At the time, Houellebecq was a virtual unknown even in France. Part dialectic, part polemic, part digest history of the twentieth century, it is funny, intelligent, infuriating, didactic, touching, visceral, explicit and, possibly, dangerous. This was the book which made it possible for me to become a full-time translator. Atomised is also very, very funny. His bitterness is that of the disappointed idealist.
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Houellebecq interview Not that many novels get chosen by me as Pick of the Week. After reading Atomised , the reasons for this become clear. For against it, the contemporary British novel, with a few, scattered exceptions, suddenly seems timid, bogus, and footling.
Not to mention atrociously written. I was prodded into thinking this by a remark by Julian Barnes on the back cover: "a novel which hunts big game while others settle for shooting rabbits". It tells the story of two half-brothers, Bruno and Michel, both children of a libertine hippy mother who had as little as possible to do with their upbringing.
Michel Djerzinski is a diligent, brilliant scientist who gives up his job as a researcher working on decoding genomes or whatever in order "to think". As his superior puts it: "decoding DNA, pfff. From time to time someone comes up with better equipment and they give him the Nobel Prize. And, in passing, that the translation would appear to be first-rate. How can you not warm to a book that contains observations such as the following: "Some people live to be 70, sometimes 80 years old believing that there is always something new just around the corner, as they say; in the end they practically have to be killed or at least reduced to a state of serious incapacity to get them to see reason.
Michel turns out to be a hero who rescues the human race from itself; his solution is a gauntlet Houellebecq throws down to all of us. He exposes himself to a girl in the class to which he teaches literature; he is sent to a mental institution as was Houellebecq, if not for the same reason. He goes to a hippy holiday commune, the Lieu du Changement, and the vacuity of all New Age bullshit is brilliantly attacked.
This is a bold and unsettling portrait of a society falling apart: the rage that both left and right, the piously religious as well as the humanists, have expressed towards Houellebecq is pretty much the rage of Caliban seeing his face in the glass.
There is not too much doubt that Houellebecq is an unpleasant person. One does not want to examine his ideas on race too deeply, just yet. I would get this and read it before that particular time bomb explodes.
The Elementary Particles
Houellebecq interview Not that many novels get chosen by me as Pick of the Week. After reading Atomised , the reasons for this become clear. For against it, the contemporary British novel, with a few, scattered exceptions, suddenly seems timid, bogus, and footling. Not to mention atrociously written. I was prodded into thinking this by a remark by Julian Barnes on the back cover: "a novel which hunts big game while others settle for shooting rabbits".
Prophet of depressing times: Michel Houellebecq releases 'yellow vest' novel
In a lengthy autobiographical article published on his website now defunct , he states that his parents "lost interest in [his] existence pretty quickly", and at the age of six, he was sent to France to live with his paternal grandmother, a communist , while his mother left to live a hippie lifestyle in Brazil with her recent boyfriend. He graduated in , married and had a son; then he divorced, and became depressed. They divorced in Six years later, in , he published a biographical essay on the horror writer H. Lovecraft , a teenage passion, with the programmatic subtitle Against the World, Against Life. It was followed by his first collection of poetry, La poursuite du bonheur The pursuit of happiness.