Houellebecq’s anti-utopianism

Vagant 1–2/2019

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.

More articles from Vagant in Eurozine; Vagant’s website

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

© Eurozine


Published in

Share article


Subscribe to know what’s worth thinking about.

Related Articles

Cover for: Landlubbers and seafarers

Growing up in North Wales after the War as the child of a merchant navy sea captain was to be aware of a world beyond one’s cultural horizons. But though a source of fascination, cosmopolitanism came at a cost to both family and father. The story of one man’s life in a once proud national industry.


‘Nowadays I often cry’

An interview with Victor Martinovich

Physical violence and political repression continue to torment Belarusian streets. Ongoing activism incurs a heavy, emotional toll. Could solace and stamina be found in literature, metaphysical reflections on the question of evil?