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The Map and the Territory

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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  15,581 ratings  ·  1,057 reviews
Having made his name with an exhibition of photographs of Michelin roadmaps – beautiful works that won praise from every corner of the art world – Jed Martin is now emerging from a ten-year hiatus. And he has had some good news. It has nothing to do with his broken boiler, the approach of another lamentably awkward annual Christmas dinner with his father or the memory of h ...more
Hardcover, 269 pages
Published 2012 by Knopf (first published September 3rd 2010)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  15,581 ratings  ·  1,057 reviews


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Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-french
”I’ve known several guys in my life who wanted to become artists, and were supported by their parents; not one of them managed to break through. It’s curious, you might think that the need to express yourself, to leave a trace in the world, is a powerful force, yet in general that’s not enough. What works best, what pushes people most violently to surpass themselves, is still the pure and simple need for money.”

 photo JeffKoons_zpsc6fe1534.jpg
Jeff Koons has made himself an objet d’art.

Whenever Jed Martin calls his agent an
...more
Manny
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE DAVID CRONENBERG MOVIE MAPS TO THE STARS

This is an acidly cynical black comedy, and it's pretty funny, but that really doesn't tell you much about what it's like. I can see that many of the other reviewers are stuck too. Some of them have tried to explain by telling you about the plot, but since there are several rather excellent twists it doesn't seem right to reveal any of them. Luckily, we saw Maps to the Stars last night at the Grütli's Cr
...more
Lee Klein
Jan 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Just finished the last thirty wonderfully flowing and surprising pages that end with the total domination of vegetation and then went back to the first lines namedropping Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst and said aloud "Ha, what a great book." I love how clearly he writes, with such unexpected analysis/insight, exaggerated generalizations asserted as truth (although toned down in this one -- not as much potentially politically incorrect stuff in general, and certainly not as much sex as the last two) ...more
March
Jun 26, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
OK, if I have to be completely blunt, Michel Houellebecq must be the most overrated contemporary author since Amelie Nothomb. The Map and the Territory has received so much publicity in the last year or two, and I’ve come across the title in news and write-ups so many times, not to mention enthusiastic comments I’ve overheard during social occasions, that it seemed like I am missing out on something big out there. Not only did the book seem to be in the cultural news every other day or something ...more
Fionnuala
Finally a map of Houellebecq territory.
When I read 'Plateforme' some years ago, I dismissed Houellebecq as being overrated, and a complete misogynist, but I've changed my mind after reading La Carte et le Territoire. There are some very original plot details, interesting takes on photography and contemporary art, a bit of a meander on architecture, and plenty of information on cartography for those of us who loves maps. But the most amazing thing is that in spite of a main character who is very
...more
Tosh
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
His best novel. The themes are basically the same, but Michel Houellebecq tells the tale again with great energy and in a large tongue in cheek manner. On one level it is about the rise of an artist who doesn't really want to participate in the art market. He has nothing against it, but his character is not one where he follows the market place. Yet he's extremely successful in what he does. The other textual parts are Houellebecq's fascination with what people do on their 'free' time - the need ...more
Tony
Apr 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: french
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
...more
Sarah
Frankly I read this because my 16-year old did, and considering the negative buzz surrounding Houellebecq I was wondering if she was polluting her beautiful young mind with misogynist pornography. I didn’t expect to like it. So it is with surprise that I bestow 5 stars upon it. A wonderful book - rich, true and wickedly funny.

Now that I’ve looked into Houellebecq a bit more I see this was maybe an odd place to start; his other, more misanthropic, sexually-charged books are what got him all the
...more
Gerald
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read The Map and the Territory because Jeffrey Eugenides admitted *he* was reading in in a NYT interview.

No surprise why masterful American novelists would want to read this. The author, Michel Houellebecq, is unabashedly and unashamedly literary and intellectual. No doubt there's a certain penis envy in admiring a Gallic author who can be so brazen as to simply drop trou and masturbate with his mind for us all to watch. Those of us on this side of the pond who fret about novels and commercial
...more
Lisa Lieberman
Jan 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: french-interest
Too cold for my taste but terribly clever. I found his worldview coloring my own, which is a mark of how absorbing a writer Houellebecq is. I'm sure I would have enjoyed him more in my younger years, but I've become more generous in my late fifties, tend to cut characters more slack.
Marc Nash
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michel Houellebecq is the subversive satirist supreme. The diffident misanthrope who takes humanity to task for our natures, our systems, our ridiculous aspirations and our delusions. But he does so with light touch. He doesn't have to beat us around the head with our own foolish failings.

