Michel Houellebecq’s “Submission” No 1 Bestseller in Germany

    “Submission” (Soumission) – Michel Houellebecq

    “The short-term anticipative novel („a cross between satire and utopia”), in which a near-future France elects a Muslim fundamentalist government, tops German book charts in first weeks on sale.

    At the top of the charts in France, Michel Houellebecq’s divisive new novel “Submission” (Soumission) has now conquered Germany, shooting to the top of the charts since its first week in shops, with more than a quarter of a million copies now in print in German.

    In German language the novel was published, translated as “Unterwerfung” (Submission) by Norma Cassau and Bernd Wilczek and launched on January 16, 2015, by Cologne’s DuMont Verlag (Press).

    „Je suis Houellebecq” – Doris Akrap, taz (tageszeitung, Berlin)

    On 7 January 2015, the date of the Charlie Hebdo islamofascist mass murder, the novel “Submission” (Soumission) was published by Flammarion Press (Paris). On the same date, a cartoon of Houellebecq appeared on the cover page of Charlie Hebdo and the caption, “The Predictions of Wizard Houellebecq.”

    The title on the cover was: “Les prédictions du mage Houellebecq : en 2015, je perds mes dents, en 2022, je fais ramadan.” (The predictions of the sorcerer Houellebecq: In 2015, I lose my teeth. In 2022, I observe Ramadan.)

    In an interview with Antoine de Caunes after the jihadist mass murder, Houellebecq stated he was not in good shape and had cancelled the promotional tour for “Submission” (Soumission).

    „Submission” (Soumission) tells of a near-future France which votes the “muslim fraternity” party, rather than the far-right Front National, headed by Marine Le Pen. Once the change is effected, women begin to wear veils in public. The action takes place in 2022 in France. A charismatic muslim politician, Mohamed Ben Abbes, gathers more and more voters around. The Socialist Party is in an alliance with the Conservatives and Ben Abbes preventing the rise of the extreme right National Front under Marine Le Pen. Ben Abbes is elected President of France, and changes the secular constitution, replacing it with theocracy, Sharia, patriarchy and polygamy. Barbary,  primitivism and slavery equals „submission”. The novel is set with two fears of contemporary political France: the extreme right on one hand and the islamization of Europe on the other. The French like the German translated title refers to the word meaning of “islam” as a complete submission or surrender of the believer.

    The novel, which drew controversy over its topic even before publication, was released in France on 7 January, the day on which 12 people were killed by islamofascist terrorists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, including Houellebecq’s friend, Bernard Maris.

    It sold 120,000 copies in its first five days on sale in France. Now it has nudged Ian McEwan’s The Children’s Act off the top spot of Germany’s charts.

    German Publisher Dumont said : “We have now printed in four runs 270,000 copies of Unterwerfung (Submission) and delivered … 230,000 of those to the book stores.”

    Katy Derbyshire, translator,  described the latest sales as “pretty huge … Michel Houellebecq’s always been big here in Germany (popular with intellectual machos) but there’s been extra hype this time”.

    The German translation was published just days after the release of the French original. “That’s because they got two translators to work on it, presumably from an early manuscript rather than the fully edited French version. It’s becoming a common practice in Germany, because publishers pay large advances for big titles and want to avoid losing sales to the original versions,” said Katy Derbyshire of the speedy German release.

    Translated fiction does very well in Germany,” she added. “At the moment six of the 10 fiction bestsellers are translated, which is fairly typical … It’s just a different literary culture from the UK. More reading is done in total and books are an important part of the Germans’ positive self-image, from Luther to Gutenberg to Herta Müller. The tradition of prominent writers translating was boosted by Goethe and never really died out like it did in the UK.”

    An UK edition of Soumission is scheduled for September.”


    Latest articles

    Related articles