nations read more than just their own books and translations from English. The French writer, taking a bashful drag on his e-cigarette, also commented on "the novel. An hour into the event, the three increasingly fretful ladies by his side finally dared interrupt the famous author's monologue.
The long-awaited question and answer session came to a quick end, however, as the novelist gave just a few terse answers. Many left the Frankfurt Book Fair event featuring the biggest star of the French literary scene feeling disappointed. With age, perhaps Michel Houellebecq has simply gotten a bit more peaceful. He is certainly not lacking in cultural pessimism. By a macabre coincidence, the date of publication of Michel Houellebecq's last political satire coincided with the "Charlie Hebdo" massacre. A year later, the author releases a collection of his earlier works.
The mass shooting at the French satire magazine "Charlie Hebdo" shook Europe. But despite the outpouring of solidarity, there's no consensus about the limits of artistic freedom of expression. Speaking at the opening gala of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel have promised to foster cultural exchange and European unity. The leaders appealed to tolerance and diversity. The young literary star defied French elites and social taboos with his best-selling autobiographical novels that portray poverty made invisible in his country.
He talks to DW about fiction and a forgotten underclass. With France the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year, we look at some of the nation's best contemporary authors and ask an expert: Why do the French write such good books? With France the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year, we look at some of the nation's best contemporary authors. The world's largest book fair has celebrated its opening with calls from authors and EU politicians defending — and demanding — diversity in the book branch.
The fair focuses on human rights amid a rising far right. Georgia is the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair. In this technological and mediatised context, Houellebecq directs and stars in films, participates on music albums, collaborates with artists and saturates his novels with photographs and multimedia references. Furthermore, Houellebecq adapts his texts, expanding them into film, exhibitions, comics, and music, spreading his influence across media. In this way, he destabilises the boundaries between media, mobilising the edges of his texts.
As this paper will uncover, Houellebecq has already conquered several media forms and continues to do so as part of a process of transmediality.
Despite being a deeply literary author as evidenced in his extensive intertextual referencing , his transmediality shows that he refutes both the marginalisation of the non-literary amongst other authorial projects and also the literary within the non-literary. Considering literature through this ontology dispels mythologized assumptions about the conditions of cultural production, highlighting instead the true social mechanisms at work. Houellebecq began his artistic career at the beginning of the s, a transitional period in the development of the digital age.
Readerships have adapted to these changes: This open-communication nature of the Internet and the imbricated evolution of fan fiction have led to a [re-]questioning of the role and authority of the text and the author. Mass culture has also been highly influential as the cultural dominant Simmons Within this system of dominance, no cultural product exists by itself but must possess the necessary capital in order to occupy the dominant position of any given field, including the literary field Bourdieu As such, authors are increasingly enticed to evolve under the pressures of mass media, to adapt to new technology and to seek hybrid ways of presenting the text.
These messages and stories form fictional worlds that extend laterally with each addition made. It will first consider plurimedial combinations: Secondly, it will discuss expansive adaptations: The third type to discuss is post-textual work. Each of these types reveals an author who is working within a growing space of possibilities, embracing non-textual forms of media and questioning the demarcative lines between them.
The novel follows a frustrated middle-aged man on holiday and a cult on the island. The various editions of Lanzarote present the photographs in different ways to different effects. The first edition of the hypotext places the photographs after the text but holds them together in the one coffret. The reader is free to look upon the images at any point in the reading process, permitting multiple subjective ways of experiencing the piece. However, in newer editions, such as the English language version, the photos are inserted into the text at seemingly random intervals.
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They often come at pivotal points in the story; for example, a photograph of arid plants interrupts the climatic moment of a sex scene 58 , disrupting the flow of the narrative thread and the dramatic tension. The interspersed photographs disturb the linearity and cohesion of the narrative in this edition yet they, as with the coffret , add new subjective interpretive possibilities.
The reader is pushed to consider the links between the image and the text, but this time in relation to particular scenes. Thus, whether the photographs are presented separately or interspersed within the text, they present new semiotic and semantic possibilities for the reader to interpret. Lanzarote is both the text and the photographs; its world exists across the two media forms. Readers are called to interpret the overarching message of the image-text combination, to understand the piece through a transmedial lens.
The themes of the text extend into the images; the photos continue the messages of the novel. There are no images of people, only empty land and plants; these life-less shots evoke the marginalisation of the characters and a sense of desolation. The text is not regarded as an untouchable sacred medium, exempt from multimedia interactions; rather text and image combine to present the story-world that can be read and experienced in subjective ways. Both media participate in the production of the themes of this piece and therefore neither can be neglected in its consideration.
Through this, Houellebecq encourages recognition of his photography, refusing to strictly limit himself to purely textual contributions. These transmedial adaptations of his own texts raise theoretical questions around originality, repetition and subjectivity. Rather than creating clone-copies of the originals, Houellebecq employs adaptation as a means to expand the treatment of the issues in his novels into new directions with different media forms. The adaptations are different from their hypotexts; they do not merely imitate and replicate but expand a virtual world.
The worlds of his novels expand in new directions, at times in a coherent and consecutive manner, at others in a contradictory, contrefictionnel way.
The issues that are raised are therefore about subjectivity, authority, and the role of the author. Despite his own criticisms of monotheistic religions, to explore these multiple possibilities in his own works, Houellebecq paradoxically maintains an omnipotent stance over each subjective possibility. The hypotext follows Daniel, a comedian, and his future clones who live on a post-apocalyptic earth. This film, despite staying with the same themes, has fundamental changes made to the plot; Daniel is entirely removed from the story which now concentrates instead on a false prophet.
The film therefore opens the story in a different direction to the novel. Fans and critics expressed their disappointment: The cloning process depicted in both versions permits eternal life, however this life is deprived of love, sexual reproduction, attachment and joy. According to Houellebecq, a clone-copy of either a human or a novel cannot truly produce new meaning. In altering the story in the film, Houellebecq avoids producing a clone copy of his novel, and instead extends the story laterally.
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This film is not a replica but a new subjective possibility, unlike the clones of Daniel that fill the hypotext. Thus through adaptation, Houellebecq has presented the issues of repetition and subjectivity in a meta-referential way. The theme is also present in Lanzarote , through a sect seeking to achieve eternal life. In the end, maybe cinema is not made for that. They indicate instead that there are many possible ways of presenting themes such as cloning in terms of both content and form.
However, through governing the adaptations, Houellebecq paradoxically still asserts his own authority. The piece is again a means to alter rather than repeat: The graphic novel therefore closes textual parts of the hypotext and instead opens the story visually, giving the reader a new vision of the same world. The graphic novel manipulates these issues, playing with the fetishization and objectification of the female body by presenting it in caricatured images. The text is not separated from the image but combines with it, allowing the message to inhabit both image and text to present the story world.
In the final pages of the graphic novel, the terrorist attack of the hypotext is depicted through images alone. In this graphic novel the text is not treated as sacred, but rather is one way amongst others to present the story. Houellebecq permits new popular means to experience his novels, opening it to the engagement of a different audience and accessing a new market position. In , Jean-Louis Aubert produced an album of rock and folk songs based on La Configuration du dernier rivage entitled Les Parages du vide: Aubert chante Houellebecq with the permission and collaboration of Houellebecq.
This email correspondence between Aubert and Houellebecq not only tracks the creative process but also asserts the collaborative nature of the project.