English criticism of Michel Houellebecq

Stephen Mitchelmore in This Space:

I have yet to read Michel Houellebecq. This is because I asked a friend (with infallible judgement), who had, for an opinion. Shrugging his shoulders and turning his mouth down at the corners, he said: nothing special … and when you have Thomas Bernhard

Ah yes, Thomas Bernhard: the funniest and, indeed, most readable literary iconoclast of European fiction. Odd, I’ve long thought, how the market for Houellebecq’s virulence and extremism doesn’t extend to Bernhard.

But maybe not so odd, I now think, having read John Banville’s Bookforum essay on the French writer, an essay that takes in Houellebecq’s long essay on HP Lovecraft. It seems Lovecraft is the clue to why Bernhard’s name is not read close to Houellebecq’s (except here of course). –Stephen Mitchelmore in This Space

Stephen Mitchelmore goes on to compare Lovecraft unfavourably to Borges.

A digression to Borges and Lovecraft by Bruce Lord:

I had read many of Jorge Luis Borges  short stories several years before discovering Lovecraft, let alone studying the latter seriously, and so the idea of Borges owing any debt to or admitting any influence from HPL was new and somewhat shocking to me when I first encountered it.  While reading “Dreams In The Witch House” for the first time, however, I found it to be quite Borgesian (I didn’t have any problem with taking such an anachronistic view of the relationship, as Borges has based entire stories around such errors).  The story of an increasingly alienated and detached academic who becomes lost in his field of study and ends up transcending the known laws of the universe reminded me of the hapless people caught in “The Library Of Babel.”  In a similar vein, both authors used the technique of referring to fictional literary and scientific sources as well as legitimate ones (often combining the two in lists of books or thinkers) in order to better facilitate their stories  fantastic elements.  –Bruce Lord via Contrasoma.

And here is more by Stephen Mitchelmore on Houellebecq.

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