Can Lorin Stein Translate Michel Houellebecq Into a Great Writer?

At the beginning of Michel Houellebecq’s new novel, Submission, Houellebecq, perhaps unwittingly, analyzes himself. “The beauty of an author’s style,” he writes, “the music of his sentences, have their importance in literature ... but an author is above all a human being, present in his books, and whether he writes very well or very badly hardly matters—as long as he gets the books written and is, indeed, present in them.”

Few would call Houellebecq, who holds the Prix...

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