(French, 1958– )
Houellebecq's controversial masterpiece, Atomised (1999) is best read as science fiction, despite being set almost entirely in the recent past or present. It's a politically incorrect, Swiftian dystopia about two damaged brothers failing to find salvation in sex, science, or love, and in the process, anatomizing for us just what Houellebecq feels to be wrong with modern humanity (everything). The characters are less important than both the ideas and the wicked, misanthropic, epigrammatic satire, which is Houellebecq's true forte. In the end humanity chooses to die out in favour of a perfect, genetically-engineered über-race. Atomised's successor Platform (2002), is slighter but no less deliberately provocative. Blending two of Houellebecq's obsessions, sex and tacky tourism, it becomes a remarkably prescient air-raid warning for the latest wave of Islamic Jihad on Western decadence. Not for the faint-hearted or the easily offended.
Jonathan Swift, Albert Camus, Bret Easton Ellis. See FRANCE MH