Should Russian literature be held accountable for creating a nationalist mood capable of inciting war on Ukraine? Calls for a halt on distribution include all works, whether colonialist or not. An Estonian perspective, built over five days in Ukraine, asks whether the Russian state is responsible for cancelling its own culture.
Norwegian quarterly ‘Vagant’ focuses on Michel Houellebecq: the former agronomist on a mission against righteousness. Also: the meaning of Houellebecq’s nicotine addiction and a Houellebecq lexicon from ‘air conditioning’ to ‘zapper generation’.
The current issue of the Norwegian quarterly Vagant – 180 pages devoted to writing on culture – features a dossier on the arch-pessimist of contemporary letters, Michel Houellebecq. On a thorough if unsystematic mission to undermine any pretence to righteousness, the former agronomist’s take on agricultural politics is ‘interesting’, according to Mats O. Svensson. Houellebecq argues that ‘things were better when cows ate green grass and … ecological farming was not a topic for the middle classes and the EU didn’t stick its nose into honest French farmers’ affairs’. Svensson relishes a comment by Houellebecq’s protagonist in his latest novel Serotonin: ‘Knowing ecology is handy for shutting up the Greens’.
Houellebecq cont. Amidst the critical analysis and comment, odd takes on Houellebecq and his books catch one’s attention. Joni Hyvönen picks up the theme of cigarettes: smoking is a protest against the right-thinking, and nicotine is ‘the drug of drugs’, pure addiction without baroque hallucinations or compulsions and an invaluable stimulus for a lonely man. And Vagant editor Christian Johannes Idskov has compiled a ‘Houellebecq lexicon’, from ‘air conditioning’ to ‘zapper generation’.
Also in the issue: Art and the northern environment; singing 18th-century songs as a way of life; and escaping capitalism’s grip on our lives.
This article is part of the 18/2019 Eurozine review. Click here to subscribe to our reviews, and you also can subscribe to our newsletter and get the bi-weekly updates about latest publications and news on partner journals.
Norway is guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2019 (16–19 October). Eurozine will be in Frankfurt to promote the cultural journals network and is organising a panel at the ‘Weltempfang’ on how to ‘break the bad news’ of climate crisis. More information
Published 14 October 2019
Original in English
First published by Eurozine
The many names of Chernivtsi in Ukraine attest to the tumultuous military and political history of Europe, borne out in cultural and linguistic competition, conflict and compromise in literature, music and art. What traces of this past can still be seen in the city today?