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Submission is the highly-anticipated new novel from the internationally bestselling French writer Michel Houellebecq

As the 2022 French Presidential election looms, two candidates emerge as favourites: Marine Le Pen of the Front National, and the charismatic Muhammed Ben Abbes of the growing Muslim Fraternity. Forming a controversial alliance with the political left to block the Front National’s alarming ascendency, Ben Abbes sweeps to power, and overnight the country is transformed. This proves to be the death knell of French secularism, as Islamic law comes into force: women are veiled, polygamy is encouraged and, for our narrator François – misanthropic, middle-aged and alienated – life is set on a new course.

Submission is a devastating satire, comic and melancholy by turns, and a profound meditation on faith and meaning in Western society.

Reviews

A work of real literary distinction…[Houellebecq] has been the novelist who has most fearlessly and presciently tackled the rise of Islamic extremism in recent years…He is a writer with a gift for telling the truth, unlike any other in our time – I’ve been consistently saying he is the writer who matters most to me for many years now. I’ve read Submission twice in the last week with ever growing admiration and enjoyment. There’s been no English-language novel this good lately. With Submission Houellebecq has inserted himself right into the centre of the intellectual debate that was already raging in France about Islam and identity politics…There is nobody else writing now more worth reading.

David Sexton, Evening Standard

One cannot be said to be keeping abreast of contemporary literature without reading his work.

Karl Ove Knausgaard, New York Times

One cannot be said to be keeping abreast of contemporary literature without reading his work.

Karl Ove Knausgaard, New York Times

The narration is enjoyably sardonic, a pungent mixture of deadpan jokes about sexual politics and close reading…Darkly clever and funny.

Guardian

A fine, deeply literary work…It is genuinely more admiring than critical of Islam…It’s electrifying; no recent English-language novel compares.

Spectator

Houellebecq’s placid dystopias have been among the only contemporary novels worth dropping things for – and this is arguably the best of the lot…a bleakly funny satire on submission and salvation…I can’t think of another contemporary writer who bares their soul so fearlessly – or with such rewards.

Evening Standard

Witty and deft…The polemical power of his imagination…approaches that of two 20th-century masterpieces, Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World…This is an important novel…It’s worth remembering that Houellebecq has form in demonstrating that life sometimes imitates art.

Financial Times

Houellebecq’s latest, Submission, brings his project to its most accessible realization yet. What’s the project? Jerking your chain at the highest possible level, which a lot of people can sense from the vibe around Houellebecq, and therefore pre-emptively avoid. You shouldn’t. The free and wild play of his hatred for modernity and its usual self-flattering reassurances is a tonic to be relished. Houellebecq’s respect for his avowed models – Lovecraft, and here, Huysmans, reveals a sturdy commitment to older narrative forms, even genres – he’s a horror writer, here updating the ‘Deal-with-the-devil’ tale. Lorin Stein’s relaxed translation catches how Houellebecq’s insouciant revulsion for propriety, and his congenital self-loathing, trickles down into a vernacular full of tiny slippages in and out of bourgeois formality, somewhat akin to Inspector Clouseau trying to recapture his authoritativeness after a pratfall. In the past these have read as errors of tone, but in Submission, they’re as funny as I think Houellebecq intends.

Jonathan Lethem

No question about the book of the year: it’s Michel Houellebecq’s Submission in Lorin Stein’s fluent translation…Following its publication, the Guardian asked brightly: ‘Does Houellebecq really hate women and Muslims, or is he just a twisted provocateur?’ But the book is more nuanced and more troubling than that. The narrator doesn’t register women who aren’t young and shaggable – tell me that’s not how men see women – and in this story, it’s libidinous intellectuals who succumb to the new order because it suits them. Plausible? Sort of. Worrying? Yep. Important? Very.

