From the archive
INTERVIEWER Why don’t you live in France?
HOUELLEBECQ Partly to pay fewer taxes and partly to learn your beautiful language, madam. And because Ireland is quite beautiful, especially the west.
INTERVIEWER Not to escape your own country?
HOUELLEBECQ No. I left in full undisputed glory without any enemies.
INTERVIEWER And what do you think of this Anglo-Saxon world?
HOUELLEBECQ You can tell that this is the world that invented capitalism. There are private companies competing to deliver the mail, to collect the garbage. The financial section of the newspaper is much thicker than it is in French papers.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that men and women are more separate. When you go into a restaurant, for example, you often see women eating out together. The French from that point of view are very Latin. A single-sex dinner would be considered boring. In a hotel in Ireland, I saw a group of men talking golf at the breakfast table. They left and were replaced by a group of women who were discussing something else. It’s as if they’re separate species who meet occasionally for reproduction. There was a line I really liked in a novel by Coetzee. One of the characters suspects that the only thing that really interests his lesbian daughter in life is prickly-pear jam. Lesbianism is a pretext. She and her partner don’t have sex anymore, they dedicate themselves to decoration and cooking.
Maybe there’s some potential truth there about women who, in the end, have always been more interested in jam and curtains.
INTERVIEWER And men? What do you think interests them?
HOUELLEBECQ Little asses. I like Coetzee. He says things brutally, too.
INTERVIEWER You’ve said that you possibly had an American side to you. What is your evidence for this?
HOUELLEBECQ I have very little proof. There’s the fact that if I lived in an American context, I think I would have chosen a Lexus, which is the best quality for the price. And more obscurely, I have a dog that I know is very popular in the United States, a Welsh Corgi. One thing I don’t share is this American obsession with large breasts. That, I must admit, leaves me cold. But a two-car garage? I want one. A fridge with one of those ice-maker things? I want one too. What appeals to them appeals to me.