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3 November 2010

A deep thought about election day (after)

Maybe I should have headlined this post “fuming,” per the photograph that accompanies it? Or perhaps not? This weekend I read an interview with French author Michel Houellebecq inĀ the Paris Review. Only after the election has it occurred to me why I highlighted the passage I’ve excerpted below at the time I first read it.

But first, to add yet more throat clearing, here are my thoughts on yesterday’s electoral result: Any despair I have about the position of the tide against the shore at a given moment in time is more than tempered by my feeling that the water can’t hurt us — unless perhaps, a conscious effort is made to drown. In other words, I don’t believe things are that bad right now. I think things have been far worse. All things are matters of perspective.

    Interviewer: They say that you are on the right poltically because in The Elementary Particles you seem to be against the liberalism of the sixties. What do you think of that interpretation?

    Houellebecq: What I think, fundamentally, is that you can’t do anything about major societal changes. It may be regrettable that the family unit is disappearing. You could argue that it increases human suffering. But regrettable or not, there’s nothing we can do. That’s the difference between me and a reactionary. I don’t have an interest in turning back the clock because I don’t believe it can be done. You can only observe and describe. I’ve always liked Balzac’s very insulting statement that the only purpose of the novel is to show the disasters produced by the changing of values. He’s exaggerating in an amusing way. But that’s what I do: I show the disasters produced by the liberalization of values.

    Interviewer: You have written that you are “not only a religious atheist but a political one.” Can you elaborate?

    Houellebecq: I don’t believe much in the influence of politics on history. I think that the major factors are technological and sometimes, not often, religious. I don’t think politicians can really have a true historical importance, except when they provoke major catastrophes Napoleon-style, but that’s about it. Read more »

Posted by Alec Hanley Bemis  

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