Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

elon muskIt’s time we talk about Elon Musk. I am a huge fan of Musk, and after reading Vance´s version, I’m an even bigger fan.

For those who are unaware of Musk, he is the man who replaced Steve Jobs in this planet. That´s a personal opinion, but it can very well be true.

Ashlee Vance is a journalist who got extremely lucky to have Musk´s help to write his biography. Everyone has access to Elon´s public companies´ numbers and products, but very people have access to Elon himself, his life and his way of thinking. Vance masterfully exploits this unique opportunity he was given, and creates a great story, starting from Elon´s childhood, up to his latest successes.

I will, however, skip Elon´s childhood, for I find his adulthood much more interesting. Elon started his career as an entrepreneur when the internet was still a baby. So he´s been around for the whole ups and downs of the dot coms; since C+ and MS DOS. His first business was to put the yellow pages on the internet. Nobody thought of it at those times, and it was a stroke of genius. Elon thought that contacts, names, addresses, services, restaurants, and all businesses should be made available through the internet. Today it´s easy to think about it, that´s just how it works. But it wasn´t easy to have that vision when Windows 95 wasn´t even mainstream.

Elon went next to create X.com, which later merged with PayPal, which was sold to Ebay, which made Elon a real Silicon Valley millionaire. Everybody knows PayPal, what people don´t know, is that Elon was the first to envision and act on the potential of internet banking, and online transfers or payments.

teslaAnd today Elon has three companies, let´s go quickly one by one:

  1. Tesla: all cars should be electric, no more fossil fuels, and no compromise regarding the horsepower or the aesthetics of the product.
  2. SolarCity: residences and businesses should be energy self sustainable, that is possible with solar energy.
  3. SpaceX: one day the Earth will not be anymore, and we will have to inhabit other planets, such as Mars. The main obstacle today is that transportation to get there sucks. SpaceX is here to solve that.

What sets Musk apart from every other entrepreneur? Well, several things, which are all described in the book, that’s why you gotta read it. But I will give you an overview: Musk is a visionary first of all, he thinks big and he thinks different. While people are scrutinizing themselves to think of a way to improve text messages and photo sharing, Musk is thinking how we get to Mars, quickly and efficiently, and then back. Musk is also resilient and persistent. His current competitors in SpaceX, for instance, are the government of Russia and China, and the USA military. Barriers to entry in his businesses are enormous, injection of human and financial capital is absurd, and failures happen much more often than successes. There is never, however, any reason or time to whine about it. Another point, Musk is a risk taker. He always has equity in the business and puts his own time and mind on them. If the business fails, he´s bankrupt. That’s a beautiful trait in every true at heart entrepreneur. Just to be clear, Musk is not only a scientist or a visionary, he is a brilliant executioner and businessman. He knows how to put a deal together and get it out of paper. He knows how to talk to investors, clients or shareholders. He knows how to launch a product. He knows how to motivate people, and how run a company. He´s the founder and CEO.

space x

In simple words, Musk gets amazing shit done. And once it is done, he invents new shit to get done again. Vance´s book just made me admire the guy more than I already did.

Musk is young, he is now 44 years old, so I am beyond excited and curious to know what he is cooking for the decades to come, and how he will make those ideas a reality.

Mr. George

Animal Farm by George Orwell

bf074b83939716525bed77cfab1bf419Animal Farm is a classic book we usually read in high school. When we read it in high school, however, we don´t deeply understand it. We do get the main metaphors: the dictatorship, the people´s mentality and all else. But we don´t fully grasp the reality the book describes and the more subtle metaphors.

I just came back from Russia and got to see all the monuments and buildings of the Soviet Era. I also talked to the people in order to get their feelings and opinions about those times. Everyone shared a bit: students, taxi drivers… And I gotta tell you, everything that happened is exactly as described in the book. All the events are in perfect accordance to Animal Farm. It´s so similar it gets scary. Orwell is able to cut the chase and tell a tale in very simple terms, with such amazing clarity and objectivity, that you get to see the foolishness of it all. Then, after reading the last page, when you stop to think about what you just read, you figure that the pigs´ story is actually real history, you just can´t believe it. That´s the greatness of the book.

