Publishers Undeterred on Novel of Islamist France

European publishers are sticking to plans to publish a novel depicting a future Islamist takeover of France despite yesterday’s Paris shootings.

“Submission,” the sixth novel by French writer Michel Houellebecq, was featured on the cover of the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo, the weekly whose Paris offices were attacked by masked gunmen, leaving 12 people dead.

The book, released in France this week, has become the top seller on Amazon.com Inc.’s French and German sites. On the French site, it’s just ahead of an anthology of work from Charlie Hebdo.

The book will go on sale in Italy on Jan. 15 and hits shelves in Germany the following day, publishers Bompiani and DuMont Buchverlag said. Random House confirmed it will bring the book to British stores on Sept. 3 under the William Heinemann imprint, and it’s scheduled for release in Spain by Anagrama next year.

“We have no indications that the attack is linked to Houellebecq,” said Julia Giordano, a spokeswoman for Cologne-based DuMont. “There’s nothing in the book that’s insulting to Islam.”

In the U.S., Farrar, Straus and Giroux has an agreement to publish the book. The New York-based unit of Macmillan Publishers said it doesn’t have a projected publication date and a translator hasn’t been identified.

Guaranteed Best-Seller

The controversy is “almost guaranteed” to make the book a best-seller, said Greg Clingham, an English professor at Bucknell University and director of Bucknell University Press.

“Many, many people that might not otherwise have heard of this book will go out and buy it,” he said.

The novel by Houellebecq, who won France’s highest literary honor, the Prix Goncourt, for his 2010 “The Map and the Territory,” depicts a 2022 election victory by an imaginary Muslim Fraternity party, which proceeds to impose Islamist strictures on France. The president, Mohammed Ben Abbes, bans women from the workplace and endorses polygamy.

The cover of Charlie Hebdo’s Jan. 7 issue featured a caricature of “The Wise Man Houellebecq,” cigarette in hand and wearing a pointed wizard’s hat. “In 2015 I’ll lose my teeth,” he says. “In 2022, I’ll do Ramadan.”

The novel’s French publisher, Flammarion, closed its office in Paris’ central sixth arrondissement yesterday and asked employees to leave after the shootings put the capital on its highest-level alert for terror attacks, a company representative said. Police also took up positions at the company’s headquarters in the 13th arrondissement, though the offices remained open, he said. Bookshops were open as usual.

Gates Patrolled

The killers at Charlie Hebdo, which has published cartoons of Muhammad that some Muslims deem offensive, said they wanted to avenge the prophet, the Paris prosecutor said at a press conference yesterday. Witnesses cited by Europe 1 radio and Agence France-Presse said two hooded men entered the offices of the magazine, shooting at random and shouting “God is great” in Arabic.

At Flammarion headquarters yesterday, police patrolled the gates and a large sign instructed visitors to request permission by phone and get an escort before entering. The scene was different at the Flammarion bookshop in the Centre Pompidou art museum -- one of the publisher’s most visible outlets -- where clients browsed through titles early in the evening.

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