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Title: Dralend rondom de leegte
Subtitle: Een theologische lezing van Michel Houellebecqs roman Onderworpen
Author(s): STEENVOORDE, Richard
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Theologie
Volume: 60    Issue: 2   Date: 2020   
Pages: 117-130
DOI: 10.2143/TVT.60.2.3287673

Abstract :
This essay argues that Houellebecq’s controversial novel Submission is also a profound meditation on faith and meaning, one that has relevance for Christian theology, especially anthropology, Christology, and grace. The essay begins by sketching Houellebecq’s anthropology, placing it within the context of a wider French debate, first taken up by the philosopher Simone Weil, about the soul’s ‘need for roots’. Then it looks at the rejection by Houellebecq’s characters of the Incarnation, an idea, the characters in the book believe, that was a fundamental flaw in Christendom. And yet, Submission is not an anti-Christian book, as the final exploration of (unseen) grace will make clear. Could it be that Houellebecq, by helping his readers to sympathise with their own brokenness, symbolised by the main character François, has opened up a way in which they may find the vulnerability of the incarnated God in Christ less offensive? Could they, by loving this unlovable character, also discover the love of God? If even a few of his readers would contemplate that scandalous thought, then France’s chief provocateur has done his job in an unexpected way. He has provoked his audience by the scandal of the Christian message that the only thing that can fill the void in their lives is the discovery and acknowledgement of this unseen grace of love already at work.

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