Page 6 of 6 FirstFirst 123456
Results 101 to 113 of 113

Thread: The Book thread

Share             
  1. #101
    Media Editor Khanda's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Europe
    Posts
    3,865
    Thanks
    2525
    Pakistan Europe

    Re: The Book thread

    Quote Originally Posted by US CENTCOM View Post
    Lol, I would really like to get a review of this book from one of you that wants to read this book.



    Haroon Ahmad
    DET - U.S. Central Command
    www.facebook.com/centcomurdu
    I can imagine what it's about. Has it been done in English yet?

  2. #102
    Science Editor SHAMAS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Midlands, UK
    Posts
    6,442
    Thanks
    2451
    Pakistan UK

    Re: The Book thread

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Departur...Q2879RHWK4QYE0

    The Departure (Owner Trilogy 1) Paperback – 12 Apr 2012
    by Neal Asher (Author)

    The Argus Space Station looks down on a nightmarish Earth. And from this safe distance, the Committee enforces its despotic rule. There are too many people and too few resources, and they need twelve billion to die before Earth can be stabilised. So corruption is rife, people starve, and the poor are policed by mechanised overseers and identity-reader guns. Citizens already fear the brutal Inspectorate with its pain inducers. But to reach its goals, the Committee will unleash satellite laser weaponry, taking carnage to a new level.

    This is the world Alan Saul wakes to, travelling in a crate destined for the Calais incinerator. How he got there he doesn’t know, but he remembers pain and his tormentor’s face. He also has company: Janus, a rogue intelligence inhabiting forbidden hardware in his skull. As Janus shows Saul an Earth stripped of hope, he resolves to annihilate the Committee and their regime. Once he’s discovered who he was, and killed his interrogator.


    The Departure marks Asher's most recent venture away from his polity novels. It also happens to be one of his most concise and focused narrative story's to date. The story follows Alan Saul on his mission for vengeance in a totalitarian regime world.

    The setting feels very distinctly 1984 inspired and feels seriously believable and engrossing. Unlike most of Asher's previous books this novel essentially is centred on two main characters. The violence is as ultra as ever, his world building as grand and down to earth and he never seems to run out of ideas. The main character is essentially a remorseless sociopath, but that's the whole idea, he is ruthless and resourceful and someone you would never want to **** off, but he is actually a lot deeper.

    Asher has managed to envisage a very believable world with some cleverly designed monstrosity's such as "adjustment" and the committee itself. It puts forward some intriguing moral dilemmas such as what would you really do when the world population has reached 18 billion!

    I enjoyed the book enough to want to read the other two books in the series.

    Given the recent spate of scifi movies, I wouldn't be surprised if this was made into a film in the near future.
    The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to SHAMAS For This Useful Post: 1Badmaash,Muse


  3. #103
    Science Editor SHAMAS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Midlands, UK
    Posts
    6,442
    Thanks
    2451
    Pakistan UK

    Pushing Ice

    Pushing Ice Paperback
    (2008)
    by Alastair Reynolds


    Some centuries from now, the exploration and exploitation of the Solar System is in full swing. On the cold edge of the system, Bella Lind, captain of the huge commercial spacecraft Rockhopper IV, helps fuel this new gold rush by attaching mass-driver motors to organic-rich water-ice comets to move them back to the inner worlds. Her crew are tough, blue-collar miners, engineers and demolition experts.

    Around Saturn, something inexplicable happens: one of the moons leaves its orbit and accelerates out of the Solar System. The icy mantle peels away to reveal that it was never a moon in the first place, just a parked spacecraft, millions of years old, that has now decided to move on.

    Rockhopper IV, trapped in the pull, is hurled across time and space into the deep, distant future, arriving in a vast, alien-constructed chamber. And the crew are not alone, for each chamber contains an alien culture dragged into this cosmic menagerie at the end of time.

    The crew of the Rockhopper IV know a lot about blowing up comets, but not much about first contact with ultra-advanced aliens. They have two things to worry about: can they (and their new alien allies) negotiate their way through each harrying contact? And can they assimilate the avalanche of knowledge about their own future - including all the glittering, dangerous technologies that are now theirs for the taking - without destroying themselves in the process?

    In my view the book is defintely worth a read.
    The Following User Says Thank You to SHAMAS For This Useful Post: Muse


  4. #104
    Think Tank Muse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Posts
    11,034
    Thanks
    5084
    UK UK

    Re: The Book thread

    Two reviews of the same book -- Fear and Trembling, anyone?


    Michel Houellebecq’s ‘Submission’

    By KARL OVE KNAUSGAARD
    NOV. 2, 2015




    Before I begin this review, I have to make a small confession. I have never read Michel Houellebecq’s books. This is odd, I concede, since Houellebecq is considered a great contemporary author, and one cannot be said to be keeping abreast of contemporary literature without reading his work. His books have been recommended to me ever since 1998, most often “The Elementary Particles,” by one friend in particular, who says the same thing every time I see him. You have to read “The Elementary Particles,” he tells me, it’s awesome, the best book I’ve ever read. Several times I’ve been on the verge of heeding his advice, plucking “The Elementary Particles” from its place on my shelf and considering it for a while, though always returning it unread. The resistance to starting a book by Houellebecq is too great. I’m not entirely sure where it comes from, though I do have a suspicion, because the same thing goes for the films of Lars von Trier: When “Antichrist” came out I couldn’t bring myself to see it, neither in the cinema nor at home on the DVD I eventually bought, which remains in its box unwatched. They’re simply too good. What prevents me from reading Houellebecq and watching von Trier is a kind of envy — not that I begrudge them success, but by reading the books and watching the films I would be reminded of how excellent a work of art can be, and of how far beneath that level my own work is. Such a reminder, which can be crushing, is something I shield myself from by ignoring Houellebecq’s books and von Trier’s films. That may sound strange, and yet it can hardly be unusual. If you’re a carpenter, for instance, and you keep hearing about the amazing work of another carpenter, you’re not necessarily going to seek it out, because what would be the good of having it confirmed that there is a level of excellence to which you may never aspire? Better to close your eyes and carry on with your own work, pretending the master carpenter doesn’t exist.

    Houellebecq’s name is so rich with associations — it has become one of those names in the arts that are replete with meaning; everyone knows who he is and what he writes about — that you may quite easily conduct a conversation with people about Houellebecq, even members of the literati, without anyone suspecting that you have never read a word he has written. In such conversations I have, for instance, said that I have “skimmed” Houellebecq, or else I have praised him for his courage, and in that way given the impression that of course I have read his work, without actually having to lie about it.

    This was one reason I agreed to review Houellebecq’s latest novel, “Submission,” since then there would be no two ways about it, I’d have to force myself to read him. Another reason was the book’s reception. As is now well known, “Submissionwas first published on the same day as the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in which 12 innocent people were killed. Houellebecq himself was featured on the magazine’s front page that week, and since he had once said in an interview that Islam was the stupidest of religions, and since Islam supposedly played such a prominent role in his latest book, his name immediately became associated with the massacre. The French prime minister announced that France was not Michel Houellebecq, was not a country of intolerance and hatred. Houellebecq was held up as a symbol of everything France was not, a symbol, indeed, of everything undesirable, and this in a situation in which human beings had been killed — one of Houellebecq’s own friends among them, we later learned — so that it soon became impossible not to think of him and the killings together. He was, by virtue of having written a novel, connected with the murders, and this was affirmed by the highest level of authority. First of all I wondered how this must feel for him, to be made a symbol of baseness and evil at a time of such crisis, not only in France but all over the world, for Houellebecq is presumably just an ordinary guy who happens to spend his time writing novels as well as he can. What inhuman pressure he must be under, I thought to myself during those days. Or were his critics right in claiming that he was a cynical ******* seeking out the areas in which he knew he could cause most damage, in order to aggrandize his own name? The answer would lie in the novel, since you can’t hide in a novel. Second, I wondered what exactly had taken place in France in the years since 1968, when Sartre was arrested during the May riots and President de Gaulle pardoned him with the declaration that “you don’t arrest Voltaire.” Conceptions of the writer’s, the artist’s, the intellectual’s role in society, and of the value and function of free speech, must have altered radically during those 47 years. For surely Houellebecq’s novel could not be so full of hatred and intolerance that it deserved to be excluded from the prime minister’s vision of France as a tolerant society? Surely France could tolerate a novel?

    All of these issues, from the slightly pathetic private ones to those of greater political and global dimension, seemed to converge in this book, “Submission,” that had been sent to me in the mail, and that I now picked up and opened as I leaned back in my chair under the bright light of the lamp, lit a cigarette, poured myself a coffee and began to read.

    “Through all the years of my sad youth Huysmans remained a companion, a faithful friend; never once did I doubt him, never once was I tempted to drop him or take up another subject; then, one afternoon in June 2007, after waiting and putting it off as long as I could, even slightly longer than was allowed, I defended my dissertation, ‘Joris-Karl Huysmans: Out of the Tunnel,’ before the jury of the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne.”

    So ran my first Houellebecq sentence, the beginning of the novel “Submission.” What kind of a sentence is it? It is not in any way spectacular, more distinctly literary, certainly not the opening of a blockbuster — and not just because it concerns a man whose youth was dismal and his relationship to what the vast majority of people would consider a highly obscure author of the 19th century, but also because the sentence in itself (at least as I read it in the Norwegian rendering, which I sense perhaps is closer in style to Houellebecq’s original than Lorin Stein’s graceful English translation) is anything but impressive, rather it is strikingly ordinary, sauntering in a way, slightly disharmonious and irregular in rhythm, untidy even, as if the author lacks full mastery of the language or is unused to writing.

    What does this mean? It means that from the outset, the novel establishes a human presence, a particular individual, a rather faltering and yet sincere character about whom we already know something: His youth was unhappy and endured by the reading of novels, which became so important to him he felt compelled to study literature, in a sheltered environment in which he wished to remain for as long as possible, the environment in which literature is read and written about. Not just any literature, but Huysmans, the novels of that well-known figure of French Decadence.

    At this point I’m afraid I have another confession to make. I haven’t read Huysmans’s novels either, although they too have kept their place on my shelf for many years, and despite the fact that one of my own lecturers back when I studied literature, Per Buvik, also happened to be an expert on Huysmans, and like Houelle*becq’s protagonist had written a doctoral thesis on his oeuvre. The reason for this omission, however, was not envy but rather that I never felt reading him to be wholly necessary, knowing a bit about fin-de-siècle literature as I did, and most likely believing myself thereby to have some grasp of Huysmans too, at least enough to be able to talk about him without being caught out in the 15 or 20 seconds needed to turn the conversation toward something else instead. Huysmans, I thought to myself, and imagined a pasty young man hastening through the autumnal gloom of a Paris shrouded in fog, on the brink of suicide, the way every face he passed seemed to him coarse and vulgar, and the roars of laughter as he scuttled by a drinking establishment shuddered through his very soul.

    I could probably have read “Submission” with that image in mind, and then looked up Huysmans on Wikipedia before embarking on this review, but something about Houellebecq’s use of Huysmans struck me as fundamental to the novel, it seemed almost as if the ambition, in a way, was to rewrite Huysmans, to test out his conflicts in our day and age, to create a sounding board of the kind only novels can create, and so I took Huysmans’s best-known book, “Against the Grain,” with me to my daughter’s gymnastics practice and sat on the benches, drinking coffee from a plastic cup and reading while she somersaulted about on the mats below along with perhaps a score of other 10-year-old girls, in a harsh and glaring light as one hit song after another blared out of the public address system.

    It turned out that “Against the Grain” is about a nobleman who shuts himself away in a house, weary of people, weary of society, weary of the age, a man who finds everyday life insufferably banal and who, alone in contemplation, endeavors to establish a completely artificial life, through books, paintings, art and music, but also through grand, performance-like happenings in which he recreates the world outside by stimulating individual senses — smell, sight, taste, hearing — in systems as closed as they are unsettling. Moreover, he is obsessed by decay, obsessed by all that unravels, crumbles away, weakens, dies.

