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The Possibility of an Island

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  12,492 ratings  ·  740 reviews
A worldwide phenomenon and the most important French novelist since Albert Camus, Michel Houellebecq now delivers his magnum opus–a tale of our present circumstances told from the future, when humanity as we know it has vanished.

Surprisingly poignant, philosophically compelling, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, The Possibility of an Island is at once an indictment, a
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 8th 2007 by Vintage (first published August 31st 2005)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Nov 22, 2008 rated it it was ok
I don't know. This is one of those books that really seemed to be multiple books. Here are three of them:

1. This book is partly the product of a guy who read too much Celine and wants to talk about girls' asses. There's a nihilistic streak in which the narrator asserts that nothing matters but fucking, and getting old is the worst thing that could happen ever, and anybody who says anything against that are just fooling themselves. FOOLING THEMSELVES. While a few of the rantings are funny/insight
Jason Pettus
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
(Full review can be found at the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [].)

So before anything else, let's just get this out of the way: that if you aren't horrendously and profoundly offended at least once by the work of controversial French author Michel Houellebecq, you're not paying close enough attention. Because Houellebecq, see, is what's known as a misanthrope; that far from being a racist, or a sexist, or a homophobe, he simply hates the entirety of humanity, every
Male, rich, successful, 47, GSOH, not yet completely impotent WLTM female, slim, attractive, preferably blonde, 20 to 26. Maybe 28. I guess 30 isn't out of the question if you're really into keeping fit, classical dance or something similar, but let's face it, before we know what's happened you'll be getting old and fat, I won't be able to get it up for you any more and you'll decide you'd rather not be a burden and leave and a bit later top yourself. That keeps happening to me for some reason. ...more
May 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
The day I took this out from the library, a greasy man in reflective sunglasses, floral shirt unbuttoned to reveal curlicues of revoltingly masculine chest hair, meowed at me as I stood frowning beneath a sticky sun.

I feel, upon reading this book, as though he were the author.
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Houellebecq is another writer in the grand French school of misanthropy, in the shadow of its master, Céline, but making every effort to cast his own. The Possibility of an Island is, I think, his best work to-date: bleak, brutal, funny, revolting, tender and, in the end, ineffably sad. The world of Houellebecq is one of cratered streets, perpetually in the dark because its inhabitants continually and maliciously put of the street lights to impair the ability of others to proceed safely.

The stor
MJ Nicholls
Middle-aged and misanthropic and suffering from a rock-hard cucumber in the pants? Introducing the novels of Michel Houellebecq. This one experiments with SF concepts alongside its middle-aged-misanthrope-having-lots-of-implausible-sex plot (the protag in this case a bile-spouting gagmeister) as our antihero secures himself immortality as part of a sex-tourist cult during his post-midlife crisis. As in his previous novels, the sex is usually erotic and depressing at the same time and the prose t ...more
Mar 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who hate humanity but at least can laugh at it.
I was recently in a class where the teacher was talking about how "meaning" is derived from literature through subtext. Most literature in the past generated subtext in opposition to cultural norms or censorship imposed by the author or society. A classic example might be Hemingway's story "Hills like White Elephants," which deals with abortion only subtextually because stories about abortion were simply not written at the time.

So the question becomes: In a society where nothing is taboo and eve
ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos) In Lockdown
"J'étais, je n'étais plus. La vie était réelle."

La possibilité d’une île

The Possibility of an Island

A word of thanks to Léonard Gaya for his recommendation. The book was an interesting challenge. The kind of book I thoroughly enjoy.

I have to admit that in a world of readers divided into “J’adore Houellebecq” and “J l’haïs”, I find myself on the ‘adore’ side. I may tire of him some day, as there is a bit of repetition in his message, but he writes with wit, intelligence and, to a great extent,
Aaron Arnold
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2015
Reading negative reviews of Houellebecq novels is a good way to be amused for about five minutes, because, aside from the rare honest ones where the reviewer frankly states they just didn't care for him, it's pretty obvious that most of his detractors know that something is going over their heads, but they can't admit out loud that they don't get the joke. I say that as a confirmed fan, but I just don't see how it's possible to give this bleak, hilarious, passionate, misanthropic novel a fair re ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: probably not for those trying to grow old gracefully
To me, this was surprisingly sentimental, even arguably kind of sweet.

