I was reading an interview with one of my favorite authors, Houellebecq. He makes an amusing point:
“The way this epidemic has panned out is remarkably normal,” he argued.
He described COVID-19 as a “banal virus” with “no redeeming qualities… It’s not even sexually transmitted.”
But he warned that the self-distancing and “home-working that the epidemic has brought” would accelerate the technological push to isolate and atomise people.
It was a great excuse, he said, to push further the “obsolescence of human relationships”.
Yet he ridiculed writers who had compared the moment to his apocalyptic 2005 novel, “The Possibility of an Island”, when the human race is on its last legs.
– ‘West has no divine right’ –
“The West has not the eternal divine right to be the richest and most developed zone in the world.
“It is no scoop to say that, it has been all over for a long time,” said the novelist, who is married to Qianyun Lysis Li, a Chinese student of his work 34 years his junior.
Even the death toll reflected the world as we have known it, he claimed.
“France is coming out of it better than Spain and Italy but not as well as Germany. No big surprise there.”
The amazing thing about COVID-19 is how truly unremarkably the epidemic has unfolded. It goes exactly like you would expect it to. France does better than Spain, but not as well as Germany. Italy screws up due to corruption. Nobody pays any attention to what happens in Eastern Europe. Everyone forgets that Africa and Indonesia were supposed to see mass death. A random South American country experiences a high death toll. Americans use the virus as an opportunity to divide themselves into two diametrically opposed halves. The American left displays blatant hypocrisy and scientists are tasked with coming up with a far-fetched narrative where none of it is hypocritical.
At the end of the day, nothing substantial has happened and all the doomsday prophecies turned out to be overblown. Scientific models got everything horribly wrong, because they hurriedly try to model a complex reality in a simplified manner that leads them to miss all sorts of variables they didn’t think of initially. Most importantly, everyone lives in denial about the fact that the epidemic was a non-event. Everyone gradually starts to behave like it was a non-event, but you can’t say out loud that it was a non-event.
Some terrible things have happened in Bergamo and New York City that led to a lot of unnecessary deaths, but you’re not supposed to talk about it. Nobody outside of a couple of random conspiracy blogs will ever think about it again and nobody will be brought to justice. In a few months, Vox, the New York Times, the Washington Post and some other newspapers will write an expose about the “corona truthers”, who harass NYC doctors. At that point, nobody will dare to ask what led to so many deaths in New York City anymore, for fear of being called a “corona truther”.
The predictions of terrible permanent lung damage will turn out to be overblown. Most of the damage is healed over time and the effects are not substantially different from those of a typical pneumonia. Nobody is ever held accountable for the doomsday predictions that annihilated the global economy, because too many people were involved, it would affect the credibility of science as a whole. One or two scientists end up disgraced and that’s it.
The Europeans will refuse any more WHO director-generals from African tin-pot dictatorships for the foreseeable future, you’ll be seeing the old familiar pale faces again, but people will get very angry at you when you point it out.
The mandatory masks in the United States will have turned out to have made the spread worse, because as we were warned months ago, poor mask usage merely increases the chances of infection. If an ill fitting mask means you’re continually touching your face, or you wear the same dirty masks multiple times, it merely helps spread disease. Nobody will say sorry to the people who refused to wear a mask, no, you’re still a “Karen” because you refused to blindly follow a dumb rule.
To make a long story short, nothing changes, except for the fact that the world becomes slightly worse and human interaction grows obsolete at an accelerated pace. You have lost a year of your life to a non-event.
“Banal” is a very good way to describe what we’ve been living through over the last 3 and a bit months. In my corner of the world, the failed state formerly known as the UK, we’ve seen people putting rainbows in their windows, fetishising the NHS (the state religion), and “clapping our carers” every Thursday night in spite of the fact that almost nobody knows anybody who has actually needed “care”. Meanwhile waiting lists for routine operations and medical appointments go sky high. You can’t even get a dental check up. The one thing that is not banal, and which worries me greatly, is the display of state muscle that we have seen across the world. Freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of worship – all taken away in the name of “staying safe”. The extent to which politicians and technocrats have taken control of our daily lives is my biggest concern and we are badly in need of ideas about how we can insulate ourselves against this and preserve our personal liberty.
Nice to see that you like Houellebecq, really my favorite contemporary author.
Which Houellebecq books do you like? I have read “The Elementary particles” “Serotonine” recently and a few years ago “Submission”. The first two I mentioned I didn’t quite finish either of them, because they were starting to piss me off, strangely enough. But I still liked them!
I like when Bruno goes off his tits at his mum’s funeral and the description of the hippy at the funeral.
I think he pads his books like crazy with sex and the main characters whining. But still they are not bad.
I see Elementary particles as Houellebecq’s magnum opus, it’s sheer depravity and perversity really amused me. The book contains a potent commentary on French society and the new-age movement, two subjects that really hit home. He also manages to sneak some science in there – which is always a plus.
“Submission” is a nice critique on contemporary Islam. However; It’s very controversial and contains worse writing. Though it still is a nice book.
You are right he critisizes french new age hippies. It is true that they are always going on about “investing in themselves”. That is one of their catchphrases.
I like it when Bruno writes a little essay and goes to see about getting it published, the publisher says it’s good but then says “But nowadays we can’t simply write honestly about anything, we aren’t living in the age of Céline!”
Bruno undergoes severe sexual frustration.
That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
It’s so refreshing to read others posts like this. I’ve done a few recently, criticising the reaction to this thing. In America, is really has ripped this country apart. COVID-19 is the worst thing in the world, unless you’re protesting for black lives … but protest for basic civil rights and it’s all “You’re going to cause everyone to die because you want a haircut.”
I feel we need to read and write more long form blogs just to put people at lease and try to do what we can against this mass hysteria. Yes a lot of people have died. That’s tragic, but there is no real proof this lockdown did anything significant over just isolating and protecting them. The whole damn world has gone crazy