XFX: How do you spell Houellebecq?

Is this an author you know and love (or hate), or are you still convinced that Balzac is the only French author worth reading?

His name is Michel Houellebecq and he has several interesting novels you might want to look into. First, he writes in French and it is always a good idea to read an author in the original language, but if your French is rusty or non-existent, Houellebecq is translated into English about as fast as it takes to bring out a paperback edition.

Houellebecq is a very contemporary writer. His novels express the thoughts and situations that have plagued the world for the last several decades and his fiction tends to suggest a possible direction for the future, bad as it may be. It’s probably not a good idea to expect a feel-good book from Houellebecq:  he is not averse to being a quite raw and frightening, so be prepared. He is called the enfant terrible of deadpan cultural sniping and sloppy French Schadenfreude and I think that fits nicely. Here are a few of Houellebecq’s works:

  • Whatever (Extension du domaine de la lutte):  A deeply philosophical novel about an alienated young man searching for happiness in the computer age.
  • The Elementary Particles [Atomized] (Les Particules élémentaires): A story of two very different brothers which is also a treatment on the destruction of society and the rise of political incorrectness.
  • Platform (Plateforme):  A misanthropic, sexually frustrated bureaucrat embarks on a package tour, amusing himself with snide commentary on his fellow vacationers and frequent visits to sex clubs.
  • The Possibility of an Island (La Possibilité d’une île):  A caustic filmmaker whose celebrity status earns him access to a cult of sexually promiscuous health fanatics who achieve immortality through cloning.
  • The Map and the Territory (La Carte et le Territoire):  The story of a successful artist that assists in the solution to a horrible crime.

I’m just starting to read The Possibility of an Island today so I should have a report in a few days. However, with the author’s reputation and my knowledge of his earlier works, someone may have to come over and rescue me from my depression.

(Note that there is a very interesting interview in The Paris Review, Fall 2010, and that is where the association of Michel Houellebecq and Iggy Pop comes from. Hey, if Iggy says The Possibility of an Island is the best book he has read in ten years, we better listen up.)

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