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H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life Paperback – May 1, 2005
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Earlier this year, a quasi-amateur "pulp" writer vaulted into the national literary canon when the Library of America published H. P. Lovecraft: Tales. Now McSweeney's Believer Books makes available in English a perspicacious essay on the reclusive horror-fictionist by a controversially antiliberal French novelist. Houellebecq finds Lovecraft's significance in his rejection of human importance. A thoroughgoing materialist, Lovecraft based the horror in his stories on the perception that humanity was doomed to extinction well before the end of the cosmos. The monstrous, implacable, arational Old Ones--Cthulhu and the rest--that Lovecraft repeatedly depicts as eventually invading and destroying human civilization are simply the imaginative expression of a deeply pessimistic cosmic fatalism that Lovecraft's own stunted life seemingly endorsed. Lovecraft was against life and the world because science and rationality told him they were meaningless and ephemeral. Yet what inspirationally disturbing and vivid fiction Lovecraft's beliefs animated. Without his example, would the fiction of Stephen King, who contributes an argumentative introduction here, and such superb movie shockers as Alien ever have existed? Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
About the Author
Michel Houellebecq (pronounced «Wellbeck») was born on February 26, 1958, on the French island of Reunion. In 1985, he met Michel Bulteau, the editor of the Nouvelle Revue de Paris, who suggested that he write a book for the «Infrequentables» series, which had been launched by Bulteau at the prestigious publishing house Le Rocher. This led to the publication, in 1991, of H. P. Lovecraft, Against the world, against life. That same year saw the publication of Rester vivant, méthode («To Stay Alive: A method»), by Difference. In 1992, his first collection of poems, La poursuite du bonheur («The Pursuit of Happiness») was . Maurice Nadeau published Extension du domaine de la lutte («Whatever»), Houellebecqs first novel.
Houellebecq went on to contribute to many literary reviews in France. Since 1996, Houellebecqs work has been published by Flammarion, where Raphael Sorin is his editor.
In 1998 Interventions, a collection of chronicles and critical texts, and Les Particules élémentaires («Atomised»), his second novel, were published simultaneously. The latter has since been translated into over 25 languages. In 1999, he collaborated on the screen adaptation of Extension du domaine de la lutte («Whatever»), with Philippe Harel, who directed the film. He also published a new collection of poems, Renaissance. A book of photographs and text about Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, was published in 2000 the same year Houellebecqs first album, Presence humaine was released. On it he sings a number of his poems to the music of Bertrand Burgalat.
Currently he lives in Ireland, near Cork. His forthcoming novel La Tentation dune île will be published in France by Fayard in August 2005.
1992 Tristan Tzara Award for La poursuite du bonheur Prix Flore awarded for 1996 Le sens du combat. 1998 Grand Prix national des Lettres Jeunes Talents for the entirety of his literary output. 1999 Prix Novembre, Elementary Particles, 2002 Dublins Impac Award, The Elementary Particles First time a French author receives this award. 2004 Schopenhauer Award March, Spain
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In this book, Houellebecq intended to find the biographical keys underlying Lovecraft's main works of literature, all of them composed in the last years of an uneventful life. This is always a risky enterprise, and Houellebecq did not succeed completely. But he ended up revealing the philosophical keys behind his own works. Needless to say, all biographers are in essence autobiographers.
All in all, this essay is entertaining and illuminating.