Read all in one day, so I guess I must've liked it? Immediately thought of two (male) friends I want to make read this, but I really wouldn't recommend it to most people so please don't read it on my account unless specifically instructed.
Oct 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
The first great novel of the twenty-first century written by the only writer living today who really matters. Houellebecq in the year 2005 did what Aldous Huxley did in Brave New World in 1932..., except that Houellebecq's characters are so much more well-defined, real and wacky...(utterly our age...)...
This novel, like "Les Particules Elementaires" goes off on crazy philosophical tangents in which the narractive stream of the novel disappears and we are subjected to bold and controversial cri
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
The species have reached immortality. Through cloning and the propagation of historical memories. But the time of the humans is over. It is the age of the neo-humans, clones without joy and grief, without neurosis, without community, without sexual desires. Only a lifetime of reviewing and of analyzing the life of the human from which their DNA came. A lifetime of isolation, except for a pet. A lifetime of pseudo-touch through electronic communications. A lifetime of reflection and contemplation ...more
There is not a single thing that I enjoy about Houellebecq - and it's not all his fault.

The Possibility of an Island is extremely depressing. The main characters compress life into one single drive of pleasure - sex. Life is one giant ball of suffering, with only the pinpricks of light that sex brings. The moment you get older (think forty-fifty-ish), there is no reason for you to live, since you're old and no one wants to have sex with you.

Because of this particular ontology, the book is obses
I want to first start by directing attention this article "Ever After" by Goodreads friend Miles Klee. This book is discussed along with the whole contemporary question of immortality.

And really that is where this book starts. It's most interesting facet is the cult that the character (a practicing nihlist from what he tells and shows) Daniel, or Daniel1, becomes a part. Rather than the focus being on a God/gods/mystical forces, it focuses on the looming intrigue of immortality from a secular s
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably the most unsparing among Houellebecq's unsparing novels.

Matching Soundtrack :
Her OST - Loneliness #3 - Arcade Fire


Sûrement le roman le plus désespérant parmi les romans désespérés de leur auteur.

Fond musical :
Her OST - Loneliness #3 - Arcade Fire
Lee Klein
Apr 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
I feel more warm writerly admiration for this one than flat-out freakin' readerly love, as with "The Elementary Particles" . . . Not as funny, sadder, longer, denser, more philosophically thorough, more speculative/post-apocalyptical/scifish, with similiar semi-unpretty yet thematically purposeful eroticism and more of a goin'-for-the-gold theological focus. ...more
Arthur Meursault
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is relentless. By the end of the novel I was questioning the meaning of my life and why I shouldn't just end it all right there and then.

The Possibility of an Island is epic in scope but personal in its focus. By examining the minutia of the life of the comedian Daniel we take the frustration, the sadness, the emptiness and roll with it until we are contemplating the big questions of God and life.

Houellebecq has two unique talents that merge bizarrely: on one page he can utterly depre
Jan 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: misanthropes
It came as no surprise when I discovered Michel Houellebecq is an H.P. Lovecraft fan; while lacking the Providence gentleman's penchant for probing the dark corners of the universe and the horrors that lurk therein, Houellebecq shares the same, pessimistic view of the universe and humanity's place in it. We are, more or less, a mistake and everything we do, think and are is ultimately inconsequential and devoid of meaning.

The Possibility of an Island is often referred to as Houellebecq's magnum
Dec 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
Well executed. But basically this is Dostoyevskian anti-hero with a lapsed viagra prescription meets Oryx and Crake. A nihilist Eurotrash's memoir told before and after an apocalypse. The end was quite underwhelming, vegetative shall we say. This depressing story effectively depicts the malaise of male middle age, sexual insecurities, selfishness. None of the characters seemed to achieve any sense of redemption or growth- perhaps his last girlfriend, the impossibly beautiful nymphette Esther. Bu ...more
Lukas Legend
Feb 05, 2014 rated it did not like it
If anyone could spell/pronounce his name,"Houellebecq" could become a loanword meaning "insufferable." If you're into pornographic literature, middle-aged nihilists obsessed with lost youth who can't maintain erections, pedophilia, tasteless xenophobic jokes about the gaza strip, THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU! As someone who is compelled to finish every book that is started, I had to charge to the end just to make it stop.

It's unfortunate because Houellebecq has an interesting science fiction elemen
Jun 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay where do I even begin? It's been the first book in a while that really captivated me- but also at the same time this is one of the most repulsive books I've read in a while, mostly because of the overwhelming misantrophy, misogyny, so on so forth. There were times when I was really, really intrigued by the plot, or when I really stopped to reflex on the modern world but there were also times when I just had to put the book down to take a break, roll my eyes and express my rage at the absolu ...more
Soren Sondergaard
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Provocative? No. Tedious? Yes.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Justin Evans
May 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
On the evidence of this book, Houllebecq is the most advanced author of the 21st century. Not advanced like advanced algebra, which is harder and more useful and more interesting than basic algebra; not like a martial artist who's advanced and just much better than a beginner. He's advanced the way a disease is advanced, particularly a disease that causes pustules to break out all over your body before filling your lungs with bile.

