on unlimited happiness, houellebecq interview paris review

I want to laugh at this photograph but can’t and don’t know why on either score…

Whoever decided to put this interview with Houellebecq -ostensibly around publication of La Carte et le Territoire [Flammarion 2010]- online in order to draw new/draw back old audiences to the let’s face it pretty wonderful Paris Review, must be pleased with themselves…

There are a few little things I quite like -though I’m just digesting some of MH’s thoughts here, no?

Re; the reluctance of anyone to publish Extension du domaine de la lutte [the English translation, Whatever, was published by Serpent’s Tail of course in 1998], his reply makes a bit more sense of the [mighty punk] Ig sponsorship; “…as far as what was being published, there was a lot of art for art’s sake, people writing in the tradition of the nouveau roman. There was nothing about people with office jobs.”

Re; poetry vs prose/ ‘honest storyteller’; “You might get the impression that I have a mild contempt for storytelling, which is only somewhat true. For example, I really like Agatha Christie. She obeys the rules of the genre at first, but then occasionally she manages to do very personal things. In my case, I think I start from the opposite point. At first, I don’t obey, I don’t plot, but then from time to time, I say to myself, Come on, there’s got to be a story. I control myself. But I will never give up a beautiful fragment merely because it doesn’t fit in the story.”

Re; what he likes best in literature; “For example, the last pages of The Brothers Karamazov: not only can I not read them without crying, I can’t even think of them without crying. That’s what I admire most in literature, its ability to make you weep.”

Re; the reduction fiction to auto/biography; “… it’s annoying because it denies what is the essential trait of fiction writing, namely, that the characters develop by themselves. In other words, you start with a few real facts and then you let the thing roll with its own momentum. And the further along you get, the more likely you are to leave reality behind altogether. You can’t tell your own story in fact. You can use elements of it—but don’t imagine that you can control what a character is going to do a hundred pages later…”

Re; his style; “One thing people hate is adverbs. I use adverbs. There’s another thing which comes from the fact that I’m a poet. Copy editors always want you to take out repetitions. I like repetitions. Repetition is part of poetry. So I don’t hesitate to repeat myself.”

Re; what it’s all about; “I’d say that the question whether love still exists plays the same role in my novels as the question of God’s existence in Dostoyevsky.”

Re; the “Anglo-Saxon’ world he inhabits; “You can tell that this is the world that invented capitalism. There are private companies competing to deliver the mail, to collect the garbage. The financial section of the newspaper is much thicker than it is in French papers.”

Re; the possibility of an island [!?];


What is your definition of a Romantic?


It’s someone who believes in unlimited happiness, which is eternal and possible right away. Belief in love. Also belief in the soul, which is strangely persistent in me, even though I never stop saying the opposite.


You believe in unlimited, eternal happiness?


Yes. And I’m not just saying that to be a provocateur.

> The link to the Interview in TPR’s fall 2010 issue is here.

> The Art of Struggle, a collection of prose and verse pieces” is just published by the canny Alma Books here.

> Last I read MH, I thought the second novel Les Particules élémentaires [Atomised in English 2000] achieved more than the first, though I’m not merely being contrarian towards the ubiquitous lit-boy pretense otherwise… and if you’ve not read either… pah!

> Oh and what he is repeatedly quoted as saying about Islam is just stupid obviously, but less offensive to me than say the more considered/consistent super-smug stupidity of ‘Madonna’ Amis on subjects related. Where haven’t these people been?

5 thoughts on “on unlimited happiness, houellebecq interview paris review

  1. I was thinking about digging this post, but then there are hundreds of readers that would have done exactly the same.

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