Article

Zombie Catholicism Meets Zombie Islam: Reading Michel Houellebecq's Soumission with Emmanuel Todd

Citation

McQueen F (2020) Zombie Catholicism Meets Zombie Islam: Reading Michel Houellebecq's Soumission with Emmanuel Todd. Forum for Modern Language Studies, 56 (2), pp. 155-176. https://doi.org/10.1093/fmls/cqaa002

Abstract
Following the publication of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Soumission (2015), which depicts the French public electing an Islamist government in 2022, some critics accused Houellebecq of Islamophobia; others defended his novel as primarily an attack on the French intellectual class rather than Islam or Muslims. Reading Houellebecq’s novel alongside the work of French historian and anthropologist Emmanuel Todd, this article suggests that Soumission attacks all three. Furthermore, Houellebecq’s depiction of France being ‘Islamized’ does not represent a break from his earlier insistence that religion is becoming obsolete; the Islam of Soumission is devoid of the positive values that Houellebecq associates with religion elsewhere. In the novel, religion has died, as Houllebecq previously claimed it would, with Islam portrayed as a political system compatible with contemporary materialism. The apparent nostalgia for Catholicism in Soumission and elsewhere in Houellebecq’s oeuvre does not express Houellebecq’s desire to convert to Catholicism but his wish for a strong Catholic church to provide an opponent for French anti-clericalism; he portrays Islam as an unsatisfactory alternative.

Keywords
Linguistics and Language; Literature and Literary Theory

Journal
Forum for Modern Language Studies: Volume 56, Issue 2

StatusPublished
FundersArts and Humanities Research Council
Publication date30/04/2020
Publication date online31/05/2020
Date accepted by journal10/12/2018
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/31125
PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)
ISSN0015-8518
eISSN1471-6860