Few contemporary French writers get translated in the US, and even fewer have any kind of name recognition. Michel Houellebecq is one of them. For better or for worse, he's been the It man of modern French lit for more than a decade now: His novels are best-sellers, he gets sued for racist language (he once famously stated that Islam is a stupid religion), he asks a NY Times reporter if she'll take off her clothes, etc. Not only did he record an album on which he sang/spoke some of his own poems, set to music by (him again!) Bertrand Burgalat, but he toured it on French beach resorts one summer.
For his latest project, Houellebecq is directing the film adaptation of his last book, 2005's The Possibility of an Island (one I wasn't crazy about initially, but which had won me over by the time it hit its desperate post-apocalyptic ending). Shooting is about to wrap up in Spain, where Houellebecq resides. Benoît Magimel plays the lead, and Arielle Dombasle is also on board, but I'm more intrigued by some of the behind-the-scenes contributors: Rem Koolhas is slated to design the remnants of a futuristic city, while conceptual artist Rosemarie Tröckel and curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist are working on made-to-measure dioramas—kinda like the ones at the Museum of Natural History, but, you know, arty. Also intriguing: Houellebecq claims that one of his visual influences is Kraftwerk circa Robots.
MP3 Michel Houellebecq "Paris-Dourdan" (from Présence Humaine, 2000)
Michel Houellebecq "Derniers Temps" (from Présence Humaine, 2000)