Tag Archives: Michel Houellebecq

In touch with another spirit

I have written before about the process of writing, both in general and in this blog in particular. While I do not claim to write literature; nevertheless I felt some empathy with a couple of statements in Michel Houllebecq‘s novel ‘Submission‘. The first was ‘…only literature can put you in touch with another human spirit, as a whole, with all its weaknesses and grandeurs, its limitations, its pettinesses, its obsessions, its beliefs; with whatever it finds moving, exciting or repugnant.’ And the second was ‘Even in our deepest most lasting friendships, we never speak as openly as when we face a blank page and address a reader we do not know.’ I know a few people who read this blog but they are a tiny minority of the readers so essentially I am addressing a reader I do not know when I write a post. However, my posts sometimes lead to a conversation that is more open than would have happened without the post. Inevitably, these conversations occur with the small number of readers with whom I am in direct contact. However, I suspect that I reveal my limitations and obsessions to all of my readers, I hope I avoid my pettinesses while enthusing you with what I find moving or exciting, such as Michel Houellebecq’s novel this week or Olga Tokarczuk’s last week.

Source: Michel Houellebecq, Submission, Vintage, 2016.

Image: Barbara Hepworth sculpture in the garden of Hepworth Museum, St Ives

Separating yourself from existence

The French novelist Michel Houellebecq has written of the power of literature to separate yourself from your existence. It is something that I experience when reading an absorbing novel or occasionally when reading an outstanding scientific paper on a subject that interests me. However, it happens more often when I am writing and perhaps is a reason why I write regularly and frequently. Houellebecq has also written that ‘only literature can give you the sensation of contact with another human mind’ [in Submission, 2015]. Is it only literature that can produce this sensation? Or, does it occur when you listen to an in-depth interview or even when you read posts regularly from a blogger? Perhaps after 500 posts [see ‘500th post‘ on February 2nd, 2022] you have a sensation of contact with some part of my mind.

Source: Jonathan Derbyshire, France’s ‘enfant mis√©rable’.¬† FT Weekend, 29/30 January 2022.