Philippe Muray

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Philippe Muray (1945 in Angers (France) – March 2, 2006 in Paris) was a French essayist and novelist. None of his works have yet been translated into English. In 2002, Daniel Lindenberg included him in his list of "new reactionaries",[1] along with Michel Houellebecq, Maurice Dantec, Alain Badiou, Alain Finkielkraut and others. In 2010, the French actor Fabrice Luchini read some of Muray's works at the Théâtre de l'Atelier in Paris, which contributed to a renewed discussion of his writings in the French press.[2][3]


Very little is known about Muray's personal life. His father was a writer and translator of English-language authors (Jack London, Melville, Kipling, etc.) and his mother a devout reader. According to Muray himself his parents contributed significantly to his literary education and taste of literature. As fast as he could he started to study humanities in Paris.

During some months in 1983 he taught French literature at Stanford University in California. There he developed the concept of L'empire du bien (the Empire of the Good), and he collected materials to his book Le XIXe siècle à travers les âges (The 19th century through the ages), published in 1984. In that book he underlines the importance of occultism in the formation of socialism. He also published a controversial essay about Céline, in which he refused to exonerate the critically acclaimed author of Journey to the End of the Night for his fierce anti-semitism.

He died on 2 March 2006 of lung cancer and is buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris.


In articles and essays, published in various French magazines such as L'Atelier du roman, Muray criticized what he saw as the absurdities and anomalies of the modern world. He always wrote in a polemical tone and his perspective was that of a cultural antimodernist. He also wrote various works of fiction, most under pseudonyms, of which most are not yet known.

Muray's writing style is often detailed, insistent and comical. He coined numerous neologisms, mostly pejorative, such as "Artistocrate" (an artist that is completely aligned with the political power structure of the day, and whose artistic activity becomes that of a charge, as under the Ancien Régime) and "Rebellocrate" (a person who pretends to be radical but is in fact allied with the power structure). The last is in some way akin to the concept of "recuperation". Notably, he referred - tongue in cheek - to the new form of Homo Sapiens, devoted to pleasure and personal fulfillment, as "Homo Festivus".

Muray has been admired by the American historian Eugen Weber, in his book France, Fin de Siècle, for his theory regarding the nexus between occultism and socialism in 19th century France. The fall of the Church after the French Revolution gave rise, in its place, to a wave of occultism and parapsychology embraced by intellectuals such as Victor Hugo, who took part in séances making it possible to speak to departed loved ones, etc. Before the "spiritist" movement - whose champion was known as Allan Kardec - was largely discredited as the invention of charlatans, it inspired French thinkers to hope for a regeneration of the human being in a form adapted to life in a Utopian society. This "New Man", stripped of his primordial defects, it was hoped, would be able to put the theories of Marx into practice.


  1. ^ Daniel Lindenberg, Le rappel à l'ordre: Enquête sur les nouveaux réactionnaires
  2. ^ Michel Houellebecq, "Philippe Muray en 2002", in Interventions 2 (Flammarion, 2009).
  3. ^ Bruno de Cessole, "Philippe Muray, l'insolence de déplaire" (biographical sketch), in Le Défilé des Réfractaires (L'Editeur, 2011).

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