A Mother’s Love
We’d be in shock, or at least somewhat sympathetic, if we weren’t, by now, trained to chuckle detachedly at anything tainted with his name: it turns out that Michel Houellebecq, whose fiction has been the subject of two long New Yorker reviews—one positive, from 2003, by Julian Barnes, entitled “Hate and Hedonism,” and the other less so, from 2006, by John Updike, entitled “90% Hateful”—is loathed by his own mother, in addition to many of the people who have read his books.
In an autobiography, “L’Innocente,” published earlier this month in France (discreetly in advance of the French version of Mother’s Day, which falls this Sunday, May 25th), eighty-three-year-old Lucie Ceccaldi defends herself against what she calls “libelous” characterizations made by her son. For instance, in the novel “The Elementary Particles,” Houellebecq named one of the least attractive characters Ceccaldi. And Barnes noted of “Platform”:
Within the novel, the filial hatred is just an inexplicable given. But in an interview Houellebecq gave a few years ago in the magazine Lire he says that his parents abandoned him when he was five, leaving him in the care of a grandmother.
It seems that, perhaps, the rotten apple didn’t fall so far from the tree. In the book, Ceccaldi writes:
Mon fils qu’il aille se faire foutre par qui il veut avec qui il veut, j’en ai rien à cirer. Mais si, par malheur, il remet mon nom sur un truc, il va se prendre un coup de canne dans la tronche, ça lui coupera toutes les dents, ça, c’est sûr!
This translates, colloquially, to:
My son can fuck off wherever he wants, with anyone he wants, I don’t give a damn. But if, by misfortune, he puts my name in one of his things again, he’s gonna get a cane in the face—that’ll smash all his teeth, that’s for sure!
We eagerly await the English edition.—Macy Halford