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HP Lovecraft: Against the world, against life

HP Lovecraft: Against the world, against life

For all the noise and hullabaloo his fiction has generated in person Michel Houellebecq is, somewhat ironically, a rather quiet and unassuming individual who shuffles awkwardly into and out of crowded rooms surrounded by plumes of blue/grey cigarette smoke bellowing from his nostrils in that ever-so-French way, his belongings (cigarettes, lighter, notebook presumably) carried with him in a nondescript polythene bag. His hair always parted; his face distant, unmoved and stoic, the eyes almost always bored - a curt little man ill at ease with the world. Unlike Salman Rushdie, who himself has ruffled a few feathers in the Muslim world, Michel Houellebecq likes to shun the limelight. Michel Houellebecq is not at his happiest in the company of his own species (although he has been known to drunkenly demand sex with female interviewers on the rare occasion). You can almost sense him wanting to gag in the corner when no one is looking - or so one imagines.

It was his second novel Les Particules élémentaires (Atomised over here in the UK) that first hit hard, both with calculated intent and loud vitriol - an attack on the very foundations of our pampered genus and littered with pornographic sex for added clout. It managed to just about upset everyone; both the left and the right, Christian and Muslim; a reaction that most writers can only dream of - and this was just the start of things to come. It won the French Prix Novembre for its literary "insolence", a book thought to be deeply routed in the tradition of Voltaire, Camus, Sartre, Tournier and Becket to name but a few. Atomised is Houellebecq's philosophical attack on the emptiness of modern society and all that had led us to this moment, a sledge-hammer of a novel used with force to show us for who we are: a fragile species which vaingloriously denies our own mortality whilst blindly pursuing banal attempts at unearthing sexual gratification at all costs. Atomised is, provocatively, dedicated to "all mankind". Little was known then of his first novel Extension du Domaine de la Lutte (curiously given the title Whatever over here), which told of the breakdown of our commercial domain; an environment smothered in information and terminology no one really knows the meaning of, a work-force drudgery dominated by a consumer-driven urge that demands we attain the unreachable whatever it may be, the end result being breakdown. Even less was known about his first ever book, written in 1988 and published in France in 1991, and published for the first time in English last month by Believer Books.

H.P. Lovecraft: Against the world, against life is a personal excursion through the life and work of American horror writer extraordinaire H.P. Lovecraft who, it seems, has been a major influence in Houellebecq's life since he first read him aged sixteen in France. Ultimately a treatise written in short bursts of digestible insight; lending itself to neat, well-packaged paragraphs and aphorisms in an almost bullet-point-like fashion, Houellebecq fondly calls this book his "first novel". It is certainly not essayistic in its approach and is more a statement of intent, rather than a stodgy critique on another's literary output. Better still is Stephen King's explanation in his interesting introduction to the new American English translation:

"H.P. Lovecraft: Against the world, against life is a remarkable blending of critical insight, fierce partisanship, and sympathetic biography - a kind of scholarly love-letter, maybe even the world's first truly cerebral mash-note." [Against the world, against life Pg 9]

But it is more than just one writer's "scholarly love-letter" to and for another, this book is something much deeper and is as much about its author, if not more, as it is its subject: it is Houellebecq's own fiery manifesto, a red hot poker thrust into the tender flesh of our literary climate, one young writer's burning letter of intent displaying a philosophical doctrine of his own making. Everything packed into this rather flimsy book sets out the intentions of his future literary output and now that these titles exist, it is easy to pinpoint the mythical comparisons and theoretical lineage embedded within Houellebecq's work from Whatever onwards. And for this reason alone it makes for unparalleled bravura and, more importantly, insightful reading not seen since Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus.

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When writers are young they are eager to convey their innermost literary desires to just about anyone who will care to listen. They want to be understood and, more importantly, they want to be admired. On balance they want to create something new, fresh and unheard of that will utterly astound all that cross its path. So, they write narcissistic manifestos in the vain hope that someone will listen, these guiding principles rarely, if ever, see the light of day of course. But some invariably do. Michel Houellebecq has had the intelligence [others would say gall] to disguise his as a scholarly critique of another's oeuvre, concentrating on another person's desires, tools of the trade and frame of mind thus, craftily, removing himself from the picture - but, as they say, the clues are there and Houellebecq can be found lurking in the shadows on every page. Both H. P Lovecraft and Michel Houellebecq are complicated individuals indeed and it's probably Houellebecq, for the reasons just stated, who is the more complicated of the two. Having not read much H. P Lovecraft I have, however, read a lot of Michel Houellebecq. Houellebecq first started H.P. Lovecraft: Against the world, against life in 1988 and even then his mixed intentions were ostensible from the outset:

