Mar 10, 12
Read from March 02 to 09, 2012
It was public knowledge that Houellebecq was a loner with strong misanthropic tendencies: it was rare for him even to say a word to his dog.
Martin Amis did it before, in Money, when he introduced himself, 'Martin Amis', as a character in the book. Houellebecq replays the conceit here, with a similar pretension and expanded role for himself. In the spirit of literary self-flagellation, in addition to the epitaph offered above, Houellebecq does horrible things to himself. I would be plot-spoiling to say more.
Yet the main character is not Houellebecq, but Jed Martin. Like Houellebecq's other protagonists, Jed has an ease with women despite himself and is utterly incapable of sustaining a relationship. The author Houellebecq does sex no better than the character Houellebecq:
"I . . ." he croaked. Olga turned around and noticed it was serious: she immediately recognized that blinded, panicked look of a man who can no longer withstand his desire. She made a few steps toward him, enveloped him with her voluptuous body, and kissed him on the lips.
230 pages in, the book becomes a murder mystery. Except it doesn't really.
I suppose you could dissect this. Jed first photographed still life, then machine parts. He has an epiphany and begins to photograph Michelin maps. This is how he made his first millions. It's how he meets the delightful Olga. And it's how we have the supposed theme of this book, printed in capital letters in case we missed the significance: THE MAP IS MORE INTERESTING THAN THE TERRITORY.
Not exactly ¿Le gusta este jardín, que es suyo? ¡Evite que sus hijos lo destruyan!, now is it?
Later he paints people in different professions. He paints Michael Houellebecq: Writer, of course. Houellebecq, the character, doesn't seem to care. I thought, then, that Houellebecq, the author, was giving me, the reader, direction.
This book has the same malaise, the same ennui as Houellebecq's earlier books. He just left out the sex this time. Instead, there was a gruesome murder. Which I was okay with. Especially because we learn photographs of the crime scene look like monochromatic Jackson Pollock paintings. But there was also a scene where Jed beats up a woman working in a Swiss Euthanasia clinic. Which really bothered me.