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Houellebecq's mother strikes back

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Latest update : 2008-05-01

Lucie Ceccaldi, mother of controversial French author Michel Houellebecq, is publishing a book called "The Innocent," in which she calls her son a "parasite". He recently told the French press that his mother was dead.

Michel Houellebecq, the shock-a-minute bad boy of the French book world, may have met his literary match in the figure of his own mother, who has penned a tell-all novel calling her tearaway son a "liar" and "parasite".

Houellebecq's novels, penned with a cynical, pessimistic world view and replete with lurid sex scenes, shot to international attention in the 1990s and several have since been adapted for the stage and the screen.

In his best-selling 1998 work "The Elementary Particles", Houellebecq described his mother as a dissolute, self-centred hippy, enthralled by a cheap New Age cult and incapable of rearing her own child.

Ten years on, 83-year-old Lucie Ceccaldi, who lives in a beach hut on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, aims to set the record straight in her own autobiographical novel, "The Innocent", which comes out next month.

"Michel and I will be able to talk again the day he stands up in public with his 'Elementary Particles' and says: 'I am a liar, I am an impostor, I have been a parasite, all I ever did was hurt the people around me'," she writes in a stinging postscript.

Ceccaldi admits she was an absent mother -- from the age of five months Houllebecq was raised by his paternal grandmother, whose name he carries -- but says she was too busy to look after a child.

And she insists she was wronged by his portrayal of her, which clearly identified her by name.

"He twisted things in this story, which can only be described as slanderous, because everything he says about me is false," she said in an interview with the French literary magazine Lire.

Born in French-ruled Algeria, Ceccaldi graduated from medical school and had a brief spell as a communist activist, before being swept up in the heady 1960s on a chaotic journey that ended on a beach in Reunion.

"When he describes me as a slut living at the expense of an American in Cassis (near Marseille), when in fact I was working like a dog to pass an anaesthetists' exam, I call that slander," she said.

"I have no idea why he did it! Probably for the money. Dumping on your mother is obviously a good money earner, since it worked for him."

Ceccaldi insists critics overestimate the talent of her illustrious offspring:

"It may be because the spirit of the day is so rubbish that he is in step with his times," she writes.

And she accuses Houellebecq of doctoring his date of birth to make himself two years younger: "Who knows why, the vain little fool?"

Ceccaldi admitted she hoped one day to rebuild bridges with her son, but doubted he would agree.

"Of course I would like to see him. It's a mother calling out to her son," she told Lire magazine.

"I am afraid his soul has all dried out. I'm afraid he has put up a barrier, that he is locked inside a character that is not really him."

Houllebecq, 50, has so far refused to comment on his mother's novel -- which was dismissed as a poorly-written inventory of anecdotes by a reviewer for Liberation newspaper.

The author is currently working on a big-screen adaptation of his 1995 novel "The Possibility of an Island", while Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, France's first lady, is reportedly planning to sing a Houllebecq poem on her new album, due out this summer.

Date created : 2008-04-30

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