“An hour or so later, in a gilded salon of the Hotel Bristol, before literary Paris’s smartest, a shabby figure in a baggy sweater and rumpled scarlet jeans took his check and—in the spirit of his novel—declined to wallow in bourgeois expressions of pleasure or gratitude. Not all were charmed. ‘It’s an insult to the members of the jury,’ one French publisher whispered to me, ‘for him to accept the prize without having washed or gone to the dry cleaner’s.'” Julian Barnes on the superb insolence of Michel Houellebecq.

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