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O Magazine
2015-2017

FALSE FRIENDS

7. MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ
BY RUBÉN LARDÍN

A false friend means being betrayed by vocabulary. Writing open letters to unknown characters might be a reckless thing.

In this section, Rubén Lardín sends an unasked for weekly missive to the stormy electrodynamical sea.

Dear Michel;

I’m going to put a text here and pick it up later to tell you I’m watching lots of romantic films lately. It’s for one thing, but it doesn’t rule out the other, I’ll tell you all about it. I’m saying this beforehand in case I start sounding strange in this April morning, although I don’t know what it’s going to be written now in the same way I don’t know yet what the day will bring, what will happen or what remains will dictate my dreams tonight, if they will appear as heralds of the future or as a mere depository. My wish, in any case, is for them to rise as an autonomous construction and a complete experience. It’s not necessary either, in this April morning which is proving to be of resurrection, to justify oneself, to remember old lovers, some older, others younger, but at the end of the day, old lovers all of them.

We had thrown all sorts of parties here, Michel. We saw squat black panthers skimming through books, incorporating tough faces, almost manly, in some part of their face. Beings very used to things that puzzled the night with their unintended gaze. Also fannies to live in and skaters skating in zigzag as erect snakes, pure nerve, flesh without waves on which a skeleton would arise in any corner as a reminder of the future. Bodies that were new and nearly speechless, incandescent, girls like foals that shitted strawberries but also wasted female bodies over which, back on the day, we couldn’t help but fall down to our feet. Vanities, you know what I’m talking about. Opulent beasts with coarse legs but touched by a certain doubt and little animals stuck since an early age in the quagmire of our memory; beings that today, had they not become old, as hotels do, would overwhelm us. But good hotels always end up becoming ladies.

There was stone and there was syrup, Michel, in those parties with no signal in which what happened, only happened there. Those parties one went to in order to be there, honest intervals in which to get lost for a while, nothing to do with those parties that are like almost any other party, like all the rest, events you go to in order to have been there. But this was long ago, my city was a different one and you must have things to do. I don’t know if I do today. Back then I was hesitant before entering any clubs where women didn’t have to pay because I thought it was an insult and a meat market. Later on I got it, I got why instead of going in I was going out at night, but for a while I kept on resisting those policies so taken for granted, and now I no longer give a toss, in this Wednesday morning in which I find myself writing these lines in your city full of crows, if one can call Paris your city, which again welcomes me as it has always done, with a suspicious excess of politeness.

Here there are no reproaches for me because there’s nothing for me here, but I like being a flâneur in Paris, feeling like a premonition of myself, a man to be built. I try to be ahead of tradition by wandering around narrow streets, but no matter how far from home I find myself, I’m going to be true to my honour. What is a good citizen, Michel? This morning I saw two women ugly as the devil taking pictures of each other before the window of an Adidas shop. They raised a stick. Later on, in a park, a man checked the solutions on the back of his crossword puzzle book.

Paris has a very sensible light that makes everything clearer. I’m not sure one can be a stateless intellectual here, and I’d say in France one demands reasons from fiction. Or maybe the other way around: the French give reasons to fiction. In France they know that reality can only be understood through fiction, imagination or fantasy, which are three very different things. That truth can only be explained through lies because the truth has nothing to do with reality, although both things are a construct, a hoax, a parallax error. Do you know what a parallax error is? Look it up on a dictionary.

Wait, there was an interruption here, reality intervenes on me. Someone from a real state agency just called me to tell me that they want to adjust the price of my rent to the current market and from now on I will have to generate more money to give to them. I can’t find the fun in this game; I don’t see how these people wake up early every morning, shower and do this day after day, what kind of a life is that? Should I accept, besides, I will have to cover the costs of paperwork, fees, etc.? I tell this person about a bird from Madagascar that eats these concrete berries. From his faeces, these berries are recovered, then milled and sold at a very high price as an infusion. These are new liturgies, painstaking but cheap ceremonies for dimwit posh people, rites that sound indisputable in their exotic wording and that should help us find a meaning to our life in common. I’m about to expose a theory on the matter that seems very revealing, but the person is not listening and with a plenipotentiary language insists in the fact that her management of the situation in the matter, my rent, is very beneficial to me. These hyenas make the world the way it is, and this is something that will never change while a single human being still breaths on the face of the Earth. We’re the most despicable and incorrigible species that this planet has ever seen, do you realise? Did you look for the parallax thing on the dictionary? And mindfulness, do you know what it is? No? Don’t worry, I can tell you that one: it’s a trap for the mediocre.

As you can see, I’m having a ball with these people. That’s why I’ve taken you as an excuse here today, to ramble on. These kind people and surely some asshole too (it seems on the Internet there are two or three) have gathered here to read about you, so now we can remind them again that when one writes, one writes about himself, that the causes, the topics, the information and manifestos are phoney reasons, and that if they want to read, they should switch off the Internet, first, because this is meant for something else, and if they want to know about you, Michel, they should read your novels, which, by the way, are starting to be scorned by the usual fake intellectuals, irritated for having let them dazzle them in the first place. The bloody idiots!

