Michel Houellebecq opens the year with a much anticipated new novel, Serotonin, and with a little less awaited recognition: the French writer, one of the most international authors of the current French literary scene, has been named knight of the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration of the French Republic.
Houellebecq is part of the traditional January 1 promotion of the Legion of Honor, which on this occasion also distinguishes, exceptionally, the 23 players of the national soccer team that last year brought the World Cup for the second time in its history to French territory. The recognition of the sporting deed is repeated: the bleus who won the first cup, in 1998, received this extraordinary distinction, as now, for a "clearly characterized exceptional services", in a "special promotion".
In total, the new promotion distinguishes 402 people "Distributed in exact man-woman parity", highlighted the Chancellery of the Legion of Honor when announcing the laureates, among whom there are also police and firefighters for their "action for the security of the country" and other artists, such as the actresses Nathalie Baye, Ludmila Mikaël and Michèle Laroque. All three have been named knights of the Legion of Honor, as well as Houellebecq and the journalist Stéphane Bern, specialized both in themes of the heart – he is the French chronicler par excellence of the European royal houses – and in series and books on the history of France and the preservation of heritage, a passion he shares with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who commissioned the project to create a heritage lottery to help fund the recovery of historic buildings. Just over one hundred years old, the playwright and poet René de Obaldia has been promoted by him to commander of the Legion of Honor.
The appointment of Houellebecq is known a few hours already the much anticipated release of his new novel, Serotonin, on January 4 (in Spanish it will be published by Anagrama). Once again, he also won the Goncourt 2010 prize for The Map and the Territory it has become the "winter literary entry" in France, where the newspapers have spent days dedicating articles to the writer and essayist who, for his ability to capture the Zeitgeist or the spirit of the times, is described by not a few in his country as a kind of sociological seismograph. Despite telling a different story, Serotonin anticipate the social unrest expressed by the yellow vests, the revolt of the impoverished middle classes that has convulsed France in the last weeks of 2018.