It is the year 2022. Francois is a bored and laconic lecturer at the New Sorbonne University. Having lived his entire four-odd decades of life within the Fifth Arrondissement in Paris, Francois leads a life uneventful and insipid. Devoid of an active love life and lacking the steady benefits of a stable relationship, Francois regularly beds his own students and engages in a ambivalent and sporadic dalliance with Myriam, a girl who comes closest to being his girl-friend. Francois’ only solace is the nineteenth century novelist influenced by and influencing the Decadent Movement, Joris Karl Huysmans. Having devoured the works of the late Huysmans and having successfully written a 788 page tome of a thesis for his doctoral dissertation, Francois finds solace in the Decadence of Huysmans which has an uncanny compatibility with his own Decadence. A decadence which includes actively viewing YouPorn when not chewing in solitude things that are cooked in a microwave.
Things however take an unexpected turn when in the elections in 2022, an Islamist party is swept into power in France. Women go behind veils, short skirts become passe and the practice of polygamy is actively propagated and encouraged. Francois, without prior notice is divested from his role as a tenured lecturer in the University and the only way in which he can be restored to a position in the teaching faculty is if he embraces the tenets of Islam.
In this magnificent dark comic, Michel Houellebecq captures with penetrating insight the cultural pessimism that is permeating today’s world. Mankind’s dangerous folly in classifying and stereotyping religions based on baseless measures and mindless criteria is rend asunder by Houllebecq in this seminal satire. Submission is a novel that is not merely relevant but is also extremely essential. Not many writers are capable of employing the facet of humour to make a statement that has immense cultural, social and ethical ramifications. Houellebecq however accomplishes this arduous task with an elan that is effortless and with a panache that is endearing and bordering on the addictive. Sacred cows are dismembered; conventions are upended and cast iron rules are obliterated as Houellebecq goes on a rampage fueled by intellect and propelled by common sense. He writes with a boldness that is refreshing and with a conviction that is deep. “Submission” is a beautiful retort to hypocrisy and a perfect antidote to the nauseating condescension and sycophancy that typifies the attitudes plaguing the Western World currently.
It comes as no surprise whatsoever that “Submission” has been named Best Book of the Year by The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Economist, The Guardian (London), Financial Times (London) Paste Magazine and the Chicago Tribune. This masterpiece is deserving of every paean sung in its praise by these phalanx of reputed behemoths in the printed world!