"In hindsight, it seems to me I wrote this book as a sort of first novel. A novel with a single character (H.P. Lovecraft himself) - a novel that was constrained in that all the facts it conveyed and all the texts it cited had to be exact, but a sort of novel, nonetheless." [Against the world, against life Pg 21]

Although, I would tend to disagree with the above proclamation. Houellebecq is not being truthful and is trying to pull the wool over our eyes; he is disguising his own, deeply thought out, intentions. The central character is not H. P. Lovecraft but Houellebecq himself and all the "facts" he conveys and all the "texts" he cites are those of his own desire, all designed to grandly serve as a lone caterwaul, a call to arms if you will - the choice fragments and paragraphs put together in a direct manner to openly reveal Houellebecq's own core and underlying philosophies. All this is determined by how we choose to read the book, and this is its strength, enabling the book to exist in whatever realm we choose to interpret it.

Of course, it helps that Houellebecq is an extremely clever man, in the French manner, and unashamedly so. The whole book serves as a mask for Houellebecq to hide behind if need be. Yet, this mask does not at any singular moment detract from Houellebecq's intrinsic love for H.P Lovecraft's work. In this outpouring we learn a lot about our surface subject:

"In 1908 at the age of eighteen, he [Lovecraft] suffered what has been described as a 'nervous breakdown' and plummeted into a lethargy that lasted about ten years. At the age when his old classmates were hurriedly turning their backs on childhood and diving into life as into some marvellous, uncensored adventure, he cloistered himself at home, speaking only to his mother, refusing to get up all day, wandering about in a dressing gown all night. What's more, he wasn't even writing. What was he doing? Reading a little, maybe. We can't even be sure of this. His biographers have in fact had to admit that they don't know much at all and that based on appearances it would seem that at least between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three he did absolutely nothing" [Against the world, against life Pg 28]

So why does Houellebecq hold such a fascination with Lovecraft's own inertia and, in particular, the deep foreboding weariness he sees hovering above us all? To understand Houellebecq's own feelings toward this most pessimistic allure we have to take into account his own formative years. Michel Houellebecq was born in 1958 on the French island of Réunion near Madagascar as Michel Thomas. He spent his early childhood in a town near Paris. His father was a mountain guide and his mother an anaesthesiologist. Houellebecq was an unhappy child and this was confounded by his mother and father being less than ideal parents. At the age of six, after his mother left to marry a Muslim, converting to Islam in the process, Houellebecq was abandoned and sent to live with his grandmother whose surname, Houellebecq, he adopted. And that basically was it. Give or take a mental institution or two. It seems that Houellebecq resents his childhood and even more so as an adult, the idea that nothing can be changed, that one can never turn back seems to have galvanised in Houellebecq's mind a deep routed pessimism that is literally unshakable - a what's-the-point-in-trying-we're-all-left-hung-out-to-dry-anyway attitude, a misanthropy born in the years when he was too young to understand it. Which, in turn, leads us to Houellebecq's dreary conclusion that:

"Adulthood is hell…Perhaps Lovecraft actually could not become an adult; what is certain is that he did not want to. And given the values that govern the adult world, how can you argue with him. The reality principle, competitiveness, permanent challenges, sex and status - hardly reasons to rejoice." [Against the world, against life Pg 29]

