September 16th 2011. The TV news networks, newspapers, blogs, websites and radio stations are all reporting on one story: Allegedly – star author Michel Houellebecq, winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2010, has been abducted. Some members of the media go so far as to suggest that Al-Qaeda may be involved.
For the next few days, the news ripples through literary circles and members of the press, feeding buzz and speculation. A brazen kidnapping? An identity crisis? A plan to escape abroad? A schizophrenic delirium?
Michel will never provide the media with any rational explanation for what happened to him.
Michel Houellebecq. Who is he really? A good writer? A great author? Even more than that? The most widely read living French writer in the world? The most hated and the most respected one? Does he deserve to be classified among those celebrated enfants terribles of our national prose, right there next to Artaud, Céline, Genêt or Gracq?
Suzanne Simonin describes her life of suffering in letters. As a young woman she is sent to a convent against her will. Since her parents cannot afford the dowry required for a marriage befitting her rank they decide she must instead become a nun. Although a kind and understanding Mother Superior helps her to learn the convent’s daily routine, Suzanne’s desire for freedom remains unabated. When the Mother Superior dies, Suzanne finds herself faced with reprisals, humiliation and harassment at the hands of the new Abbess and the other Sisters. For many years, Suzanne is subjected to bigotry and religious fanaticism.
Denis Diderot’s novel has been adapted for the screen several times. In 1966 Jacques Rivette made a film version with Anna Karina and Liselotte Pulver so daringly critical of the church it was temporarily banned by the French censors. Guillaume Nicloux however concentrates on the fate of a young woman pitted against a merciless system which crushes the individual. His film gradually divorces itself from the circumstances of this particular story to describe a universal drama. Continue reading