(Paris) The French writer Michel Houellebecq returned to contact with his public on Friday, dedicating comic strips in a good mood in an art gallery in Paris after what he said was the most difficult phase of his life.

“If I had known, I wouldn’t have come,” he joked when being questioned in front of the AFPTV camera. But, despite his notorious phobia of public events, he willingly lent himself to the signing game, with a few fans.

At the end of May and the beginning of June, he had engaged in an unusually intense media tour for the release of his story A few months in my life, October 2022-March 2023.

He had to answer difficult questions around a period he described as catastrophic for his reputation and his mental health, after disputes with a Dutch director who is trying to release a pornographic film in which he is an actor, and accusations of Islamophobia.

The film, titled Kirac 27, has yet to be released. The writer, improvised actor, and the director, Stefan Ruitenbeek, must agree on the scenes that can be broadcast.

To date, “there is no agreement,” said Michel Houellebecq, questioned by AFP on the state of the procedure.

Friday afternoon, in the district of the Marais art galleries, in the center of Paris, the author of Sérotonine seemed very far from this concern. If he had come, he repeated, it was out of friendship for the co-author of the comic strip.

Rare are the occasions when the author has made himself accessible to his readers since he became arch-famous with Elementary Particles in 1998. Aficionados remember his passage in 2011 in a Parisian bookstore.

After the January 2015 attacks in France, concomitant with the release of his novel Submission, Michel Houellebecq kept a low profile.

But, on Friday, the writer was at the opening of an exhibition and sale of the original boards of the graphic novel adapted from The map and the territory, at the Romero Paprocki gallery, which is held until July 29.

Released in November, it is the work of Louis Paillard, a drawing enthusiast from the Boulle school, who works as an architect and urban planner.

The map and the territory, the author’s fifth novel, was the event of the 2010 literary season, eclipsing the 700 other titles published. The critics had praised the dose of self-mockery, through a character of a slightly agoraphobic contemporary artist who meets Houellebecq.

Louis Paillard, “he is a reader at the start”, explains the novelist. “I can’t remember dates,” he replies when asked how long ago this friendship began. The cartoonist will specify that they have been talking for 12 years.

“I like it, actually. It’s not that much that I trust him. Why do we trust people? I don’t know,” Michel Houellebecq told AFP.

The writer was closely involved in this project, validating the boards at the end and discussing from the start the appearance of the characters, especially the protagonist, the artist Jed Martin.

“I liked the first Jed Martin less. […] I had ideas. I saw him paler than the first character, paler with black hair,” he explains.

A graphic novel, he says, “is a bit like a film adaptation, actually. It still looks like a lot.”

In La carte et le territoire, Jed Martin paints a portrait entitled Michel Houellebecq, writer, which he offers to the novelist.

In real life, Houellebecq chose the boards of Louis Paillard that he intends to hang on the wall at home: “I have reserved three. Three is no exaggeration.”