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Michel is a civil-servant at the Ministry of Culture. When his father is murdered, Michel takes a leave of absence to go on a package tour to Thailand. Infuriated by the shallow hypocrisy and mediocrity of his fellow travellers, only the awkward Valerie attracts his attention. Too bashful to pursue her, Michel prefers the uncomplicated pleasures of Thai massage parlours and sex with local women. Back in Paris, he calls Valerie and they plunge into a passionate affair, which strays into S&M, partner-swapping and sex in public. Michel quits his job, and tries to help Valerie and her boss, Jean-Yves, in their ailing travel business, by offering travel packages based on sex tourism in the third world. When their project comes to fruition and the three return to Thailand, Michel discovers that sex is neither the most consuming nor the most dangerous of human passions...

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099437888
ISBN-10: 0099437880
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 23mm)
Pages: 368
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 4-Sep-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » After the murder of his father, Michel, a French bureaucrat, goes on a package holiday to Thailand. Solitary and cynical, he is dismissive of much that others in his group find important but he does take one thing seriously: sex, which alone compensates him for the miseries of life. His matter-of-fact acceptance of sexual tourism and his enthusiastic (and often graphically described) participation in sexual activities, aided by drink and Viagra, underline the sordidness of the industry. On his return to France, he keeps in contact with fellow traveller Valerie and, much against expectation, finds happiness - and an even more active sex life - with her. She works for the company which organized their holiday, but is soon head-hunted with her boss by a tour business looking to expand. Michel's suggestion that certain tour resorts should specialize in adult sex tourism is welcomed as a new direction for the tourist industry and leads to a return visit to Thailand, which ends in disaster. Michel Hoellebecq paints a bleak picture of countries like Thailand that cannot survive industrially and need Western investment; we in the West, he says, 'have created a system in which it has become impossible to live; and we continue to export it'. Winner of the 2002 IMPAC Award, Hoellebecq has an unsparing eye for the follies and horrors of our world, and his descriptions of an alienated and crumbling society in which violence and crime on the streets of Paris find their mirror image in the emotional violence of casual sex, and of the tourism which destroys the very thing it seeks, will shock but give the reader much to think about. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » From the famous, or infamous, Houellebecq (The Elementary Particles, 2000): a pale imitation of himself at his scandalous and probing best. A narrator once again named Michel (at 40, resigned to life-as-disappointment) works for the Ministry of Culture in Paris arranging shows of contemporary artists' work. When his hated father dies and leaves money, he takes a vacation to Thailand, where, between massage parlor delights, he meets a travel agent named Valerie, traveling on the same package. The two don't hit it off in exotic and erotic Thailand, but, back in Paris, they plunge into an explicitly rendered psychosexual bliss ("I don't know if I'll be able to get it up right away." "Then go down on me. It'll do me good"). Valerie's boss, Jean-Yves, it turns out, is offered a great position with a new company ("Is it a big company?" "I'd say so; it's the biggest hotel chain in the world"), where he's charged with reviving a slumping segment of the company's worldwide chain of resorts. Valerie goes along as a partner, but it's narrator- lover Michel who comes up with the truly brilliant idea about how to pull the resorts out of their slump ("Offer [clubs] where the people get to fuck"), as a consequence of which there's comes to be born a whole new corporate investment in "sex tourism," of exactly the kind Michel had enjoyed back in Thailand-the very place, once the new line of "Aphrodite clubs" has proven to be an enormous money-making success, that Michel, Valerie, and Jean-Yves return to for a celebratory vacation of their own. Bummer, though! After some initial episodes of great sex ("After a time I no longer knew how many hands or fingers stroked and wrapped around my prick"), there's a terrorist attack on the club, turbaned men firing machine guns, a bomb going off. With tragic results indeed. Posturing, silly, sophomoric-though the glib Houellebecq is good at trying to make you think otherwise. (Kirkus Reviews)


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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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