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wazzup with houellebecq; the map and the territory

I’ve just finished Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory. There’s also a piece in this week’s New Yorker about him and his new book, Submission, which imagines France with an elected Islamist President and has been widely lauded as prescient, given recent events.

But, back to The Map…it is not an elegantly written book. Nominally about the life of a passive, unintentionally successful artist and his marginal relationships with people, the characters are pretty schematic and the story more an interesting concept than a compelling narrative. I say this having read only a translation, but reviewers of the French version seem to agree on the text’s lack of style. The novel reads as more of a platform to expound on the topics below among others, rather than a character or plot driven work. I use bullets following since Houellebecq often seems to attack these subjects as virtually and almost arbitrarily inserted outline items; some apparently lifted wholesale from wikipedia:

  • the business and role of representation in contemporary art
  • police procedure and culture
  • contemporary technology, corporations and cosmopolitan influences in France
  • automobile preferences
  • dread associated with aging and physical decline
  • Parisian – versus French – village culture

Perhaps the least schematic and most emotionally resonant aspect of the story is the sad relationship of the protagonist with his father. All considered, the book wasn’t devoid of interest, if you happen to follow art, technology and contemporary culture and can tolerate a decidedly misanthropic world view. If you don’t, skip it.

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mission

We develop and market energy efficiency strategies and technologies. We focus on the building and transportation sectors, which account for more than two thirds of the energy budget.

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