Friday 17 July 2020

Favourite Books #23

He’s no stylist (at least in translation), and his more pedantic passages of data can rival the Marquis de Sade for inducing boredom, but he does hold a mirror up to a society which disdains to see the uglier parts of its reflection. Is he an Islamophobe, a misogynist, a misanthrope? Maybe. But as I used to tell my students, none of his targets should take it too personally: he is an equal opportunity hater. As Jason Cowley wrote in the New Statesman:

Platform is certainly full of witty, unhinged attacks against Islam – characters are introduced for no other reason than to deliver page-length denunciations of true believers. But Muslims ought not to be unduly offended. Houellebecq is a writer of perpetual attack. Protestants, capitalists, liberal-leftists, the revolutionary generation of 1968, the French, les Anglo-Saxons, hippies, Frederick Forsyth -- all these are among his targets. There is considerable comedy in Houellebecq's wild misanthropy. There is also a peculiar poignancy.’

Most of his novels are worth reading: Atomised is a take down of narcissistic hippie culture; The Map And The Territory is a take down of the art world; Platform, our representative, is a take down of sex tourism. It takes the machinations of capitalism, when applied to the global tourism industry, to its logical end:

"Therefore, you have several million westerners who have everything they could want but no longer manage to get sexual satisfaction... On the other hand, you have several billion people who have nothing, who starve, who die young, who live in conditions unfit for human habitation and who have nothing left to sell except their bodies and their unspoiled sexuality."

Guess what happens. Enjoy.

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