Monday, September 30, 2019

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Submission by Michel Houellebecq {Review}

After reading silly books for almost two years, I finally got back to reading something more serious. I am barely getting back on track after recovering a bout of depression and burnout. My yearly challenge is to read 20 books in 2019, which I know is pretty low for me, but it is enough. This year, I've read:

  • A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup
  • All Cats Are Introverts by Francesco Marciuliano
  • The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen (which I LOVED!)
  • Submission by Michel Houellebecq
  • Arheologia iubirii by Catalin Pavel (this is a great book by a Romanian archeologist and novelist)
  • The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  • Updates on the Communist Manifesto by Slavoj Zizek
  • Hollywood by Charles Bukowski
  • Un joc fara reguli by Lucian Boia (this is a pretty awesome book by a Romanian historian)
  • Requiem for the American Dream by Noam Chomsky
  • (I finally finished) Come, Tell Me How you Live by Agatha Christie 
  • Murder in the Mews by Agatha Christie
  • The Storyteller's Secret by Carmine Gallo (which I hated and I'm done for non-fiction for a long while, I hope)
  • The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell
I'd like to write about Submission today because it was one of those books that impressed me the most. As you can see, I'm trying to do a bit of reading on social issues as I'm beginning to be more and more interested in how people live and how we can improve welfare for everyone. 

The story

The action takes place in 2022 in France. There are regular episodes of violence in the streets, and they are all kept secret by the media. The new Muslim Party is becoming more and more popular. In a second general election, Mohammed Ben Abbes (the Muslim Party's candidate) beats Marine Le Pen. On the next day, women are to abandon the Western fashion. They start to wear long smocks over their trousers.

The main character teaches a course at a university and is surprised to see that he gets an offer to retire. After all, both men and women who used to teach Western and generally modern (and useless) courses were of no use to the Muslim education. Women get the same pension offer - they basically receive the same amount of money they'd get if they were to work, but they do so without going to work. Naturally, they start leaving their jobs, probably also because they feel a little intimated by the fact that the faculty is now mostly composed of men.

People start converting and men begin to marry more wives. Although I originally thought of the main character as the typical misunderstood {late} teenager that's now in his 40s, what happens at the end of the book was a complete surprise to me.

Before you jump into any wrong conclusions, let me tell you that anything related to the Muslim culture is not depicted in this book in a negative way. It's just a dystopian novel about a probable political (and religious and social) situation in 2022 in France. There is a lot of talk in this book about religion, and about how the Western world has lost its connection to it. In a way, you get the feeling that most adults have lost their purpose and can't find any meaning in their lives any longer. That's where Islam comes in and offers it to them.

Is it worth reading?

Did I like the book? Well, yes, very much. Not necessarily because of what happened in it, in the sense that taking the power was pretty easy for the intelligent Muslims, and it seemed to me like the Western civilization didn't have any regrets. That's probably because we've lost our traditional values, in a way that will probably never happen with Muslims. 

They care a lot about their ways while we don't. We're acceptant of pretty much anything and anyone, and the well-known saying 'agree to disagree' has definitely influenced the way we think about the world. 

While they might have more radical views compared to Westerners, Muslims care about what happens with their communities. We seem to have lost empathy for the people around us, and we don't necessarily make a goal out of helping them, if they need any help.

I totally get why some people might be bothered by the story, especially those that care about the Western 'values'. I felt a little weird while reading the novel, partly because I related to the main character. I, too, have often asked myself what point there is to life, and that's very likely to not have happened had I been interested in social issues or religion, or had I been a part of a tight-knit community.

So, while it might be a little challenging to read or to digest, this is a very interesting book. Plus, it's short - I think it has less than 200 pages but I can't say for sure since I read it on my Kindle. I suggest you challenge your views and give it a go!

Continue reading Submission by Michel Houellebecq {Review}