tudor queens series
Search our site
The Heart of Mars by Paul Magrs Read the opening extract of the brand new Paul Magrs book before its publication on 15/03/2018

Submission by Michel Houellebecq


Literary Fiction   eBook Favourites   
Download an extract Discuss on Facebook Discuss this book on our Literary Contemporary Facebook group Share this book

Lovereading view...

The new novel by the enfant terrible of European writing proves as controversial as its much-debated predecessors and will have readers and critics arguing for ages yet again. The as-ever-Houellebecq-like alter ego narrator is a minor middle-aged academic whose weasely ways are familiar in his politically incorrect attitudes to women, race and a form of intellectual superiority and pretentions that are terribly French. When a pro-Muslim politician wins the elections, and the country is overtaken by a revolutionary wave of Islamic fervour and purges, he is unable to retreat from his studies of a particularly arcane figure of French literature Joris K. Huysmans and soon has to take a stand, and willingly embraces the betrayal of western ideals with abandon, insofar as it will lead to professional advancement beyond his worth and possible power over women he was previously unable to seduce and obtain. A striking portrait in cowardice and compromise that will have you squirming, stylishly rendered by Paris Review editor Lorin Stein's fluid translation that transforms the mechanics of a particularly Gallic political landscape and cultural background into something more universal and understandable, and turns the book into a worrying warning bell, behind the facade of its dislikable and treacherous hero of sorts. A book you'll love to hate. ~ Maxim Jakubowski

If you like Michel Houellebecq you might also like to read books by Adam Thirlwell, Bret Easton Ellis and Ewan Morrison.


Submission by Michel Houellebecq

As the 2022 French Presidential election looms, two candidates emerge as favourites: Marine Le Pen of the Front National, and the charismatic Muhammed Ben Abbes of the growing Muslim Fraternity. Forming a controversial alliance with the political left to block the Front National's alarming ascendency, Ben Abbes sweeps to power, and overnight the country is transformed. This proves to be the death knell of French secularism, as Islamic law comes into force: women are veiled, polygamy is encouraged and, for our narrator Francois - misanthropic, middle-aged and alienated - life is set on a new course.

Submission is a devastating satire, comic and melancholy by turns, and a profound meditation on faith and meaning in Western society.


A work of real literary distinction...[Houellebecq] has been the novelist who has most fearlessly and presciently tackled the rise of Islamic extremism in recent years...He is a writer with a gift for telling the truth, unlike any other in our time - I've been consistently saying he is the writer who matters most to me for many years now. I've read Submission twice in the last week with ever growing admiration and enjoyment. There's been no English-language novel this good lately. With Submission Houellebecq has inserted himself right into the centre of the intellectual debate that was already raging in France about Islam and identity politics...There is nobody else writing now more worth reading. -- David Sexton * Evening Standard * One cannot be said to be keeping abreast of contemporary literature without reading his work. -- Karl Ove Knausgaard * New York Times * One cannot be said to be keeping abreast of contemporary literature without reading his work. -- Karl Ove Knausgaard * New York Times * The narration is enjoyably sardonic, a pungent mixture of deadpan jokes about sexual politics and close reading...Darkly clever and funny. * Guardian * A fine, deeply literary work...It is genuinely more admiring than critical of Islam...It's electrifying; no recent English-language novel compares. * Spectator * Houellebecq's placid dystopias have been among the only contemporary novels worth dropping things for - and this is arguably the best of the lot...a bleakly funny satire on submission and salvation...I can't think of another contemporary writer who bares their soul so fearlessly - or with such rewards. * Evening Standard * Witty and deft...The polemical power of his imagination...approaches that of two 20th-century masterpieces, Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World...This is an important novel...It's worth remembering that Houellebecq has form in demonstrating that life sometimes imitates art. * Financial Times * Houellebecq's latest, Submission, brings his project to its most accessible realization yet. What's the project? Jerking your chain at the highest possible level, which a lot of people can sense from the vibe around Houellebecq, and therefore pre-emptively avoid. You shouldn't. The free and wild play of his hatred for modernity and its usual self-flattering reassurances is a tonic to be relished. Houellebecq's respect for his avowed models - Lovecraft, and here, Huysmans, reveals a sturdy commitment to older narrative forms, even genres - he's a horror writer, here updating the `Deal-with-the-devil
tale. Lorin Stein