    The depiction of Jean Des Esseintes (Huysmans’s protagonist) probably seemed just as astonishing and aberrant to the reader when the book came out in 1884 as it does today, whereas the conception it represented, of the connection between refinement and decline, which flourished in the arts toward the end of that century, would most likely no longer seem as clear-cut. Presumably, World War II put an end to it; before that, it was a view that dominated European thought, not only in Decadent literature and art but also in the novels of a writer like Thomas Mann, and not least in philosophy, by way of Oswald Spengler’s once unprecedentedly influential work “The Decline of the West,” published starting in 1918, which construed civilizations as organic entities passing through clearly defined life cycles of a thousand years, in which culture’s pinnacle, its summer, also contained the very seed of its decline, for at that point it was consummate, and then stagnated, withered, turned in on itself, questioning its own raison d’être, a path that inexorably led to nihilism and decadence, the autumn of civilization — whereas winter marked the return of faith, when religiosity once more descended upon it.

    Huysmans’s literary life was like Spengler’s system in miniature: He began as a naturalist, continued as a fin-de-siècle nihilist and perhaps the foremost exponent of the Decadent movement, before eventually turning religious and converting to Catholicism, an evolution he spent his final books putting into words.

    All of this resonates in Houellebecq’s novel, in the simplest of ways, through the protagonist François’s absorption in Huysmans’s books, his identification with his life — Huysmans is “a faithful friend,” he writes. François finds modern life to be quite as intolerable as Des Esseintes before him, as empty and as hollow, but “Submission,” unlike “Against the Grain,” is a realistic novel, and the life it depicts is a perfectly ordinary French middle-class life. François is in his mid-40s, a professor at the Sorbonne, he lives alone, eats microwave dinners in front of the TV in the evenings, his romantic relationships are fleeting, a year at most, usually with one of his female students. As the narrative commences, in the spring of 2022, he resumes a sexually intense, albeit uncommitted relationship to a student called Myriam. Everything he does is tinged with a pessimism that escalates when Myriam leaves him and moves to Israel, and first his mother, then his father, die shortly afterward. He has no friends, no interests apart from 19th-century French literature, he browses porn on the Internet, visits a few prostitutes, at one point he says he’s nearing suicide, elsewhere he notes that suddenly, during the night, he was overwhelmed by unexpected, uncontrollable tears. Presented thus, as a detached list of facts, it seems apparent we are dealing with loneliness, lovelessness, the meaningless void. In the context of the novel itself, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case at all, for François never writes about his feelings, losing his parents is a matter hardly touched on, and his perspective is in every instance cynical and disillusioned, and since the cynical, disillusioned perspective generally is characterized by distance, it overlooks, or ignores, or does not believe in or recognize emotional intimacy. The disillusioned perspective distinguishes continually between faith and reality, between life as we want it to be and life as it actually is — for it is faith that joins us together with our undertakings and with the world, faith that accords them value. Without faith, no value. That’s why so many people find the disillusioned perspective so provoking: It lacks faith, sees only the phenomenon itself, while faith, which in a sense is always also illusion, for most people is the very point, the profoundest meaning. To the disillusioned, morals, for instance, are not so much a question of right or wrong as of fear. But try telling that to the moral individual. When François at the beginning of the novel writes that the great majority in Western societies are blinded by avarice and consumerist lust, even more so by the desire to assert themselves, inspired by their idols, athletes, actors and models, unable to see their own lives as they are, utterly devoid of meaning, what he is describing is the function of faith in modern society. The fact that he himself does not possess such faith, that he exists outside of it, within the meaningless, as it were, he explains as follows: “For various psychological reasons that I have neither the skill nor the desire to analyze, I wasn’t that way at all.”

    This is the only place in the novel that opens up for the idea that the emptiness and ennui that François feels is not just universal, a kind of existential condition applicable to us all and which most people hide away behind walls of illusion, it may also have individual causes. That is somewhere he doesn’t want to go, and thus a vast and interesting field of tension is set up in the novel, since the narrator is a person who is unable to bond with others, feels no closeness to anyone, not even himself, and moreover understands solitude existentially, that is from a distance, as something general, a universal condition, or as something determined by society, typical of our age, at the same time as he tells us his parents never wanted anything to do with him, that he hardly had any contact with them, and that their deaths are little more than insignificant incidents in his life. Such an understanding, that the ennui and emptiness he feels so strongly are related to his incapacity to feel emotion or establish closeness to others, and that it is difficult, indeed impossible, not to see this as having to do with lifelong rejection, is extraneous to the novel’s universe, since nothing would be remoter to François’s worldview, an intimate model of explanation would be impossible for him to accept, a mere addition to the list of things in which he doesn’t believe: love, politics, psychology, religion.

    Such a disillusioned protagonist allows, too, for a comic perspective, insofar as the comic presupposes distance, shuns identification and is nourished by the outrageous. Indeed, “Submission” is, in long stretches, a comic novel, a comedy, its protagonist François teetering always on the brink of caricature, his thoughts and dialogue often witty, as for instance in this passage, where Myriam, his young mistress, asks if he is bothered by her just having referred to him as macho: “ ‘I don’t know, I guess I must be kind of macho. I’ve never really been convinced that it was a good idea for women to get the vote, study the same things as men, go into the same professions, et cetera. I mean, we’re used to it now — but was it really a good idea?’ Her eyes narrowed in surprise. For a few seconds she actually seemed to be thinking it over, and suddenly I was, too, for a moment. Then I realized I had no answer, to this question or any other.”

    The main reason François’s ennui never really seems significant, at least not compared with the status ennui is accorded in Huysmans’s “Against the Grain,” even if it is consistently present in nearly all the novel’s scenes, is, however, neither abhorrence of emotional closeness nor the remoteness with which its comic passages are infused, but rather the fact that it coincides with the massive political upheaval France is undergoing in front of his very eyes. An election is coming up, and the mood across the country is tense, there are armed street battles and riots in several towns, right-wing radicals clash with various ethnic groups, and yet the media avoid writing about it, the problem is played down, and people seem weary and resigned.

