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An Officer of Civilization

The Poetics of Michel Houellebecq

Nurit Buchweitz

Michel Houellebecq posits himself as an officer of civilization, offering a map of contemporary reality and according literature a substantial role in the field of public involvement. His unique style problematizes contemporary cultural processes and deconstructs the aesthetic and ideological thought-habits that design the collective imaginary of our era. As such, this book seeks to analyze the particularities of Houellebecq’s poetics in the context of literary tradition, intertextual relations, psycho-cultural aspects and social semiotics, alongside contacts with the contemporary field of art. The author focuses on Houellebecq’s poetical differentia specifica, the unique and innovative intersection between the cooperation with transnational capitalism and the resentment toward ignorant indulgence in it. This book reads Houellebecq as both iconoclastic and subversive and at the same time as a commodity in the literary marketplace and shows how his narratives are harnessed for the purposes of activism in the service of engaged impact.
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The impetus, and ambition, to write this book arose from my fascination with Michel Houellebecq’s powerful, intense, and unfeigned writing. I was particularly attracted to Houellebecq’s fierce discourse and his overt engagement with reality.

I embarked upon this journey out of curiosity and it was indeed a thought-provoking experience. I soon began to discern that, in my opinion, Houellebecq shares many of the traits that drew me to the works of the Israeli poet laureate Meir Wiezeltier, which were the focus of my PhD dissertation and first book. In particular, both writers exercise a robust and compelling poetics. I do not attempt to compare between Houellebecq and Wiezeltier, nor do I suggest the existence of any intertextual relations between the two; suffice it to say that from my humble perspective, similarities appear evident. However, the title of this book is a citation from Wiezeltier, a phrase which I believe perfectly describes Houellebecq’s position on reality.

In writing this manuscript I have benefited from the insights and assistance of family, friends, and colleagues.

I wish to extend my thanks to Prof. Ziva Shamir, who guided me when I first plunged into Wiezeltier’s world, in hindsight facilitating me with the necessary tools to find my own way in Houellebecq’s writings.

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