The book had been described in reviews as capricious and humorous
The book was recommended by Jim who at the discussion apologised as he had not read the book prior to recommending. The book had been described in reviews as capricious and humorous. Whilst popular in France it seems to be less so in Radway.
The story is set in 2022. And revolves around Francois as professor of literature at the Sorbonne , with a specialist interest in Huysman, himself a hedonistic literary figure. Francois has an unfulfilled relationship history with a series of short romances with femail students , essentially a womanising bachelor. He seems to be experiencing a mid-life crisis as his romances decline and academic career is stagnant. The book purports to be a political satire and describes circumstances where the Muslim Brotherhood are governing . The book has a degree of notoriety as it was released in France on the day of the Charli Hebdo massacre.
Radway reviewers who managed to complete the book felt that the primary concept which was a credible possibility of an Islamic government and the impact this then had on education and academic freedoms, had not been well exploited. Rather the book focuses too much on the sexual exploits of Francois. Francois was not felt to be a likeable character and the story goes on to tell of his adventures post change in government which includes a road trip, a conversion to Islam and gaining a good job. The plot though was felt to be weak as was the characterisation.
Members of the group were able to offer that Houellebecq is not the first to imagine an Islamic France as de Gaulle has suggested it earlier, stating than unless France came out of Algiers it would be overtaken by Muslims. There are already large Islamic communities in France . The group suggested the book was pretentious and self- indulgent and whilst it seemed to suggest that Muslim government was accepted without rebellion , in reality the French would be more likely to protest . It was also felt that the portrayal of women as acquiescent lacked realism as women in France are seen as strong and hold positions of power. However, other members reminded us of the analogy of the Nazi invasion of France and that many French collaborated and were instrumental in sending Jews to the camps.
Several people commented that the book made them question their own intelligence as difficult to follow and wondered if it would have been received better had we better insight into the everyday politics of France . Readers felt the book did not live up to its cover and may have been the worse for its translation from French.
It was noted that the positive reviews of the books were written 95% by men and that in summary the author could be seen as a self-indulgent 50 yr old Adrian Mole or Lucky Jim -a litany of sexual exploits with a thin story.