It is interesting to see that Houellebecq shares this aversion to the adult world too, but unlike Lovecraft, who unerringly hides from the adult world within life and his fiction, Houellebecq uses his own hatred of this same world, a world he sees as mere folly, as a battering ram within his fiction. Houellebecq hides from no one in his fiction. Whereas Lovecraft writes about the adult world being infiltrated and corrupted by other forces beyond our powers, Houellebecq dives head-first into our world and retrieves our failings, for all to see, from the bottom of a murky riverbed of gluttonous vanity and decrepit desires. Houellebecq does not trust adults and he finds the adult world littered with falsehoods and shallow pursuits. This emptiness surely stems from his own vacant childhood, the failing of his own parents to build a solid footing for him to spring from, and he wants us to know that our own desires, just like his parents were, are mostly materialistic and sexual, entirely ephemeral, meaningless and without merit and that they can be snatched away from us within the blink of an eye. One only has to read Atomised or his later Plateforme (published in the UK as Platform) to realise this. In Houellebecq's world, adult life is futile and its core desires as antediluvian and utterly useless as slime mould. It is interesting that "sex and status" are grouped together. In our modern world they are interchangeable pleasures; we try to attain and conquer both, a pursuit repeated ad infinitum. In Houellebecq's eyes we have learnt nothing, and nor do we continue to. We are basic animals in this respect. Whereas Lovecraft avoided sex at all costs in his fiction Houellebecq's is literally saturated with it. Sex, Houellebecq feels, is the one thing we cling onto in a modern world devoid of meaning. It is mechanical and primitive and we are obsessed with it. The sex scenes in both Atomised and Platform are Houellebecq's reaction to the same underlying principle behind Lovecraft's puritanical aversion to it. Houellebecq is as repulsed by its banality as Lovecraft was. Only Houellebecq chooses to include it within his deeply pessimistic fictions. A true misanthrope, he never shies away from what disgusts him the most: our self-absorbed pursuits. It is placed before us on a slab like a piece of meat for us to prod and inspect, for example:

"Valérie parted her thighs above my mouth. She was wearing a pair of sheer tanga briefs in purple lace. I pushed the fabric aside and wet my fingers in order to stroke her labia…At that moment, I saw a maid sweeping the sand from the terrace. The curtains and the window were wide open. As her eyes met mine, the girl burst out laughing. Valérie sat up and motioned her to come in. She stayed where she was, hesitant, leaning on her broom. Valérie got up, walked towards her and held out her hands. As soon as the girl was inside, she started to open the buttons of her blouse…" [Platform Pg 212]

If one cares to open any page of Platform at random then this is what one will be invariably met with. The sex scenes are frequent and monotonous, the pistons of an engine driving the entire narrative. The sex scenes are mechanical, always from a male point of view, never complicated, never awkward and all parties are always complicit. Women never say no and men always rise to the occasion. It is not real. It is not how we perceive sex to be. It does not happen like this. It is as pointless has not having sex in a work of fiction at all - the paradox being it is Lovecraftian in design. It is a world as unreal as the demented landscapes in Lovecraft's own fiction. It is an escape. When one reads or hears of people being utterly repulsed by the gratuitous sexual bouts strewn within Houellebecq's narrative it is easy to envisage him sitting back, albeit rather bedraggled and dishevelled, in a large leather arm chair, counting his royalties with a cigarette and a glass of fine red, a wry smile forming, but never quite materialising, in the spittled corner of his mouth, inwardly laughing at such readers being nauseated by the one thing he wants us to be: ourselves.

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From the very first sentence in Against the world, against life Houellebecq is clear in his intent:

"Life is painful and disappointing." [Pg 27]

Like Lovecraft, Houellebecq sees no value in modern life. He splits us into two separate camps and from the outset, and again like Lovecraft, Houellebecq firmly marks his territory:

"Those who love life do not read. Nor do they go to the movies, actually. No matter what might be said, access to the artistic universe is more or less entirely the presence of those who are a little fed up with the world" [Against the world, against life Pg 28]

The following paragraph is fundamental in understanding the core philosophy that both drives and consumes Lovecraft and, more importantly, Houellebecq. It is paramount in understanding the myriad machinations that lie beneath both author's fictions and is basically a blueprint for the entire structure of Houellebecq's Atomised and many of Lovecraft's shorter fictions. Ultimately, it is simply impossible to ignore when trying to decipher Houellebecq's intent:

"The universe is nothing but a furtive arrangement of elementary particles. A figure in transition toward chaos. That is what will finally prevail. The human race will disappear. Other races in turn will appear and disappear. The skies will be glacial and empty, traversed by the feeble light of half-dead stars. These too will disappear. Everything will disappear. And human actions are as free and as stripped of meaning as the unfettered movement of the elementary particles. Good, evil, morality, sentiments? Pure 'Victorian fictions.' All that exists is egotism. Cold, intact and radiant" [Against the world, against life Pg 30]

All this may very well, to most readers, reek of juvenilia and petty angst but I feel Houellebecq's pessimism, drawn as it is from the Lovecraftian landscape, runs deeper than just a clever regurgitation of mere teenage folly. There is an intrinsic, and wholly important, literary intent especially when taken into account alongside Houellebecq's collected fictions. The above paragraph is deeply elegiac, as is most of Against the world, against life. It reads like well-oiled prosody in a novel of affectation and urgency, uttered vivaciously from the mouths of central characters in darkened, smoke-filled rooms, deep within the underbelly of the city. In other words it is atmospheric and incredibly good writing; such posturing does not encumber his intended message and although these words and sentences shine throughout, Houellebecq still manages to write from below, and it doesn't interfere with the books initial façade: the collected fiction of H. P. Lovecraft. And yes, Houellebecq certainly likes to hide in this manner but it certainly doesn't stop him from being heard. It is quite understandable now we begin to understand: that death plays a major role in both Lovecraft and Houellebecq's work:

