Yes dear readers I had to cart this book around with me and the amount of stares and a raised eyebrows were too numerous to mention. To be honest I guess if I saw a guy carrying this book with in public places I guess I would peep at the cover as well.
Anyway this is not my first foray into the pervy world of Houellebecq. A couple of years ago I bought Atomised and liked it. Not loved it, but it helped be get through the weekend and now I’m tackling his third novel, Platform.
Michel has just lost his father to a murderer, despite the fact that he’s nonchalant about he decides to escape the banality of his life and go on a package tour to Thailand. Fed up with the majority of the people in his tour group, Michel starts to experiment with Thai prostitutes and enjoys it.
Fortunately Michel manages to bond with one person in on this tour and that’s Valarie and eventually the two embark on a highly physical relationship. It also turns out, when they return, that Valarie is put in charge of an ailing package holiday firm. Michel suggest that they focus on sex tourism and it works.
That is until the couple and a few others return to Thailand and find out that sex tourism is upsetting certain groups and it leads to dire consequences. It is then Michel discovers the difference between true love and erotic love. By then it is too late and he spends the rest of his life in a sort of limb-like state.
Houellebecq is an ugly writer. here is not one shred of beauty in what he does. His version of humanity is bleak, cruel with the occasional burst of happiness, in this respect I would say that he is the successor of Albert Camus as the existentialist worldview is shared by both authors.
However I do note that those people of a sensitive nature will not like this book at all, not because of the plentiful sex scenes but because of the hatred for certain races that Michel harbours. Even I felt uncomfortable reading certain paragraphs but I keep in mind that had Camus lived in this decade he would have probably written the same thing and that Houellebecq is carrying on a literary tradition. Did I like this book? I would say yes Houellebecq’s treatment of the sex tourist industry is quite revealing and his characters are very believable and in fact it is a much better effort than Atomised.
You have to hand it to French authors though. They excel at creating desolate unlikeable people: Maupassant, Moliere, Genet, Anoulih, Celine, Viann, Camus, Sartre. Don’t ask me what it is but if you want sour reading of a high literary value, the French will never let you down in letting you down!