In this file photo taken on March 09, 2017, French writer Michel Houellebecq attends his first New York art show, in Manhattan, New York. (AFP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
The French writer Michel Houellebecq praises a controversial French polemicist convicted for inciting hatred in his latest book of essays, which will be published Wednesday.
The novelist, no stranger to provocation himself, hails Eric Zemmour in Interventions 2020, which he claimed will be the last time he takes up his pen to write political essays "unless there is a grave moral emergency".
Zemmour, who has been convicted several times for racist and Islamophobic comments, is again under investigation after saying last month that under-age migrants were all "thieves, killers and rapists" and should be kicked out of France.
Houellebecq praised Zemmour in his book as "the most interesting contemporary avatar" of "non-Christian Catholics" who admire the church without believing in God.
He said "Zemmour's intelligence surpasses those who contradict him", comparing him to Leo Naphta, the totalitarian Jewish Jesuit priest in Thomas Mann's novel, The Magic Mountain.
Houellebecq was acquitted of inciting racial hatred himself in 2002 after saying that Islam was "the stupidest religion", but later admitted that he was "probably Islamophobic".
His bestselling novel Submission predicted that France would elect a Muslim president in 2022.
It was published on the same day in 2015 as the Charlie Hebdo Islamist terrorist attack in Paris after which the novelist went into hiding under 24-hour police protection.
Trump 'good president'
In his new book, the ageing enfant terrible of French letters also praises Donald Trump as a "good president".
Houellebecq credits Trump for his unconventional diplomacy, his hostility to free trade and the European Union, and his attempts to cozy up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Like that essay, which first appeared in Harper's Magazine last year, all of Interventions 2020 has previously been published elsewhere, although some essays appeared in obscure reviews.
Houellebecq -- who shot to international fame with his 1998 novel Atomised -- published his first collection of essays, Interventions, in 1998, before a second volume appeared in 2009.
Seen by some as a modern prophet of our nihilistic, individualistic age, the novelist said his decision to stop at three volumes did not amount to a vow of silence.
"I do not promise to absolutely stop thinking, but to stop communicating my opinions in public unless there is a grave moral emergency," said the writer, who has drifted further to the right in recent years.
Houellebecq said he would speak out, however, if there was any attempt to legalize euthanasia.
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