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Half-brothers Michel and Bruno have a mother in common but little else. Michel is a molecular biologist, a thinker and idealist, a man with no erotic life to speak of and little in the way of human society. Bruno, by contrast, is a libertine, though more in theory than in practice, his endless lust is all too rarely reciprocated. Both are symptomatic members of our atomised society, where religion has given way to shallow 'new age' philosophies and love to meaningless sexual connections. Atomised (Les Particules elementaires) tells the stories of the two brothers, but the real subject of the novel is the dismantling of contemporary society and its assumptions, its political incorrectness, and its caustic and penetrating asides on everything from anthropology to the problem pages of girls' magazines. A dissection of modern lives and loves. By turns funny, acid, infuriating, didactic, touching and visceral.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099283362
ISBN-10: 0099283360
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 24mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 1-Mar-2001
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » Houellebecq is a master of controversy and of the subversive pen. The publication of Atomised resulted in his being rejected by his circle for being outrageously politically incorrect, making front-page news across the national French press. Bleak, cruel, wickedly funny and all-embracing, Atomised is a brilliant dismemberment of Western society and an exposure of the failure of 1960s sexual liberalism. Houellebecq weaves eugenics, animal behaviour, psychology, addiction and depression, erotica, spiritualism, TV and supermarket culture, and the icons of 20th century philosophy and literature, into the story of half-brothers, Bruno and Michel. Dumped by their parents on their maternal and paternal grandmothers respectively, their childhoods are scarred by loneliness and social alienation. Cripplingly shy, Bruno masturbates over porn mags and is bullied and raped by the older boys at boarding school. Michel turns to science and lives in a dream world. The boys meet in their teens thanks to their inept mother. She left Algiers for Paris in 1945. 'A stunning Mediterranean beauty' she was one of those who 'already showed symptoms of the compulsive, almost fetishistic desire for prepackaged pleasures that would sweep through the populace in decades that followed'. She exchanged her first husband, a plastic surgeon, for a second, a promising documentary film-maker, whom she abandoned in turn for 'di Meola who had met Ginsberg and Huxley and was a founding member of the Esalen commune'. Her peripatetic life in pursuit of free love leads her from the South of France to California and Goa. Michel becomes a successful molecular biologist, incapable of loving; 'the world of human emotions was not his field'. In his teens he fails to sense that his gorgeous childhood friend is falling in love with him and when they are reunited in their forties, he feels nothing. She dies of cancer. He moves to Ireland to pursue his research and discovers a gene capable of creating 'a similar species, reproduced by cloning and therefore immortal' which sends shockwaves through the scientific community. Bruno turns to literature and teaching. A sexual obsessive, he drools over the Lolitas in his class. He is unable to communicate with his wife and son. For Bruno there is 'one source of warmth, between a woman's thighs, but there seemed no way for him to reach it'. At a new age camp site he meets Christiane, and at last it seems he has found the right woman. They holiday at a nudist colony. Her sudden death drives him back to alcoholism and porn. His writing becomes increasingly cynical, racist and homophobic; he is fascinated by death and decay. He has a breakdown and is hospitalised. Emotional cripples, the brothers reflect the dark underbelly of modern society and consumerism; the pain and ugliness of life. A world without love. A Manichaean world ruled by men in which women - the madonna or the whore are vehicles for compassion or sex and not much else. Atomised is the ultimate polemic, a bitter and twisted diatribe; the stuff of nightmares. Read it. (Kirkus UK)


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Author Biography - Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq is a poet, essayist and novelist. He is the author of five novels, Whatever, Atomised, Platform, The Possibility of an Island and The Map and the Territory, which won the prestigious Prix Goncourt.

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