Lina's Reviews > Unterwerfung

Unterwerfung by Michel Houellebecq
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Is this well written? Quite. For someone who is definitely not a literature expert anyway. In terms of the lanuage, it's easily read.

But it has a plot, so alas, it's a pain in the ass. The plot is thus: Muslims take over French politics and the university Paris-Sorbonne becomes a muslim university and all women wear veils and everyone's fine with this.

In conclusion, we can already say that realism is not this book's strongest suit. Perhaps that is because Houellebecq decided to keep the political details vague, which is good since it shows that he knows his limits, but it's also bad because he ends up with a plot that can not make any sense on it's own.
If he had spent more time researching to write more plausibly, this could have been good. But as it stands, all I see is "Muslims going into politics and getting power makes Europe totally muslim".
Just a _little_ more sense, please? For once?

What really angered me, however, was the sexist vibe I got from this book. And I do hope that this isn't Houellebecq thought's coming through, but I'll see how that goes once I read more from him.
Anyway, there are lots of women in this book. Those who do not have sex with the protagonist are either family members or women who are with other men and are preferrably seen cooking for these men. Those who got names, anyway. And among the latter example of women being with other men is a fifteen-year-old new wive of another academic.
Not to mention that no one contradicts Rediger when he talks like... like... I want to say "Höcke", but who would I be insulting? Rediger, who is a sexist asshole par excellence, or AfD-Höcke (German "politician"), our newest applicant for the position of the Reichspropagandaminister, whose greatest hobby seems to be to try and sound like more of a Nazi everyday without getting arrested?

This book seriously wants me to believe that modern women in France would voluntarily put on veils or just dress more conservatively, simply because a muslim party managed to get into power? That no one, no women and no men, would protest the closing of certain schools for girls and the complete deconstruction of the school system?

If this book was set in Germany, this would be one thing. We Germans are not as revolutionary as we used to be, and even then we were fine once we got our unified country (twice).
But FRANCE? The French? They practically invented revolutions. At least they redesigned them and put their own name on it. For these people not to protest in any way makes non sense at all.

And did I mention that this book contains the most unsexiest sex I have ever read in any book EVER? Twilight was more sexy than that! I feel sterilised from this unsexiness.
And, of course, this neat little fact that when what's-his-face, the protagonist (I seriously can't remember his name, but sadly, I know now how fond he is of his penis), hears that Rediger has a fifteen-year-old wife (Which makes SO MUCH sense, like, not at all), he OF COURSE thinks about her value in bed.
This is sexist left, right and centre. And this is supposedly a modern book. If this was written a hundred years ago, I could excuse it, those were the times. But a book from this day and age? That's just either plain sexist or shows the writer's incompetence in writing women.
And both are not to be applauded.

I seriously can't say what made people so crazy about this book. It gave me a headache and put Houellebecq on the very back of my to-read-list.
And the saddest part is that he has undeniable talent and didn't really use it.

(EDIT: Also, the shit Rediger said about Atheism is beyond insulting. Even if this book was better overall, I would hate it just for Rediger.)
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Reading Progress

January 2, 2016 – Started Reading
January 3, 2016 – Shelved
January 3, 2016 –
page 66
January 4, 2016 –
page 94
January 5, 2016 –
page 129
January 6, 2016 –
page 152
January 7, 2016 –
page 166
January 14, 2016 –
page 216
January 14, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Manny (last edited Jan 18, 2016 01:25AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny But, but, but... it's a satire! You're supposed to find the sex revolting and unsexy! You're supposed to be appalled by the protagonist! And I very much doubt that France's supine acceptance of Islamic culture is meant to be read at face value...

message 2: by Lina (new) - rated it 1 star

Lina Sadly, I found nothing in this to be satirical or... well... enjoyable. It was headache-inducing. And it didn't once make me think "This can't possibly be the opinion of the author", but always just "Oh dear, please don't let this be the opinion of the author".

Also, that doesn't endear me any more to these sex scenes. Or protagonist-guy-what's-his-face.

Maybe I'm just used to different kinds of satire, but I saw nothing of that sort in it. Even with that possibility in mind, it never came across like it was. :/

Manny Matt had similar criticisms, so perhaps the German translation failed to convey the satirical elements very well. They are pretty obvious in the French original, and judging by what people have written about the English translation they seem to have survived that transition...

message 4: by Lina (new) - rated it 1 star

Lina If I expected any success to come from it, I would look for the English translation in my library, but seeing as how that is beyond unlikely... (and even if there was a French one in there, my French is rustycrusty)

I am open to reading it in either of these translations later on (after my headache has passed), but it might also just be a case of it not being my kind of satire. But we'll see. I'll probably try to read other Houellebecq's before that, and maybe try Huysmans as well. Stilistic context might help.

Manny If you didn't like this, I think you may find other Houellebecq novels similar but even more so. A rebours is very nice!

message 6: by Lina (new) - rated it 1 star

Lina That has never stopped me from reading more. I like to despise authors I don't like very thoroughly - why else would I continue reading what Paulo Coelho puked onto paper? :D

We shall see what will come of it. In any case, there'll be quite some time before I'll act on that thought.
Thanks for the suggestion!

message 7: by Alex (new)

Alex Yes, why else?

message 8: by Lina (new) - rated it 1 star

Lina Hi, Alex. Why what?

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