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Whatever

by Michel Houellebecq
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail
  • Publishing date: 01/10/1998
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781852425845
  • ISBN: 1852425849

Synopsis

Cult novel about French Generation X. Book sold 40000 copies in France and won may prizes for the author who is a poet and father figure of new school of writing and literary magazine Perpendiculare.

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  • The title is very apt
    From Amazon

    A jaded computer programmer is given the task of taking the computer program on the road and introducing it to various offices around France, training the workers in each office how to use the program. He writes short stories featuring talking animals. His travelling companion is a desperate and physically repulsive man. Along the way the narrator tells us how repulsive we all are, how pathetic love is, how sad and disgusting everything is, and blah blah blah. I really like Houellebecq's work usually, "Platform" is one of the best novels I've read in the last 10 years and his brilliant essay on HP Lovecraft made me go back to the pulpy hack writer and read his stories again. But he fails to entice in this, his first novel. It's not that it's unfailingly negative about the future and of society as it is today because that's what I enjoyed most from his writings and is a key theme in all his work. It's that this bile is the sole reason for this book. At least in previous books there's an attempt at a story, characterisation, etc. Here we just get a man complaining about the modern world. His colleague dies, he falls into a depression, he doesn't care. I get it, Houellebecq's tired of the niceties of existence and is looking for something more vibrant, something to wake him up out of his stupor. It's just a shame he couldn't articulate it into a more interesting book. If this is your first encounter with the angry Frenchie I heartily suggest "Platform" instead of this and you'll see why he's so popular. "Whatever" is a bit dull and a bit dated. Whatever.

  • Finally, an author worthy of our time...
    From Amazon

    I rarely read modern literature. In a North American society that feeds off the latest recommendation of the pseudo-literary Queen, Oprah, I tend to avoid recent popular trends in writing. Oprah recommends and the drones run out to read her latest messiah recommendation. I guess it is good for sales. That's what sadly matters in the end, right? I wonder what Houellebecq would say about Oprah and North American society's reading habits. (It is ironic in many ways to learn that Oprah has inspired many pseudo-memoirs - from 'A Million Little Pieces' to the recent holocaust 'memoir'. Victim of her own fame, I assume.) 'Whatever' begins with a series of short chapters. It is jolting at first, very superficial. The narrator is going to teach civil servants the use of a new computer system. What happens eventually is that he 'befriends' his colleague, a rather unattractive man in his late twenties, still a virgin, hopeless with women. It took me about fifty pages to finally feel engaged with this novel. Whereas 'Platform' and 'The Elementary Particles' (highly recommended) had me from the first page, 'Whatever' took some time. After page 50, I began to see the emotional and psychological debacle going on in the narrator's life. The tone is set in the earlier stages of the book but the real emotional struggle begins mid-way through. The narrator is an atheist, a struggling individual. His pain is our pain, it's just that maybe we live life with more distractions. Houellebecq is the most modern and competent literary author of our time. Some might compare him to Palaniuk but I find Palaniuk lacks the philosophy and depth of Houellebecq (Albert Camus once wrote that the main difference between American and French authors is that the former rarely study or find a philosophy to explore their work though). This book is poignant, I found it startling how relevant his ideas are, his thoughts concerning our modern era. Especially when he ruminates on 'sexual capital' in Chapter 8 of Part II. What happens with the narrator and his unattractive colleague are quite telling. If you are looking for the non-Disney version of life, the non-Oprah version, I recommend this book. The writing is direct, honest.

  • Stranger Rip-Off
    From Amazon

    Read this after you read Houellebecq's other novels, if you like them. This was his first embryonic/''homage''-stage. He revisits elements of Sartre in other books more in passing.

  • Tired
    From Amazon

    This book is, ultimately, pretty darn boring. Doesn't really escape the whole quandry of a sad guy writing about a depleted existence, as do, say, Samuel Beckett's works. And, frankly, doesn't try very hard to do so. Cultural critique ain't exactly eye-opening either. What, does he think he's telling us something novel and profound about the current state of society? Not even close. I think there was a chance to make the book more lively with the animal fiction stories. But in the end they just sit there as a kind of flashy philosophical excursus into subjects that are never really tied up. I'd say this writer is best when he attempts humor...comedian character in "Possibility of an Island" is a good example. Otherwise a big yawn.

  • Your typical Houellebec
    From Amazon

    I love this writer and I love all his stuff. If you're a fan too, you won't be dissapointed by this thin book. I've finished it within a day.

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