Empty Days

Sunday, July 04, 2004



Predictive fiction.

Un roman est-il capable de prédire l’avenir ? On serait tenté de le penser en constatant l’incroyable similitude de l’attentat fictif décrit dans le roman Plateforme (paru le 24 août 2001) et l’attentat de Bali (survenu le 12 octobre 2002). La presse avait déjà noté, juste après le 11 septembre, la prophétie faite par le roman (paru deux semaines avant l’attentat du World Trade Center), à propos de ce type de terrorisme [2]. Mais le récent attentat à Bali est venu apporter une confirmation plus précise — et par cette précision plus inquiétante — de la capacité prédictive des intuitions de Houellebecq : l’attentat fictif du roman et celui, réel, survenu un an plus tard impliquent la même partie du monde, les mêmes circonstances précises, des assassins similaires, des victimes en nombre comparable et d’origine identique [3]. Et pourtant, Plateforme n’est ni un roman sur l’islamisme, ni un roman sur le terrorisme. C’est le troisième volet d’une trilogie sociologique sur la misère des relations humaines, sociales et sexuelles des occidentaux modernes. Houellebecq ne se pose pas en spécialiste du terrorisme, et on sait par ailleurs qu’il a de l’Islam une vision biaisée et au moins caricaturale. Dans ce cadre, on peut se dire que cette similitude de lieux, de circonstances et d’acteurs n’est peut-être qu’une simple coïncidence. Force est cependant d’admettre, pour le moins, que Houellebecq a bien compris “quelque chose” au monde moderne, “quelque chose” qui n’a réellement été entrevu par personne et qui nous donne à penser qu’il pourrait bien nous en apprendre encore sur notre avenir.


[2] Par exemple Jean DÉSY, critique du roman Plateforme dans la revue « Nuit Blanche » (article disponible sur internet) ou Yves COUPRIE, qui souligne sur le site /www.routard.com/ qu’il ne peut s’agir que d’un hasard.

[3] L’attentat (fictif) du roman survient en Thaïlande, dans une boîte de nuit fréquentée presque exclusivement par des touristes occidentaux. Il est perpétré par des terroristes islamistes et fait 117 victimes (Plateforme, pp. 340-345). L’attentat, réel, survenu en Indonésie un an plus tard, a visé deux boîtes de nuit. Il a été perpétré par des terroristes islamistes. Environ 190 victimes, en grande majorité des touristes occidentaux, y ont trouvé la mort.

__________________


I just finished Houellebecq's Plateforme - having previously read a critique of him by a Jean-Luc Azra (cited above) who, I think, has a very valid point in saying that Houellebecq has a very strong "sociological flair" and that his novels are thus fundamentally predictive of the future of our western societies.

Plateforme was published end of August 2001 - it describes a pretty horrendous terrorist act by islamists against western tourists in Thailand, and it describes it occuring in near future, in the first days of the new year 2002.

As we all know these acts occured for real in that same "near future" - 9/11 2001 in New York and 10/12 2002 in Bali, and we're still counting. I suppose Houellebecq must have gotten an early warning - or perhaps his "sociological flair" is indeed fairly keen to have written a novel coming so close in setting and detail to what has passed in reality since. There is no doubt that people can and do sometimes have a certain perspicacity as to the future of events - there is a hidden logic to the apparent chaos of the world, and tapping into that logic constitutes what we call "flair". You do end up predicting with amazing accuracy what is already on the verge of occuring. It's not exactly clairvoyance.

Whoever comes in contact with Houellebecq's books realizes that the man is talking about something important - and only too real. The fact that some either detest him or find him overly pessimistic, does not detract from the fact that this is not just a little guy who one day decided to make himself a name in literature. Far from it. Houellebecq is not only a real writer (that is somebody who is possessed by writing rather than trying to imitate this state as most intellectuals wanna-be's tend to do) but he is also a man of intuitive, powerful intelligence, which is not reduced to either academic commentary or purely cerebral exercises on secondary sources.

Intuitive intelligence is the one that searches deep in its own depths and comes up with understanding only when it has been tested against this semi-obscure inner truth. Houellebecq is not an intellectual - he is naturally intelligent, a natural philosopher, very much like Dostoevsky was and many such others of note. The fact that he spends so much time describing the pleasures of sex is somehow a part of his method of truth-telling - it is central to his thinking and not at all in a frivolous way. It is curious and yet somehow appropriate - just as with all those heart-breaking near-neurotic love-dramas and outright sexual aberrations that Dostoevsky put at the heart of his philosophical novels. Man is an animal - it's part of his endless turmoil.

I didn't like much of the Plateforme but was finally reconciled to it by what has developped in the last 1/3 of the novel - something interesting has developped, I was again tempted to type in some of the passages into this blog. I also remember that a lot of Dostoevsky's The Possessed is equally a bit boring and too protracted but is redeemed by the beginning and the last chapters of the book. In the same way, Brothers Karamazov is a pretty bad novel on the whole, much too long for its purpose - despite the obvious and shattering brilliance of certain chapters. So I am not going to criticize Houellebecq for his novelistic faults - his merits are largely enough for me. One could say that Dostoevsky too most definitely had a certain "sociological flair". With the results we now know.