    It is this theme that lends the novel its narrative thrust and which of course is the reason for all the attention it has received, for anything that has to do with immigration, the nation state, multiculturalism, ethnicity and religion is explosive stuff in Europe these days. Many of its elements are recognizable, like the newspapers omitting to mention, or mentioning only with caution, conflicts arising out of ethnic differences, or the political left’s anti-*racism overriding its feminism, making it wary of criticizing patriarchal structures within immigrant communities, say, but in this novel all is brought to a head, taken to its most extreme conclusion, in a scenario of the future that realistically is less than likely, and yet entirely possible. What’s crucial for the novel is that the political events it portrays are psychologically as persuasive as they are credible, for this is what the novel is about, an entire culture’s enormous loss of meaning, its lack of, or highly depleted, faith, a culture in which the ties of community are dissolving and which, for want of resilience more than anything else, gives up on its most important values and submits to religious government.


    In this, “Submission” is strongly satirical, and its satire is directed toward the intellectual classes, among whom no trace is found of idealism, and not a shadow of will to defend any set of values, only pragmatism pure and simple. François sums up the mood among his own as: “What has to happen will happen,” comparing this passivity with that which made it possible for Hitler to come to power in 1933, when people lulled themselves into believing that eventually he would come to his senses and conform.

    During a reception given by a journal of 19th-century literature to which François regularly contributes, shots and explosions are suddenly heard in the streets outside, and when later he walks through the city he sees the Place de Clichy in flames, a wreckage of burned-out cars, the skeleton of a bus, but not a single human being, no sound other than a screaming siren. No one knows what’s going to happen, whether all-out civil war will erupt or not. And yet in François’s circles weakness prevails, and if this is meant to be satirical, a depiction of a class of people helplessly enclosed within its own bubble, without the faintest idea what’s going on outside or why, a bit like the aristocracy before the revolution, it is also realistic, because when a person has grown up in a certain culture, within a certain societal system, it is largely unthinkable that that culture, that system, might be changed so radically, since everything in life — the beliefs instilled in us as children at home and at school, the vocations we are trained in and to which we later devote our labor, the programs we watch on TV and listen to on the radio, the words we read in newspapers, magazines and books, the images we see in films and advertising — occurs within the same framework, confirming and sustaining it, and this is so completely pervasive that to all intents and purposes it is the world, it is society, it is who we are. Minor modifications and adjustments take place all the time, of a political nature, too — sometimes the right is in charge, sometimes the left, and the greens may win a percentage of ground — but total upheaval isn’t even a faint possibility, it is simply unimaginable, and therefore does not exist.

    And yet society’s total upheaval is what “Submission” depicts. The election is won by a Muslim party with which the left collaborates in order to keep the National Front from power, and France as a result becomes a Muslim state. But maybe that isn’t so bad? Maybe it doesn’t matter that much? Aren’t people just people, regardless of what they believe in, and of how they choose to organize their societies? It is these questions that the novel leads up to, since this entire seamless revolution is seen through the eyes of François, a man who believes in nothing and who consequently is bound by nothing other than himself and his own needs. The novel closes with him looking forward in time, to the conversion ceremony of his own submission to Islam, a travesty of Huysmans’s conversion to Catholicism, not because François becomes a Muslim rather than a Catholic, but because his submission is pragmatic, without flame, superficial, whereas Huysmans’s was impassioned, anguished, a matter of life and death.

    This lack of attachment, this indifference, is as I see it the novel’s fundamental theme and issue, much more so than the Islamization of France, which in the logic of the book is merely a consequence. What does it mean to be a human being without faith? This is in many ways the question posed by the novel. François shares Huysmans’s misanthropy and disillusionment, but fails to grasp the religious route of his deliverance. He does, however, try, traveling to Rocamadour to see the Black Virgin, perhaps the most famous religious icon of the Middle Ages, sitting before her every day for more than a month, and for increasingly longer periods of time, but while intellectually he is fully aware of what she represents, something superhuman, from a period of Christianity in which the individual was as yet undeveloped and both faith and judgment were collective in nature, and although in the hours he spends in her presence he feels his ego dissolving, he ends up departing in a state of resignation, “fully deserted by the Spirit,” as he puts it.

    In this part of the novel, which is brief yet significant, there is no trace of satire. The description of the statue’s unearthliness, its dignity and severity, its almost disturbingly powerful aura, is exquisite in a novel that otherwise seems to shun beauty or not to know it at all. And the attempt to approach its mystery is genuine:

    What this severe statue expressed was not attachment to a homeland, to a country; not some celebration of the soldier’s manly courage; not even a child’s desire for his mother. It was something mysterious, priestly and royal that surpassed Péguy’s understanding, to say nothing of Huysmans’s.

    This is probably the only instance in which François rather than diminishing what he sees actually adds to it instead. What he describes here is nothing other than the Sacred.

    So what is the Sacred in this novel?

    What François seems to be looking for, in a sudden mood of gravity, is faith in its purest form, that which is unconcerned with human needs like safety, comfort or belonging, but which is directed beyond the human to the divine, the truly sacred. This is the only thing that cannot be impinged on by the perspective of disillusionment, because it veils nothing, conceals nothing, is nothing other than itself.

    To François’s mind, Huysmans’s conversion was nothing but a cultish yearning, a transparent attempt to lend meaning to the meaningless, possible only through self-delusion, that is by allowing illusion to trump disillusion.

    Faith that has no foundation but itself, this is the religion of Kierkegaard, the absurd and, in relation to human life, meaningless act, which may be conceived as the commencement of that period in Western history of which Huysmans and François are a part, where faith is not a natural element of life but something that may be attained only by particular endeavor, a leap undertaken alone.