's relaxed translation catches how Houellebecq's insouciant revulsion for propriety, and his congenital self-loathing, trickles down into a vernacular full of tiny slippages in and out of bourgeois formality, somewhat akin to Inspector Clouseau trying to recapture his authoritativeness after a pratfall. In the past these have read as errors of tone, but in Submission, they're as funny as I think Houellebecq intends. -- Jonathan Lethem No question about the book of the year: it's Michel Houellebecq's Submission in Lorin Stein's fluent translation...Following its publication, the Guardian asked brightly: `Does Houellebecq really hate women and Muslims, or is he just a twisted provocateur?'
But the book is more nuanced and more troubling than that. The narrator doesn

't register women who aren't young and shaggable - tell me that's not how men see women - and in this story, it's libidinous intellectuals who succumb to the new order because it suits them. Plausible? Sort of. Worrying? Yep. Important? Very. -- Melanie McDonagh * Spectator, Books of the Year * Submission is both a more subtle and less immediately scandalous satire than the brouhaha surrounding it might suggest...All described with lashings of Houellebecq's characteristically phosphorescent bile...That we feel Houellebecq's satire (like all the best from Swift to Celine to Waugh) is only half in jest makes reading Submission a shifty, discomfiting affair: we're never sure quite how many steps ahead of us the author is; how much of the nastiness is meant and how much mere drolerie; how many levels lie beneath, just waiting to suck us down from our moral high ground. * Observer * It is a fascinating and disturbing vision of a society which becomes an accidental theocracy... A rather brilliant conceit, worthy of George Orwell...Submission is a fascinating and original dystopia - challenging and ambiguous. It is a vision of what could happen if the West finally abandoned liberal enlightenment values and fell into the arms of religion. * Herald * Houellebecq has an unerring, Balzacian flair for detail, and his novels provide an acute, disenchanted anatomy of French middle-class life ... Houellebecq writes about Islam with curiosity, fascination, even a hint of envy. * London Review of Books * There are echoes of Albert Camus's outsider, Meursault, in Francois'
lack of emotion and relentless cynicism

...Submission, expertly translated by Lorin Stein, can be read on a number of levels. As much as it is about Islamic and political tensions in France, Houellebecq also explores the inner world of his chauvinistic antihero who struggles to find meaning in his life and seeks solace in sex. * Independent on Sunday * Michel Houllebecq's Submission is many things: comic, profound, and at times unexpectedly moving. It is much more about human nature than Islam, and to think otherwise is to misunderstand it. Of the several suicide notes for the west Houellebecq has written, this is his best. -- Richard Flanagan * Observer * Extraordinary... if there is anyone in literature today, not just in French but worldwide, who is thinking about the sort of enormous shifts we all feel are happening, it's him. -- Emmanuel Carrere * Le Monde *

About the Author

Michel Houellebecq
Michel Houellebecq lives in County Cork, Ireland. He is the bestselling author of Atomised, Platform, Lanzarote and Whatever. He is also a poet, essayist and rap artist.

More books by this author
Author 'Like for Like' recommendations

Loading similar books...
Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

1st September 2016


Michel Houellebecq

More books by Michel Houellebecq
Author 'Like for Like'

Author's Website


Author's Facebook Latest

Loading facebook updates...
Loading twitter updates...


Vintage Publishing


256 pages


Literary Fiction
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



I love that Lovereading handpicks very special debut reads.

Magda North

My horizons have been broadened by some of the books I have been lucky to review and I expect it to be no different in the future.

Daran Bellingham

Lovereading is an amazing place to be, the website is wonderful and to me if I'm sad I'll go here and it cheers me up!

Sophia Upton

Because of Lovereading I have broadened my reading horizons with some really great books that I probably would never have chosen myself.

Susan Walsh

Lovereading has given me the opportunity to delve into new and exciting worlds of authors who I would never have tried before.

Glynis Elliott

A well laid out site, I love the fact that is separates paranormal fiction from fantasy and horror, which other sites don't.

Jen Rainbow

You'll always find what you never knew you were looking for and you're always spoilt for choice.

Helen Jones

If you LOVE reading then you will love LOVEREADING! It's a 'novel' idea. Seriously though I could not recommend them enough.

Rebecca Whymark