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Visiting France

Enfant terrible of French literature to receive Legion of Honour

media French author Michel Houellebecq in 2017. EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ / AFP

Michel Houellebecq, France's best-known and most provocative novelist, will receive France's highest civilian distinction next Thursday from the President, Emmanuel Macron, for his services to French literature, the Elysée palace announced on Saturday.

The 63-year-old was nominated for the prestigious award on 1 January, with his name featured in the New Year honours list.

The nomination came shortly before the release of his latest best-selling novel Serotonin, distributed widely around the world.

Dark and poignant, the story features desperate farmers in Normandy who stage an armed blockade of roads amid police clashes in “yellow vest” style.

Written before the current gilets jaunes anti-government movement, Serotoninappears to have anticipated the festering rage in provincial France that has exploded into the Yellow Vest protests, and the worst social crisis to hit the government of Emmanuel Macron.

A look into the future

Houellebecq's last novel, Submission, also had a spookily visionary character. It envisioned a France subjected to sharia law after electing a Muslim president in 2022, and was featured on the cover of Charlie Hebdo just days before the magazine’s office was attacked by Islamist gunmen in 2015, killing 12 people.

The novel sold more than 800,000 copies in the French-speaking world.

Platform, Houellebecq's earlier controversial novel about sex tourism and terrorism, came out a year before the Bali bombings of 2002.

Forced at times to live under police protection, this enfant terrible of French  literature, continues to provoke outrage with blunt, often pungent comments on religion, politics and society.

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