This book is a contemporary masterpiece. One might not find it appealing, since it talks about the well-known boring academic life, where nearly no one gets to do research on their chosen topic, or simply read what they want. However, the author portrays a middle-aged professor who is intelligent, melancholy, depressive, and yet very French. Maybe it’s not fair to say “very French”, but it is the French sensibility I’ve read in its literature.
Indeed, there is something very French about this book, about the characters, the past, present and the future as well. The pace of the narration mirrors even Sagan, saying, Bonjour tristesse! Salut Life! Being an expert on 19th century French literature, where Baudelaire brought the “depressive disease” at the turn of the century, the protagonist knows all about sensitivity, being an intellectual, politics, privilege, visiting prostitutes and strolling…Only the social background changed a bit, as the protagonist talked about with his colleague in the book, about the death of the Europe, the demise of the capital of the Europe!
Sometimes, I could smell the indifference Camus brought to our awareness. That, also strikes me to think about all the terror attacks happened recently. Some of the reviewers have already pointed out that both French edition and English edition have been published around a turbulent time in France, namely charlie hebdo shooting and other attacks in a year or two. Although this book is talking about the near future 2020, which could end up in science fiction section, it is actually much easier to become reality right now. Now, in the year of 2017, when the author still describes it as a future, Marine Le Pen with the National Front could soon take the whole story, and turn it upside down, the book is already nothing funny as it says on the blurb, but scary.
When Abbes comes into power, how on earth could he understand Camus’ indifference with the tight kinship background. But yet the transformation for women to stay at home and wear veils have been smooth, not much confrontation. But where, should we put our Walter Benjaminian bourgeois sorrow? Nothing matters. When the change happens, we flow with the change — a typical psychopath reaction. But there lies the thrill, doesn’t it?
And there is also the title “submission”. As a professor, submission could mean a bit different for the protagonist than other people. But for the ending, submission also means to yield. The question is, to what “we” superior force do we give our submission to? Religion? Humanity? Life? Among some issues, author sounds like Dostoyevsky, only with a much more peaceful reasoning, but still, the stormy conversation in big chunk paragraphs. It’s reminiscent like history at all times.