Paris: A new book imagining a future France coming under Islamic rule hit French bookshops on Wednesday -- the same day as the deadly attack on a satirical newspaper in Paris by what appeared to be Muslim jihadists.
Although there was no indication the deadly assault by the gunmen was linked to the novel, "Soumission" ("Submission") by France`s top author Michel Houellebecq, the violence was likely to give notoriety to the book and push sales up even further.
The fact that the targeted weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, focused on the book and the author in its latest issue out on Wednesday only added to the book`s premonitory aura.
"Soumission" conjures up a France in 2022 where a Muslim president takes power after disturbing scenes of violence, and establishes Sharia law under which women are made to wear veils and are excluded from jobs.
Its concept touches on real-life themes already simmering in France, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and other EU nations.
An influx of mostly Muslim immigrants, many fleeing conflicts in Syria, Sudan and elsewhere, at a time of European economic malaise has increased Europeans` fears that their cultures are under assault and strengthened the hand of anti-immigrant far-right parties.
The book is meant to be a "political fiction, a satire," Houellebecq told France Inter radio on Wednesday.
"There`s a real disdain in this country for all the authorities... You can feel that this can`t continue. Something has to change. I don`t know what, but something," he said.
The France Inter interview with Houellebecq took place just hours before one of the radio station`s most prominent presenters, Bernard Maris, was murdered in the attack on Charlie Hebdo.Some commentators saw "Soumission" filling the sails of Europe`s far-right.
The head of France`s far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, told France Info radio on Monday that while the book was fiction, "it`s a fiction that could one day become reality".
French President Francois Hollande told France Inter the same day, "I`ll read it because it`s creating debate," but carefully stressed that it was just "literature" and "the idea of submersion, of invasion, of submission is an old idea".
The initial print run in France for "Soumission" is 150,000 copies, a significant number for the country`s market. German and Italian translations of the book will be released mid-January. No date has yet been given for the English-language version.
Houellebecq, who has made a career out of penning cynical works about imploding society, leavened with graphic sex and dry humour, is clearly enjoying the attention his sixth novel is getting.
He maintains, though, that he is "neutral" in the political debate around it.
Studies show that the majority of Muslims in France traditionally vote Socialist. But in local elections last year that boosted the National Front, many Muslims -- indeed many in France -- spurned Hollande`s centre-left party.
France has been grappling in recent years with how to integrate its Muslim population -- the biggest in Europe and estimated at up to 10 percent of the country`s 65 million inhabitants.
In 2010 France prohibited face-covering Islamic headwear in public places, a ban upheld by the European Court of Human Rights last year.
In 2005, riots erupted in several poor Paris suburbs with large, disaffected Muslim populations.