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Manuel
04-04-2005, 04:39 AM
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?

Omaar
04-04-2005, 05:39 AM
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.

line by line
08-04-2005, 06:23 PM
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.

robin
18-04-2005, 12:46 AM
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
27-04-2005, 12:41 PM
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
04-05-2005, 05:27 AM
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.

craner
04-05-2005, 07:43 PM
Writes bad sex.

Omaar
04-05-2005, 11:25 PM
Writes bad sex well.

jed_
05-05-2005, 02:09 AM
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...

Omaar
20-05-2005, 02:44 AM
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D02E2DF173EF934A25757C0A9639C8B 63

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
18-06-2005, 09:46 AM
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
19-06-2005, 09:12 PM
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
18-08-2005, 10:31 AM
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
04-10-2005, 11:14 PM
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

BewareTheFriendlyStranger
09-10-2005, 07:06 AM
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.

Omaar
10-11-2005, 02:53 PM
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
16-11-2005, 04:04 PM
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".

infinite thought
16-11-2005, 07:42 PM
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....

Omaar
19-07-2006, 10:35 AM
[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
19-07-2006, 12:55 PM
"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.

gek-opel
19-07-2006, 08:41 PM
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
20-07-2006, 09:49 AM
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 it's 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.

gek-opel
20-07-2006, 09:03 PM
****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...?

Omaar
21-07-2006, 09:57 AM
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
21-07-2006, 10:01 AM
"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
24-07-2006, 03:00 PM
****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
24-07-2006, 09:26 PM
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
12-08-2008, 11:37 AM
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
12-08-2008, 02:41 PM
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
13-08-2008, 05:34 PM
"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.

jd_
13-08-2008, 06:30 PM
Yeah, I would be surprised if it was bad really.

IdleRich
14-08-2008, 12:02 PM
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.

bunnyhausen
14-08-2008, 01:43 PM
it's been traslated into english:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/jul/16/sciencefictionfantasyandhorror.michelhouellebecq (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/jul/16/sciencefictionfantasyandhorror.michelhouellebecq)

it's great.

trouc
14-08-2008, 05:20 PM
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
15-08-2008, 10:34 AM
"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
11-01-2012, 12:48 PM
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?

http://medias.unifrance.org/medias/34/136/34850/format_web/the-possibility-of-an-island.jpg