The Book Review: “Platform” by Michel Houellebecq

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These days I spent my nights with another man. Michel Houellebecq. I love his writing. I finished this book a couple of weeks ago.I believe that the book is a brilliant commentary on the intersection of globalization and sexuality, or whatever is left of it in western culture.

Well, sometimes it is hard to follow an narrator who has got such a pessimistic worldview and who loves a good disaffected misanthrope but this book really opens up after a while. I really like to read Houellebecq because he seems to dislike many things I am not fond of either. Materialism, politics, world view, religion and there is plenty of bitter social critique as well. His realization that we in the West are like the declining Roman Empire is what I like. He is able to articulate this thesis through his characters but also through interjections on social theory. The central themes are uniquely provocative, and not in a leftist or right-wing way. Reading this book was fun, in a kind of infuriating way. I read on the passenger seat on my way to Canada with my husband. My baby in the back seat making some noise did not really bother me while devouring this book.

I believe that the author is the protagonist in some kind of way – who enjoys just about nothing other than sex, and he feels numb still in the end. The main plot involves him being in love, but he and his love interests (a women who always has a cup of coffee for him after his morning blowjob) never seem to do much talking, or sharing their lives. The love here seems more like a sort of warm fellow-feeling. Well, I would say that Platform is a warm up for “The Possibility of an Island” and “The Map and the Territory”. It provides a nice overview or “platform” for his philosophy. In my opinion he is not the transgressive and sexist novelist whom many critics make him out to be.

“She was one of those creatures who are capable of devoting their lives to someone else’s happiness, of making that alone their goal. This phenomenon is a mystery. Happiness, simplicity, and joy lie within them, but I still do not know how or why it occurs. And if I haven’t understood love, what use is it to me to have understood the rest? To the end, I will remain a child of Europe, of worry and of shame. I have no message of hope to deliver. For the west, I do not feel hatred. At most I feel a great contempt. I know only that every single one of us reeks of selfishness, masochism, and death. We have created a system in which it has simply become impossible to live, and what’s more, we continue to export it.”

I believe that this is a pretty harsh condemnation of the capital system. Michel Houellebecq, like Blake, wants us to dream up new systems to the beyond those that we as westerners have created. As Houellebecq reiterates, it is unfortunate but possibly true  that these new systems may be nightmares, and we should do our best be people who are “capable of devoting [our or] there lives to someone else’s happiness.” In a way he is annoying, lovable, funny, disgusting and sexy. There is a resemblance to Camus and Celine and I did shed one or two tears in the end.

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