"Of course, life has no meaning. But neither does death. And this is another thing that curdles the blood when one discovers Lovecraft's universe. The deaths of his hero's have no meaning. Death brings no appeasement" [Against the world, against life Pg 30]

Again, Houellebecq may very well be talking about his own fiction. Exactly the same can be said when first reading Whatever, Atomised and, notably, Platform. Death is used in Platform to show that life can be snatched away at any given moment. When Houellebecq tackles death his is darker and more daring than most and takes off where Beckett left off. This post Beckettian slant is as damning as it is electrifying. We already know that much of Houellebecq's fiction shows us the horrid minute particulars of an empty, barren modern world and that he is steadfastly determined in his views sex is central to this vacuous existence - that love, in fact, does exist but is made the more forlorn because it is unreachable. But it is how Houellebecq treats death that leaves the bitterest taste on our pallets. And in this we see Houellebecq at his most Lovecraftian. In the same way that Lovecraft uses a puritanical and stable society put at risk by invading unstable forces i.e. half-breed monsters, ghouls, morally corrupt beings. Houellebecq uses the idea of a decadent and unstable society put at risk by prevalent stable enemies ie sex, tourism, religion, money. Death, as with Lovecraft, permeates throughout Houellebecq's fiction. Both seem to gain pleasure from its presence. Death is throwaway; it is the single and only inevitable outcome. Happiness can never be fully achieved because death is the final conclusion. Whereas in Lovecraft's landscapes characters are mercilessly consumed by death in its myriad guises and forms life is snatched from the aimless hoards in Houellebecq's gloomy fiction. For Houellebecq death takes without warning, it is as omniscient as the air we breathe, it grabs and snatches when and wherever it wants and it is usually a consequence of our own vanity and greed. The crux of Platform is the pursuit of love, an idea of love which is idiosyncratically Houellebecq's own, but love all the same. When the narrator Renault (a nod and a wink to Camus' very own cog in the system Meursault) falls in love with Valérie this brief moment of happiness is cruelly taken away. Death, it seems, governs all.

Of particular note is the frequency of these tragic deaths that befall the majority of Houellebecq's key characters, especially his women. Most either commit suicide or meet grim ends and even mother's do not escape, or fathers for that matter. Unlike Lovecraft, in this respect, who treats death as a fantastical other-worldly occurrence in his fictions, Houellebecq's deaths materialize rather matter-of-factly, his prose-style terse and unassuming, yet still challenging enough to shock. The end result is still the same though, humanity is taken down a peg-or-two and both authors take immense pleasure in this. Take this take on Camus' L'Etranger in the opening paragraph from Platform:

"Father died last year. I don't subscribe to the theory by which we only become truly adult when our parents die; we never become truly adult…As I stood before the old man's coffin, unpleasant thoughts came to me. He had made the most of life, the old bastard; he was a clever cunt. 'You had kids, you fucker…' I said spiritedly, 'you shoved your fat cock in my mother's cunt.' Well, I was a bit tense, I have to admit; it's not everyday you have a death in the family." [Platform Pg 3]

Compare this with the overblown bombast used to describe a death in the opening paragraphs of a typical piece of Lovecraft fiction:

"The lurking fear dwelt in the shunned and deserted Martense mansion, which crowned the high but gradual eminence whose liability to frequent thunderstorms gave it the name of Tempest Mountain. For over a hundred years the antique, grove-circled stone house had been the subject of stories incredibly wild and monstrously hideous; stories of a silent colossal creeping death which stalked abroad in summer. With whimpering insistence the squatters told tales of a demon which seized lone wayfarers after dark, either carrying them off or leaving them in a frightful state of gnawed dismemberment; while sometimes they whispered of blood trails toward the distant mansion. Some said the thunder called the lurking fear out of its habitation, while others said the thunder was its voice." [The Lurking Fear, H. P. Lovecraft, 1922]

These two narrative voices can not be more diametrically opposed to each other in style and timbre, but they do share that same sense of enjoying the reader's discomfort, that same desire to repulse and compel, that same distain for their species.

