Last week saw the publication in English of France’s resident literary bad boy Michel Houellebecq’s newest novel, The Map and the Territory, heralded by some as his magnum opus. The resurgence of the literary great got us to thinking about other literary bad boys who rocked the boat and won notoriety for it — most of them buoyed by endless talent, or just star power. After all, everyone loves to hate (or in some cases, loves to love) the literary rebels and the scandalous men of letters. Click through to check out our list of legendary literary bad boys — and if we’ve forgotten your favorite enfant terrible, be sure to let us know in the comments.
To his admirers, the controversial author is the pinnacle of the provocative literary luminary; to his detractors, he’s a nihilistic writer of vulgar trash. True, his novels are unrelentingly salacious, and he has a reputation for trying to seduce his lady interviewers, but that’s never stopped us from liking an author. More importantly, he sticks to his idealistic guns, even when under heavy attack. In 2002, he was sued by four Islamic organizations on charges of “inciting racial hatred” after he called Islam “the dumbest religion” in an interview about his novel Platform. “I have never displayed the least contempt for Muslims,” he told the court, making sure to add, “I have as much contempt as ever for Islam.” He won the case, the court citing freedom of expression.