The conceit of this novel is that a new species is created: the
Mar 15, 2015 rated it did not like it
The first Houellebecq I’ve read. It is deeply cynical and casually hedonistic, isolationist and lazily narcissistic. Its expression of patriarchy, privileged transhumanism, and sexual values are helpfully clouded by an intensity of science fiction and philosophy. Direct nihilism would not even be so bleak. Not a terrible novel, but a pathetic one. It’s got some resonance, no doubt, but still has an underlying sense of “nanny nanny boo-boo.” A blurb on my paperback copy calls it the author’s “mag ...more
Oct 24, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Like Oryx & Crake except terrible😠

I understand Houellebecq has earned his reputation as an arrogant misanthrope. I even realize that he's capable of satire in addition to disdain. I have wavered to some extent with the misogyny in each of his books. This one though lacks any redeeming quality to offset what is a level of objectification and barely veiled contempt beyond what's acceptable to me. It's very much like what I imagine would be The Gospel According to Incels, if such a book existed. I'
Aug 27, 2015 added it
I didn't especially like it, but I still think about it. So there's that. ...more
Kara Babcock
Do you want to live forever? Most people would say yes. I have to confess immortality tempts me as well. But as with most wishes, this one needs conditionals and caveats to make it truly comfortable. After all, you wouldn't want to be immortal but keep ageing, right? And being immortal alone would really suck, watching everyone else grow old and die as you remain the same. There are basically two ways to solve the ageing problem: either find a way to stop the body from ageing, or find a way to r ...more
Mike Clinton
After reading this, I feel like I gave one more star to The Elementary Particles than it deserved. It seemed like there was so much overlap that reading this felt redundant after having read that one, a feeling similar to how I've felt after reading a few of Haruki Murakami's novels. That's not to say that the novel itself reminded me of Murakami; it reminded me instead of Celine's cultural pessimism wrapped in vulgarity mixed with Kurt Vonnegut's use of science-fiction as social satire. As for ...more
Jul 22, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Probably I would have liked it better if it hadn't been so horrendously pornographic.
But since I hated the first half to the core, I decided to only skim the other 300 pages on one evening to just see what happens.

Nothing happens.
The poem was kind of good though.

I really hate to think how very many of you will think that I'm ignorant.
But be my guest.
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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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“Youth was the time for happiness, its only season; young people, leading a lazy, carefree life, partially occupied by scarcely absorbing studies, were able to devote themselves unlimitedly to the liberated exultation of their bodies. They could play, dance, love, and multiply their pleasures. They could leave a party, in the early hours of the morning, in the company of sexual partners they had chosen, and contemplate the dreary line of employees going to work. They were the salt of the earth, and everything was given to them, everything was permitted for them, everything was possible. Later on, having started a family, having entered the adult world, they would be introduced to worry, work, responsibility, and the difficulties of existence; they would have to pay taxes, submit themselves to administrative formalities while ceaselessly bearing witness--powerless and shame-filled--to the irreversible degradation of their own bodies, which would be slow at first, then increasingly rapid; above all, they would have to look after children, mortal enemies, in their own homes, they would have to pamper them, feed them, worry about their illnesses, provide the means for their education and their pleasure, and unlike in the world of animals, this would last not just for a season, they would remain slaves of their offspring always, the time of joy was well and truly over for them, they would have to continue to suffer until the end, in pain and with increasing health problems, until they were no longer good for anything and were definitively thrown into the rubbish heap, cumbersome and useless. In return, their children would not be at all grateful, on the contrary their efforts, however strenuous, would never be considered enough, they would, until the bitter end, be considered guilty because of the simple fact of being parents. From this sad life, marked by shame, all joy would be pitilessly banished. When they wanted to draw near to young people's bodies, they would be chased away, rejected, ridiculed, insulted, and, more and more often nowadays, imprisoned. The physical bodies of young people, the only desirable possession the world has ever produced, were reserved for the exclusive use of the young, and the fate of the old was to work and to suffer. This was the true meaning of solidarity between generations; it was a pure and simple holocaust of each generation in favor of the one that replaced it, a cruel, prolonged holocaust that brought with it no consolation, no comfort, nor any material or emotional compensation.” 91 likes
“Et l'amour, où tout est facile,
Où tout est donné dans l'instant;
Il existe au milieu du temps
La possibilité d'une île.”
More quotes…