    It is from the Virgin of Rocamadour that François returns to Paris, to the comedy, eventually converting to Islam in order to continue teaching at the Sorbonne, now a Muslim seat of learning. Before doing so, however, he writes a 40-page foreword to a Pléiade edition of Huysmans, as if in a fever, having now finally understood him better than he ever understood himself, as he writes:

    Husymans’s true subject had been bourgeois happiness, a happiness painfully out of reach for a bachelor. . . . His idea of happiness was to have his artist friends over for a pot-au-feu with horseradish sauce, accompanied by an ‘honest’ wine and followed by plum brandy and tobacco, with everyone sitting by the stove while the winter winds battered the towers of Saint-Sulpice. These simple pleasures had been denied him.”

    Was all this refinement, all this decadence, this misanthropy and disillusionment, were all these religious agonies and scruples merely the sublimation of a longing for the sedate pleasures of a bourgeois life? Was Huysmans’s entire body of work the result of a grandiose self-delusion?

    François appears to believe so, and the idea is far from improbable, in fact I find it quite plausible. The disillusioned gaze sees through everything, sees all the lies and the pretenses we concoct to give life meaning, the only thing it doesn’t see is its own origin, its own driving force. But what does that matter as long as it creates great literature, quivering with ambivalence, full of longing for meaning, which, if none is found, it creates itself?

    SUBMISSION
    By Michel Houellebecq
    Translated by Lorin Stein

    Karl Ove Knausgaard is the author, most recently, of the six-volume novel “My Struggle.” This review was translated by Martin Aitken.

  5. #105
    Think Tank Muse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Posts
    11,034
    Thanks
    5084
    UK UK

    Re: The Book thread

    And then there is this -- note the "not amused" tone ----- Every Reader Brings to ANY text, their training, their presuppositions, their world view, and these form a lens, if you will through which every reader "imagines" what is written:



    Michel Houellebecq’s Affair with Islam
    Submission: A Novel, Michel Houellebecq, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 256 pages
    By Noah Millman • October 28, 2015



    Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel, Submission, came out in French in the winter of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and it was in the context of that atrocity that the novel was originally received. A speculative fiction premised on the election of an Islamist candidate to the presidency of France, Submission was misconstrued in some quarters as a call to arms from a nativist, anti-Muslim right-wing perspective—a warning of the horrible fate that awaited France, and the West more generally, if it did not wake up to the menace of creeping Islamization.

    Now the English edition of the novel is out in the autumn of the Syrian refugee crisis and the divergent responses to it from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Once again, there is the risk of the novel being misunderstood—and unread—as a call to resist an invasion by modern-day Goths, lest the West face another Adrianople in the not-too-distant future.


    But far from crying “stand, men of the West!,” Houellebecq’s novel is almost the opposite: an argument for, if not rushing to embrace an Islamic future, at least trying to lie back and enjoy it when it comes. And the lingering question, in this reviewer’s mind at least, is: for whom, apart from Houellebecq himself, is this fantasy of submission especially appealing? If the book is a satire, who, precisely, is being satirized?

    Submission’s hero, François, is a professor of French literature specializing in J.-K. Huysmans, a 19th-century Symbolist writer and aesthete who later in life became a devoted Catholic. François, in the manner of previous Houellebecq author-surrogates, is bored, anti-social, and half-heartedly obsessed with sexual gratification—obsessed because nothing else seems to interest him remotely as much, but half-heartedly so because even that quest doesn’t feel especially compelling. He has a rotating series of temporary girlfriends, all well his junior, the most recent of which is a voluptuous Jewess named Myriam. But as a burgeoning political conflict between the nativist right and a new Islamist party heats up, Myriam departs for Israel, taking with her François’s best hope for happiness, however dim it may be. As François laments, “there is no Israel for me”—by which he means, no place, no affection, no identity worth fighting for, worth refusing to surrender.

    In the wake of Myriam’s departure, the political background moves to the foreground. Nativist and Muslim paramilitary groups battle in the streets, but the news media fastidiously refuses to report the news. An election is held—and then cancelled because of attacks on polling places. The National Front and Muslim Brotherhood face off, and the country feels on the brink of civil war, until the old political establishment of the Socialists and Gaullists collectively deliver peace by backing the Brotherhood candidate in exchange for all the “important” ministerial posts—defense, finance, etc.—since the Brotherhood is primarily interested in the education portfolio, where they aim to win the future.

    The Brotherhood sweeps to victory and promptly delivers the promised peace. Their candidate, Mohammed Ben Abbes, far from being a radical firebrand, is a cultured and patient leader who knows how to move the consensus his way. His economic program is a version of distributism, the Catholic 19th-century school of political economy that emphasizes the importance of small property owners and family businesses rather than the pure free market or the welfare state. His social program is strongly natalist, encouraging women to leave the workforce and take care of their children (and husbands). His foreign policy is pan-Mediterranean, aiming to transform both Europe and the Middle East by bringing North Africa and the Levant into the EU.

    This program works almost immediately. Crime in the banlieues drops by 90 percent overnight. Women immediately leave the workforce in large numbers, and start dressing more modestly to boot. France’s stature in the EU vaults upward, and the rest of Europe readily endorses the fast-track approval of majority-Muslim candidate states from Morocco to Turkey. When the budget needs to be balanced, Ben Abbes slashes social spending to the bone, particularly on education (the powerful French unions barely muster a protest), while money pours in from the wealthy states of the Persian Gulf to finance Islamic schools as an alternative—or an outright replacement, as with the newly Islamic Sorbonne, where François used to work but may no longer do so because he is not a Muslim.

    That last problem is a matter of little financial importance, though, and easily rectified in any event. Laid-off professors are given extraordinarily generous pensions—again, courtesy of the oil sheikhs—so as to avoid any trouble from the intelligentsia. But the administration is exceedingly eager to have François return to work, offering him a much higher salary with many fringe benefits if he will undergo the formality of conversion. The new regime, it seems, cares far more than the old did for a fellow like François. They will even provide him with a trio of well-trained and pliant wives—he should be able to afford as many as three on his new salary—so that he no longer needs to partake of the services of prostitutes or hunt among the student body for sexual satisfaction, as was his wont.

    François submits. And he feels pretty good about it. As he proclaims, it feels like a new lease on life, comparable to his father’s second, late-in-life marriage.

