H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life

H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life

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H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life is a work of literary criticism
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

 by French author Michel Houellebecq
Michel Houellebecq
Michel Houellebecq , born Michel Thomas, 26 February 1958—or 1956 —on the French island of Réunion, is a controversial and award-winning French author, filmmaker and poet. To admirers he is a writer in the tradition of literary provocation that reaches back to the Marquis de Sade and Baudelaire;...

 regarding the works of H. P. Lovecraft
H. P. Lovecraft
Howard Phillips Lovecraft --often credited as H.P. Lovecraft — was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction....

. The English-language edition for the American and UK market was translated by Dorna Khazeni, and features an introduction by American novelist Stephen King
Stephen King
Stephen Edwin King is an American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy fiction. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and have been adapted into a number of feature films, television movies and comic books...

.

The book also includes two of Lovecraft's best known short stories: "The Call of Cthulhu
The Call of Cthulhu
The Call of Cthulhu is a short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. Written in the summer of 1926, it was first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, in February 1928.-Inspiration:...

" and "The Whisperer in Darkness
The Whisperer in Darkness
"The Whisperer in Darkness" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. Written February–September 1930, it was first published in Weird Tales, August 1931. Similar to "The Colour Out of Space" , it is a blend of horror and science fiction...

."

In this early published work (which he calls his "first novel"), Houellebecq reports having discovered Lovecraft as a teenager and being struck by how each story was, as he describes, "an open slice of howling fear". He reports a fascination with Lovecraft's anti-modernity, what he supposes is Lovecraft's profound hatred of life and philosophical denial of the real world; Houellebecq notes that his works include "not a single allusion to two of the realities to which we generally ascribe great importance: sex and money." He posits Lovecraft as an American existentialist
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

 for whom both life and death are meaningless. He also praises what he sees as Lovecraft's rejection of democracy and progressivism.

Also noted is Houellebecq's exegesis of Lovecraft's racial
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 preoccupations, which he traces to a 24-month period Lovecraft lived in the comparatively racially mixed New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

of the 1920s, where, Houellebecq says, Lovecraft learned to take "racism back to its essential and most profound core: fear." He notes the recurring image in Lovecraft's fiction of a mammoth, hideous city teeming with terrifying beings.