Lenin and Stalin are clearly depicted in the book in the form of pigs, so are all the monuments they built, to remember the fallen or revere the living. In Animal Farm, all types of animals are thoroughly described: those that blindly follow the words of their masters, those that work hard believing they will achieve some sort of utopia, the more skeptical ones, and even the few that realize what´s going on and decide to flee for safety. Just like real people, in a real regime.

There, though, is one main point I want to emphasize: the forgetfulness of the masses. Things happen because people forget the past. If men remembered the suffering and blood of war, few wars would be waged, because some are just inevitable. In Animal Farm, specifically, the animals are forced to believe that year after year they are living better, are more independent and are more democratic. What actually happens is the opposite. But how can they think otherwise if the past is so blurry that it´s not a point of reference anymore. The horse works harder every day and thus believes he is producing more. And guess what? The horse is producing less everyday, because high ranking animals steal from him, only he doesn´t know it, because he forgot how much he used to produce in the first place. It´s just amazing the similarity with humans.

Even in real life, when people who lived through totalitarian regimes actually realize how it all began, or how it when on for so long, it´s hard to acknowledge the fact. Until today, the word communism is not freely spoken within the Russian population, they rather say “The Soviet Era”. Stalin is not compared to famous dictators and butchers of the world, he is rather described as a complex man, both good and bad: a great leader with a dark side. During his time, corruption among politicians were standard practice, kidnapping and assassinations happened every Tuesday, the cold war was the status quo, and 25 million people died during the Second World War (aka Great Patriotic War). But all that is partially shadowed, for Stalin was the successor of the visionary and legendary Lenin. Stalin also built statues and colossal buildings in the name of the soldiers and the workers, and above all, he won the Great Patriotic War. A complex person in a complex time, isn´t it? Not really, it´s actually pretty simple, and Animal Farm will explain it to you.

Mr. George

About Miss Charlotte’ Sculpture

To continue our personal epic novel, here’s a new chapter. A very special one. 

I decided a couple of days ago to commend a sculpture of the glorious Miss Charlotte to a dear friend of mine, and not coincidentally, the best craftsman of our century. He prefers to remain anonymous. 

The reason I took such a decision may vary, but primarily it’s because Miss Charlotte, as my muse, deserves to have her beauty eternalized. I also believe that nowadays the only sort of sculpture we admire are of the ancient sort: Romans, Greeks, a bit of Renaissance and such. My standard of beauty is different, and it’s new, and it’s better. My standard of beauty has an unparalleled benchmark: Miss Charlotte. So it’s about time for an upgrade. 

I am very aware that I have just imposed an enormous challenge to the great artist when sponsoring this piece. It is impossible for a sculpture to even vaguely resemble my muse’s main features: her values and morals, her polished politeness and education, her beautiful kind heart, her infinite wisdom or her soft skin. We shall try nevertheless to do our best in this commendable endeavor. 

The sculpture shall be made in pink marble. Not a heavy and substantial pink, but a rather light and subtle tone. A marble that looks almost beige, but has those perfect stains and shades of pink when placed under the correct light.  And it will be carved in real size, with every millimeter accounted accurately. 

Her face. The most special face of all time. It won’t be easy to sculpture it. It needs to have a very strong nose, portraying her fierceness. She will be smiling, perfectly and beautifully, in order to reflect her tenderness and generosity towards other people. The combination of the nose and smile will define her paradoxical nature of power and kindness. Her eyes, instead of inexistant like the old sculptures, will be made of a single diamond in the center, surrounded by several smaller pink diamonds, to match the marble.

Her body. That’s an incomparable feat of God. I asked the artist to cover her up with a towel, imagining she just got out of a cold shower. Miss Charlotte’s sculpture will be covered from above her breasts all the way down to the beginning of her thighs. Her shoulders and lower neck will show her light weight and slim body, for her bones are slightly visible. From then on, she is mine to admire in person only. It will be possible, however, to distinguish her perfectly shaped breasts and all her curves. Here the artist will have to excel his own self, for Miss Charlotte’s body has a flawless shape, proportionate in every standard. The legs will be long, showing her skin, which is smooth, soft, firm, and just amazingly beautiful. 

