Michel Houellebecq

gek-opel

entered apprentice
I have only read "atomised" and found it an extremely darkly amusing read, but was also left with the feeling of being somewhat shortchanged by the ending. Such faith in science seems curiously at odds with the raging against complacency that the rest of the book seemed to consist... just cos the legacy of the 60s largely= ill-understood todge as fig leaf for ever expanding selfishness, at the same time a trust in science to sort it all out seemed, well, slightly false.

He does appear to be loathed by most "literary" reviewers in the uk doesn't he?
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Don't read this bit if you haven't read it and plan to.

"left with the feeling of being somewhat shortchanged by the ending. Such faith in science seems curiously at odds with the raging against complacency that the rest of the book seemed to consist (of)"
I don't see the ending demonstrating a faith in science, or at least, only as far as we can rely on it to fuck everything up for us. Surely the ending with the human race out-evolved due to its fundamental flaws is supposed to suggest a nightmarish fate if things continue as they are, science is merely the mechanism he uses to demonstrate this.
 
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gek-opel

entered apprentice
****SPOILERS CONTD******

Yes, it could be read as such. But the tone throughout suggests (to me anyway) that we are all fucked up already and only the cold rationalistic processes of science can save us from ourselves... whilst the ending is inhuman (as we know it) it is also transcendent (I liked that aspect of it) and represented through the kind of historical framing (the one the whole plot is mounted in) as an almost religious event, a third era of history or whatever he says... Houellebecq's misanthropy (which I loved) in the end finds redemption only in giving up humanity (which I also like in theory) but the fact that in doing so he resorts to science indicates to me that whilst all other human endeavour is little more than prattling nonsense, science stands above all, unproblematic and icily perfect, when science is in fact just as innately human a process as any other.... This seemed like a slight cop out. All in all though I enjoyed it and it was at least an extremely memorable book. What of his works ought I to read next anyone? Has he cloned it again like many authors appear to after an inimitable literary hit...?
 
O

Omaar

Guest
gek-opel said:
What of his works ought I to read next anyone? Has he cloned it again like many authors appear to after an inimitable literary hit...?
Possibility of an island takes the ideas you talk about even further; I don't know if you could read it as being at all positive about science. It's a pretty bleak take on the post-human condition.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
"only the cold rationalistic processes of science can save us from ourselves... whilst the ending is inhuman (as we know it) it is also transcendent (I liked that aspect of it) and represented through the kind of historical framing (the one the whole plot is mounted in) as an almost religious event, a third era of history or whatever he says."
That's a very interesting take and one I must say that didn't occur to me (or anyone I've discussed it with) at all. I just assumed that "historical framing" and "almost religious event" were entirely sarcastic. Personally, I can't see that he is taking any joy in saying that the human race has to be out-evolved but you've definitely made me see it in another way.

"What of his works ought I to read next anyone? Has he cloned it again like many authors appear to after an inimitable literary hit...?"
I actually read Platform before Atomised and enjoyed it but when I read Atomised it seemed to me that Platform was the same book but without the big ideas. Then again, as "the big idea" seemed to be the thing that you didn't like about Atomised then maybe you will enjoy Platform more, it certainly continues in the same misanthropic and humorous vein.
The Possibility of An Island seemed even more like Atomised with (almost) the same big idea left in. Still an enjoyable read but I must admit that I felt as though I had read it all before at that stage.
 

tryptych

waiting for a time
gek-opel said:
****SPOILERS CONTD******

Yes, it could be read as such. But the tone throughout suggests (to me anyway) that we are all fucked up already and only the cold rationalistic processes of science can save us from ourselves... whilst the ending is inhuman (as we know it) it is also transcendent (I liked that aspect of it) and represented through the kind of historical framing (the one the whole plot is mounted in) as an almost religious event, a third era of history or whatever he says... Houellebecq's misanthropy (which I loved) in the end finds redemption only in giving up humanity (which I also like in theory) but the fact that in doing so he resorts to science indicates to me that whilst all other human endeavour is little more than prattling nonsense, science stands above all, unproblematic and icily perfect, when science is in fact just as innately human a process as any other.... This seemed like a slight cop out. All in all though I enjoyed it and it was at least an extremely memorable book. What of his works ought I to read next anyone? Has he cloned it again like many authors appear to after an inimitable literary hit...?
From a scientific point of view, the ending seems pretty ill-thought out. He completly glosses over any benefit that sexual reproduction might have for a species, focusing on the elimination of individuality as the main "criticism" of the protagonist's theory. Rather than what would actually seem to be the main problem with such an idea - the elimination of sexual reproduction, the mixing of genomes and mutation, leaves complex species wide open to being exploited by bacteria and viruses. I know it's kind of beside the point as the theory is merely a literary conceit, but since he otherwise pays so much attention to the methods and theories of science it seemed like a glaring omission to me.
 

