Submission / Michel Houellebecq

沧佽° 2017-08-11

My thesis was that Huysmans never stopped being a Naturalist, that he took pains to incorporate the real speech of ordinary people into his work, and that, in a sense, he remained the same socialist who had attended Zola's soirees in Medan as a young man. Even as he grew to despise the left, he maintained his old aversion to capitalism, money and anything having to do with bourgeois values. [ The author laters says that all what Huysmans was pursuing is indeed bourgeois happiness. ]

Aggression oftern masks a desire to seduce. [ Indeed, if one's not at all interested in the speaking other, how divergent the other's idea might be, one wouldn't care to utter a word, without mentioning aggression. ]

Why did a life need to be justified? Animals live without feeling the least need of justification, as do the crushing majority of men. They live because they live, and then I suppose they die because they die, and for them that's all there is to it. If only as a Huysmanist, I felt obliged to do a little better. [ He isn't saying here that life needs justification. It's about the difficulty of doing that, hinting that there was a very easy way to solve the complexity: through religion. ]

History is full of such blindness: we see it among the intellectuals, politicians and journalists of the 1930s, all of whom were convinced that Hilter would 'come to see reason'. It may well be impossible for people who have lived and prospered under a given social system to imagine the point of view of those who feel it offers them nothing, and who can contemplate its destruction without any particular dismay. [ While reading here, it comes a very cliche revelation: the necessity of jumping out of one's bubble and the importance of exchanges. 我们相信理智将会在最后时刻阻止那种错误的游戏。但是我们如此相信理智本身同时也是我们唯一的过错。我们共同的理想主义,我们在进步中必然产生的那种乐观主义使得我们低估和忽视了我们共同的危险。——《昨日的世界》 ]

“What has to happen will happen" seemed to be the general feeling. [ This is not submission to destiny, but indifference to development of reality. 小说主人公说:“the kind of people I knew had got sick of it before everyone else。”他指的是他的文人学术圈。我们时而谈到文人的软弱性,其实文人不是软弱的,文人是绝望的。软弱是可以被克服的,绝望不可以。]

I maintained a tactical silence. When you maintain a tactical silence and look people right in the eye, as if drinking in their words, they talk. People like to be listened to, as every researcher knows - every researcher, every writer, every spy.

Never, perhaps, had the tepid (不温不火) happiness of an old couple been so lovingly described: "Andre and Jeanne soon felt nothing but blessed tenderness, maternal satisfaction, at sharing the same bed, at simply lying close together and talking before they turned back to back and went to sleep." It was beautiful, but was it realistic? Was it a viable prospect today? Clearly, it was connected with the pleasures of the table: "Gourmandise entered their lives as a new interest, brought on by their growing indifference to the flesh, like the passion of priests who, deprived of carnal joys, quiver before delicate viands and old wines." Certainly, in an era when a wife bought and peeled the vegetables herself, trimmed the meat and spent hours simmering the stew, a tender and nurturing relationship could take root; the evolution of comestible (food) conditions had caused us to forget this feeling, which, in any case, as Huysmans frankly admits, is a weak substitute for the pleasures of the flesh. [ How I feel that cooking by myself enhances the appreciation of life in general. ]

I started to wonder what I was doing there. This very basic question can occur to anyone, anywhere, at any moment in his life, but there's no denying that the solitary traveller is especially vulnerable. If Myriam had been with me, I'd still have had no good reason for being in Martel, yet the question simply wouldn't have arisen. A couple is a world, autonomous and enclosed, that moves through the larger world essentially untouched.

You see, in the second stanza, to heighten the poem, Peguy has to bring in God. Patriotism alone isn't enough. He has to connect it with something stronger, to a higher mystery. [ What about China then? Through the mystery of "Chinese dream". Or at this stage, patriotism alone is enough since economic prospect still holds firmly? ]

He trusted that I would have a very pleasant stay. As he said it, I realized that he was expressing not just a belief, but a hope, because he was one of those people, and you don't see them every day, who take an instinctive pleasure in the happiness of their fellow men - that he was, in other words, nice.