Also, I have to add that I largely agree with what Houellebecq has to say about Islam - that this is a religion going through its last violent agony. Christiandom has already died in its religious form quite a while ago (despite appearances still surviving in various nooks and cranies of the West) - Islam is going down the same road. In fact, it is only still virulent enough on account of many muslim populations living in drastic economic poverty. But if these conditions change for the better, Islam will go down the drain - not tomorrow maybe, but after tomorrow for sure. Houellebecq is ruthlessly direct in his contempt for great religions of the world - but he is right in saying that the age of religions has essentially expired. Global economy seems to be the new universal creed - everybody is only too eager to join in. Traditional religions survive in nooks and cranies - some get violent, like Islam, but this is a hopeless fight. Are we due for the sharia law across the whole of the Middle East, let alone the rest of the world? Perhaps not - though I can see how the project is attractive to some who can't quite find their footing in the present conditions.

However, I must say - I am grateful Houellebecq is not vituperating on nuclear holocaust or fat meteorites pulverizing the earth. If he could foresee something stupid like that with his "sociological flair", he would certainly drop a line concerning such pressing intuitions. As long as he doesn't seem to have any, I can perhaps sleep in peace: our decline will be long, boring, and bloody, but not *that* bloody after all - globally speaking.





/ 10/19/2003 - 10/26/2003 / / 10/26/2003 - 11/02/2003 / / 11/02/2003 - 11/09/2003 / / 11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003 / / 11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003 / / 11/23/2003 - 11/30/2003 / / 11/30/2003 - 12/07/2003 / / 12/07/2003 - 12/14/2003 / / 12/14/2003 - 12/21/2003 / / 12/21/2003 - 12/28/2003 / / 12/28/2003 - 01/04/2004 / / 01/04/2004 - 01/11/2004 / / 01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004 / / 01/18/2004 - 01/25/2004 / / 01/25/2004 - 02/01/2004 / / 02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004 / / 02/08/2004 - 02/15/2004 / / 02/15/2004 - 02/22/2004 / / 02/22/2004 - 02/29/2004 / / 02/29/2004 - 03/07/2004 / / 03/07/2004 - 03/14/2004 / / 03/14/2004 - 03/21/2004 / / 03/21/2004 - 03/28/2004 / / 03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004 / / 04/04/2004 - 04/11/2004 / / 04/11/2004 - 04/18/2004 / / 04/18/2004 - 04/25/2004 / / 04/25/2004 - 05/02/2004 / / 05/02/2004 - 05/09/2004 / / 05/09/2004 - 05/16/2004 / / 05/16/2004 - 05/23/2004 / / 05/23/2004 - 05/30/2004 / / 05/30/2004 - 06/06/2004 / / 06/06/2004 - 06/13/2004 / / 06/13/2004 - 06/20/2004 / / 06/20/2004 - 06/27/2004 / / 06/27/2004 - 07/04/2004 / / 07/04/2004 - 07/11/2004 / / 07/11/2004 - 07/18/2004 / / 07/18/2004 - 07/25/2004 / / 07/25/2004 - 08/01/2004 / / 08/01/2004 - 08/08/2004 / / 08/08/2004 - 08/15/2004 / / 08/15/2004 - 08/22/2004 / / 08/22/2004 - 08/29/2004 / / 08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004 / / 09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004 / / 09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004 / / 09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004 / / 09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004 / / 10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004 / / 10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004 / / 10/17/2004 - 10/24/2004 / / 10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004 / / 10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004 / / 02/20/2005 - 02/27/2005 / / 02/27/2005 - 03/06/2005 / / 03/13/2005 - 03/20/2005 / / 03/20/2005 - 03/27/2005 / / 03/27/2005 - 04/03/2005 / / 04/03/2005 - 04/10/2005 / / 04/10/2005 - 04/17/2005 / / 04/17/2005 - 04/24/2005 / / 04/24/2005 - 05/01/2005 / / 05/01/2005 - 05/08/2005 / / 05/08/2005 - 05/15/2005 / / 05/15/2005 - 05/22/2005 / / 05/22/2005 - 05/29/2005 / / 05/29/2005 - 06/05/2005 / / 06/05/2005 - 06/12/2005 / / 06/12/2005 - 06/19/2005 / / 07/03/2005 - 07/10/2005 / / 09/04/2005 - 09/11/2005 / / 09/11/2005 - 09/18/2005 / / 09/18/2005 - 09/25/2005 / / 09/25/2005 - 10/02/2005 / / 10/02/2005 - 10/09/2005 / / 10/16/2005 - 10/23/2005 / / 11/13/2005 - 11/20/2005 / / 11/27/2005 - 12/04/2005 /