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Like mother like son

Posted: May 7th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Enjoying the spectacle of Michel Houellebecq’s Ma giving him a well-deserved literary smacking over his treatment of her in his over-rated softcore whinefest Atomised. (Though it’s unfortunate that the interview ends with the same cod-psychoanalytic drivel that characterises H’s work…)

In Standard Grade English classes, we had to put together a portfolio of creative writing. All the teenage boys included a story set in the future with an introduction that talked about the present but written in the past tense. I was amazed, on picking up this well-reviewed French literary sensation, to find that it began with the exact same “trick”. How come when we did it was clumsy and adolescent but this guy was acclaimed for his stylistic conceit?

But his work is thoroughly adolescent. Consider the novel’s main features: a relentless nihilism and a contempt for women based on almost complete ignorance of them as people. I don’t anyone who hasn’t grown out of that. (But then the number of successful novelists I know is low…)

Your man makes a fortune from middle-aged, middle-class angst on the back of a generalised backlash against feminism, sexual liberation and other concrete gains of the 1960s. Goes on to cement his reactionary politics and market niche by fulminating against Islam (this turns out to also be a way of lashing out at his mother).

In summary, Houellebecq’s book is good for nothing but wallowing in masturbatory self-loathing; his celebrity was his fortunate tapping into now-rising political trends; and a plague on all middle-aged, middle-class Brit lit-critics for fawning over poorly-written reactionary bile with the appearance of daring.

40 years after the near-revolution of May 68 we have an entrenched liberal elite repainting the Paris evenements (‘scuse spelling) as being solely about sex (cf. The Dreamers) versus a reactionary right happy to take advantage of the social gains while snarling (a la Sarkozy) about it being the source of all evil in the world.

I’m with the Situationists on this one. All power to the imagination!

The task of the various branches of knowledge that are in the process of developing spectacular thought is to justify an unjustifable society and to establish a general science of false consciousness. This thought is totally conditioned by the fact that it cannot recognise, and does not want to recognise, its own material dependence on the spectacular system.

Stan Tontas

Stan lives in Glasgow.

1 Response to Like mother like son

  1. Dave S

    Nice work Stan! Atomised is one of those books I’ve been consistently put off yet somehow tempted to read…