gek-opel

entered apprentice
Spackboy- yer, its clearly not terribly well thought out, but as its not a hard-sci-fi book, I guess it doesn't have to be. I'm still unsure as to how the ending could be seen to be sarcastic... might give it a re-read...
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Possibility of a Film

Anyone else interested in the forthcoming adaptation of The Possibility of An Island directed by Houellebeq himself? Seems as though the first critical reception has been absolutely vicious with universal hatred of the film at the Locarno festival. I'm hoping it will be some kind of glorious mess but signs seem to suggest it might just be boring and badly acted.... I'm still gonna watch it though.
 

trouc

trouc
Houellebecq -> probably my least favorite author ever. I got halfway through The Elementary Particles about 4 years ago and just stopped out of disgust, which I haven't done probably for any other book in my whole life of reading, Bataille, Duras, Miller included. There's something powerful in being able to affect people that much and to depict a certain illness of our times, but... maybe in the US it just misfires. We've succumbed to something else it seems.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
"Houellebecq -> probably my least favorite author ever. I got halfway through The Elementary Particles about 4 years ago and just stopped out of disgust, which I haven't done probably for any other book in my whole life of reading, Bataille, Duras, Miller included. There's something powerful in being able to affect people that much and to depict a certain illness of our times, but... maybe in the US it just misfires. We've succumbed to something else it seems."
What was it that disgusted you so much? I get the impression that you're not talking about the quality of the writing right?
Anyway, just read some more stuff about the film and I think it sounds quite promising in exactly the way that I hoped:

There is an unevenness of tone: certain sequences, such as a bikini contest set in a Lanzarote beach resort, wouldn't look out of place on The Benny Hill Show. Elsewhere, the film is more in the spirit of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, notably the shots of Benoit Magimel (as a character called Daniel25, the last man alive), roaming through a barren landscape with his dog in tow. The soundtrack features Mozart and Beethoven, and at times the film has an austere beauty; at others it is reminiscent of an old episode of Star Trek.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
People on here (who don't already know) might be interested to learn that Houllebecq wrote a biography or study or something of HP Lovecraft - I don't think it's been translated into English though (although I could be wrong).
It's interesting because the first Houllebecq book I read was Platform which had no sci-fi elements to it (as far as I recall) and in Atomised the sci-fi elements seemed to be an interesting diversion from the main social theme of the book; however the fact that TPOAI revisits the sci-fi themes along with learning of his interests in HP Lovecraft makes me wonder if I've underestimated the importance of this to his books.
 

trouc

trouc
What was it that disgusted you so much? I get the impression that you're not talking about the quality of the writing right?
Anyway, just read some more stuff about the film and I think it sounds quite promising in exactly the way that I hoped:
Well, it's been 3-4 years, so I don't remember everything, but the book was just really bleak in a psychologically cutting way. It was almost like an effective depiction of the religious man's view of modern society -> modern life as soulless/mechanistic, but without providing any outs. I hate to say that I just don't have room for that in my life, though I think that's it really.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
"the book was just really bleak in a psychologically cutting way. It was almost like an effective depiction of the religious man's view of modern society -> modern life as soulless/mechanistic, but without providing any outs."
Fair description I think - although maybe I would argue the bleakness was at least to some extent leavened by, an admittedly black, humour. Not that I can remember much of that, I'm not entirely sure which bits come from which book now to be honest. I like the way that he will describe something at length and in detail and they just completely undermine it by saying something like "but I don't give a shit about any of that" and then never mention it again, that kinda makes me smile.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I watched The Possibility of an Island yesterday after finally finding a copy with English subs. It's a surprisingly low-key and restrained film that pretty much dispenses with Houellebecq's misanthropy and viciousness and just concentrates on a weird cult that believes that aliens (or failing that some new technology) can give us humans 2.0 and eternal life. Not a lot happens and there isn't the humour that you find in the books plus the ending appears to give some subtle reasons for hope which I don't remember from the book (but maybe I remember incorrectly) but for some reason I did enjoy it.
The obvious criticism though is that the film won't really mean much to you if you haven't read the book and if you have you don't really need to see a watered-down version of it - so what point is there to the film?

 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
never read him, under the impression he is the kind of empty/chauvinistic nihilism that people accuse American Psycho of being (tho with good prose?)

oh and that his last big work was a Muslims take over Europe deal that sounds like Geert Wilders etc dressed up in fancy literature clothes

what say you, those who have read him? purveryor of the truths of Now? white male transgressive reactionary purveyor of empty nihilism? both? neither?

"only relevant writer" is a sentiment that means his writing must be the kind that inspires cultish devotion for better or worse
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I just feel diminishing returns with each book I've read.... which is virtually all of them in fact. I would recommend Atomised still though.
What surprised me about the Muslim takeover one was how... limp it was, there was no real oomph in it. It was controversial at the time but that was cos of the theme, not how he dealt with it - I'd pretty much forgotten I'd read it until now in fact.
I would like to see that film where he plays himself and gets kidnapped though, heard it's very good.
 
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