Michel Houellebecq

Manuel

Member
I just read The Elementary Particles, and I'm still kinda reeling, mulling over whether i liked it or not...nevertheless, I'd love to hear some opinions on it, and stuff about Houellebecq in general. From what I hear, he's quite the luminary in Europe...could somebody please fill me in?
 
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Omaar

Guest
I read Platform a few years ago, thought it was one of the best things I'd come across in years. It's pretty filthy though. I haven't checked out anything else he's written however.
 
One of the local sunday tabloids (here in ireland) recently refered to him as "well known pornographer Michel Houellebecq". His work qualifies for a tax exemption having been assessed by the Irish Revenue as having artistic merit, along with among others, the song writing of Samatha Mumba.
 
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robin

Well-known member
i read atomised a few years ago and didnt think much of it
all the talk about how it was a "novel of ideas" etc seemed a bit much-the idea was like something out of a mediocre sci fi novel,the only difference seemed to be lenghty scenes about middle aged men getting joyless blowjobs
 

francesco

Minerva Estassi
I have to say that "Atomized/The elementary particles" had a few years ago when I read it a deep impact for me, and from a point of view of a cellular biologist I also find the description of my discipline and the discourse about it correct, even the incredible eugenetic sci-fi ending. Also the book really destroy the myths of the '60, free love, rock etc, and expose a world of human solitude and inadeguacy. And the sex is really a cry of sadness, don't talk about pornography please, it's stupid (and anyway what's wrong with pornography?). He is like a modern Celine. I went to a meeting for the presentation of Platform and he was accused of everything from misoginy to fascism... so he his right on spot, he touched the right nerves. Great writer and great book Atomized, a must read, love or hate it.
 

neupunk

Active member
I read some accusations that his work contains racism and sexism, but to be honest, it's so one-dimensional to be laughable. I don't know if it's intentional, but the "controversy" seems more fleshed out than the actual issues. Without spoiling too much, the "racist" ending to Platform seemed more of a deus ex machina than anything else, only he conflates his deus with "the other" in an attempt to encapsulate morality.
 

jed_

Well-known member
His first book "Whatever/The Extension of the battlefield" is his best; clear concise and funny - and they get slighty worse as they go on. His most recent book "Lanzarote" is utterly pointless but quite diverting nonetheless. His style is transparent but as a reader I swither between thinking he is an incredibly brave writer who expresses ideas no one else would dare to and thinking that his contempt for the reader manifests itself through the half-arsedness of many of his provocations. sometimes the transparency of his prose works in his favour and sometimes you wonder whether he actually read it back himself to see if it made any sense. He DOES make me laugh though, and god knows few enough writers do that as well as providing more "zing!" moments than just about anyone else - by a zing! moment i mean that you often find yourself reading something that fits so perfectly into your world view or sense of humour that there's a real connection: "i didnt know anyone else felt that way!".

as far as his contempt for the reader is concerned i'll give a specific example:

In "Lanzarote" he gives a fairly detailed description of the Azrealian religion after he has encountered a couple of followers of the faith. after 3-4 pages of the description Houellebecq ends the passage this way:

"I didn't really know whether such theories had been proven or refuted and, to be honest, i didn't really give a shit"

it's like a slap in the face - if you dont give a shit then why did you tell us? - but, in the context of the book, the casual nihilism of that sentence is hilarious.

One thing that bothers me is that the british publisher of the books changed the titles of the first two so "the Elementary particles" becomes the hugely inferior and pointless "Atomised" in the UK and a book called "Extension de domaim de la lutte" (literally "The Extension of the battlefield") becomes the even more pointless "Whatever". To what end i have no idea...
 