Many people have commented on Houellebecq's macabre enjoyment only being carried out on his female characters. This is not a misogynistic act by Houellebecq, it is quite simple really: the ultimate goal for an individual in his fiction is love, yet his narrators are always male, heterosexual and single. Their sole aim is the possibility of love gained from a sexual encounter with the opposite sex. But Houellebecq, just as he likes to kill people off, doesn't want this fulfilment to materialize, he wants a sense of it, a sniff, so he sides himself with kismet and takes this goal away from under the noses of his characters in a way that is both horrifying and futile: death.

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"Lovecraft had in fact always been a racist" [Against the world, against life Pg 103]

This is the first sentence in Houellebecq's chapter entitled: "Racial Hatred". Houellebecq continues:

"But in his [Lovecraft's] youth this racism did not go beyond what was acceptable within his social class - that of the puritanical Protestant old bourgeoisie of New England [Against the world, against life Pg 103]

It is interesting that it wasn't until Lovecraft moved to New York for a short time did he move beyond this so-called "acceptable" norm. Lovecraft basically returned from the big city a man possessed. Whilst there his racism galvanized into a vulgar, rabid psychosis; an intrinsic no-holds-barred hatred of all races that stayed with him for the rest of his life. It's quite ironic really considering the effect New York usually had on other writers at that time. New York normally instilled into an eager young writer a wonderment that would last their creative career not a sickening malady, a repulsion that would taint there dreams thereafter. It is also quite ironic that this stomach-churning period in Lovecraft's life also led to his most creative phase - the result of which Houellebecq calls his "great texts", the most famous of these being The Call of Cthulhu [1926]:

"That evening, after a day of hurried cabling and arranging, I bade my host adieu and took a train for San Francisco. In less than a month I was in Dunedin; where, however, I found that little was known of the strange cult-members who had lingered in the old sea-taverns. Waterfront scum was far too common for special mention; though there was vague talk about one inland trip these mongrels had made, during which faint drumming and red flame were noted on the distant hills." [The Call of Cthulhu 1926]

Houellebecq is interested in this side of Lovecraft - and it is interesting that he leaves his thoughts on this subject until the end of the book where he likens Lovecraft to a:

"…trapped animal who is forced to share his cage with other different and frightening creatures" [Against the world, against life Pg 104]

This is the chapter that most readers will probably be interested in due to Houellebecq's own alleged racism. As stated earlier Houellebecq has not entirely found himself short of racial controversy in the past. All of this is well documented, of course. During an interview in 2001 with Lire magazine he had dared to call Islam "the stupidest religion". The Islamic and Christian community, to a somewhat lesser degree it has to be said, was in uproar. He was immediately taken to task by the Arab League. Curiously they didn't seem to pick up the "I totally reject all monotheistic religions" that subsequently followed in the very same interview. Strikingly, and in a rather similar way to this calculated omission, one presumes, Christopher Hitchens has never been taken to task for announcing, in a high profile Guardian interview, the greatest evil in the world is "Christianity, Judaism and Islam". By honing in on only one of the three monotheisms Houellebecq's prosecutors could label him the hell-bent aggressor, the surly intellect who is against all who follow Islam: primarily Muslims. Quite simple really. Towards the end of 2002 Houellebecq appeared before a tribunal in Paris charged with "inciting racial hatred". At one point, when asked if he knew he had violated French Law Houellebecq harangued the prosecution, after admitting, in fact, he had never read the penal code; delivering his now infamous quip:

"It is excessively long, and I suspect that there are many boring passages"

Such witticisms harked back to Wilde and only served as a reinforcement of his already nonconformist public image. Such banter is typical Houellebecq insouciance - a rebuttal which swiftly put this whole, rather absurd affair, behind him once and for all.

Most readers will want to see what light, if any at all he sheds on this most contentious of subjects. Unfortunately it's not that much - a meagre five pages. He mentions that Lovecraft's racism "became something of a phobia" [Against the world, against life Pg 104] that began to seep into his later work. Houellebecq sees this racial "phobia" as a product of Lovecraft's own misanthropy. It is quite an alluring argument: if one purports to hate his own species, he must invariably begin to hate each race in the same species too? Surely the two go hand in hand? Houellebecq continues to point out that "unequivocally" the victim in Lovecraft's fiction is almost always a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male university professor not too dissimilar to himself. And as for the servants and townsfolk that prowl his landscapes, they are generally:

