It has received both great praise and great criticism, most notably for the novel's apparent condoning of sex tourism and Islamophobia. After describing Islam as "the most stupid religion" in a published interview about the book, Houellebecq was charged for inciting racial and religious hatred but the charges were ultimately dismissed, as it has been ruled that the right to free speech encompasses the right to criticize religions. The novel and its author have been deemed "prophetic" or "prescient", as the last part depicts an Islamic terrorist attack which bears strong similarities with the bombings in Bali in October , about a year later and the novel was published on 27 August , a few days before the 11 September attacks. A play in Spanish based on the book, adapted and directed by Calixto Bieito , premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival. Valerie and Renault begin an affair, and, after moving back to France , hatch a plan with Valerie's boss who works in the travel industry in the Aurore group, an allusion to the real-life Accor group to launch a new variety of package holiday called "friendly tourism", implicitly aimed at Europeans looking for a sexual experience whilst on vacation. Single men and women—and even couples—are to be targeted, and would vacation in specially designed "Aphrodite Clubs".
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Michel Houellebecq is the first French novelist since Albert Camus to find a wide readership outside France. While not even an enthusiast would make claims for French intellectual culture since Camus' death in , the fame of Michel Houellebecq is quite unexpected. A grown man, Houellebecq reads like an adolescent. Alternately timid and aggressive, solemn, hormonal, posturing, helpless, Houellebecq tosses stones through the windows of European polite speech and attitudes, then runs away.
Houellebecq's chief character, Michel, is an accountant at the ministry of culture in Paris. He watches television and visits peep-shows in the way of such characters in fiction. When his father is murdered on a point of honour by a north African, Michel inherits some money and joins a package tour to Thailand, where he migrates between massage parlours and the bottle.
The other tourists are fat and plebeian. Back in Paris, they embark on a love affair. With the narrative in the doldrums, the sex becomes wet, various and frantic. The new package holidays are a success with the Germans - a stupid race, apparently, notoriously without culture. The story works in its preposterous way because we are not engaging with reality. Too inhibited to address the reader directly, Houellebecq employs a series of ready-made literary styles: television game-show, holiday brochures, the Guide du Routard, genuine and pastiche social science, feuilleton historiography, the business press.
There is page after page of ballast, including reviews to no purpose of novels by John Grisham, Frederick Forsyth and Agatha Christie. In the Thai episodes, Houellebecq is at pains to exclude any sentiment unless it is banal, ignorant and touristic. In the doldrums at the beginning of the love affair in Paris, he devotes long and inaccurate passages to the economics of the holiday business.
Woman, it seems, is not man's idol nor his slave, but his companion. Unfortunately, Houellebecq becomes hopelessly distracted by his incontinent love of sexual description.
She is of a type more likely to be found in French masculine fiction than in nature. Even her nasty end cannot give her reality. Dispersed through this story, and often at a diagonal to it, are bar-room opinions that yet do not amount to a reactionary programme. Michel argues that European women are too hard on their men, who find Thai prostitutes less demanding company. While that may be true of some European men and some Thai women, we cannot explore it through the novel for that would require genuine incidents and personalities.
The novel now proceeds through assertion. There is nothing so dreary as a reactionary libertine. Sex tourism, Michel tells us, is an essential component of the international division of labour. On the other hand, you have several billion people who have nothing, who starve, who die young, who live in conditions unfit for human habitation and who have nothing left to sell except their bodies and their unspoiled sexuality".
There is much more of this in the style of the Marquis de Sade at his most pompous. Actually, women are inscrutable. So are Chinese people. Michel is prone to flashes of pointless rage, hates pork butchers and Protestants. But his main characteristic is his fear of Muslims. Muslims are the villains of the story, murderers of Michel's father and his mistress. Politically, Islam is a threat to the diversity of European society which turns out to be not such worthless trash after all.
At such times, Michel sounds like Pim Fortuyn. Remembering, no doubt, that he is offending against the rules of speech in polite society, Houellebecq brings on a pair of Muslim characters to criticise their religion and then depart.
It is not a tautology but a statement of radical monotheism. Here, as elsewhere in the book, Houellebecq's characters simply do not know what they are talking about. For the smug British reader, Platform will seem nothing so much as a resurrection of the old anti-liberal, anti-semitic, anti-Dreyfusard tradition in French thought and society.
Actually, continental liberalism is under assault from two directions. His view of European culture - scary, over-feminised, lonely, demeaning, faithless - is that of the worst sort of low-grade Muslim propaganda. Whole sections of Platform reminded me of the Saudi newspapers of 20 years ago. Michel is the Muslims' friend. Topics Books. Fiction Michel Houellebecq reviews. Reuse this content. Most popular.
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