Le horreur cosmique

hpllibrio.jpgI’ll be in Paris this week so some French-related postings are in order.

Michel Houellebecq’s HP Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (which I still haven’t read) has been in the news again recently, with a number of reviews appearing in UK newspapers and magazines, most of which present the by-now rather tired spectacle of reviewers who normally wouldn’t give any of this nasty pulp stuff a second thought having to take Lovecraft seriously because Houellebecq is a serious author. (“He’s a bad writer!” they bleat. And Lou Reed is a bad singer; you’re missing the point, you fools.) The Observer last week had one of the better ones. Last year the Guardian published an extract from Houellebecq’s book.

Curious how often it requires the French to make the Anglophone world look anew at marginalised elements of its own culture; Baudelaire championed Edgar Allan Poe, it was French film critics who gave us the term “film noir” when they identified a new strain of American cinema and the Nouvelle Vague writers and filmmakers were the first to treat Hitchcock as anything other than a superior entertainer. The French have always liked Lovecraft so it was no surprise to me at least when Houellebecq’s book appeared.

Oddly enough, the only association I’ve had so far with French publishing is the use of my 1999 picture of Cthulhu’s city, R’lyeh, on the cover of a reprint of HPL stories from Houellebecq’s publishing house (above). Something I’ll be looking for in Paris if I have the time will be more of Philippe Druillet‘s Lovecraft-inflected work. Druillet has been working with the imagery of cosmic horror since the late 60s and even illustrated the work of William Hope Hodgson, one of HPL’s influences and an English writer the broadsheet critics have yet to hear about. Take a look at these pictures for stories written before the First World War then go and look at some stills from the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. What was once the preserve of Weird Tales and other pulp magazines is now mainstream culture.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Davy Jones
Charles Méryon’s Paris

2 thoughts on “Le horreur cosmique”

  1. Incidently I started to read this Houellebecq book (its an essay really, not a book) on HPL this morning and it is really good. Feels strange, in a way, that it’s from 1991…

    I am more of a fan of Houellebecq and have not read anything by HPL before today (quick search online revealed the complete works available from http://www.noveltynet.org/content/books/lovecraft/works.html – I have now spent half my working day reading the shorter pieces).

    Sorry for rambling just wanted to leave a quick message to say: I like your blog.



  2. I agree, S.B.

    I first read Houellebecq’s ode to Lovecraft a while ago, and find myself returning to it on a fairly regular basis. I have also since become a fan of Houellebecq’s fictions, having read Platforme and Les Particule Elementaires (in the original French… not bragging, it’s my mother tongue).

    Personally, I think Houellebecq “gets” Lovecraft on a much deeper level than Stephen King did, or at least deeper than King evinced in his otherwise superlative meditation on pop horror, Danse Macabre, in which he was somewhat dismissive of Lovecraft.

    I second your opinion of Coulthart’s blog, btw. An excellent blog from a most excellent artist, who is doing more than anyone else, I think, to keep the true spirit of Lovecraft alive and wriggling.

    yer old pal Jerky

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