"...half-breeds, mulattos, of mixed blood, 'among the lowest of the species'" [Against the world, against life Pg 107]

It seems Houellebecq is more interested in Lovecraft's racial hatred as a symptom, a human condition, rather than an ideology. In Houellebecq's own fiction we see character's suffering from a similar sickness. In Platform, Houellebecq's most racially litigious novel, although most have smatterings of racist content, we see characters that openly criticise others of different race and creed - always of Muslim origin. Houellebecq's characters, although racist in their views and actions, are suffering from the very same malaise that haunted Lovecraft, caused, it seems by the same, perceived, breakdown in western values and society. In the same way Houellebecq views Lovecraft as a failure:

"He was pierced to the core by his failures, by what seemed like his wholly natural and fundamental predisposition to failure. And in his literary universe too, there could be only one part for him: that of the victim." [Against the world, against life Pg 107]

It is this idea that Houellebecq fuels his fiction with, most of his characters and especially his narrators, to varying degrees of intensity, are victims of their own and society's making. They are somnambulists, wandering the earth punch-drunk on the side-effects of a society devoid of any meaning. They are collectively lost and searching for something that is unobtainable or, more importantly, someone to blame - and when, as readers, we are nauseated by the various bile Houellebecq's characters spew forth onto the page, then surely, some of that nausea is aimed at ourselves too? Because, when don't humans find other humans to blame? Unlike Lovecraft, Michel Houellebecq is not a racist because he feels "life itself is evil" [Against the world, against life Pg 111]. If his characters hate each other because of this, then so be it, it seems. Houellebecq draws this conclusion in the penultimate chapter in the book and it is, in fact, Houellebecq's very own assumption used to justify all that may be said, or indeed, may happen within his fiction. Lovecraft retreated, ever the bitterer, away from life due to this same, most negative conclusion and Houellebecq attacks our own, perceived superior, assumptions because of it.

When Houellebecq writes:

"As an author of horror fiction (and one of the finest) he brutally takes racism back to its essential and most profound core: fear" [Against the world, against life Pg 22]

It is hardly an excuse for the rabid racism Lovecraft was guilty of, but it is interesting when taken into account regarding Houellebecq's own fiction. His novels are literally peppered with characters that are gripped with fear: fear of race, fear of class, fear of themselves, of sexual failure, of society and modernity, in fact, every conceivable fear known. The characters in Houellebecq's fiction react as only they can, some passively and some actively. It is these active reactions that almost always cause the most controversy for the reader. Most Houellebecqian characters react against the current climate, this fractured planet we all share and in the west, unfortunately, Islam is the current enemy. It is the easiest conclusion to draw: react against that which we do not understand. Sheer ignorance leads to this and coupled with a vitriolic distrust of their very own western values we see a total breakdown. The so-called enemy has no chance of being understood in this polarized climate. The hard part for the reader, one presumes, is deciphering which part is Houellebecq's own voice and which part isn't.

Like Lovecraft, Houellebecq uses his distain for us and the world to invigorate his writing, but unlike Lovecraft he is not intrinsically racist, he merely attacks everything that we desperately cling on to. In fact, it has been stated in the past that Houellebecq writes from the side of his alleged enemy: an extremist Muslim. His views of the growing decline of western culture brought on by moral collapse are strikingly similar to those of extremist Muslim persuasion. But one does not have to go quite this far for Houellebecq is unlike anyone and has adopted a posture, that of a misanthrope, and he is sticking to it through thick and thin, tipping as many apple-carts as he possibly can along the way, the more, and this his most ironical twist, the merrier.

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HP Lovecraft: Against the world, against life is a veritable portmanteau containing, when unlocked, the numerous signposts to the abundant avenues and dark pathways Houellebecq cares to tread within his equally sinister fictions. Using this misanthropic model of Lovecraft's landscape to enrich a philosophy of literary direction and scope. This fiery manifesto is a true testament to Houellebecq's vision - it is a love, once born out of admiration and writerly desire, that has since grown into an important literary document: that of Houellebecq's own propose and consequence. H. P. Lovecraft is simply the scaffold around Michel Houellebecq's grand design.

Lee Rourke 2005 (Lee is the founder and editor of Scarecrow)

Correction: Due to an editing error, Stephen King’s introduction to HP Lovecraft: Against the world, against life indicated that Arkham House, the publishing company founded in 1939 by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, was “no more.” Arkham House, the preeminent publisher of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, is in fact alive and well, and can be found at arkhamhouse.com
-- Lee Rourke (11/08/2005)

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