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Omaar

Guest
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D02E2DF173EF934A25757C0A9639C8B63

PART biographical sketch, part lofty pronouncement on existence and literature, the caustic French novelist Michel Houellebecq's new book, H. P. LOVECRAFT: Against the World, Against Life (Believer Books/McSweeney's, paper, $18), is an encomium to Lovecraft, a writer whose style couldn't be much less like his own. Houellebecq's novels (''The Elementary Particles,'' ''Platform''), with their deadpan prose and obsession with sordid transactions, scarcely resemble Lovecraft's rococo evocations of ancient gods and immense, dripping creatures.

http://blog.urbanomic.com/dread/archives/houellebecq-lovecraft.pdf
 

Buick6

too punk to drunk
He's just a heterosexual transgressive writer, which is pretty radical in this day and age, since there has been one since Henry Miller ..
 

owen

Well-known member
jed_ said:
One thing that bothers me is that the british publisher of the books changed the titles of the first two so "the Elementary particles" becomes the hugely inferior and pointless "Atomised" in the UK and a book called "Extension de domaim de la lutte" (literally "The Extension of the battlefield") becomes the even more pointless "Whatever". To what end i have no idea...
yeah that is extremely irritating....wonder if houellbecq decided this himself, contrarian old scrote that he is...

for the record i really liked 'atomised' and 'whatever' but i kind of think this is cos of a weakness for BIG statements and SWEEPING critiques and er, ideas in my fiction....i don't trust him at all though don't really think that matters...
 

Mortimer

New member
Read Platform a while ago and I thought it was trying to be more transgressive than it was... It's pretty tame compared with Henry Miller, Burroughs, or Ballard. The main character obviously thinks he is some kind of immoral nihilist, but then the second half of the book is all about how great it is to be in a relationship with a beautiful, sexually adventurous, middle class french woman. Transvaluation of all values?
All the ideas are on the surface - if he has an idea he tells you about it rather than using the narrative, or the style, to think it.
I don't hate his stuff - I was just a bit disappointed after hearing good stuff about him. I also like his whole approach to the media.
 

francesco

Minerva Estassi
love in which all is easy,
in which all is given in a moment.
exist in middle of time
the possibility of a island

You know how is called the fat around the cunt?
Woman!

la possibilitè d'une ile
 
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BewareTheFriendlyStranger

pioneers of the groove
the man correctly predicted the Bali Bombings of 2002. Do you think the ending of "Platform" is a sort of bizzare punishment for thre protagonist and his sex tour friends ? I don't know which way his compass goes.
 
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Omaar

Guest
Anyone read 'the possibility of an island'? any good?

crap cover for the UK release though, and his other books too for that matter.

just finished atomised/elemetary particles, which i thought was pretty brilliant. reminds me of ballard in parts.
 

francesco

Minerva Estassi
Omaar said:
Anyone read 'the possibility of an island'? any good?

crap cover for the UK release though, and his other books too for that matter.

just finished atomised/elemetary particles, which i thought was pretty brilliant. reminds me of ballard in parts.

Yes I read it, and is excellent, many says is it's better book, maybe is it.
But since it has many concept in common with elementary particles, and in a certan way is a sort of "upgrade" of it, i recommend to read Platform before "possibility of an Island".
 
I've read it. Some reflections intermingled with other silliness here: http://www.cinestatic.com/infinitethought/2005/11/possibility-of-good-review.asp

I'm very fond of Houellebecq, I must say. Think his books have gone from strength to strength - Platform and the Possibility of an Island are similar in many ways to Whatever and Atomised, but much more daring in their breadth and ambition.

It's a mistake, I think, to imagine that what he thinks he's doing is primarily nihilistic/daring/transgressive. Any old hack can write about sex/death/substance abuse. What I really admire is his attempt to comment on the entire species, their scientific ambitions, their idiocies and pathologies. That and the dark, alienated humour. The ambivalent descriptions of capitalism and the horrors of post-hippie fallout are great.

Despite the frequent accusations of misogyny, a lot of women I know seem to really like his work - there's a certain level of honesty on the part of his narrators that intrigues and possibly even appeals....
 
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Omaar

Guest
[spoilers ...]



The film adaptation of atomised is a bit rubbish, isn't it. The only thing that really worked about it for me was the humour. All the philosophy and social commentary is pretty much left out, until right at the end, when it's slapped up on the screen as text without any sense of context or continuity. The soundtrack is really poorly selected too.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
"The film adaptation of atomised is a bit rubbish, isn't it"
I haven't seen it yet but I'm definitely going to, although I didn't have especially high hopes for it even before your post. I thought that the book was fantastic, one of the best modern novels I've read for ages but I guess I've missed the debate so I'll leave it at that for the moment.
 
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