Book 939 Michel Houellebecq – Atomised

I first came across Atomised back in 2003 when I was working in the bookstore. I have to admit that the cover did catch my eye (don’t you think she looks a bit like Kristen Dunst? ) but I was always keeping the book stored mind until the right moment.

One day a customer rushed in and asked if we had The Elementary Particles (it’s the U.S. title)  by an author called Michel Houellebecq. Just before I could answer the customer grabbed Atomised and told me that the author is at the centre of a controversy due to his writings of other cultures.  Now at that time the word controversy made me perk up so I instantly bought the second copy of Atomised and read it in a couple of days.

Bruno and Michel are half brothers born to a bohemian mother, but despite their upbringing they are two completely different persons. Michel is an introvert and almost afraid of sex. He is, though a brilliant molecular biologist. Bruno, on the other hand is a sex maniac and indulges in every perverse action possible. In curious way, despite his Lothario lifestyle he is a loser.  He does not really have a decent relationship with his half sibling.

Saying that these two brothers are like a split atom. When they are separated they have the potential to be powerful but it is inert but when they join they are an almighty force and it is when Bruno finally establishes contact with Michel that life turns out for the better as both brothers manage to bring the best out of each other and help sort out their lives. There is also a futuristic sub plot here but that’s not really given that much importance.

On the whole Atomised is a flawed but interesting novel. When it works the passages are simply brilliant, especially when the brothers get together but unfortunately there are dull moments and I felt that the sex ridden pages were written for shock value. There’s even a bit of a tackiness among the bleak exterior of the novel. I won’t say I loved it but I will not say that I disliked it either.

For a Houellebecq beginner I suggest that his third novel Platform should be tackled first. it is a more consistent and satisfying read.


2 thoughts on “Book 939 Michel Houellebecq – Atomised

  1. lena January 2, 2010 / 5:38 am

    I read Platform in 2009 and was really mad, irate, even, at his racial generalizations. Also, at his depictions of women. The female main character’s only great characteristics were her perfectly pert breasts (though the rest of her appearance was mediocre) and that she knew to wake up the main character with a blowjob and also coffee. I mean, come ON.

    • deucekindred January 2, 2010 / 5:47 am

      Well I see it this way. Houellebecq presents an existential philosophy in his book so for him (or his characters) women are playthings. I say that had Camus been born in the 60’s he would have written books in the same way. In the end though doesn’t Valarie gain the upper hand.

      Do I agree with this viewpoint? definitely not! but when reading a book I feel that you have build a sort of barrier and try see what the author is trying to achieve whether it contrasts with your personal philosophy.

      Incidentally this summer I met Patricia Duncker and she told me that on meeting Houellebecq for the first time she noticed that he’s a bit of a strange one.

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