To complete the sculpture and make it a piece of art, it shall be standing up, in a steady posture, with her head looking straight and proud, but her hands dropped lightly and without effort, facing outwards. This position will resemble her in real life and fill the sculpture with a soul. As I mentioned earlier, she’s a person who knows right from wrong, is always polite and gracious, willing to assert herself with every inch of sophistication and finesse in the hardest situations imaginable. But at the same time she is light as a feather and listens to others with honesty and curiosity. She’s flexible, and of course, very forgiving and extremely kind. Miss Charlotte is both sensitive and elegant; both naive and wise; both gentle and strong. She’s both a princess and a queen at the same time. 

I understand this is a “doom to fail” attempt only to remind us of Miss Charlotte’s traits, because the real Miss Charlotte is unbeatable in every way, and is much much more than a piece of carved stone. Nonetheless, a unique, exquisite, new and beautiful sculpture it shall be. The best in every form and time. 

Unfortunately for everyone but myself, this masterpiece of art will be for her and my eyes only. At least for now, because who knows, maybe a century from today my muse’ sculpture will be displayed in the main court of a museum, as the woman who revolutionized beauty forever. The new Venus. 

Mr. George 

The Prime Ministers by Yehuda Avner

The-Prime-Ministers-by-Yehuda-Avner-Paperback_largeThere are usually two types of books when the main topic is Israel: the more didactic history books, infused with geopolitics and war tactics, or the live biographies and war stories, filled with emotional beliefs and personal anecdotes. The Prime Ministers is the only book I have read so far, concerning Israel, that is able to blend both types in the most dynamic and lively style. 

The author, Yehuda Avner, who died this year, left us the most beautiful, exciting, fast paced and sentimental account of a very important slice of Israel´s history. Through his exceptional writing skills, and through his own eyes and personal experiences, he gives the reader the unique opportunity to live, feel and go deep into the thoughts and deeds of Israel’s most respected leaders. I was hypnotized by the book from the moment I started reading it. From everything I have read so far, about everything imaginable concerning Israel, The Prime Ministers is incomparable.

Yehuda Avner served as a speechwriter, advisor and diplomat for several of Israel´s prime ministers. He is not affiliated to any political party, which in turn served him right, for he stayed connected to the inner circles of Israeli politics during both left and right wing tenures. His book is basically divided in four parts, each part dealing with a specific prime minister he worked with: Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Ytzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin.

As I mentioned, the book is a mix of history and anecdotes. Each event is described with the background of how it came to be; what was the thinking process or the story behind it. Each event or anecdote is written with the perfect amount of detail, and you get to feel a real connection to what is happening. In Israel´s history, not everything is logical or rational, events are shaped by personal beliefs, and each leader’s persona is truly felt and understood among the pages. It is as interesting to read about a walk with Harry Truman or a kosher dinner at the White House, as it is to read about the cabinet meeting prior to entering Old Jerusalem during the Six Day War or the state of mind of Golda Meir and her generals at Yom Kippur War.

Even though Avner is not a member of any political party, he does not hide his political views or preferences throughout the whole book. I find that aspect added a great deal to the book. Avner was there, seeing with his own eyes history being shaped, listening to the prime ministers´ rationale or feeling their emotions at sorrowful as well as joyful times. In view of that, I believe it´s a privilege to read about Avner biased opinions. Everyone has their own political and personal views, and although it´s not fair to say this, some are more entitled than others speak them aloud. In the case of Avner, he´s a full right wing supporter, and Menachem Begin was his personification of the perfect blend between decisiveness, humility, ethics and religious observance.

