Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life Paperback – May 1, 2005
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
About the Author
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
Top Customer Reviews
Houellebecq focuses on the sources of inspiration for Lovecraft and their impact on his creations and his narrative style. He seeks to show that Lovecraft's distinct voice derives from his psychology and biography. Dreams, racism, a minimalist personality and a crippling bonanza of paranoias, delusions, and depression are the raw material for the analysis (Lovecraft is our answer to Artaud and Jarry). This is the first time I've seen someone really emphasize the importance of dreams as a source for Lovecraft's stories. Even so, I don't think Houellebecq goes far enough-Lovecraft is often mocked for piling up and overusing such meaningless adjectives as `unspeakable', a practice he discouraged when advising other writers. This contradictory practice (noted by Houellebecq and many others) is probably the result of trying to convey the actual experience of the dream without distorting it or adding to it. Houellebecq makes the point pretty thoroughly that images of racial pollution and degeneration power a lot of HPL's stories, but it's worth noting that while the horror writer talked a good racial game, he didn't really walk the walk. He married a Jewish Ukrainian and worked briefly on a propaganda book for the Italian government. These represent three races he claimed to despise. Lovecraft insisted on living as if he were a member of the landed aristocracy, in spite of his dire poverty. Thus, Houellebecq points out that Lovecraft insisted on writing almost entirely for his own pleasure, which may also explain why he didn't always adhere to generally accepted rules of good rhetoric in fiction. He knew what his audience wanted. This attitude also seems to have offended some of the professional writers who have studied Lovecraft and deride his amateur pretentions (maybe they're jealous of a true maverick who stuck to his ideals).
Houellebecq makes two interesting observations about HPL's characters. The first is that they tend to be precise observers, scientists and artists, whose personalities are so diminished that they serve largely as a means for conducting their high voltage sensory experiences directly to the reader without any insulation or interpretation. The other is that a viewpoint character's presence is sometimes so diminished that the reader loses the identification or feeling of presence necessary for maintaining a sense of fear, ironic in a purported horror story. Besides showing the effectiveness of juxtaposing trained observers and insane events, Houellebecq claims that this aspect of his subject's style is a consequence of the author making his viewpoint characters alter egos. Although that is certainly possible, I think it's likelier an adaptation from Poe, who used the same technique. Poe is most effective when his characters are clinically describing their own madness, but Lovecraft's characters must stay sane when the world goes mad. Even the apparent alter egos may have literary antecedents, Lovecraft may have borrowed the character type from de Maupassant, whose story `The Horla' has many ideas that Lovecraft assimilated into his own oeuvres. It's even possible that he modeled his own personality from literary figures. My last couple comments about Poe and de Maupassant highlight the only major weakness that I found in Houellebecq's work, a failure to explore the effect that Lovecraft's sources had on his stories. Lovecraft was a diligent scholar of fantasic literature and was heavily influenced by several writers, notably those I've already mentioned, and Lord Dunsany.
Probably a lot of people who read Houellebecq's essay won't have read any Lovecraft. He's certainly not everyone's cup of tea. However, if you want to see what Houellebecq is talking about there are three essential stories: (1) `The Mountains of Madness', and (2) `Shadow Over Innsmouth', and (3) `The Color Out of Space'. I would suggest that people who want to see his greatest fantasy work (this aspect of his work falls outside of the scope of Houellebecq's study) should also read `The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath". I read Houellebecq's study in a French edition, his language is so transparent and his argument so clear, that I'm sure the English translation is quite servicable.
Houellebecq asserts that Lovecraft's kindly, reclusive, poverty-stricken life was "exemplary" because it was integral to the vision of his work. That is, he wrote as a protest against life as we live it, the old "human condition". Someone once said "the negative, by contrast, suggests the other" and Lovecraft's dark mythology is a satire of, and pessimistic comment on the mythologies we live by. Included in this volume are two of Lovecraft's more mind-blowing stories; "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Whisperer In Darkness." If the "cult of Cthulhu" was a twisted opposite of, and challenge to Christianity, then reading these stories makes you rethink exactly what it is you believe in and why. Lovecraft shouted "No!" to the seeming cruelty of the cosmos, and as King argues, gave space for attentive young readers to lick their wounds before engaging once again in the next battle of life. Houellebecq deals with Lovecraft's racism and Antisemitism, revealed in his letters published after his early death, by comparing him to Louis-Ferdinand Celine, the great French black comedy novelist who was also guilty of bigotry. Houellebecq demonstrates that fear was at the heart of their similar world views, not merely fascism, and that fear sharpened their work. "Those who love life don't read books or see movies" is a questionable statement by Houellebecq, but it contains a grain of truth. We read in part to take us out of this world and into alternative ones. Lovecraft is tremendously influential; the movie "Alien" is mostly an elaboration on his themes and method of attack. Houellebecq's little, readable book is a welcome addition to the small list of really enjoyable contemporary literary criticism.
The book comprises one 10 page Stephen King essay 'I have seen the history of horror, and his name is Lovecraft', one ten times longer Houellebecq manifesto (biographical/literary) on HPL and himself, two HPL stories (Call... and ...Whisperer...) which any HPL-loving person will already have read, and a fascinating translator's note in which Houellebecq's powers of imagination are further revealed.