In France, great writers are feted - and read

This is a hard winter: hard in France, where the president appears reduced to going on his knees before his electorate to ward off anarchy; and hard for Britons living in France, watching the dishonesty and incompetence of Westminster politicians in providing anything approaching leadership with respect to Britain’s future relationship – if any – with the European Union. It is at such times that one searches for consolation. 

There are, of course, many: and I am reminded of one thing France and the French have to celebrate by the publication on January 4 of the new novel by Michel Houellebecq, Sérotonine.

Houellebecq can claim to be Europe’s, and indeed possibly the world’s, greatest living novelist. He is to my mind without question France’s foremost living creative artist: there is no practising French composer, architect, painter, film director and certainly no writer to rival him.

His development is a tribute to the seriousness of French literary culture (which continues to produce numerous novelists of a quality rare in other western countries), something about which France can be immensely proud. In Britain, great writers are a minority sport, and seen as curiosities. In France, they are celebrated, and read, so widely that the initial print run of Sérotonine ...

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