With the French presidential campaign underway, one of the country’s most provocative writers, Michel Houellebecq, is back with a novel closely tied to the upcoming election. The 65-year-old author of Atomized and Platform released the French edition of his 730-page novel Anéantir (Destroy) on Friday, with a substantial first print run of 300,000 copies.
Annihilate begins during a fictitious campaign for the presidential election in 2027. Marine Le Pen has left the head of the National Rally but the far-right candidate Éric Zemmour is still arousing controversy. President Emmanuel Macron is another real figure who, although not named, appears to feature, as does Bruno Le Maire, the current economy minister. The Mayor, friend of Houellebecq, is the inspiration of Bruno Juge, one of the protagonists of the story.
Judge criticizes the incumbent president (implied based on Macron), saying at one point that the head of state “has only one political conviction and only one… ‘I was made to be president ‘”. , Houellebecq presents a country on its knees, with high levels of unemployment and poverty.
Houellebecq’s earlier satires are thought to have had an influence on French politics. In his 2015 bestseller Submission, France elects a Muslim president, and the novel stokes fears of an Islamist takeover of France. (When the Guardian asked him at the time if he was Islamophobic, the author replied “probably”.) And his 2019 novel Serotonin, which criticized globalization and the EU – Houellebecq is known to be fiercely Eurosceptic – seemed to predict the movement of the yellow vests. .
Reviews for Wipeout have been largely positive so far. Le Monde describes it as a “political thriller that turns into metaphysical meditation”, even if the magazine L’Obs deemed it too long and described it as “a yawn”.