It gave me no satisfaction to be back among people like myself. [ The protagonist feel disgusted by being with mundane people, not because he projets a superiority over them, but the fact that he is the same. As he says: "Je n'avais, pas davantage que la plupart de ces gens, de veritable raison de me tuer." 这句话同时说明了我应该自杀,以及我不应该自杀。]

All intellectual debate of the twentieth century can be summed up as a battle between communism - that is, "hard" humanism - and liberal democracy, the soft version. My new Muslim friends never held them against me. To them it seemed natural that, when I started looking for a way out of atheist humanism, I should have gone back to my roots. [ The argument is flawed because there are indeed other ways. What about recognizing the agency of other beings who also inhabit the world? Would that be another faith? From humanism to actorism? I just don't get it why it should be return to religion. ]

Civilizations die not by murder but by suicide. [ Did modernity murder traditions? Or it was a suicide? Should we blame the "invaders" or ourselves? ]

Oswald Spengler’s once unprecedentedly influential work “The Decline of the West,” published starting in 1918, which construed civilizations as organic entities passing through clearly defined life cycles of a thousand years, in which culture’s pinnacle, its summer, also contained the very seed of its decline, for at that point it was consummate, and then stagnated, withered, turned in on itself, questioning its own raison d’être, a path that inexorably led to nihilism and decadence, the autumn of civilization — whereas winter marked the return of faith, when religiosity once more descended upon it.

It's submission. The shocking and simple idea, which had never been so forcefully expressed, that the summit of human hapiness resides in the most absolute submission. Islam accepts the world, and accepts it whole. It accepts the world as such, Nietzsche might say. For Buddhism, the world is dukkha - unsatisfactoriness, suffering. Christianity has serious reservations of its own. Isn't Satan called "the prince of the world?" For Islam, though, the divine creation is perfect, it's an absolute masterpiece. What is the Koran, really, but one long mystical poem of praise? [ 我竟无话可说 ]

[ China: does submission to authority also offers a convenience? ]

Nostalgia has nothing to do with aesthetics, it's not even connected to happy memories. We feel nostalgia for a place simply because we've lived there. The past is always beautiful. So, for that matter, is future. Only the present hurts, and we carry it around like an abscess of suffering, our companion between two infinities of happiness and peace.

For the French, an intellectual didn't have to be responsible. That wasn't his job.

If India and China had preserved their traditional civilisations, he wrote, they might have remained strangers to monotheism and eluded the grasp of Islam. But from the moment they let themselves be contaminated by Western values, they, too, were doomed: he detailed the process and offered a preliminary timetable. (liberal individualism triumphed as long as it undermined intermediate structures such as nations, corporations, castes, but when it attacked that ultimate social structure, the family, and thus the birth rate, it signed its own death warrant; Muslim dominance was a foregone conclusion.) [ 我竟无话可说 ]

Jesus had loved men too much, that was the problem; to let himself be crucified for their sake showed, at the very least, a lack of taste.

There Rediger reconsidered the failure of communism, which was, after all, an early attempt to combat liberal individualism. He argued that Stalin was wrong and Trotsky was right: communism could triumph only if it was global, and the same held true for Islam: either it would become universal, or it would cease to exist. [ So liberal individualism doesn't need to be universal to triumph. Well, today it's almost universal (universal in a western-centric sense). ]

Huysmans' true subject had been bourgeois happiness, a happiness painfully out of reach for a bachelor, and not the happiness of the haute bourgeoisie (the cooking celecrated in la-bas was instead what might call good home cooking), much less that of the aristocracy.

Was all this refinement, all this decadence, this misanthropy and disillusionment, were all these religious agonies and scruples merely the sublimation of a longing for the sedate pleasures of a bourgeois life? Was Huysmans’s entire body of work the result of a grandiose self-delusion? François appears to believe so, and the idea is far from improbable, in fact I find it quite plausible. The disillusioned gaze sees through everything, sees all the lies and the pretenses we concoct to give life meaning, the only thing it doesn’t see is its own origin, its own driving force. But what does that matter as long as it creates great literature, quivering with ambivalence, full of longing for meaning, which, if none is found, it creates itself?
Houellebecq is, simply, a satirist. He likes to take what’s happening now and imagine what would happen if it kept on happening. That’s what satirists do

[ Because of the proleptic future tense used in the last part, I do not quite think that Francois would go and convert. I do not he is as pragamatic as the others. I think this anticipation is also sartistic, maybe to himself, but he would not necessarily do it. I felt that he would just continue living as he did before, meaninglessly. ]


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