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France and Ireland in the Public Imagination

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Edited By Benjamin Keatinge and Mary Pierse

This engaging collection of essays considers the cultural complexities of the Franco-Irish relationship in song and story, image and cuisine, novels, paintings and poetry. It casts a fresh eye on public perceptions of the historic bonds between Ireland and France, revealing a rich variety of contact and influence. Controversy is not shirked, whether on the subject of Irish economic decline or reflecting on prominent, contentious personalities such as Ian Paisley and Michel Houellebecq. Contrasting ideas of the popular and the intellectual emerge in a study of Brendan Kennelly; recent Irish tribunals are analysed in the light of French cultural theory; and familiar renditions of Franco-Irish links are re-evaluated against the evidence of newspaper and journal accounts.
Drawing on the disciplines of history, art, economics and literature, and dipping into the good wines of France and Ireland, the book paints a fascinating picture of the relationship between the two countries over three dramatic centuries.
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The Enfant Terrible of French Letters: Michel Houellebecq

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Rarely has a writer, even a French writer, polarized public opinion in the way that Michel Houellebecq has done for the past two decades. Since the publication of his biography of Howard P. Lovecraft, subtitled significantly Contre le monde, contre la vie, in 1991, he has produced work that is both counter-cultural and exceptionally controversial. It would be difficult to find a more appropriate or controversial subject in terms of the public imagination, in France and in Ireland, than this enfant terrible of French letters.

Les Particules élémentaires, published by Flammarion in 1999, and in English translation as Atomised in 2000, brought Houellebecq to public attention for his negative portrayal of the sexual revolution, swingers’ clubs and unbridled permissiveness that apparently leave people feeling even more empty than when they live in isolation from the world. It also made the daring prediction of the possibility of human cloning – this at the end of a novel in which the ambience of hopelessness and desperation is omnipresent. Finally, a French writer seemed to have emerged who was capable of following in the footsteps of Sartre and Camus. Existence is absurd; there is no God; it is impossible to find meaning; how can one live in such uncertainty? These are the type of issues raised in Houellebecq’s novels and poetry. In his biography of Lovecraft, he wrote: ‘L’âge adulte, c’est l’enfer. […] Principe de réalité, principe de plaisir, compétitivité, challenge permanent, sexe et placements […] pas de...

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