A reinforced police guard has been installed at the offices of Flammarion, publisher of Michel Houellebecq's latest novel Soumission (Submission), according to the website of French daily Le Parisien.
The novel, published in France today (7th January), is set in 2022 and tells of a new Muslim party taking power in France.
Houellebecq's novel features on the cover of this week's edition of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, although no connection between this fact and today's terror attack on the publication's Paris office has been established. Charlie Hebdo has also published numerous satirical cartoons featuring the prophet Muhammad.
France's interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has confirmed that 12 people have lost their lives and eight have been wounded in the Paris attack. Culture minister Fleur Pellerin applauded journalists for upholding the values of freedom of expression in their daily work, and their commitment to democracy. She also reaffirmed France’s commitment to freedom of information and expression. “We will defend these values with all necessary firmness,” she said.
Comme un Roman, an independent bookshop in an adjacent neighbourhood to Charlie Hebdo in central Paris, sold 50 copies of Houellebecq’s book this morning, which is considerable particularly as the winter sales began today. The bookshop's co-founder Xavier Moni told The Bookseller that he could not recommend the novel, however. “I started reading it last night, and am not convinced either by the content or literary quality,” he said. “A colleague has read it all and thinks the same. Houellebecq has written better books.”
Stunned by the attack, Moni said that like 9/11, he would never forget what has happened today. “Attacking the press in central Paris is terrifying and symbolically very strong. I never thought I would live to see something like this,” he said.
English PEN has condemned the shootings as a "shocking assault on press freedom and free speech."