Michel Houellebecq play pulled from festival; security concerns cited

Michel Houellebecq play pulled from festival; security concerns cited
A summer festival in Croatia has dropped a play from controversial French author Michel Houellebecq, shown in Barcelona, Spain, last month. (Andreu Dalmau / EPA)

A play from the controversial French writer Michel Houellebecq has been yanked from a prominent summer festival in Croatia, with officials citing security concerns arising from Houellebecq's writings about Islam.

"The Elementary Particles," a new stage work adapted from Houellebecq's own 1998 novel, was set to play at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival in July. In announcing the season earlier this year, festival organizers said that the play would serve as the opening production of its roster of new theatrical productions.


But the current lineup published on the festival's official website contains no mention of the Houellebecq piece.

A spokeswoman for the festival confirmed by email that the play was canceled following a "risk analysis" carried out by the Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency. She said that, based on that analysis, the Croatian Ministry of Interior determined that the play would represent a security risk.

The festival "had no other option," said Karla Labas, the spokeswoman.

Houellebecq has generated controversy with his writings about Islam, especially with his recent novel "Submission," which was published earlier this year and imagines a Muslim-dominated France. Shortly after its publication, the office of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper in Paris was attacked by armed terrorists, and 12 people died.

But Houellebecq's "The Elementary Particles" doesn't contain the author's incendiary views on Islam. The novel's plot follows the sexual lives of two half-brothers, Michel and Bruno, the former of whom is a biologist who is researching a potentially new race of human beings.

"We knew that the novel isn't about Islam in any way, but it's the question of whether those who required the assessment knew that," said Labas.

Croatia has a relatively small but prominent Muslim population, the country having once been part of the Ottoman Empire. Neighboring Bosnia has a much larger Muslim population, estimated at around 40% of the general population.

"The Elementary Particles" has previously been performed at the Festival d'Avignon in France in 2013 and the following year in Paris.

The 66th annual Dubrovnik Summer Festival is scheduled to commence July 10, and will feature a mix of classical music, dance and theatrical offerings.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT