Michel Houellebecq, oracle of our time, will publish his eighth novel on January 7. Entitled “Annihilate”, the book evokes the France of 2027, on the decline and undermined by inequalities.
“It is perhaps not his novel, the strongest, the most subversive, it is not his most provocative novel, it is not the most aggressive”. For the literary journalist Hubert Artus, Annihilate, the eighth novel by Michel Houellebecq, to be published on January 7, is nevertheless “the most beautiful, because it is the one in which there is the most love”.
The 2027 presidential campaign, at the end of a second five-year term of Emmanuel Macron, in a “declining” France, also allows Michel Houellebecq here to become the oracle of our time.
This long fiction (736 pages) by the most influential French novelist in the world should not fail to provoke exegesis and political debates.
Houellebecq had proved, in particular with Submission in 2015, that he adores anticipation, imagining the election of a President of the Muslim Republic. His exit coincided with the attack committed by two jihadists against Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 dead.
“Magnificent political animal”
Never named in Annihilate, Emmanuel Macron is easily recognizable when a communications advisor describes him as a “magnificent political animal”, always lively “since the start of his meteoric rise”.
He ruled a “declining” country plagued by inequality, the slow death of small towns and rural areas, and persistent unemployment. “The gap between the ruling classes and the population had reached an unprecedented level”, alarms the narrator.
In 2027, the left hardly exists, the National Rally is still strong in the first round but struggling in the second, and the person of Eric Zemmour attracts only hatred or admiration. All these elements are reminiscent of 2022.
Annihilate is interested in a tandem at the heart of this campaign, the Minister of the Economy Bruno Juge, and his special advisor Paul Raison. This 49-year-old man, servant of the State and of the presidential majority, in an even mood although plunged into an endless marital crisis, disillusioned by his own fatalism and his conscious taste for bourgeois comfort, will be the protagonist of the novel .
The Mayor, Hanouna and Drucker
The character of Bruno Juge, “probably the greatest Minister of the Economy since Colbert”, recalls a certain Bruno occupying the same functions, Bruno Le Maire.
The “real” minister is a personal friend of the writer, saying he is “very close” to him. At the end of October, he revealed in front of an audience of industrialists that the upcoming novel would defend the industry.
Other oracles: on television Cyril Hanouna has disappeared, victim of a dark legal case, and Michel Drucker has finally retired. Jean-Marie Le Pen is still alive, at almost 99 years old, and his daughter Marine leaves room for younger than herself for this 2027 presidential election. Global warming makes summers very long. Islamist terrorism is much less threatening on French territory, and other movements have supplanted it in political violence.
Most Annihilate, which will be released in the midst of the resurgence of the Covid-19 epidemic, is above all a great novel on issues of health, medicine and end of life.
The narrator, positioned overhanging, is worked on by the question of death in our Western societies: how we push it away, how we experience that of our loved ones, how we apprehend what will come after it. Houellebecq pleads once again against euthanasia.
These subjects end up catching up with a Paul Raison who was content to live without faith, without spiritual questioning, and who feels the void left by the collapse of Christianity. They offer the novel a sublime, lyrical ending in which political intrigue disappears.
“This lonely death, more lonely than it had ever been since the beginnings of human history, had recently been celebrated by the authors of various personal development books,” he laments.
Annihilate is printed in 300,000 copies.