Michel Houellebecq thinks he's recreating the wheel (1 Viewer)


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Reading some Paris Review Interviews --> http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6040/the-art-of-fiction-no-206-michel-houellebecq ... I guess, he never read Bukowski.


So what made you write your first novel, Whatever, about a computer programmer and his sexually frustrated friend?


I hadn't seen any novel make the statement that entering the workforce was like entering the grave. That from then on, nothing happens and you have to pretend to be interested in your work. And, furthermore, that some people have a sex life and others don't just because some are more attractive than others. I wanted to acknowledge that if people don't have a sex life, it's not for some moral reason, it's just because they're ugly. Once you've said it, it sounds obvious, but I wanted to say it.
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I hear that his next book will follow an obsessed sea captain as he hunts a massive white whale. You know, since no one has ever written a story about that either...
Well, he is French, and they don't know a lot about work of any kind, so maybe he's just unaware that anyone other than himself has ever had a job.

But it's an ignorant thing to say, even if you haven't read a lot of books, or pose for pictures with Iggy Pop.
when a french person says that they have never seen a particular thing done before, it means that they have never seen a *french person* do it before.
Yeah, Claiming complete originality is always dangerous. I have bound books in a way that I have never seen before (like using actual foreign currency), but although I have never seen it and I created it, there is still a fair chance that someone else did it first.

Of course, he says "I haven't seen any novel...", he does not claim that it is an original idea, just that he has never personally SEEN the book where this is done. This certainly gives him license to claim any idea that his agent steals from another writer and presents to him to be his own creation.
Still, 'Whatever' is a GREAT novel! (i don't know about the quality of the English translation though)
In German: 'Ausweitung der Kampfzone'
In French: 'Extension du domaine de la lutte'

I mean it. Read it!
He is a very interesting writer and his statement has some right because he did show lonely, incredibly depressed, suicidal middle-class-people in a rather original new way. Also he was the first major writer to write about adults well in their 30's or 40's with no sexual experience whatsoever and no perspective anywhere of changing this condition, and going completely mad because of it. Which really hadn't been a literary subject in our times before anywhere.

So, he's right in some aspects. On the other hand, these are all very bukowskian themes, especially the deadening aspects of "the workforce" on the individual. These are no groundbreaking news to anybody.
No doubt dozens of examples of earlier novels with the "work = death" theme could be found. B. Traven's The Death Ship comes to mind.
he did show lonely, incredibly depressed, suicidal middle-class-people in a rather original new way. Also he was the first major writer to write about adults well in their 30's or 40's with no sexual experience whatsoever and no perspective anywhere of changing this condition...
Maybe I'm an idiot, but that is definitely something I am happy to avoid reading about whenever possible. Depressed middle-class people, and their never-ever-having-sex, that is. Or any other problems depressed middle class people have. It sounds like bullshit (which I say without having read it, of course).

I would much rather read about the white whale, when he writes that one for the first time.
while I absolutely get your point, I have to say that a huge amount of mid to late 20th century literature has been about the depressed middle class (and into the 21st century). especially American lit:

F. Scott Fitzgerald
John Cheever
John Updike
Richard Yates
Eugene O'Neill
Tennessee Williams
Saul Bellow
Larry McMurtry (not the cowboy stuff)
Don DeLillo
John O'Hara
Donald Hall
Raymond Carver
Richard Ford
Frederick Exeley
J.D. Salinger
Philip Roth
Johnathan Franzen

and many I can't think of right now...

anyway, I may have given you a list of authors to avoid. you're welcome.

but my point is (or was when I started this post in 1991) is that there is no boring subject matter, just boring writers (cliche!). a good writer can take a possibly boring subject and present it in a way that makes it fresh and exciting (like Richard Feynman did for me and physics).

holy crap I type a lot.
I read a lot of those - Fitzgerald, Salinger and Updike, way too much Updike - 30 years ago, and it's funny, because I almost used Updike as an example in my post too. ;)

I didn't mean to imply that all of it was boring, though a lot of it was. I was just saying that as subject matter, I don't find it interesting. I didn't really take to it back then (I was just reading everything I could get my hands on), and I extra-really don't take to it now that I'm all old and sophisticated and genious-like.

I'd rather read about underdogs, outlaws, losers and rockabilly singers. There is an inherent and indelible stink to stories of reasonably well-off people complaining about their horrible, unbearable lives in the Hamptons or wherever that makes me want to give them something to really complain about.

But I'm a rebel like that. Me and VALDEZ.
It's still a well-written novel and a strong recommendation by The Roni.
(that is, if the English translation is of any use, which I still don't know, but what they've done to the title makes me suspicious.)
I can't feel any sympathy whatsoever for the guy. For me he's just like those snobbish Parisian writer who think it's cool not to write in proper French so long as it is nihilistic. All the publicity around him was probably helped by his famous bootlicking habits (unfortunately in France, success as a writer depends much much more on your connections than on your talents).
Not to mention he is just a f**** racist, who stated that Islam was the most idiotic religion ever, and that Muslim men were a bunch of savages... French artists should understand that gratuitous provokation doesn't replace a proper brain.

Voilà! désolée Roni ^^'

ps I am French indeed.
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[...] désolée Roni
That's okay, sweety.

I can't say, how proper or not his French is. I just can say, that I found the German translation of 'Extension du domaine de la lutte' is a fantastic book - at least to me. I've been wanting to read 'Les particules élémentaires' for a long time now (in German of course) and maybe I will soon.
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roni, I have an extra copy (in english) if you want it. I bought 2 by mistake because it has 2 different titles: The Elementary Particles in North America and Atomised in the UK. same translator, though.

you can have Atomised, if you'd like. free, of course.
Thanks a lot for the generous offer, hooch!

Only - I guess, your cost for shipping it abroad would be (at least!) as much as my own cost for buying a copy here. And I HATE paying these transportation-con more than absolutely necessary! They suck such a big time, I don't even have names for it in my native language.

But the next time, you go to Germany - you could bring the book and visit me and I'll show you my town, Bamberg, and we'll have some drinks and pretend that life's easy. How about that?

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