Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hidden Links: Borat and Michel Houellebecq

I saw Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat in a nearly full Savoy cinema on Sunday night and laughed at most of it, particularly his insane dancing and the naked wrestling. Afterwards I was trying to come up with some interesting 'take' on it in case I met anyone who wanted to talk about whether or not it was offensive. I couldn't but inspiration struck today while reading a review by James Wood, who in passing I see is married to Claire Messud, author of modish 'The Emperor's Children', of 'The Possibility of Island' by Michel Houellebecq . No need to rehearse Houllebecq's literary output here except to say that critics regarded his previous book, 'Platform', as prophetic given that it was published days before September 11 and imagined Islamic fundamentalists bombing a resort for Western sex tourists in Thailand. In 'The Possibility of an Island', which was released almost a year ago in Europe, Daniel, its protagonist, is an outrageous professional comedian, who likes to splatter his venom all over delicate topics like the Middle East: one of his best-known films is a parody of a porn film, and is called Munch on My Gaza Strip (My Huge Jewish Settler). Now, who has just released a wildly successful film which revels in saying the unsayable and ridiculing subjects that hitherto were taboo? So the 'take' is to draw attention to the similarities between the Daniel character in Houllebecq's novel and Sacha Baron Cohen and to muse on the French writer's prescience. Will that do?

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