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.