De Volkskrant, 2023-04-20

Een moddergevecht rond Houellebecq

Ariejan Korteweg, De Volkskrant, 2023 April 20

Original in Dutch

Translation to English

A mud fight around Houellebecq

How nice it would have been if writer Michel Houellebecq and actor GĂ©rard Depardieu had come together on Tuesday across the white marble of Amsterdam’s
courthouse on the river IJ had come marching up together, ready to teach the Dutch barbarians a lesson like Asterix & Obelix – Houellebecq had suggested the thought himself. Alas, they did not come. According to his lawyer, the writer was incapable.

Perhaps it was just as well. The appeal was a mud fight with gloomy videos and lawyers who could not stand each other. This was the third round in Houellebecq’s legal battle to prevent Stefan Ruitenbeek’s Amsterdam art collective Kirac from making a film – Kirac27 – showing him having sex with Dutch girls. Earlier, both the French court and the Amsterdam preliminary relief judge ruled against him. He signed a contract binding him.

The judge and her two counselors heard how the qualifications reached questionable levels: Houellebecq was “half a corpse” and “a dirty old man” according to his Dutch bed partners. Lolita, Jean Kwok and children’s book author Pim Lammers were brought in to show that Houellebecq was practising censorship. But according to team Houellebecq, it is precisely Kirac who uses people and leaves them broken.

The footage clips shown were also saddening. We saw the writer confused on bed, claiming that only sex can keep him from smoking. We saw him huddled in jacket and hoodie on the platform of Amsterdam CS.

The judge took notice with furrowed brows. ‘Surely two creators should be able to understand each other’s views,’ she said almost desperately. Houellebecq and Ruitenbeek were given a week to work things out together; the writer’s arrival was urgently needed for this.

No, this did not look hopeful.

Yet the solution is within reach. Kirac was founded to expose the hypocrisy in the art world, not to make life difficult for one of the most important living writers. Let them make a film about the intersections of manipulation, silliness, abuse of power and genius – there would be 600 hours of film, so material to spare. In it, they could also explain why they refrain from showing the footage of Houellebecq in all sorts of positions, even though they have the right to show it.

The premiere of Kirac27 is set for late May at the Betty Asfalt Complex in Amsterdam. Houellebecq, meanwhile, is progressing well with the pamphlet he is writing about the affair. Add up the film and book revenues and divide by two.

May some good come of it after all.