Atomised, Michel Houellebecq

by sfe medusa

When we think about the present, we veer wildly between the belief in chance and the evidence in favour of determinism. When we think about the past, however, it seems obvious that everything happened in the way that it was intended.

imageBeautiful, beautiful cover illustration.

I had wondered recently, about foreign books, and whether we lose a sense of authenticity in the writing and language when the work is translated. This thought was rendered pretty much null in reading Atomised (Les Particules elementaires), which maintains a distinctly cutting and genuinely daring French attitude in telling this rich story, one that has comfortably reassured me that I do in fact have something less than an iron heart during this mundane Christmas period of family feuds, tonsillitis and maths revision.

It’s a social commentary which regularly coaxes wry, ironic smiles from you – every time a minuscule, yet detrimental, flaw in society peeps around a corner, Houellebecq makes sure he grabs it by the ankles, rips off its underwear with his teeth and makes it dance uncomfortably across the page for us all to witness, unbearably yet captivatingly.

This novel is entrancing, gloriously sardonic and wrenching, which is so goddam typical of the French, to be able to stare right in the face of anything and rip it to pieces coolly, audaciously, and without a hint of being a pretentious wanker (well, mostly).

I’ll also be sure to return to this once I have a better grasp of philosophy – I had to keep re-looking up all the “-ism”s on Dictionary.com, and I think there’s a lot to gain from Houellebecq’s social, religious, philosophical and scientific cross-overs.

The writings of a decaying society, an opinion I actively (darkly) embrace, completely struck by that heavy melancholy of modern life, post-freedom years misery. But then again, the hippies were wrong, non?

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