Last week’s issue of Charlie Hebdo, featuring a cartoon of Michel Houllebecq (Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)
Houellebecq’s sixth novel, Submission, was published last Wednesday, the day of the massacre of 12 people in and outside Charlie Hebdo’s offices. The author of Atomised then cancelled his promotional tour and went into hiding.
In an interview recorded by Canal Plus’s Grand Journal last Thursday, but only broadcast on Monday night, the normally blasé Houellebecq appears grief-stricken at the news of the killings – in particular the death of economist Bernard Maris, a friend.
Barely able to speak, he says: “Yes, I am Charlie. This is the first time in my life that someone I know has been assassinated.”
Houellebecq decided to leave Paris after he heard about the killings.
Bernard Maris, 68, was a respected Left-wing economist and contributor to Charlie Hebdo who admired Houellebecq, even paying tribute to the author in a work called: “Houellebecq Economist”.
“We were supposed to take part in a debate at the end of March because he was about to publish a new book,” said Houellebecq.
“I am stopping the promotion [of Submission] because I don’t want to talk about my book at the moment. I am not in good shape,” he said.