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The Elementary Particles Paperback – November 13, 2001
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Michel Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles follows these brothers through the latter half of the 20th century. Bruno and Michel are buffeted by history, vessels of disappointment and desire rocked by the ocean of time. Shuttled away to a boarding school where he's sexually abused by other boys, Bruno grows up full of twisted sexual longings and a contempt for aging women so palpable that at times it's stomach-churning. At a commune in the country, Bruno takes stock:
The women were intolerable at breakfast, but by cocktail hour the mystical tarts were hopelessly vying with younger women once again. Death is the great leveler. On Wednesday afternoon he met Catherine, a fifty-year-old who had been a feminist of the old school. She was tanned, with dark curly hair; she must have been very attractive when she was twenty. Her breasts were still in good shape, he thought when he saw her by the pool, but she had a fat ass.Michel doesn't hate women; he doesn't even notice them. Instead of leering at bodies by the pool, he stares at particles in microscopes. He wins prizes for his experiments, but never experiences the rush of life. For both men, the damage has been done by history, by mother, before the story begins. What interests Houellebecq are the permutations and recapitulations of damage--the way the particles of the self can never be completely reconstituted. --Emily White --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
"...An old legend has it that King Midas hunted a long time in the woods for the wise Silenus, companion of Dionysos, without being able to catch him. When he had finally caught him the king asked him what he considered man's greatest good. The daemon remained sullen and uncommunicative until finally, forced by the king, he broke into a shrill laugh and spoke: "Ephemeral wretch, begotten by accident and toil, why do you force me to tell you what it would be your greatest boon not to hear? What would be best for you is quite beyond your reach: not to have been born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best is to die soon."
Ok- here's the deal. Either you go in for the bleak, unredemptive, unflinching view of humanity and existence, or you don't. I loved this book. It cut me to the bone and I was glad for it. Houellebecq takes apart our desires, our dreams, our age, all our petty cultural trappings- and exposes them for the broken props that they are. Even The sci-fi bookends of the novel didn't grate too badly, though it ended abruptly.
Houellebecq presents a worldview that only a scabrous, self-hating continental intellectual could craft so well. And thank Doug for that! This is a nihilistic work of highest caliber, a descendant of Celine (though H's misanthropy and nihilism aren't the same strain of gleeful, musical hate as Celine's), Hamsun and Huysmans. So be warned, all is not roses and puppy dogs. Humanity, nature, the world in which we live are reviled in a variety of insights, characters and plotlines, none of which end happily.Read more ›
This is a difficult book but a necessary one and, I have no hesitation in now saying, a brilliant one. The book is full of some extraordinary ideas and incisive commentary on humanity in the late 20th century, especially that of European society. The ending--it goes into (very plausible) hard science fiction territory--the erudition of the writer, his eye for detail, and his twin obsessions of sex and violence, and his ability to be brave enough to write what he sees without any thought for political correctness or any of the other sops of the liberal left, is breathtaking and--despite the ocassional Islamophobia, nay contempt he portrays for organised religion but Islam in particular, his racism, makes this book essential reading especially after the tragic events of 9/11 and those in London on 7/7 and after. This book has more important and accurate things to say about the human condition of contemporary European man than any number of the dry academic essays on sociology and anthroplogy you can care to read.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was looking for a novel set in a nihilistic world and someone recommended The Elementary Particles. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Michael Tapp
Now, finally, I know a lot about the author and his background giving him the basis for all his wonderful books. A good and informing read.
Clear observations on human condition and nature f relationshipsPublished 3 months ago by Albertine
a book that holds one's interest and gives a picture of a society obsessed with sex. Up to a point it's interesting but one has the feelng that the outcome of the lives described... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
I must confess that for a long time I didn't know where the author was taking me. The two brothers were dysfunctional in different ways. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Shel
A totally brilliant book though you might not realize just how brilliant until you get to the Epilogue. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Gary
There are 2 or 3 novels plus a few philosophical essays crammed into about 300 pages here. The plots range from semi-autobiographical realism (a story of two brothers abandoned by... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Marty