    The marital analogy comes almost at the end of the novel, but it seems like a belated key to understanding what had come before—because the vision of the transformation of society Houellebecq describes as taking place once the Islamists take over cannot be read as negative, much less dystopian, but neither is it remotely plausible. So it must be a fantasy.

    Why can’t it be negative? Well, from the perspective of François, every aspect of the new regime seems designed to make his life more pleasant. He’s offered both a generous retirement and the chance at a far more remunerative and satisfying career. He never looked for any kind of emotional connection with women, so it hardly matters that, under the Islamists, they are reduced to socially invisible, characterless ciphers. And with three wives, they will be more available than ever before and will provide a more comprehensive list of domestic services. The economy improves; France’s political position improves; crime evaporates—even the food is better. What’s not to like? thisarticleappears

    Yet for all the same obvious reasons, it’s a fantasy. In reality, women have psychologies, including Muslim women. Forget about feminism—which is a force within the Muslim world, though badly overmatched by the advocates of traditional patriarchy. Even within a deeply patriarchal society, the family is a zone of frequent conflict, not of perfect harmony. And even if you believe that this conflict is preferable to the ennui of the sexual marketplace, it’s absurd to pretend that under Islam marital relations are pure bliss.

    The economics are similarly absurd. The abrupt departure of millions of women from the workforce would reduce the aggregate productivity of the economy, ushering in a sharp recession. Once again, that might be a worthwhile tradeoff for the social good of stronger families, but the tradeoff should be acknowledged. Sillier still is the notion that college professors would be treated like royalty in an Islamist France. In the real world, the Gulf states would be vanishingly unlikely to care enough about winning over the good opinion of obscure French literature professors—they would certainly not triple their salaries in order to do so. (Nor would they have quite enough money to underwrite the complete social transformation of Europe.)

    There are no magic wands Islamist leaders can wave to cause crime to vanish. Civil strife has not evaporated in the countries where they have come to power, whether by violent or non-violent means.

    So the scenario is a fantasy, which is not necessarily a problem. Houellebecq has created a world, not a position-paper, and that world needs to be emotionally persuasive, not to pass an audit. But then, the world he created has few characters with real emotions—really, only François. The book feels in many ways like a pundit’s idea of a novel, an “idea” laid out through bits of plot and dialogue rather than a living thing.

    But to say that it’s a fantasy leads to a question: whose fantasy is it? Without the answer, one cannot say where the satire’s sting is aimed.

    It’s not the fantasy of political elites in Western societies. If there’s a fantasy that consciously appeals to the adherents of multiculturalism, it’s that there are no important differences between cultures: we’re all good liberals in training, and Islam will be dissolved as readily as Christianity was before it.

    These elites may not know their own minds. But even if we attribute to them a kind of unacknowledged subconscious yearning for an old-time patriarchal masculinity, this novel does not particularly indulge that yearning—because the men we meet are as far as possible from those types. François does not learn how to be a “real man” from Islam, the Islamic regime simply bestows upon him a new social position, as it has done for an even less likely candidate for transformation whom François meets at a party, an elderly and socially awkward professor who would never have been able to marry under the old sexual dispensation. Even the social-climbing head of François’s department, a character named Rediger who is clearly intended to be a kind of Mephistophelean figure, is more of a dandy than a man’s man and he has done nothing to seduce his teenage bride. She’s simply trained gigglingly to obey.

    Submission is not the fantasy of the nativist far right, either, though that’s a more intriguing possibility. There are no actual liberals in the novel: essentially all the characters accept the premises of the extreme right as true if unacknowledged. And one of Houellebecq’s more creative choices is to have Rediger be a former nativist and a scholar of Nietzsche who became a Muslim not out of simple expediency but because he saw that, for all his affection for the culture of his ancestors, the Muslims represented more faithfully the virtues that he most admired. But as Putin’s Russia amply demonstrates, there’s no objective reason why Christianity can’t be pressed into service by a state aiming to revive a martial, patriarchal spirit. Indeed, it is Putin’s Russia that has become the real-life fantasy land for Europe’s nativists, who have shown no interest in crossing over to the Islamist side in our clash of civilizations.

    Is this supposed to be the fantasy of the Islamists themselves? One can certainly find rhetoric from that quarter about the decadence of the West and the inevitable triumph of Islam due to greater fecundity and civilizational confidence. But we never meet a single cradle Muslim in the novel. Houellebecq’s is a conversation entirely between Frenchmen.

    Or, really, entirely with himself. Houellebecq’s vineyard, which he has been working for decades, is Western boredom and exhaustion, the profound dissatisfactions of life under capitalism, the welfare state, and the sexual marketplace. When he began to write Submission, as he has said, he thought it would recount a character’s journey back to Catholicism, much as François’s subject, Huysmans, returned. But he found himself unable to feel his way into that particular journey. It felt forced, false. He couldn’t ultimately believe in such a return.

    But Islam—that felt plausible. Not, I suspect, because it fit his needs better, but because he could fit it to his needs better. Catholicism might promise peace and harmony, but Houellebecq had some idea what that religion looked like in practice and what sacrifices it would entail. Islam, the perpetual “other,” he could imagine as being a “worldly religion” that would deny him nothing of consequence and cater to his deepest desires at no cost.

    Islam, in other words, is playing the part of the fantasy second wife that the husband imagines awaits him if the old bag finally kicks or he gets the guts to leave. The one who makes no demands, who really gets him, yet somehow isn’t boring but exciting and exotic. She makes him feel alive again, without actually asking him to change anything at all.

    That’s a fantasy, yes. But it’s not a fantasy of submission.

  6. #106
    Think Tank Muse's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Posts
    11,034
    Thanks
    5084
    UK UK

    Re: The Book thread

    And Yet another review of "Submission"



    Review: Michel Houellebecq’s ‘Submission’ Imagines France as a Muslim State

    By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
    NOV. 3, 2015


    Published in France on Jan. 7, the day of the terrorist attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Michel Houellebecq’s new book, “Submission” — a novel set in 2022 in which an Islamic party sweeps into power in France and Islamic law is embraced — became an instant best seller there and the center of a heated debate over the lines between satire and Islamophobia, free-expression and hate-mongering.

