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Michel Houellebecq envisages 2027 French election in latest novel Destroy | Books

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With the French presidential campaign under way, one of the country’s most provocative writers, Michel Houellebecq, is back with a novel closely linked to the forthcoming election. The 65-year-old author of Atomised and Platform releases the French edition of his 730-page novel Anéantir (Destroy) on Friday, with a sizeable first print run of 300,000 copies.

Anéantir begins during a fictional presidential election campaign in 2027. Marine Le Pen has stepped down as leader of the National Rally but far-right candidate Éric Zemmour is still sparking controversy. President Emmanuel Macron is another real-life figure who, while not named, seems to feature, as is Bruno Le Maire, the current economy minister. Le Maire, a friend of Houellebecq, is the inspiration for Bruno Juge, one of the story’s protagonists.

Juge is critical of the outgoing president (implied to be based on Macron), at one point declaring that the head of state “has one political conviction and one only … ‘I was made to be president.’” After two terms of this leader, Houellebecq presents a country that is on its knees, with high levels of unemployment and poverty.

Previous satires by Houellebecq are thought to have had an influence on French politics. In his 2015 bestseller Submission, France elects a Muslim president, and the novel stirred up the fears of an Islamist takeover of France. (When asked by the Guardian at the time if he was Islamophobic, the author responded “probably”.) And his 2019 novel Serotonin, which criticised globalisation and the EU – Houellebecq is known to be fiercely Eurosceptic – seemed to predict the Yellow Vest movement.

Reviews of Anéantir have largely been positive so far. Le Monde calls it a “political thriller that veers into metaphysical meditation”, although L’Obs magazine thought it was too long and described it as “a yawn”.

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