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Friday, March 16, 2018

Platform (novel) (2001) by Michel Houellebecq


Book Review
Platform (novel) (2001)
 by Michel Houellebecq


   I hate myself for loving Houellebecq, but I can't help it.  His bleak existenialism and grasp of consumer society jargon (in translation, no less) transcends the French setting.  Surely among the greatest of mysteries is the way an author can maintain status as a prose stylist in translation.  It must be a credit to the translator, but here, Houellebecq actually writes in a kind of hybrid language, with English language words included amongst the French.

  Platform is about a French civil servant who falls into a relationship with the assistant of a succesful business man in charge of marketing tourism in France. Valerie is her name.  Valerie is more than an assistant, and she and her boss make a quick move to a large hospitality conglomerate seeking to resuscitate a recently purchased chain of Club Med style all inclusive resorts.

  It should surprise anyone with the least familiarity with Houellebecq's oeuvre that Platform contains a lot of explicit sex, rendered in most non-pornographic tones.   Houellebecq sets up a satisfying denouement that calls into question his critcs- who often castigate him for encouraging anti-Muslim sentiment.   My take is that Houellebecq has trenchant things to say about French society, and French critics don't like it, and they don't understand the point he's trying to make.  Or maybe they do and they are afraid he's right. 

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