“The Elementary Particles” by Michel Houellebecq

2013/04/05 § 1 Comment

“The universe is merely a chance arrangement of elementary particles. A transitory image in the midst of chaos. Which will end with the inevitable: the human race will disappear. Other races will appear, and disappear in turn. The heavens are cold and empty, traversed by the faint light of half-dead stars. Which, also, will disappear. Everything disappears. And human actions are just as random and senseless as the movements of elementary particles. Good, evil, morality, fine sentiments? Pure ‘Victorian fictions’. There is only egotism. Cold, undiluted and dazzling,”

writes Houellebecq in his essay on H. P. Lovecraft, in which we find many elements of “The Elementary Particles”.

This novel reflects author’s cultural pessimism, his contempt for the atomized, egotistic, decadent Western civilization, its liberal democracy and capitalism. It is a bitter mixture of loneliness and misanthropy, desire, frustration and disappointment; philosophy, social critique and speculative science, and pornography, loveless and pleasureless.

Michel Houellebecq in “Le Cap d’ Agde” naturist club (2000)
[© Lise Sarfati / Magnum Photos]

Ours is a culture obsessed with youth and beauty and, while their bodies are irreversibly decaying, Houellebecq’s aging characters are struggling to find a reason to live on in such a world, but still hoping that maybe they’ll touch something that resembles love, when, devoid of other emotions, they feel only compassion for those who suffer the same fate. While some readers might be put off by ca. 100 pages describing Bruno’s miserable sex life, I found this bad, sad porn an appropriate expression of the loneliness and emptiness of human existence depicted here… but it’s also a search for consolation and warmth, that they feel they deserve, just like everyone else.

On the other hand, in a kind of a quantum mechanical metaphor, there’s Bruno’s brother Michel, a rational scientist, freed from all these bodily passions, who seems to have given up every hope in humanity, and, influenced by Huxley and eugenics, wants to create an “improved”, asexual version of Homo Sapiens Sapiens. This sci-fi element might be the weakest part of the novel, and while Michel’s story is not as compelling as his brother’s, it’s an interesting juxtaposition – they even seem like two faces of the same person, and having in mind Houellebecq’s biography (e.g. his mother and two different DOBs that he shares with his characters), it might be the author himself.

To conclude – read this book, it’s not (just) a porn.

THE ELEMENTARY PARTICLES (Les particules élémentaires) (1998) by Michel Houellebecq

[LibraryThing]

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§ One Response to “The Elementary Particles” by Michel Houellebecq

  • melvin goldstein says:

    Numbers are the Supreme Court of science. However Godel proved that we may not prove everything. Science needs numbers. There must be Science and Physics Foibles!!

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