Jed Martin is an artist of some repute. The one layer he misses on his palette is an ability with words, so he seeks after commissioning one Michel Houellebecq to write the programme notes for his upcoming exhi
...more
Rich
Oct 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the bitter frenchman solidifies himself as one of my favourite authors. countless vicious soundbites that i had a lot of fun with on twitter --

"They really don't amount to much, anyway, human relationships."
"flowers are only sexual organs, brightly coloured vaginas decorating the surface of the world, open to the lubricity of insects"
"What can you reply, in general, to human questions?"
"it was conceivably true, he thought, that France was a marvelous country - at least from the tourist's point
...more
Jonfaith
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The third section initially gave me pause. It could've been mishandled. I had previously read a review in the UK press and was aware of this turn. The novel as with most of Houellebecq's other work is a chilling portrait of our reality, our naked humanity isn't what we'd hope for, it is slithering that way regardless.
Eugene
Feb 20, 2012 rated it liked it
houellebecq is a supreme market analyst, not shying away from drawing a trendline even if it's more based on cynicism than data:
They had several happy weeks. It was not, it couldn't be, the exacerbated, feverish happiness of young people, and it was no longer a question for them in the course of a weekend to get plastered or totally shit-faced; it was already -- but they were still young enough to laugh about it -- the preparation for that epicurean, peaceful, refined but unsnobbish happiness
...more
Benoit Lelièvre
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A masterpiece.

A gorgeous, reflexive novel and a one-way trip inside the soul of Michel Houellebecq.

The Map and the Territory is famous for being the novel Houellebecq wrote himself into as a character, but Houellebecq-the-character is only one facet of it. Houellebecq's reflections are all over this novel, but especially in protagonist Jed Martin, who really is just a younger version of him. Houellebecq gracefully zooms in and out of his characters and portrays the landscapes of France like Jed
...more
Ramblin' Man
It is about loneliness. Not like, my wife left me loneliness (though that is in there), the kind of loneliness that you might experience at death or the old cliche "we are all alone on this blue ball". I guess it is a kind of heavy loneliness. Quite subtle writing and nothing too grandiose, however, probably one of the best living authors I have read in awhile, though Cormac McCarthy is soon to be read; (I have not read many living authors because they are garbage and ironic posturing/narcissist ...more
Leif Quinlan
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
5-star review - recognizing and including the caveat that "The Map and the Territory" was exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it and that on its own merit alone, it's not a perfect or classic novel. I'd been in a small rut, feeling like everything I picked up or wanted to was some variation of the same novel with a different slant and a different author. "Map" is the antidote to typical characters/plots/stories/styles: It is philosophical, meandering, generous, and thought-provoking whil ...more
Philipp
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france

Modernity was perhaps an error, thought Jed for the first time in his life. A purely rhetorical question, that: modernity had ended in Western Europe some time ago.


I once tried to get into Houellebecq [1], about 10 years ago, and back then his work seems to have been all about "here's a bunch of sex with various people, oh no this is not fulfilling, we need monogamy, the end". Not that interesting. The Map and the Territory does not fit into that pattern at all, luckily, it's more a character st
...more
Nicole
Frankly, misogyny would be a step up. Misogyny I could tolerate if there were even the merest HINT of literary merit.

But in fact, Michel Houellebecq would publish his grocery list if he thought you would buy it, read it, and give it a literary prize. And h's got your number, because apparently you will. This book comes close; he's thrown in some ingredeients that he thinks you and the Goncourt jury will swallow -- the author is a character!, it's writing about art!, he tells us every time he bu
...more
Michal Mironov
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been perceiving this book through phases. Phase 1: amused and a bit confused whether the author writes seriously, or whether he's having lots of fun at the expense of the readers. Phase 2: still amused but a little pissed at the author: such a bastard! If he put all sarcasm and irony into italics, the whole fucking book would have been in italics! Phase 3: Admiration and enviousness: how come he could write something so multilayered and ambiguous in such a light and accessible language? Hou ...more
Chris
Apr 04, 2012 rated it liked it
My attraction to The Map and the Territory was more rooted in seeing what Houellebecq was maybe creating in form and theme than it was in the narrative. I had the sense (or, perhaps more accurately, the hope) that he was fashioning something genius. Maybe he did. It was unquestionably good from a reader’s perspective and an utterly interesting experience from a fan’s, but, for my money, it’s a far cry from his last, which was a true sigh-inducing, mind-humping masterwork.

The novel, with all its
...more
Sam Quixote
Oct 08, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Prix Goncourt must be France’s version of the Booker Prize because “The Map and The Territory” won it last year and, reading it this year, I get the same feeling of tiredness and boredom when reading a Booker Prize winner. This is strange too because I was looking forward to this one having loved Houellebecq’s previous books “Platform” and “Lanzarote” (granted, “Possibility of an Island” was near unreadable but I was willing to let bygones be bygones) so it was with some measure of disappoin ...more
Dave
Jun 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As usual I have mixed feelings about Michel Houellebecq's latest offering. His dispassionate stance about almost everything allows for sweeping generalisations about art and western culture that are challenging and interesting, but he also seems disinterested in bothering to craft a cohesive plot. I'm sure that I miss lots of things in his books, but can't escape the feeling that this is because he just can't be bothered illuminating some things enough.

