Michel Houellebecq is a famous French author, actor, singer, and filmmaker. Houellebecq rose to prominence as a novelist while his first book was a biographical essay on the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. He started his journey as a novelist in 1994 from Whatever (French: Extension du domaine de la lutte). His second novel, Atomised published in 1998 gained him international recognition while it drew him into some controversies as well.
The famous writer has won several accolades as an author in his more than three-decades-long journey. Houellebecq keeps his personal life under the media radar despite living the life of a public figure for decades. So, today, we’re exploring some unknown truths of Houellebecq’s life.
Michel Houellebecq’s Mother is a Doctor
Houellebecq was born Michel Thomas to mother Lucie Ceccaldi and father, Rene Thomas. His mother is a doctor born in Algeria and is of Corsican descent while his father is a ski instructor and mountain guide.
Talking about his birthday, Michel was born on 26 February, however, there’s a confusion in his birth year between 1956 and 1958. Many online tabloids have reported Houellebecq was born in 1956 on the French island of Reunion.
Michel Lived with Maternal Grandmother in Algeria
Michel Houellebecq went on to live with his maternal grandmother in Algeria. He lived there since he was five months old until he turned five. Sources reported, at six, Michel’s parents sent him to live with his paternal grandparents in France. Meanwhile, his mother, Lucie left to live a hippie lifestyle in Brazil with her then-boyfriend.
Michel Took His Grandmother’s Maiden Name
Michel Houellebecq spent most of his childhood days with his paternal grandmother in France. After he started his journey as an author, Michel took his grandmother’s maiden name, Houellebecq as his pen name.
Houellebecq took formal education while living with his grandmother in France. He studied at Meaux High School followed by Lycee Chaptal in Paris. Later, Houellebecq attended the Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon in 1975. He completed his graduation in 1980.
Michel Houellebecq is Married Three Times
Houellebecq is a successful author who is considered one of the finest authors in the world. But, he failed to replicate the success in his personal life as he has been through a couple of failed marriages walking in his mid-60s.
He married his first wife (unidentified) in the early ’80s after he completed his graduation. The married couple soon gave birth to a child, a son, however, they couldn’t stay married for long and got divorced a couple of years later. Houellebecq became depressed after his divorce and took a while to move on.
In 1998, Houellebecq married his second wife, Marie Pierre Gauthier. The couple spent a happy conjugal life of more than a decade before they split in 2010. The ex-husband-and-wife, however, isn’t known to have children together.
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As of now, Houellebecq is married to Qianyun Lysis Li. He tied the knot with his third wife, a Chinese woman, in September 2018. In fact, Li is 34 years his junior and was a student of his work.
He Garnered International Fame from Atomised
Houellebecq’s first novel, Whatever was published in 1994 which did a fair business. But, the French author garnered international popularity after he published his second novel, Atomised. The novel was published in 1998 in the French version titled Les Particules élémentaires.
The novel was translated and published in the UK as Atomised where it was titled The Elementary Particles in the USA. It was a breakthrough in his career, bringing him national and international fame. Meanwhile, the novel also drew Houellebecq into controversies.
Houellebecq was criticized for the intricate mix of brutally honest social commentary and pornographic depictions. The novel tells the story of two half-brothers’ mental struggles against their situations in modern society.
Michel Houellebecq Predicted Future of His Novel, Atomised
A couple of years before Houellebecq published his second novel, Atomised, he kind of predicted the impact of it on his career. During an interview with Andrew Hussey in 1996, when he had been working on the novel, he said “It will either destroy me or make me famous.”
The book indeed made Houellebecq famous as well as brought some controversy along with it. Houellebecq won the 1998 Prix Novembre for the book. In 2002, Houellebecq also won the International Dublin Literary Award.
He Has Acted in Films
Besides his work as an author, Houellebecq has also acted in a few films. His first work as an actor came in 2014 when he appeared as himself in The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq. The same year, Michel acted in Near Death Experience.
Michel’s other work on films includes Saint-Amour in 2016, To Stay Alive: A Method in 2016, and Thalasso in 2019.