Michel Houellebecq

Paris, 2001

I had heard quite a lot about Houellebecq before I picked Plateforme off my local Alliance Française library book shelf, but I honestly had no idea what to expect. With the topical publication of Soumission in January of 2015 I had imagined a writer very much on point and in touch with the social and political climate of a Paris steeped in the 21st Century. Whilst I was not immediately disappointed, I was somewhat dismayed at what was purported to be a great insight into the human condition. Plateforme was published in 2001 so I can quite frankly believe that its influence was much more important then, than it is now. However, all good books are in their essence, if not their production, timeless and I have failed to recognise how Plateforme could belong to this milieu. Not that anyone is presenting it as such; I am however of the mind to take Plateforme as emblematic of some sense of Houellebecq as a writer and in doing so, am  have exposed myself ass lightly less than enamoured.

The writing in Plateforme is exceptionally self-conscious, I was initially thrilled to see a certain cat and mouse scenario unfolding; one where we know not whether the narrator is Houellebecq himself, and thus imminently vile or whether he is nothing but a satirical figure created by Houellebcq to entangle us in a wonderful social irony. Perhaps it is because I decided that the former is the most plausible explanation that I do not consequently hold the book in much esteem. I can’t say that I really relish the image of flaccid masturbation as a great read. However, in amongst the pubescent portrayals of two dimensional sexual vessels, there was the odd glimpse of pure humanity in his work. This in itself is something that I prize as greatly becoming in a writer and is perhaps in itself enough to make up for any former disappointments:

 Curieusement, et sans l’avoir le moins du monde mérité, j’avais eu une seconde chance. C’est très rare, dans la vie, d’avoir une seconde chance; c’est contraire à toutes les lois.

It is at this point where the self-absorption which has been so vocal throughout the whole book is exposed to be incredibly insightful. The narrator is saying what we have all been thinking, and his ability to do so, after such a long time, is astounding and even endearing. Perhaps all is not lost and there is hope for us yet, or else Houellebecq is in the process of laying together another pastiche of irony; this time made up directly in our own image.


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