Romain Gary and Michel Houellebecq – Evolution of “ideologies”


Gros-Calin by Romain Gary was published in 1974. It’s just few years after the ideological revolution of May 68 which began in France and split in all over the world. We can consider that novel as a mirror of the society in that time and Gary’s input into these “events”. He states his own opinion and evaluates the phenomenas taking place around him. The main goal of that revolution was to deny all kinds of authorities, to reestablish liberty and equality, to replace conservative morality with the liberal morality.

Gary decides to develop the subject which was important globally, for all the continents and especially for Eastern Europe. He places his main character in Paris. That’s because he lived in Paris himself. We know Gary as an observer of the society around him. He notices very well the main characteristics dominating life of people. He notices not only the apparency but also their thoughts and feelings. In this novel he stated all the real values that humanity should follow in confronting them with those which alienate the nature and go against it. Gary appears as a globalist. Cousin represents everyone in the world. Values like liberty, equality, love, friendship are common to all and Gary stands to defend them. His narrator resists against the “values” which are imposed in the society and which change traditions, habits, and result in negative consequences for all humanity. The extreme liberalism proclaimed in 1968 is dangerous because people become too individualistic and incapable to communicate, and finally they stay alone. We could express a doubt that maybe in that moment, just after these changes entered the society, it is impossible to predict the real consequences. Nevertheless, at that time, Gary was able to foresee the evolution of the new “ideologies” in future. In order to prove that we can make a few parallels between the novel Gros-Calin and the novel of Houellebecq Extension du domaine de la lutte (Extension of the battle field), published in 1994, so, 20 years ago. That novel is like continuation of the ideas of Gary and presents the situation in the society in 20 years. In his article Bruno Viard writes that this novel is an expression of the children of that generation of 1968. The characters here are daughters and sons of soixante-huitars who became adults and realized what their parents did with them and who express a suffering and accusing cry. Houellebecq also presents his critical point of view of the society of his time. One common point of these two novels is that the critique is presented with humor and irony. Only one difference, that Houellebeq’s humor is satirical and much more insulting, we can call it “black humor”.