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“On Sunday 28 June, mid-afternoon, Jed accompanied Olga to Roissy airport. It was sad: something inside him understood that they were living a moment of mortal sadness. The fine, calm weather did not favor the expression of the appropriate feelings. He could have interrupted the process of breaking up, thrown himself at her feet, begged her not to take the plane; she probably would have listened to him. […]

Many years later, when he had become famous — extremely famous, truth be told — Jed would be asked numerous times what it meant, in his eyes, to be an artist. He would find nothing very interesting or original to say, except one thing, which he would consequently repeat in each interview: to be an artist, in his view, was above all to be someone submissive. Someone who submitted himself to mysterious, unpredictable messages… messages which nonetheless commanded you in an imperious and categorical manner, without leaving the slightest possibility of escape — except by losing any notion of integrity and self-respect. These messages could involve destroying a work, or even an entire body of work, to set off in a radically new direction, or even occasionally no direction at all, without having any project at all, or the slightest hope of continuing. It was thus, and only thus, that the artist’s condition could, sometimes, by described as difficult. It was also thus, and only thus, that it distinguished itself from other professions or trades…”

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Taken from about a quarter into Michel Houellebecq’s 2010 novel The Map and the Territory. Houellebecq’s next novel, the

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