No matter where you are on the political spectrum, Michel Houellebecq’s provocative book about the possible future of French politics and society is a must read. For the Connecticuter/Nutmegger it provides a better understanding of the (unimaginable) more than two party systems that govern in Europe.
The story is told through the lens of Francois, an innately brilliant professor of French literary figures and movements, principally those concerning J.K. Huysmans. While intellectually strong, Francois’s character is equally weak. His chief interests are sleeping with his students and locating soirees with premium free food and wine. He has no interest in office politics and even less in national politics, that is until French politics get white hot and spill into the street’s. With the impending election of Nationalist Marine Le Pen as France’s President, the far left and center-right parties swing their support to the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood party, who becomes France’s first Muslin president. The Brotherhood then hands over plumb Ministries (e.g., Economy, Defense, Agriculture, Heath, etc…) which it has zero interest in, to its coalition partners, while it takes control of lesser spoils like the Ministries of Education, Justice, Culture.
The immediate effect on Francois is the departure of his Jewish girlfriend to Israel and the closure of the Sorbonne University while it adjusts its catalog to be compliant with Islamic teaching and digests vast amounts of petro-dollars and students that begin to flow into the University from the Gulf States. Ultimately the faculty is told that they must convert to Islam to keep their positions. Their package is generous as retiring faculty go off on full pay, so almost every professor leaves, thereby delivering a black eye to the new Muslim administrators. Now lacking the intellectual firepower they’ve paid for, the Gulf emirs direct Sorbonne administrators to get the top talent back at whatever the cost. Francois is then courted by the new Department head, who is wealthy and under Islamic law has several wives, one of which Francois notices is a teenager wearing Hello Kitty garb under her bhurka. The thought of wealth, status, access to being published and 3 or 4-teenage brides proves too much for Francois, who converts to Islam.
Did we just plot bust? It doesn’t matter. Francois is the imperfect messenger here. The message is that the open borders of today will radically change Western countries in the future. You can debate how, and how much, but that change is coming is a fact. Not a page turner and some unrecognizable French politics, but well worth reading and discussing.