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362 pages, Paperback
First published August 24, 2001
Je passai ma dernière journée de congé dans differents agences de voyage. J'aimais les catalogues de vacances, leur abstraction, leur manière de réduire les lieux du monde à une sequence limitée de bonheurs possibles et de tarifs; j'appreciais particulierement le système d'étoiles, pour indiquer l'intensité de bonheur qu'on était en droit d'éspérer.You see later that this is not just an empty epigram, but sums up an important part of the book's argument. Similarly, Michel's father's death, though it appears random at the time, is in retrospect important foreshadowing. The novel is in fact quite tightly constructed.
(I passed my last free day in a few travel agencies. I love the abstract nature of travel brochures, the way in which they reduce the whole world to a finite sequence of possible types of pleasure, and their associated prices; I particularly appreciate the system by which a number of stars is used to indicate the intensity of pleasure one has the right to expect).
It reads like the fantasy of some horny middle-aged shit with nothing better to do with his time, like one of those disgusting old men who stares at my legs on the train. It's enough to make a girl wear pants, for goodness' sake.Well, exactly. Houellebecq's arguing that most men are now like that, except that some of them aren't staring in such an obvious way. But is his claim in fact true? I'd love to see a serious empirical study. Meanwhile, you might want to answer this poll.
„L-am văzut dintr-o dată ca pe un om înfrînt, sfîrşit; aveam sentimentul că nici măcar nu avea chef să se culce cu fetele acelea. Putem defini viaţa ca un proces de încremenire, vizibil la buldogul francez – atît de jucăuş în tinereţe, atît de apatic la maturitate. La Robert, procesul era avansat; poate că mai avea erecţii, deşi nu era sigur; poţi să faci pe deşteptul, să laşi impresia că ai înţeles ceva din viaţă, cert e că viaţa se duce. Soarta mea era asemănătoare cu a lui, împărtăşeam aceeaşi înfrîngere; dar nu simţeam nici un soi de solidaritate activă”.
"Τον θάνατο, τώρα, τον έχω καταλάβει∙ δεν νομίζω πως θα μου κάνει ιδιαίτερα κακό. Γνώρισα το μίσος, την περιφρόνηση, την κατάπτωση και τόσα άλλα πράγματα∙ γνώρισα ακόμη και σύντομες στιγμές αγάπης. Τίποτε δεν θα επιβιώσει από εμένα, ούτε και θα μου άξιζε∙ υπήρξα άτομο μέτριο, από κάθε άποψη."
"Las mujeres occidentales buscan a alguien con un aspecto determinado y ciertas "habilidades sociales", como bailar y mantener conversaciones inteligentes; alguien interesante, excitante y seductor.(...) las mujeres tailandesas serían felices sentando la cabeza para siempre con un hombre que sea capaz de conservar un trabajo estable, un marido y padre tierno y comprensivo. (...)Las mujeres occidentales no están hechas para el matrimonio"
A vicious and incredibly bleak social critique that is as subtle and incendiary as a suicide bomber. Houellebecq’s horror and hatred of our modern world spills from nearly every page; nothing is sacred and no one is spared. The novel is narrated by Michel, a pessimistic middle-aged man who, to his mind, lives in an era so corroded by consumerism, narcissism and terrorism that genuine human contact or happiness can only be obtained through the blissful abandon of sexual orgasm – even if it’s with a stranger who will be accepting your cash afterwards.
While vacationing in Thailand, Michel meets Valérie, a younger woman of a similar disposition, and the two cynics begin an intense love affair. They gradually develop the idea of creating a chain of specialized tourist resorts that double as brothels, hoping to entice the (apparently) huge market of sexually frustrated jet-setters and retirees; in other words: sex tourism as a legitimate business enterprise. Using her executive status in the tourism industry and some clever marketing, among other things, Valérie is able to bring the idea into reality quite easily -- and it turns out to be a tremendous success. However, no one is prepared for the dangers of corporate greed and religious extremism that follow, and the consequences cause everything to spin wildly out of control.
For the most part, Platform is sharply written and morbidly entertaining, so these compliments are enough to earn it at least a cautious recommendation. On the other hand, the large number of explicit sex scenes becomes almost ridiculous after awhile, adding little more than overheated hetero-male fantasy to the proceedings. With all the fornication, was Houellebecq trying to dull within his readers the lascivious lure of sex, thereby strengthening the book’s theme of the commodification of carnality in a discontented modern age? I don’t think so – it came across as a misanthropic-but-lonely author getting his rocks off by jotting down erotic prose, masturbating furiously in the murky theater of his imagination while his projected fantasies flicker across the decaying screen. Along with the book’s blatant anti-Islam sentiments, and its author’s position as recent European literature’s chief provocateur, maybe he just has an inherent need to create controversy any way he can. Still, again, I don’t regret the unpleasant-but-brief time I spent reading this brutal work of his.