None of this stops me from being intrigued
...more
Jonathan
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Houellebecq, and certainly not my last. I know the standard criticisms, and could detect the odd whiff of misogyny, but was won over by the insight, the humour and the self-paraody. It takes about 30-50 pages to hit its stride, but persist and the rewards are worth it.
Robert
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Map and the Territory, a novel by Michel Houellebecq, is a disjointed tale focusing on a French artist, Jed Martin, and his extraordinary success in the global art market.

Martin starts out modestly, the son of an architect whose wife had committed suicide when Martin was a child. He's appealing in the sense that he's modest. In a peculiar way, the whole novel is modest and somehow understated although it hinges on patience-testing spoofs of the art world's vagaries and is interrupted, toward
...more
Leonard
Oct 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After dabbling in biology in The Elementary Particles and business development in Platform, Houellebecq turns to art in The Map and the Territory. Jed Martin was an artist who as a boy began drawing flowers in his small notebooks with color pencils.
Then, he turned to photographing manufactured objects such as such as handguns, diaries, and printer cartridges. But it was only when he began to photograph Michelin maps of France that he become rich and famous.

Houellebecq in tracing the rise of Jed
...more
Lynn
Jed Martin is a man in his 30s looking for the right art to make a living. He becomes inspired to take maps of different parts of France and Europe and cut them up rearrange them and photograph them for an exhibition. He only uses Michelin maps and an employee of Michelin named Olga sees his work and begins a relationship with him. He never seems to care about her much but she is often around traveling from her native Russia to France regularly. On his way up the ladder, he meets many celebritie ...more
Bro_Pair أعرف
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Still not sure if Houellebecq thinks Jed Martin's art is any good...probably irrelevant. The market has decided it is! Yeah, it's a very good book. IN a world where any kind of human comfort is the exception, or, in the case of the Detective, some kind of homey surrender, in a world where euthanasia is now more popular than sex (Houellebecq has a euthanasia clinic and a brothel on the same street; no wonder to which one he depicts all the boomers as heading), then maybe only work, and a fair app ...more
V.
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think the only two authors currently writing stuff worth reading are Murakami and Houellebecq.

The majority of American writers seem to be priviliged white males fixated on whether their character's wife is cheating on them and/or can they get away with cheating on her. And the answer is, nobody cares.

I care even less about the nostalgic rubbish British writers can't seem to get enough of (even more white, equally male (technically) and much more priviliged).

In this very funny book, Houellebecq
...more
Carl
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles remains the last book by a new author that completely impressed me, and I read that in 2000. Houellebecq's unique synthesis of vulgarity, pathos, mockery and sublimity thoroughly captured the moment for me. It was the last time I felt something genuinely new. (James Wood's recent review in the New Yorker, where he negatively re-evaluated Houellebecq's original famed novel, struck me as, well, missing the point.)

I haven't really loved any of Houellebecq's no
...more
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Michel Houellebecq (born Michel Thomas), born 26 February 1958 (birth certificate) or 1956 on the French island of Réunion, is a controversial and award-winning French novelist. To admirers he is a writer in the tradition of literary provocation that reaches back to the Marquis de Sade and Baudelaire; to detractors he is a peddler, who writes vulgar sleazy literature to shock. His works though, pa ...more

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“Olga was nice, Olga was nice and loving, Olga loved him, he repeated to himself with a growing sadness as he also realised that nothing would ever happen between them again, life sometimes offers you a chance he thought, but when you are too cowardly or too indecisive to seize it life takes the cards away; there is a moment for doing things and entering a possible happiness, and this moment lasts a few days, a few weeks or even a few months, but it only happens once and one time only, and if you want to return to it later it's quite simply impossible. There's no more place for enthusiasm, belief and faith, and there remains just gentle resignation, a sad and reciprocal pity, the useless but correct sensation that something could have happened, that you just simply showed yourself unworthy of this gift you had been offered.” 23 likes
“Life sometimes offers you a chance, he thought, but when you are too cowardly or too indecisive to seize it life takes the cards away; there is a moment for doing things and entering a possible happiness, and this moment lasts a few days, sometimes a few weeks or even a few months, but it happens once and one time only, and if you want to return to it later it's quite simply impossible. There's no more place for enthusiasm, belief, and faith, and there remains just gentle resignation, a sad and reciprocal pity, the useless but correct sensation that something could have happened, that you just simply showed yourself unworthy of this gift you had been offered.” 19 likes
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