Michel Houellebecq wins France’s Prix Goncourt

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Michel Houellebecq, the bad boy of French literature, has won the country’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt. The announcement was made Monday in Paris; Houellebecq won for his novel ‘La Carte et Le Territoire,’ published in France in September.

Houellebecq is perhaps best known in the U.S. for his nihilistic, sexually explicit novel ‘The Elementary Particles.’ His choice of topics -- swingers clubs, booze, whoring -- has made him a controversial figure in French letters. While he’s something of a lightning rod in France, a kind of literary rock star, he’s failed to secure the same level of fame in America. Not that he doesn’t have admirers -- Iggy Pop’s 2009 album ‘Préliminaires’ was inspired by Houellebecq’s novel ‘The Possibility of an Island.’

At the Paris Review, journalist Nelly Kaprelian writes of her exclusive interview with Houellebecq earlier this fall. He smokes; they drink two bottles of champagne, another bottle of wine, and then he falls asleep on a restaurant table.

Knopf is expected to publish ‘La Carte et Le Territoire’ -- a novel that features a misanthropic drinker named Michel Houellebecq -- in late 2011, as ‘The Map and the Territory.’


-- Carolyn Kellogg