    Toward the end of that ugly new novel (now available in an English translation), Mr. Houellebecq has his narrator, François, make a barbed observation of another French writer, the 19th-century Decadent novelist J. K. Huysmans. It was “a mistake to give too much importance” to his “glib talk about ‘debauches’ and ‘dissipation,’ ” François thinks — that was just “part of the need to scandalize, to shock the bourgeoisie” and, in the end, “a career move.”

    Certainly, in Mr. Houellebecq’s own case, controversy has proved to be a very rewarding career move. His deliberately provocative novels have been best sellers in France and, according to The Guardian, he is “the first French novelist since Albert Camus to find a wide readership outside France.” It is success or notoriety stoked by his bigoted remarks — in 2001, he described Islam, to a French literary magazine, as “the dumbest religion” — and willfully offensive novels like “The Elementary Particles,” filled with misogynist put-downs, putrid sex scenes and nihilistic pronouncements on the depravity of the human species. In an interview about “Submission,” he acknowledged using “scare tactics” that play upon the politics of fear.

    The reception of these books has often been as perverse as their contents. Mr. Houellebecq has won not only international visibility, but also the Goncourt Prize, and a startling amount of critical acclaim — for being a “grand, scabrous renunciator,” for being arguably “the most potentially weighty French novelist to emerge since Tournier,” and for hunting “big game while others settle for shooting rabbits,” as though he were another Louis-Ferdinand Céline, endowed not only with Céline’s bigotry and pessimism but also with his talent.

    Mr. Houellebecq’s writing tends to be highly derivative of earlier writers, including Céline and Camus. His novels are hobbled by clumsy speechifying from supporting characters who exist only to give voice to political or philosophical points of view or to serve as objects of the hero’s contempt. His protagonists are simply variations on one odious type — self-pitying, self-absorbed and misanthropic men who have a hard time feeling any emotion other than lust, and who regard humanity as a “vile, unhappy race, barely different from the apes.”

    “Submissionis no exception. Its hero, François, a middle-aged academic who has a habit of seducing his students, is another of Mr. Houellebecq’s repellent narcissists: uninterested in history or politics, and disgusted by humanity. He dislikes teaching, dislikes his students, thinks most women are disposable and is so bored with his existence that he can’t think of any reason to live. In some ways, he is a nightmare variation on Camus’s Meursault in “The Stranger.

    The novel’s plot twist is that it takes place in France in the near future, when extremists have increasingly come to dominate the political scene. To thwart a victory by the right-wing National Front, a coalition is formed that brings to power the head of an Islamic party, a fictional character named Mohammed Ben Abbes, who proposes to ban coeducation and have Muslim-only teachers, and the country soon undergoes a radical transformation.

    Government subsidies to families discourage women from working and unemployment rates fall. The education budget is slashed with mandatory schooling ending around age 12 (Muslim schools step up to provide privatized secondary and higher education), and non-Muslim professors from the Sorbonne and other schools are forced out. Women stop wearing skirts and dresses and other revealing clothing, and polygamy becomes acceptable.

    These changes are submissively accepted by France (hence, the novel’s title), as though the country were too weary or too lethargic to resist. Although Mr. Houellebecq portrays Ben Abbes as the face of an Islam that imposes its will not by the sword like ISIS, but by shrewd politicking, his novel plays on French fears of terrorism, immigration and changing demographics. It appeals, in many respects, to the same audience that propelled to the best-seller list Éric Zemmour’s “The French Suicide,” which blames the policies of a liberal elite and successive waves of Muslim immigration for the country’s decline and loss of identity.

    Marine Le Pen, the real-life leader of France’s right-wing National Front (who appears in “Submission” as a political leader defeated by the fictional Ben Abbes), has said of Mr. Houellebecq’s novel: It’s “a fiction that could one day become a reality.”

    Mr. Houellebecq’s mockery of French academics — as craven self-promoters — and an arthritic political system can be amusing at times, but in the end, it’s all done with an extremely heavy hand. In one interview, Mr. Houellebecq has said that he does not see “Submission” as a satirical novel and in another, he acknowledges that he probably is “Islamophobic,” though he adds that the “word phobia means fear rather than hatred.”

    His hero, François — who has been on a vague spiritual quest after the death of his parents and departure of a girlfriend — sees himself converting to Islam in the end. But he would do so not out of belief but out of self-interest: If he converts, he’d get a high-paying job at the now Saudi-run Sorbonne and three young wives. It’s an ending thoroughly in keeping with its author’s cynical view of the world: Islam triumphs, in his telling, because of the cheap blandishments it can offer a potential convert, and its hero gets a new start in life by remaining true to his egocentric, opportunistic self.
    The Following User Says Thank You to Muse For This Useful Post: Khanda


  7. #107
    Science Editor SHAMAS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Midlands, UK
    Posts
    6,442
    Thanks
    2451
    Pakistan UK

    Re: Pushing Ice

    [MENTION=1244]Muse[/MENTION]
    [MENTION=2011]Ironman[/MENTION]
    @Alpha 1
    [MENTION=2]Aryan_B[/MENTION]

    Here's a brief list of some of the scifi books I would recommend.

    Arthur C. Clarke
    Rendezvous With Rama
    The City And The Stars
    2001: Space Odyssey
    2010: Odyssey Two
    3001: The Final Odyssey

    Neal Asher
    The Departure (Owner Trilogy 1)
    Zero Point (Owner Trilogy 2)
    Jupiter War: The Owner series: Book Three (Owner Trilogy 3)
    Brass Man
    The Technician
    Polity Agent

    Alastair Reynolds
    Revelation Space
    The Prefect
    Pushing Ice
    Terminal World

    Jack McDevitt
    Deepsix (Academy - Book 2)
    Chindi (Academy - Book 3)
    Omega (Academy - Book 4)
    Eternity Road
    Infinity Beach

    Patrick Tilley
    Fade Out

    Peter F Hamilton
    The Reality Dysfunction: (The Night's Dawn trilogy)
    Mindstar Rising

    Ian Banks
    Excession
    Surface Detail
    The Hydrogen Sonata

    Isaac Asimov
    The Robots of Dawn
    Robots and Empire

    Most should be available from any decent library.
    The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to SHAMAS For This Useful Post: Aryan_B,Ironman,Muse


  8. #108
    Member Ironman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    528
    Thanks
    439
    Pakistan England

    Re: Pushing Ice

    Quote Originally Posted by SHAMAS View Post
    [MENTION=1244]Muse[/MENTION]
    [MENTION=2011]Ironman[/MENTION]
    @Alpha 1
    [MENTION=2]Aryan_B[/MENTION]

    Here's a brief list of some of the scifi books I would recommend.

    Arthur C. Clarke
    Rendezvous With Rama
    The City And The Stars
    2001: Space Odyssey
    2010: Odyssey Two
    3001: The Final Odyssey

    Neal Asher
    The Departure (Owner Trilogy 1)
    Zero Point (Owner Trilogy 2)
    Jupiter War: The Owner series: Book Three (Owner Trilogy 3)
    Brass Man
    The Technician
    Polity Agent

    Alastair Reynolds
    Revelation Space
    The Prefect
    Pushing Ice
    Terminal World

    Jack McDevitt
    Deepsix (Academy - Book 2)
    Chindi (Academy - Book 3)
    Omega (Academy - Book 4)
    Eternity Road
    Infinity Beach

    Patrick Tilley
    Fade Out

    Peter F Hamilton
    The Reality Dysfunction: (The Night's Dawn trilogy)
    Mindstar Rising

    Ian Banks
    Excession
    Surface Detail
    The Hydrogen Sonata

    Isaac Asimov
    The Robots of Dawn
    Robots and Empire

    Most should be available from any decent library.
    Thank you kindly for the advice.

  9. #109
    Science Editor SHAMAS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Midlands, UK
    Posts
    6,442
    Thanks
    2451
    Pakistan UK

    Re: Pushing Ice

    [MENTION=2011]Ironman[/MENTION]

    All the authors mentioned are well known scifi authors and have written more besides the books I suggested. I deliberately kept the suggested titles to a minimum. You can always check out other books by the authors mentioned.

  10. #110
    Member Ironman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    528
    Thanks
    439
    Pakistan England

    Re: Pushing Ice

    Quote Originally Posted by SHAMAS View Post
    [MENTION=2011]Ironman[/MENTION]

    All the authors mentioned are well known scifi authors and have written more besides the books I suggested. I deliberately kept the suggested titles to a minimum. You can always check out other books by the authors mentioned.
    Will do. Thanks

  11. #111
    Member Mastankhan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    California
    Posts
    111
    Thanks
    164
    Pakistan United States

    Re: The Book thread

    " Make Me byLee Child A Jack Reacher Book



    Started reading this book around 6 pm yesterday and finished it by 2:30 am----absolutely shocking---. I was totally clueless to what the ending would be like or where the book was headed right till the last pages---and when the scene turned---it was like if I was hot by a truck full of bricks.

    My psyche totally smashed----. This book has been an unbelievable experience for me----it is not about the overall content but the GRAND FINALE---and grand finale it is----.

    Thousand of books that I have read----the only one that might even come close was the " In the name of the Rose "---which was intense overall---but Make Me---just climaxed and smashed me to the ground at such a fast pace that it will take a a couple of days to get over it.
    The Following User Says Thank You to Mastankhan For This Useful Post: Bubbles

    Last edited by Mastankhan; 2nd December 2015 at 01:18.

  12. #112
    Member Bubbles's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Posts
    1,194
    Thanks
    775
    India India

    Re: The Book thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastankhan View Post
    " Make Me byLee Child A Jack Reacher Book

    Started reading this book around 6 pm yesterday and finished it by 2:30 am----absolutely shocking---. I was totally clueless to what the ending would be like or where the book was headed right till the last pages---and when the scene turned---it was like if I was hot by a truck full of bricks.

    My psyche totally smashed----. This book has been an unbelievable experience for me----it is not about the overall content but the GRAND FINALE---and grand finale it is----.

    Thousand of books that I have read----the only one that might even come close was the " In the name of the Rose "---which was intense overall---but Make Me---just climaxed and smashed me to the ground at such a fast pace that it will take a a couple of days to get over it.
    Sir you are a quick reader
    The Following User Says Thank You to Bubbles For This Useful Post: Mastankhan


  13. #113
    Member Gul E Pakistan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Posts
    625
    Thanks
    708
    Pakistan Pakistan

    Re: The Book thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastankhan View Post
    " Make Me byLee Child A Jack Reacher Book



    Started reading this book around 6 pm yesterday and finished it by 2:30 am----absolutely shocking---. I was totally clueless to what the ending would be like or where the book was headed right till the last pages---and when the scene turned---it was like if I was hot by a truck full of bricks.

    My psyche totally smashed----. This book has been an unbelievable experience for me----it is not about the overall content but the GRAND FINALE---and grand finale it is----.

    Thousand of books that I have read----the only one that might even come close was the " In the name of the Rose "---which was intense overall---but Make Me---just climaxed and smashed me to the ground at such a fast pace that it will take a a couple of days to get over it.
    That was quick sir!!

Page 6 of 6 FirstFirst 123456

Similar Threads

  1. Movie thread
    By Lord Of The Ring in forum Art, Music & Entertainment
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 27th June 2013, 10:12
  2. Pakistan's F-16 discussion thread
    By Lord Of The Ring in forum Pakistan Air Force
    Replies: 42
    Last Post: 10th September 2012, 09:05
  3. Thread for Longbrained
    By Iranzamin in forum Member Introductions
    Replies: 20
    Last Post: 26th August 2012, 19:16
  4. Iran Air Forces thread info+pictures!
    By Goebbles in forum Iranian Affairs
    Replies: 48
    Last Post: 8th July 2012, 18:42

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Join us on twitter Follow us on twitter