Michel Houellebecq’s two most recent novels, The Map and the Territory (2010) and Submission (2015), call attention to the powerful affective pull of the premodern past within late capitalist and multicultural France, portraying the conflicting emotions of loss this past evokes. The Map and the Territory explores the survival, and revival, of traditional arts and crafts in a cultural scene where “la France profonde” has been commodified through the lifestyle and heritage industries, and medievalist nostalgia has been recuperated into a neoliberal economy where the yearning for authenticity is harnessed to the desire to consume. Submission explores the significance of the premodern for a near-future France characterized by the return of religious impulses that have been only superficially suppressed by the Enlightenment and secular republicanism. Here, France’s contact with “la France profonde” via religious tourism, patriotic poetry, and neoreactionary politics revisits its Catholic and patriarchal traditions. Flirting with the ideas of neoreactionary pundits, Houellebecq adopts but also satirizes the Right’s argument that France’s relationship to the premodern past is essentially melancholic.
- Michel Houellebecq