Empty Days

Sunday, June 27, 2004



Houellebecq and I.

It is easy to see on the other hand how a lot of people may find my kind of opinions marginal and contradictory. I can't know how I would think if my circumstances were different, if I were socially well-adjusted, if I belonged to an active social circle. But perhaps the reason I am neither well-adjusted nor belong to any such circle is because I can't quite tolerate certain types of thinking (here I recall with amusement my various encounters with leftist intellectuals, fringe anarchists, and the older flower-power types - couldn't stick with any of those). There is always a good reason why one prefers to stand aside rather than happily espouse mainstream ideas and goals - perhaps even at the price of some personal well-being. I can't say why I must think and behave the way I do. What I know on the other hand, is that nothing in the world can tempt me into accepting what a lot of those around me hold to be right and true.

In Houellebecq I unexpectedly found a kindred spirit - what he says largely reflects what I see myself, notwithstanding all his idyosyncrasies and novelistic exaggerations. Why is that? He's French - and I went pretty much through the same brand of French schooling that he did. Perhaps he is simply speaking for my generation, or at least a very large part of it (the absurd truth is that my teenage years were spent in a circle 10 years my senior). But in fact I think it is more than that - the world he describes is not just French, it is the Western World that I know and have such a hard time dealing with - it is a world I never wanted to live in but must endure despite myself. The fact that he bashes it with such cruelty and precision is what appeals to me - I could never have found such words and certainly would never have dared to mount such a critique. Is it skewed? Is it off-mark? Neither. The exaggerations function as special-effects - for better discernment rather than out of error.

In interviews Houellebecq frequently insists: "I am telling the truth." And he's damn right - what he sees is what I see and many others beside. The question is rather: how come that there are so many out there who see it differently, who find his whole discourse unfounded, to whom everything seems fine and dandy? What does it say of them? Or what does it say of "us"? And what is this divide really about?

I guess the question of ideological and non-ideological thinking is paramount here.





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