avner beginOne my favorite chapters in the book deals with the bombing of nuclear reactor Osirak in Iraq, ordered by Menachem Begin in 1981. Avner described wholeheartedly the decision facing Begin among the tensions and pressured of those times. Bombing Osirak could cause a major war in the Middle East to break out, and not bombing it would create a major nuclear threat to the State of Israel and its democratic allies in the world. The United States, Israel’s principal ally, was demanding restraint and the Labor Party was urging Begin to wait and see. If the attack went wrong it would be used against Begin in the next elections, and if it were successful they would say Begin did it only to win the elections. Besides all those issues, there wereintelligence matters still to be answered: In how long will the reactor be ready? Is now the right moment to attack? Is Saddam capable of launching it? If we attack, how should we go about it? What are the political backfalls of such a decision? And on it goes. At the end, Begin’s decision was a product of his whole life. Being a survivor of the prisons of Russia and witness to the Holocaust, a point came when there was no doubt in his mind that a second Holocaust, a nuclear one, will not happen under his leadership or in the future, only because he failed to act when he had the chance. The chapter ends with the prime minister blessing the pilots who fulfilled the mission successfully and flawlessly.

There is no book that can describe historic events like The Prime Ministers. History is made by people, by leaders, who have their own views, which were shaped by their own unique past. And Avner is able to describe each event with the full spectrum of the serving prime minister’s personality and perspective. Avner gives us the most valuable and amazing insights to the events and the commanders in chief that determined some of Israel’s major decision points, literally making history alive.

Mr. George

About Gabriel Allon


Gabriel Allon is one of my favorite fictional characters. He is the creation of Daniel Silva, spy thriller author, second only to John le Carré in my opinion. For all the spy novel fans’ fortune, there are fifteen books featuring spy master Gabriel Allon, and maybe more to come in the future.

Daniel Silva writes fiction, but his stories always have some level of truth to them, one way or another. He explores different themes in each book, explaining and giving background for each by mixing them with the plot.  This is a trait that makes the books much more intriguing and interesting. Common themes are the rise of Islam, issues regarding the Holocaust, terrorism in the modern world and Israel’s modern history. In many cases it’s even possible to relate the book’s story with real events from the past. For example, in the fifth book, The Prince of Fire, Allon is chasing a Palestinian terrorist named Khaled al Khalifa, who was in real life, supposedly, Ali Hassan Al Salameh, mastermind of the Munich massacre and leader of Black September. In A Death in Vienna, Allon is trying to catch an ex-Nazi officer and war criminal, vaguely resembling the kidnapping of Adolph Eichmann in Argentina in 1960. Every book has a different fictional plot, albeit with a lot of truth behind them.

Back to the issue at hand, Gabriel Allon is an Israeli spy who works for “the Office”, although never mentioned in the books, it´s the Mossad. Gabriel is fluent in many languages, works across all European countries, and as a sort of independent spy, answers only to the Office´s boss Ari Shamron. Gabriel Allon is a huge success worldwide, and a favorite spy of mine.

Gabriel has depth. He is the son of Holocaust survivors and was born in the Jezreel Valley. Raised as a secular Jew, he is not religiously observant whatsoever, but risks his live every day for the Jewish cause and survival. In each book you get to know a bit more of Gabriel Allon, and he never strikes you as spy. Allon is quiet, not a huge fan of action and adventure, not too sociable, older looking than his real age, and performs as a spy only when requested by Shamron. All in all, Silva´s style is very much alike le Carré´s.

rubens_daniel_largeThe spy earns his living being an art restorer who goes by the name of Mario Delvecchio, the best in the field actually, that learned the trade from the great Umberto Conti from Venice. Allon restores great pieces of art with a lot of care, patience and skill. And, because of Allon’s abilities and reputation, the best paintings are assigned for him to fix, such as Daniel in the Lion´s Den by Rubens, a Bellini and a Veronese alterpiece, among others. In another instance, Silva masterly inserts into the plot the extremely technically demanding violin sonata The Devil´s Trill by Tartini. It´s incredibly interesting to make the link between art and the espionage trade. devils trill

Gabriel also has a very interesting career, or life, since both are basically the same in his case. His first major operation was called Wrath of God, on which he was assigned to be the aleph, the killer, of the terrorist responsible for the 1972 Munich Olympics’ massacre. Vengeance was the reason for his first act. After proving himself, always with his .22 caliber Beretta at close range, he went on to chase terrorists or Nazi criminals, solve deaths in the Vatican, etc… anything Shamron needs really. In one such case, a car bomb, supposedly ordered by Yasser Arafat, took his son´s life and put his wife in the Psychiatric Hospital of Mount Herzl. That incident never left him, but he continued his pursuits across Europe nonetheless.

