Mankind's only alternative 28   JAN.   23  
Mankind's only alternative

The Fall of The eXile For all those wondering what the "Save The eXile Fundrasier" banner is all about, here it is as simply as it can be phrased: The eXile is shutting down.
June 11, 2008 in eXile Blog

War Nerd: War of the Babies in Taki's Magazine The War Nerd talks about babies, the greatest weapon of the 20th century.
May 28, 2008 in eXile Blog

Kids, Meet Your President A website for Russian kids to learn all about President Medvedev's passion for school, sports and family.
May 22, 2008 in eXile Blog

Cellphone Democracy Cam If this girl was exposed to Jeffersonian democracy...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Dyev Photos Yet another hot Russian babe imitating the Catpower look...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

Proof That Genetic Memory Is Real! Sure, the Ottomans shut down the Istanbul Slavic slave markets centuries ago...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Russia's Orthodox Church Youth Outreach Program The priest is going, "Father Sansei is very impressed with grasshopper Sasha’s...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Club Photos w/Russian Dyevs We took the Pepsi Challenge here...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Blogs RSS feed

Book Review October 28, 2003
Love Smites
By John Dolan Browse author Email
"Platform" by Michel Houellebecq. Translated by Frank Wynne.  Alfred Knopf, 2003

"Platform" by Michel Houellebecq. Translated by Frank Wynne. Alfred Knopf, 2003

Michel Houellebecq's hit novel the Elementary Particles was a great book -- but as I said in my review (eXile #154), it came close to being a great failure, with some amateurish narrative wobbles that made reading it feel like riding beside a student driver in a tanker truck full of napalm.

The eXile was also getting reports from a reliable French source that Houellebecq was a phony, entirely the creation of his publisher. The wildly uneven quality of Elementary Particles made that rumor seem plausible. I dreaded the appearance of Houellebecq's next novel, and would have placed a sizable bet that it would be a disaster.

I'd've lost that bet. Platform, Houellebecq's new novel, is in some ways better than Elementary Particles. It's a smaller book, without the science-fiction frame or ambition of EP, but a much more perfect, controlled performance. It reads like the work of a talented fiction-writer, rather than the translation to narrative of a brilliant aphorist's work.

That's not to say that Platform is short on brilliant passing shots at a host of deserving contemporary cliches. In fact, it lays waste to a wide swath of pious cant, and does so without losing narrative momentum. In the process, Houellebecq makes you realize how tame, how cautious, provincial and anti-intellectual most English-language novelists are. He talks about everything from the economics of the tourism industry to the rival theories of consumer behavior with an easy confidence and healthy lack of respect. And he says wonderfully true and forbidden on almost every page. You read these tangential slashes at contemporary piety with the sudden ache of an unrealized hunger satisfied.

Every time Houellebecq spotlights a piece of ordinary contemporary culture, it's a delight. His limpid appreciations of small contemporary pleasures are as satisfying as his attacks. "Windows started up with a cheerful little sound," he says, and it's like hearing that sound for the first time.

Perhaps a French writer is best placed to describe the slighted detail of contemporary life in the developed countries, writing from a country wealthy and confident enough to buy each new product, but consuming it with a residue of resentment, keeping up slightly grudgingly with the avalanche of novelties from its rival culture.

God knows somebody needs to resent this crap. And Houellebecq does a great job of it, as in this account of a suspense novel the protagonist borrows from a sleeping neighbor on a long flight:

"I picked up the paperback that had fallen at his feet: a shitty Anglo-Saxon bestseller by one Frederick Forsythe. I had read something by this halfwit that was full of heavy-handed eulogies to Margaret Thatcher and ludicrous depictions of the USSR as the 'evil empire.' I'd wondered how he managed after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I leafed through his new opus. Apparently, this time the roles of the bad guys were played by Serb nationalists; here was a man who kept up with current affairs. As for his beloved hero, the tedious Jason Monk, he had gone back into service with the CIA, which had formed an alliance of convenience with the Chechen mafia. Well! I thought, replacing the book on my neighbor's knees, what a charming sense of morality best-selling British authors have."

This isn't the digression it seems. The argument of Houellebecq's novel is that the West has gone insane, embracing its enemies and persecuting its own.

SHARE:  Digg  My Web  Facebook  Reddit

Browse author

God Can Suck My Dick :

Toxic Felis : A visit to Dzerzhinsk, Russia's most polluted city
Produkty Store Clerk
Field Guide To Moscow: Prodavschitsia Climacteria :

Who’s Your Daddy? : Russia’s Emerging New Gentry Proves “We Do Get Fooled Again”


Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...


    MAIN    |    RUSSIA    |    WAR NERD     |    [SIC!]    |    BAR-DAK    |    THE VAULT    |    ABOUT US    |    RSS

© "the eXile". Tel.: +7 (495) 623-3565, fax: +7 (495) 623-5442