Melanie McDonagh, Spectator, Books of the Year

Submission is both a more subtle and less immediately scandalous satire than the brouhaha surrounding it might suggest…All described with lashings of Houellebecq’s characteristically phosphorescent bile…That we feel Houellebecq’s satire (like all the best from Swift to Céline to Waugh) is only half in jest makes reading Submission a shifty, discomfiting affair: we’re never sure quite how many steps ahead of us the author is; how much of the nastiness is meant and how much mere drôlerie; how many levels lie beneath, just waiting to suck us down from our moral high ground.

Observer

It is a fascinating and disturbing vision of a society which becomes an accidental theocracy... A rather brilliant conceit, worthy of George Orwell…Submission is a fascinating and original dystopia – challenging and ambiguous. It is a vision of what could happen if the West finally abandoned liberal enlightenment values and fell into the arms of religion.

Herald

Houellebecq has an unerring, Balzacian flair for detail, and his novels provide an acute, disenchanted anatomy of French middle-class life … Houellebecq writes about Islam with curiosity, fascination, even a hint of envy.

London Review of Books

There are echoes of Albert Camus’s outsider, Meursault, in François’ lack of emotion and relentless cynicism…Submission, expertly translated by Lorin Stein, can be read on a number of levels. As much as it is about Islamic and political tensions in France, Houellebecq also explores the inner world of his chauvinistic antihero who struggles to find meaning in his life and seeks solace in sex.

Independent on Sunday

Michel Houllebecq's Submission is many things: comic, profound, and at times unexpectedly moving. It is much more about human nature than Islam, and to think otherwise is to misunderstand it. Of the several suicide notes for the west Houellebecq has written, this is his best.

Richard Flanagan, Observer

Extraordinary… if there is anyone in literature today, not just in French but worldwide, who is thinking about the sort of enormous shifts we all feel are happening, it’s him.

Emmanuel Carrère, Le Monde

Submission is polemical and comic by turns.

Arifa Akbar, Independent

A diligent, even-tempered novel of ideas.

New Statesman

A brilliant translation by Lorin Stein…It is a captivating read (perhaps thanks to the translator, who is plainly equally at home in English and French, and who is so good that you hardly ever remember that you are reading something originally written in a language utterly different from English)…A highly plausible political thriller.

Peter Hitchens, Daily Mail

Submission is an intelligent, misanthropic satire that addresses questions crucial to multicultural societies.

Mail on Sunday

The publication of Houellebecq's controversial novel...was a political event in itself. The book is brilliant, funny and deliberately offensive...and offers a sharp insight into the troubles of modern France

Financial Times

The year’s most prophetic and provocative novel.

Mark Lawson, Guardian

The most talked about, and most topical, novel.

Daily Telegraph

If you only read one book this summer, read this one … Please read this book. It says more about where we stand and what might happen than anything else I have read in the past few years.

The Birmingham Jewis Recorder

A fascinating book, and, as always with Houellebecq, horribly readable.

Nigeness

Brilliant novel.

A. W. Purdue, Times Higher Education Supplement

Uncomfortable and satirical – it shows one of France’s great controversialists at his best.

Nick Sidwell, Guardian

A timely, caustic, often funny novel… It has the cleverest, most satisfying ending I’ve read all year.

Peter Brookes, The Times, Book of the Year

Submission is the latest Houellebecq novel and perhaps his most bitingly funny in parts, but it’s also a reminder of how European nations may succumb to foreign domination and “submit”.

Tina Faulk, Spectator

What a visionary!... You must read it this summer, you’ll love it. It’s so incredible they published that a year before everything happened… He has a vision and it’s incredible… Incredible!

Carla Bruni, Quietus

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9781784702052

    June 13, 2016

    Vintage

    256 pages

    RRP $27.00

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  • EBook

    9781473535077

    September 10, 2015

    Cornerstone Digital

    256 pages

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    • Amazon Kindle
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  • EBook

    9781473523616

    September 8, 2016

    Vintage Digital

    256 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks NZ
    • Amazon Kindle
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    • Booktopia NZ