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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Sunday, 14 October 2012

"Atomised" by Michel Houellebecq

This is an overtly philosophical French novel. Michel is a molecular biologist who lives in France and later moves to Ireland (much like the author, Michel). Michel has no relationships with other people except perhaps for the friendship he once had with his childhood friend; he lives alone and does not seem to need sex. In contrast his half brother Bruno is obsessed with sex, seeking as many joyless couplings as possible.
I suppose Michel and Bruno represent the soul and the body in a modern version of classic Cartesian dualism.

It is a long time (over thirty years) since I read Sartre's Roads to Freedom trilogy and I am not sure if I remember it rightly but it seemed to me that Sartre's existentialism was told in a much more believable novel, with a human face, than this cold, impersonal, almost nihilistic book. But perhaps that was the point. Perhaps Houellebecq is trying to show us that we are all isolated individuals gtrapped within our own identities and unable to relate to anyone else in any way that is in the least bit meaningful. But it makes for  sterile and inhuman story.

And if you feel that stories should be about humans and their relationships and that you should be able to suspend disbelief as you relate to at least one of the characters you will, like me, find this novel challenging. There was no-one you could like. The best moments were when the priapic Bruno tries ever more desperately to get laid in a New Age hippy camp while simultaneously trying to avoid the contingent clap trap. But in the end he was unbelievable. And the end of the book, with its swift execution of almost all the major characters amid despair and loneliness degenerated into humourless farce. Finally we descend into a science fiction philosophy and discover that the book is written in the future.
Depressing. October 2012; 379 pages

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