Synchronicity? (And Sérotonine)

Where was I on the night of Thursday, January 3, 2019?

At home.  Got home late from work.  Declined an invitation to go to the gym.  Wanted to just make some tea, chill, read.  Only had a couple hours to myself to just do nothing in particular.  At about midnight, I had one last cigarette, brushed my teeth and went upstairs to go to bed.  While I was smoking, I was chatting with friends in our group chat on WhatsApp, talking of worldly things.  Saying things like “there is not stopping decline,” “there is no ‘going back’” and telling my friend he should read Submission by Michel Houellebecq (a book I read early in 2018).  I suggested this because I was telling him about the strength of Islam and how I believe that Europe will be Muslim eventually (being slightly hyperbolic, but still believing what I was saying).  Islam spreading doesn’t really bother me that much.  I already converted in 2014 and can speak Arabic, but I don’t practice the religion at all, drink beer and eat pork.

I only suggest people read the Submission because it shows how seamless this transition can be, how weak the faith of the West is (in anything except economic matters) and how the elite and powerful will just go with flow to maintain their status.  It’s also a timely read since, in the book, France elects a Muslim president and here in the States, we have just elected two Muslim congresswomen.  If America becomes Muslim, it’ll probably only happen after my time and be a weak, secular version of Islam that will eventually be as meaningless as Christianity in America is now, being merely Liberalism with a sprinkling of ‘God’ – a vague notion of something supernatural.

Anyway, I sent my last text, a picture of the first two stanzas of “Les Fenêtres” by Stéphane Mallarmé[1], and went to bed.  I couldn’t sleep and had an idea for a poem.  It would be a poem about being suffocated by death.  I turned over and typed some notes on my phone.  By 1:00 AM, I was asleep.

Where was I on the day of Friday, January 4, 2019?

At work.  Downtown.  Relatively busy.  I was at my desk when my friend texted to the group, describing a dream he had during the night.  His exact words:

“This isn’t a joke.

Joe [that’s me] was sitting in my room on my office chair while I was sick in bed.  And he was injecting himself with something and I was upset, like mad and I couldn’t breathe through my nose and my mouth was dry and he wouldn’t stop saying the name of that author Michelle [sic] houlobeque [sic]”

His next message was him admitting that he knows he spelled the name wrong.  I laughed at the dream and told him it was eerie since I was thinking about writing a poem about being suffocated by death and he dreamed I was in his room basically committing suicide while he couldn’t breathe.  The conversation moved on.

I went downstairs to have a smoke.  I had my Air Pods in (no, they don’t fall out), listening to something on YouTube.  Autoplay was on.  It was a pleasant day for an early January day in Chicago (meaning not freezing and windy), especially if you stood in the sun, like I was.  Midway through my cigarette, I heard a French video playing in my ears.  It was a compilation of clips of Michel Houellebecq assembled by some French new site, talking about his books.  I pulled out my phone and looked at the video.  Some of the text popping up during the various clips told me that Michel Houellebecq has a new book out!  I had no idea!  I haven’t heard anything about a new Houellebecq novel coming out!  I’ve read four of his six novels and have been wondering what his next one would be like or when it would even come out.  On the show On n’est pas couché, Houellebecq told Yann Moix that he dreams of one day writing a “long novel full of long, boring passages” and that “writing a long book is very difficult”[2] (my paraphrasing).  If this was his plan, I thought I’d be waiting another couple of years, at least, to see a new Houellebecq novel.

But, apparently, on January 4, 2019, in France, Michel Houellebecq’s new 352-page novel, Sérotonine, hit bookshelves.  While my friend was dreaming of me in his room, injecting myself with something and repeating the grand author’s name over and over, his new book was being set up in displays in France.  Crazy.

FRANCE-LITERATURE-BOOK-NOVEL-HOUELLEBECQ
Copies of French award winner writer Michel Houellebecq’s seventh new novel “Serotonine” are displayed in a book store in Paris on January 4, 2019. / AFP / Thomas SAMSON

Where was I in the early morning hours of Saturday, January 5, 2019?

Well, at about 2:30 AM, I got home, brushed my teeth, and got into bed.  I pulled out my Kindle and purchased Sérotonine by Michel Houellebecq.  I would much rather prefer to have the hard copy, but Amazon says it would likely ship in one to two months.  (The paperback is also more than 40USD.  The Kindle edition was $17.99.)

At the time of this writing, I’m only about 12% in, according to my Kindle.  So far, it reads like a Houellebecq novel, with the same ever-present cynicism, but the writing seems slightly different that what I’ve read before and there are some long, rambling sentences filled with commas reminiscent of Prosperité by Philippe Muray that seem a little out of character for Houellebecq (although, I suppose this may be a Kindle error…?).  I don’t know…it almost seems more playful, like there’s more ‘winks’ from the narrator to the reader…almost…charming, I guess I’d say.  But I don’t know, I might change my opinion.

I’m not going to give a synopsis or review or anything since this can already be found in English (The Guardian has written about it already), but I will give my own translation of an interesting line from the first page that was highlighted 30 times by other readers according to my Kindle (a rather annoying feature):

“Nicotine is a perfect drug, a simple and stern drug, that brings no joy, that is entirely defined by absence, and by the cessation of this absence.”[3]

Smoke if you got ‘em.

[1] Yes, this is me showing off what was reading to whoever reads this, but it was also very fitting as an allegory for what we were talking about.

[2] Yann Moix has written a book, Naissance, that has more than 1000 pages.  I haven’t read it and probably never will.  No offense to Yann, I just don’t think it will ever fit into my time.

[3] French: “La nicotine est une drogue parfaite, une drogue simple et dure, qui n’apporte aucune joie, qui se définit entièrement par le manque, et par la cessation du manque.”

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