Still, Michel Houellebecq certainly interviews well. (Via A&L Daily)
On what seem to be the enormous challenges of French childhood reading:
And then there was Pif le chien, a comic book published by Editions Vaillant and sponsored by the Communist Party. I realize now when I reread it that there was a Communist bent to many of Pif’s adventures. For example, a prehistoric man would bring down the local sorcerer in single combat and explain to the tribe that they didn’t need a sorcerer and that there was no need to fear thunder. The series was very innovative and of exceptional quality. I read Baudelaire oddly early, when I was about thirteen, but Pascal was the shock of my life. I was fifteen. I was on a class trip to Germany, my first trip abroad, and strangely I had brought the Pensées of Pascal. I was terrified by this passage: “Imagine a number of men in chains, all under sentence of death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of the others; those remaining see their own condition in that of their fellows, and looking at each other with grief and despair await their turn. This is an image of the human condition.” I think it affected me so deeply because I was raised by my grandparents. Suddenly I realized that they were going to die and probably soon. That’s when I discovered death.
Yes....and American parents are afraid of the damage that might be caused by Heather Has Two Mommies.
On visiting your neighbours:
The biggest consequence of The Elementary Particles, apart from the money and not having to work, is that I have become known internationally. I’ve stopped being a tourist, for example, because my book tours have satisfied any desire I might have to travel. And as a result there are countries I have visited that you wouldn’t ordinarily go to, like Germany.
Why do you say that?
Nobody does tourism in Germany. It doesn’t exist. But they’re wrong not to. It’s not so bad.
[Ahem: as pleased as I am with this glowing appraisal, it is apparent that some people -- well...at least from the Guardian -- do do tourism in Germany, and in our little corner of it, even.]
INTERVIEWERIn your preface to The Possibility of an Island, you mentioned a journalist who inspired the idea for the novel. Can you explain?HOUELLEBECQIt was a pretty strange moment. I was in Berlin at a café on a lake, waiting to be interviewed. It was very quiet. It was ten o’clock in the morning. There was no one around. And this German journalist arrives and, it was very curious, she wasn’t behaving normally. She didn’t have a tape recorder and she wasn’t taking notes. And she said, “I had a dream that you were in a phone booth after the end of the world and you were speaking to all of humanity but without knowing whether anyone was listening.” It was like being in a zombie film.
I'm thinking of putting him on my to-read list, not least since he's written what sounds like an intriguing book about one of my favourite authors, H.P. Lovecraft.
Any views on the matter you might wish to share?