janan.ganesh@ft.com on Houellebecq’s Légion d’honneur & the seductions of pessimism. American Writer comments

Mr. Ganesh, in this essay, is back where he belongs, as feuilletonist. On the dissolute M. Houellebecq read this interview by

Sub-headline: Michel Houellebecq is the ageing enfant terrible of French literature. His new book imagines a France ruled by Islamists and he has been under 24-hour police protection since the Charlie Hebdo attack. Does he really hate women and Muslims or is he just a twisted provocateur?


On Voltaire’s Bastards that 1995 doorstop, or coffee table decor , by John Ralston Saul, see this exhaustive review :

‘Are We “Voltaire’s Bastards?”‘ : John Ralston Saul and Post-Modern Representations of the Enlightenment by Nicholas Hudson

Yet the resemblance with Voltaire goes even deeper,
and is marked by the ironies also inherent in the career of his predecessor in the eighteenth century. For all his irreverence, Voltaire was a man enamored with the life of the court and the privileged world of the aristocracy. He thirsted for recognition at Versailles and when it was not served with sufficient flourish, he escaped to Berlin, where he showed himself entirely willing to set aside his anti-militarism in obeisance to the bellicose, if belletristic, Frederick the Great. Voltaire was not without democratic and populist impulses, which showed themselves in his
defense of the natifs in Geneva and his courageous campaigns in favor of victims of religious persecution such as Calas and La Barre. But one cannot not help noticing that both Voltaire and the husband of our
Governor-General tend to view the world’s sufferings through the bay-windows of large houses. Part of the fun of Voltaire’s Bastards is that Saul seems to know many of the people he attacks. His understanding of culture, like Voltaire’s, concentrates on the role of the ‘elite,’ whom he
both blames for social dysfunction, and loads with the responsibility of leading the masses out of darkness.


American Writer






About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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