As for the rest, today I saw you, walking with your books, next to the Tolbiac Bridge, to me a place impossible not to relate to Tardi and Léo Malet. You were walking down Choisy with your hair in the wind. And what hair, Michel! I always believed that spring inhabitted that hair of yours, that with such a hairdo you couldn’t write anything amiss. I wonder whether you know what a baldhead is. I think there are only baldheads in Spain, but we’re well known around the world. There’s the resigned baldhead, the one that lets himself go, those of us who accept that responsibility knowing that it brings no special power whatsoever, and then there’s the categorical baldhead, the one who doesn’t accept his baldness and puts remedy to it by shaving his head. I’m not going to say anything, but I think shaving your head is a bit like today’s equivalent to wearing a hairpiece. The thing is I saw you today, with your little rucksack, looking for adventure and opportunities, and looking at you it came to mind that your circumstance in the world and in life is reduced to the one of a young puppy who doesn’t know how to climb up the stairs and is afraid to climb them down. It’s a frequent problem that has only one solution: to carry it in our arms. This image, deep down, summarises the writer quite well, the man who writes with that hair, someone miles ahead from that other kind of raw male mammal so popular today, able sometimes of sporting prehistoric beards that effectively hide their lack of charisma.

But let the music play, Michel, don’t you worry about anything, I’m here with you, I accept my baldness and if you wanted I could comb your hair, I assume all of men’s passions, their violent manifestations, the imperious temptation of sex, even humour, which, if you think of it, is much more powerful than any other. The temptation of humour!

Lately I went back to Reiser, a cartoonist that was very respected in your country. Those who knew him refer to him as someone tender and friendly, a sweet person and the perfect anti-macho man, and still, today most of his cartoons would give them problems. In one of them, a woman in rags and tatters cries in front of a gendarme filling a report. “OK, let’s go back,” says the policeman, “they opened your legs, tore your knickers off, raped you several times and made you blow them… Mmm, were you sodomised too?” he asks while he jerks off under his desk. This cartoon is featured in a wonderful book called Locos de amor, on which pages, sex and death become one. Reiser finds the essential mud, distils our truest miseries and by putting them on the table reveals us, annihilates us in one, two, three ferocious cartoons filled with hysteric drawings. He reduces us to ashes in order to explain us, and after we laugh we feel brand new, we have understood ourselves, we are better.

I always come to your city to buy books. I also bought one by Laplace, but that’s another story. Jean Laplace lives in Annecy and even his name is quiet, and neither you nor I nor anyone else are going to be as readable as him because his drawings take place at a pre-verbal stage. Laplace proposes his game of observation and hands in eight mistakes, he doesn’t submit words or tries to tame them. The guy makes a drawing, photocopies it and with ink and gouache he gets himself dirty, let’s say he boycotts himself and in that way he’s duplicated every day in one hundred newspapers. Printed newspapers, of course, because check this out and reach your own conclusions: there’s no crossword page on the digital press!

I better be off, but listen to what I was going to say to you: don’t smoke so much, Michel. I’ve got to say that no book of yours has pierced my soul because your literature is more about passive emotions, has sadness as its bed and is based on the tragedy of living, but in general I found all your novels satisfying and some of them I even liked quite a lot. On them one can never take a rest from oneself, but your precision at giving room temperatures is astounding. I even liked your film, man, now that I think of it; in Spain, three people liked it and I’ve got their phone numbers, that’s why I took the liberty to give you advise on the smoking thing. I understand that when you let go off the fag you fall into the void, you fall on life, but I quit two months ago and you can feel it, the blood circulation gains speed and all of a sudden you find your willy in shape, with no commander, saluting the time we have left. Let’s say that the shortage hands you a fury. It’s just like that.

And that’s it. I’ve got a lot of work these days, a never-ending list of nothingness such as writing this to you, four pieces of crap to get enough money to offer the witch who called me earlier. I only hope her kids die in pain, something that will happen sooner or later since their mum is a real state agent; in that house there can be no joy. I’ve got so much work that I will let myself be overwhelmed by it and do nothing at all, I know myself, I will spend the day looking at my navel trying to find some kind of atavist answer, asking myself about my own origins, about how we have come to this. I sometimes think that I would love to have a stable relationship, Michel. With myself, I mean.

I’m out of here! Don’t ever park your dreams, my friend; life is wonderful, have a look around Instagram. Instagram tolerates pictures of mastectomies and mothers breastfeeding their beasts, but never a cheerful tit, don’t you ever dare! Don’t ever forget that the devil hides in little details. That the end of the night is near, as are the asides of sex. That it’s in the last cars of the train, in the tall buildings of the outskirts of the city, in the rear-guard and at the end of those lines of impatient men where it originates, where the viper wags its tail and the blind and stupid god takes pleasure. Through there is where evil penetrates.

Having said this, I can assure you that I don’t like the world either, but each day I dream with equality, fraternity and freedom for these sons of bitches. And I know we’ll see each other again because we will all be attending the final dance.