FEATURE

Literary Rant

H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life BY Michel Houellebecq, H. P. Lovecraft. edited by Dorna Khazeni, Stephen King. McSweeney's, Believer Books. Paperback, 247 pages. $18.

Even before he began writing, the splenetic, xenophobic, racist, reclusive, reactionary, antimodernist, neurotic, if not hysterical, French novelist Michel Houellebecq found a soul mate in the form of the splenetic, xenophobic, racist, reclusive, reactionary, antimodernist, neurotic, and certainly hysterical American pulp writer of weird fiction H. P. Lovecraft. Houellebecq discovered Lovecraft at age sixteen. “I had not known literature was capable of this,” he writes in his book-length biographical appreciation, H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (translated by Dorna Khazeni, 2005). Each Lovecraft story was “an open slice of howling fear,” something with which Houellebecq apparently identifies.

Houellebecq, who published H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life three years before his first novel appeared in France, turns Lovecraft into his own avatar; at the same time, Houellebecq’s appreciation of Lovecraft underscores the mythologizing science-fiction aspects of his novels Whatever, The Elementary Particles, and Platform. Houellebecq shares Lovecraft’s sexual disgust, horrified fascination with the degeneration of our species, and interest in mutation, although he has yet to write anything as wiggy as Lovecraft’s 1928 story “The Call of Cthulhu,” included in this trim and handsomely designed paperback, along with “The Whisperer in Darkness” (1931), a Lovecraft chronology, a French-language Lovecraft bibliography, and a chatty introduction by Stephen King. The fannishness of the edition effectively enshrines Lovecraft’s misanthropy, enhancing Houellebecq’s rant.


J. Hoberman is the author of Film After Film (Or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema?) (Verso, 2012).