Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Look, Society Is Even More Disgusting Than I Am
This is a rather good assessment of Michel Houellebecq. I remember reading Atomised the summer I turned 21, and was for a variety of reasons really rather depressed. It was like a burning brand. That sense of utter self-loathing which permeates the novels, the raging against the de-mystification of the world, can be really rather attractive, and Houellebecq often expresses it well. Still, though, the more I think about it, the more I think he's a terrible self-dramatist. The novels, as the article makes clear, are transparently based on and motivated by Houellebecq's undeniably unpleasant autobiography and particularly childhood, all of which rather undermines much of his quasi-sociological musings. Since so much of his appeal rests on the idea that he speaks awkward yet necessary truths, the idea of him as Nietzsche's prophet in the marketplace, telling people they've killed God before the smell has quite reached them, this provides something of a deflation. Presumably, much the same sorts of things could be said of J. G. Ballard, whose later fiction in particular is obsessed with, and sees the growth of as a all-pervasive trend, closed communities which define themselves in opposition to groups around them.