There are some rumors going around that a movie starring Gabriel Allon will be shot, but I doubt it will be better than the books. I´ve just finished reading book five of the Gabriel Allon series, and I don´t intend to stop there.

Mr. George

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

 A wonderful book. Henry Marsh is an accomplished English neurosurgeon, with around 65 years old, that decided to share a bit about his work and his life. In Do No Harm he tells us the victories and defeats of the profession and the field. Marsh is incredibly honest in the book, and writes amazingly well. I enjoyed the book so much, I was actually sad when I finished it.

Neurosurgeons are complicated and interesting people. They wouldn´t be neurosurgeons otherwise. The decisions they face daily, the routine, the responsibility, the risks… these are all burdens that can elevate or despair a doctor throughout their careers. All these facets of a neurosurgeon are so well explained in the book, with page-turning  language, that you just can´t ignore the feeling of awe towards neurosurgery and those who practice it.

To start, Marsh is not afraid to remember his mistakes. And for this, I applaud him, because it´s from past mistakes that we can learn the most valuable lessons for the future. If you decide to enter the neurosurgery field, you will either make awful and horrible errors, or you won´t become a surgeon after all. Surgery of the brain is not a simple task, and after opening up someone´s head, it´s impossible to predict what will happen next. As Marsh says in his book, it’s almost like entering a battle. A battle that you are alone, the risks are high and mistakes happen, but you gotta keep going nonetheless.

For example, Marsh tells us a time he let his junior operate, who consequentially screwed up, causing the paralysis of the patient´s ankle. Or how he left a patient blind by error in a supposedly very simple surgery. It takes guts to admit those failures, but that´s the reason the book is worth a while. People make mistakes: businessmen choose wrong partners, merchants pick the wrong product, real estate developers develop projects on the wrong location, and the list goes on. The point is, no matter how good or skillful we might be, we are all fallible. And the same goes for surgeons, especially the neuro ones.

Besides the honesty and the bold truth in the book, Marsh also discusses the unusual and hard decisions a surgeon has to make on a day to day basis. For instance, is it better to operate an 85 year old woman with a brain tumor and risk vegetative state for years to come, or let her die peacefully and actively for the remaining six months of her life? These are common questions in a doctor´s routine, but they force us to realize that medicine is not only about science.

henry marshIn addition, I really enjoy the nitty gritty of each surgery he describes. I’m a layman on the subject, but it´s incredible to learn, or at least to grasp the idea, of how someone opens up a person´s skull, gets inside his brain, and clamps a vein to stop a hemorrhage, or removes a tumor with a microscope. Personally, I find it amazing the human race is able to do that. And I also think it´s amazing there is someone willing to take that risk and actually do it. Marsh, moreover, constantly mentions how incredible our brains, which made out of matter alone, are able to generate the most complex ideas and feelings. This concept is something that humbles even the most accomplished of men. Our body is a miracle, and Marsh openly acknowledges so.

There are a couple of occurrences in the book where the author sounds cocky or obnoxious. I actually read many reviews complaining about that. But c´mon people, let him be. After such experiences and deeds, and after writing such a wonderful book, you gotta give the guy  a break.

I can only thank Dr. Marsh for all he has done, and for candidly sharing his experiences and thoughts with us.

Mr. George

Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore

The city of Jerusalem is, since the beginning of civilization, the capital of the three main religions of the world. It was the trophy every king wanted to possess, and it was the place every faith wanted to build a monumental temple on. And it has remained so until today. Jerusalem is so politically and spiritually charged, that it has been contested since its birth, and it hasn’t been left to rest for a single moment in history. Montefiore’s Jerusalem masterfully tells the whole trajectory, a biography really, of the holy city.

