The Elementary Particles

The Elementary Particles

Book - 2000
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"This remarkable best-seller," wroteThe Economist, "is France's biggest literary sensation since Françoise Sagan, people are saying, or since Albert Camus even . . . The passing to a new generation of the literary flame--albeit, in this instance, a blowtorch." In a firestorm of controversy,l'affaire Houellebecqhas spread throughout Europe and beyond, with translations of the book undertaken in nearly thirty countries around the world. The central characters, Bruno and Michel, were born to a bohemian mother (but they had different fathers, of course) at the height of the sixties. Following her inevitable divorce, they endured separate childhoods and developed distinct identities. Bruno--a failure to his own family and literary calling--is pursued by sexual obsession and madness. Michel--a wholly asexual molecular biologist--expresses his disgust with society by engineering one that frees mankind at last from its uncontrollable, destructive urges. An international phenomenon,The Elementary Particlesis a furiously important novel.
Publisher: New York : Knopf, 2000
ISBN: 9780375407703
0375407707
Branch Call Number: FICTION Houellebecq
Characteristics: 263 p. ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Wynne, Frank

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d
dennismmiller
Aug 16, 2017

Michel Houellebecq's novel of the twilight of Western civilization is the story of the nearly parallel lives of a pair of half-brothers, one focused on seemingly abstract scientific theories and phenomena, the other preoccupied with fantasies of sexual conquests, the former oddly detached, the latter pathetically desperate. Each is, in related ways, less than fully human.

The Elementary Particles is a portrait of a dying world that has abandoned the intellectual and moral to pursue the physical to the exclusion of all else. Houellebecq writes with a clinical objectivity, analyzing his characters rather than sympathizing - or inviting the reader to sympathize - with them. Unfortunately, like Chuck Palahniuk, his attempts to shock his readers sometimes seem desperate. The novel might be called pornographic in that it is explicit without being erotic, simultaneously obsessed with sex and pervaded by a sense of futility. From this bleak vision, Houellebecq offers no hope of renewal or escape.

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lukasevansherman
Jan 26, 2016

"This book is dedicated to mankind."
I've been pronouncing guy's name as Hollaback, but really it's "Wellbeck." No wonder people laughed at me at the creperie. Anytime I hear that a writer (or any artist) is provocative or a bad boy (and it's invariably men) or an enfant terrible, I think that it's more likely they're just a jerk. The French-born Houellebecq has generated his share of controversy, but the real controversy is how mediocre his books are. Perhaps his most notorious novel, "The Elementary Particles" is a misanthropic, contemptuous, sex-soaked look at the sick heart of Europe. In the vein of far superior books by Gide, Camus, Celine, and Ballard, Houellebecq thinks he's shocking by talking about Mallarme one minute and black penises the next (He has made some inflammatory remarks about Muslims), but really he's just conventionally decadent, which is about as bourgeoisie as you can get. Oh, there 's also pedophilia. His latest book is called "Submission." PS-I don't think this is really sci-fi (see 6675tap).

6
6675tap
Nov 29, 2015

Saddening and disturbing. And like no other science fiction I have ever read.

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6675tap
Nov 29, 2015

"Most of her published papers were on the DAF3 gene in the fruit fly. She was [fortyish and] unmarried."

(p. 10, First Vintage International Edition)

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