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H.P. Lovecraft Against the world, against life


H.P.Lovecraft – Against the world, against life.
Michel Houllebecq
Translated by Robin Mackay Robin Mackay robin[AT] This is a work in progress; please check the site for updates. All corrections/comments welcome. Updated 12 November 2004

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H.P. Lovecraft Against the world, against life


When I began writing this essay (around the end of 1988), I found myself in the same situation as many thousands of other readers. Having discovered the stories of Lovecraft at the age of seven, I immediatelyimmersed myself in every one of his works available in French[1]. Later, with a declining interest, I explored those who continued the Cthulhu Mythos, as well as the authors to whom Lovecraft felt close (Dunsany, Robert Howard, Clark Ashton Smith). From time to time, often enough, I returned to the ‘major works’ of Lovecraft; they continued to exercise a strange attraction over me, contradictory toall the rest of my taste in literature; I knew absolutely nothing about his life. On reflection, it seems to me that I wrote this book like a sort of first novel. A novel with only one character (H.P.Lovecraft himself); a novel with the constraint that all the facts related, all the texts cited had to be accurate; but, all the same, a type of novel. The first thing that surprised me in discoveringLovecraft was his absolute materialism; unlike many of his admirers and commentators, he never considered his myths, his theogonies, his ‘ancient races’ as anything other than pure imaginary creations. The other source of astonishment was his obsessional racism; never, in reading his descriptions of nightmarish creatures, had I supposed that they could have had their source in real human beings.The analysis of racism in literature has been focused for half a century on Céline; the case of Lovecraft is actually more interesting and more typical. With him the intellectual constructions, the analyses of decadence play only a secondary role. A writer of the fantastic (and one of the greatest), he pursued racism brutally to its most profound source: fear. His own life, in this regard, makes avaluable example. A provincial gentleman convinced of the superiority of his anglo-saxon origins, he never had anything more than a passing contempt for other races. His time in the rougher areas of New York was to change everything. These strange creatures became rivals, neighbours, enemies who were probably his superiors in terms of brute-force. Thus, in a progressive delirium of masochism and ofterror, came the demand that they must be destroyed. The transformation, then, is complete. Few authors, including the greats of imaginative literature, have made so little concession to reality. For my part, I obviously don’t follow Lovecraft in his hatred of every form of realism, in his heartfelt rejection of every subject touching on money or sex; but I did perhaps, especially in later years,draw some profit from those lines where I read of it having “destroyed the structure of the traditional narrative” through the systematic use of scientific terms and concepts. His originality, in this sense, appears greater than ever. I wrote at the time that there was something “not very literary” about Lovecraft. Since then I’ve had a bizarre confirmation of this. In the course ofbook-signings, from time to time, young people come to ask me to sign the book. They have discovered Lovecraft through the intermediary of role-playing games or CD-Roms. They haven’t read him, and haven’t any intention to do so. However, curiously, they long – regardless of the texts – to know more about this individual, and the way in which he constructed his world. This extraordinary power of the creator...
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