Several other authors wrote books with the same intent. Montefiore, however, was able to blend together an unequal level of detail and dynamism in a history book, especially one that covers three thousand plus years of history.

Jerusalem, although a lengthy book, reads very quickly. The book is divided in a way that each part tells the story of a different colonizer or conqueror, if we may call them that. When reading the book you feel Montefiore was able to cover all main characters and stories that shaped the holy city as we know it today: the Hebrew/Jewish kingdom and King David´s and Salomon´s histories; the appearance of notorious names such as Alexander the Great; civilizations like the Babylonians; the birth of Mohammed and Jesus and their respective religions; the fall of Saladin and the rise of the Crusades; from the Mamluks, to yesterday’s Ottomans and today’s Zionism.

You may think you know Jerusalem, but after reading this biography, you’ll see there is so much more than meets the eye. The history contained in this book gives us the reason why Jerusalem is what it is. Being a believer or not, it is impossible to reject the place and importance of Jerusalem throughout history.

Interestingly, books about Jerusalem or the Holy Land are infused with the author’s bias towards one people or another. They usually contain excerpts from either the Old Testament or the New Testament. But it is not the case for Montefiore’s Jerusalem. The book brings facts and history, picking neither side or portraying all sides at once. Thankfully, for our enjoyment, the author does get carried away many times and illustrates historic events, such as massacres or wars, with a level of detail that can only be speculation, which is great to none the wiser. Montefiore can separate History from Jewish History, Muslim History, or whatever History you can think of.

Another major positive aspect of Jerusalem is that Montefiore is able to write lightly, easily, and to fill in the pages with interesting stories. Many times you feel as if you’re reading a novel, portraying wars full of blood and crazy generals, going through famines, only to find peace and wealth in the next chapter. Although Jerusalem’s history seems unbelievable, it is very real and true, and Montefiore is able to deliver this paradox to the reader.

The holy city is neither ancient history nor it is a piece of archeology that enables you to glimpse the past. It is much more than that. The city is history itself, it is still living, you can feel it by watching the news, by stepping on the Esplanade or by observing the movement of Christians, Jews and Muslims coming from or going to services to pray for this city at all times of the day. Only not to end here, Jerusalem will continue to shape history in the future. Be sure of it.

Mr. George

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (Book 1) by Maryrose Wood

After the heaviness of Houellebecq I was looking for something lighter, more in the lines of the Mysterious Benedict Society (which is awesome) or the first book of Harry Potter. With nothing in cue to read, I started to browse on Amazon, and ended up with The Incorrigible Children. To be straight to the point, it´s an average book. Quick and easy read, but it simply lacks the main ingredients to be a great story.

incorrigible childrenThe story is about Miss Lumley, a smart and educated teen, who becomes governess of three young children in Ashton Place. These children were just found in the wilderness and behaved much like wolves. Personally, I found the children very weird and freaky, rather than intriguing, which I could bet wasn´t the author´s objective. Miss Lumley´s character, on the other hand, is very well developed. She is fun and funny, witty, extremely polite, and very determined. She also knows a bunch of wise quotes from the very peculiar school for orphan women she attended before coming to Ashton.

The thing is, the book should be called The Corrigible Governess of Ashton Place, because the story is much more about the governess than about the children. Miss Lumley is what makes the book a bit livelier and the one who commands the whole plot. In my view, the children behave more like dogs than children, and are just supporting characters. Miss Lumley, on the contrary, indeed attracted me, she has a lot of potential, seems like a very strong spirited and loving governess, and is the protagonist in every chapter.

Having said all that, when I started reading the book, and like any other book, I was hoping for a beginning-middle-end type of story. What I got instead was just the beginning. I guess you would have to read the second, or third, or fourth book of the series to see what happens, I’m not really sure. What I do know is that, in this particular book, the author introduced us to Miss Lumley, the children and the other characters. She also gave us some hints of what can eventually become an enigmatic and interesting plot. However, up to know, there wasn’t any real adventure that involves stopping a bad guy, or a mystery that a group of cool children would courageously and intelligently solve.

Maybe I started off with the wrong expectations, but I was really hoping for more. If you are looking for the sort of witty, dynamic, entertaining, full of awesome and brainy children, look somewhere else (or patiently read the whole series and let me know what happens next).

I guess a new Harry Potter won’t come out anytime soon. Can’t say I didn’t try though.

Mr. George

About the Definition of “Book”

According to Google:



1. a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers.

“a book of selected poems”

 synonyms: volume, tome, publication, title;

2. a bound set of blank sheets for writing or keeping records in.

“an accounts book”

 synonyms: notebook, notepad, pad, memo pad, exercise book, workbook;


According to Dictionary.com:


1. a handwritten or printed work of fiction or nonfiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers.


According to Books n’About:

1. knowledge in tangible format.

2. a collection of words and sentences, organized in a way that create a fictional or non-fictional text, containing someone’s thoughts in written format.

3. the vehicle for someone´s ideas to be timeless and available to the public.

4. a tool to exercise the mind, learn or acquire information and spark imagination.


Mr. George

Submission by Michel Houellebecq

Not my favorite book, to say the least. There are some interesting ideas in it, but it´s not at all a great work, unlike some people are saying in the streets. Submission achieved bestseller status in several countries and created a lot of fuss in the market. Readers and reviewers are comparing Houellebecq to Huxley or Orwell. That´s just absurd. It´s an offense to Huxley and Orwell to compare them to a mediocre author like Houellebecq.  

The fuss and talk we hear are due to the positive aspects of the book, which is the plot, or at least part of the plot. The book is about a university professor and his miserable life, and the change, in France, from a liberal none religiously affiliated government to an observant Muslim state. It´s an interesting idea to envision such a change, and since Muslimism is all we see on the TV lately, it reminds us that it´s a possible scenario for several countries in the future. It becomes an entertaining and curious exercise to imagine how France, or any other liberal country, could so easily become Muslim, and how each of our daily lives could change: education only for men, women in different clothing, men having multiple wives… However and very unfortunately, those ideas are not enough to write a good book.

Houellebecq is not a genius like Jules Verne or George Orwell. Everybody knows what´s happening in the world, how the Muslim fundamentalists are trying to disseminate their influence and religious thoughts throughout the Middle East and Europe. They even declared a Caliphate, which is exactly a Muslim state. Furthermore, it´s no hidden fact that France has a considerable Muslim population. So, yes, Houellebecq had an exotic and interesting idea, but no, he’s no visionary.

When I said only part of the plot was good, it´s because the Muslim concept is scattered thinly in the whole story. Houellebecq spends a lot of time illustrating a very boring, miserable, sad and lonely life of the main character, professor something…. I don´t even remember his name. If the author wants to describe a new Muslim world and how it came to be, then just do it, don´t spend lines and lines describing a lousy teacher that likes to drink and have meaningless sex for the rest of his life.

Houellebecq also has a unique writing style. Not one to my liking, but different nonetheless. It´s very rough and brusque, it doesn´t have any finesse. For instance, he throws at the reader a lot of sex and women from the professor´s perspective, which isn´t pretty, nor delightful, but rather simple, aggressive, kind of ugly, and chauvinistic. In a way you get to feel a bit more the character he´s trying to describe, but it´s not a pleasurable and smooth read. He also tries too hard to intertwine the professor´s life, as well as the story in general, with Huysmans´, a French writer from the late 1800´s. This writing technique can be very useful to thicken a plot or enrich a book, but Houellebecq it´s clearly not an expert employing it. Every couple of pages Huysmans is there, up to a point that whenever I saw his name I wanted to close the book and throw it at the wall. Huysmans became an annoyance on a could-have-been (but it´s not) enveloping novel.

Synthetizing everything, Submission is not what it seems. Although how a Muslim party could take charge of a liberal state is indeed an interesting concept to envision, it´s very poorly developed. In addition, a pathetic main character with a depressing life, combined with an annoying writing style, simply don’t make the book a marvel.

Mr. George