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Elementaire deeltjes roman by Michel…
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Elementaire deeltjes roman (original 1998; edition 1999)

by Michel Houellebecq

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3,896561,318 (3.6)108
Member:ISBN-Jan
Title:Elementaire deeltjes roman
Authors:Michel Houellebecq
Info:Amsterdam De Arbeiderspers cop. 1999
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The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq (1998)

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» See also 108 mentions

English (41)  Dutch (5)  French (5)  Italian (2)  Spanish (2)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (56)
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
This is an unusual book. Everything seems to be distant at the start with events related as if they happened a long time ago so I didn’t get nay sense of immediacy. Instead it seemed to be a mixture of the historical and philosophical in an esoteric way which I couldn’t follow. So at one point we have “Not one of them had heard of the EPR paradox or the Aspect experiments’ and then we have ‘Jakob Wilkening was born in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. He arrived in France at the age of four, and had only a vague recollection of his Dutch childhood. In 1946 he married the sister of one of his best friends . . .He worked for a time in a factory making microscopes before setting up his own business crafting precision lenses principally for Angénieux and Pathé’ and later we find ‘France in the 1970s was marked by the controversy surrounding Phantom of the Paradise, A Clockwork Orange and Les Valseuses – three very different films whose success firmly established the commercial muscle of a youth culture based principally on sex and violence’. In other words, Houellebecq mixes a variety of styles in this book including some fairly graphic sexual accounts.

In often appearing to be some sort of social history, I think Houellebecq does have some interesting points to make about modern society. The discontinuity between generations where values keep shifting, he (or Bruno) says makes each person’s life ‘nothing more than the sum of his own experiences’. That Bruno and Michel have much the same thoughts about the uselessness of men, fighting each other, disrupting progress while women are more empathetic and loving reinforces this idea and gives the reader at the very least something to think about. I guess I’m thinking about the way in everyday news women get vilified by men who are so unreasonable. Today, for example, I read about Australian Greens senator, Sarah Hanson-Young being ridiculed by the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton who should have been apologising for having her spied on at the Nauru detention centre where he and the preponderance of male ministers keep asylum seekers in wretched conditions. It led me to empathise with the half-brothers’ and presumably Hoellebecq’s views. I like the way he also mentions the way men now play squash, ‘a lesser evil’ than the aggression they had used in earlier times to fight off bears. With sport so dominant in today’s western societies, I can see the appropriateness of this light-hearted reference to squash and the way, without religion, there are no tenets for people to live by, not that religion should be taken up just to provide a code of practices – far from it.

Ultimately this is a depressing book, coming back again and again to people’s degeneration, moral and physical. So when Michel and Annabelle come together aged 40, Houellebecq writes ‘ they were a couple of ageing human beings of little genetic value . . . life had long since begun its work of destruction, slowly eliminating the capacity of the cells to reproduce and organs to heal’. And of Annabelle’s and women’s lives in general as they get to this age: ‘they’re looking for a tender relationship that they never find, for a passion they no longer feel; so they begin the long, difficult years’. And Houellebecq extends this negativity still further by saying that their relationship stood no chance ‘in the midst of the suicide of the west’, something I feel neatly encapsulates the self-destruction we see in developed societies today.

So, while this is not a book to enjoy reading for its characters and what they do and what Houellebecq says, at times almost superfluously such as ‘in cemeteries all around the world, the recently deceased continued to rot in their graves, slowly becoming skeletons’, it is clear that the novel nails a lot of things that are wrong with mankind – ‘tortured, contradictory, individualistic, quarrelsome’ as we are. It’s a book to make the reader think somewhat uncomfortably about the nature of humans. ( )
  evening | Jun 14, 2015 |
A book a good many of us formerly or presently pious folk may feel a little guilty reading (oh, its more than a little risque). It reads as a speculative account of the conclusion of our ontology (our 'elementary particles') and what may come after it. ( )
  DavidCLDriedger | Apr 22, 2015 |
Hugely ambitious, entertaining, squalid, dyspeptic, full of dour theatrics and grandiose hooey--I really enjoyed it. ( )
  AThurman | Dec 7, 2014 |
I am unsure what I think about this book and finding it quite hard to write a precis. It's basically about 2 half brothers who lead rather different lives. Bruno is fairly unpleasant, sex obsessed, constantly masturbating, generally a bit grubby. Michel is a talented scientist who doesn't really communicate well with other people. It can be pretty graphic (both sex and violence), but on the other hand there is a lot of philosophy (usually presented as long clunky dialogues). It's also quite funny and thought provoking in parts. For most of the time I was reading it I had completely forgotten about the prologue, but on reaching the epilogue I was reminded this is in fact a kind of science fiction book about the evolution of the human race. It was 2 months ago I finished it, and I'm still kind of confused by what I read and what I thought about it. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Nov 22, 2014 |
Michel Houellebecq's "The Elementary Particles" is a sci-fi tale turned inside-out. The bulk of the text tells the story of two step-brothers who share a mother and how their experiences with love, sex, and emotional pain lead towards an evolutionary leap for humanity. But the leap isn't the heart of the story; the heart of the story is the loneliness and emotional pain that accompanies love and loss.

There's a slim story written far in the future by the evolved race which wraps the main story. The wrapper story claims that the main story is the creation myth for the evolved race and that while it was written from source material, much of it may not be factual. I felt that this explanation helped redeem the monstrous aspects of some of the scenes in the main story. Maybe the characters aren't as flawed as the story makes them out to be, but because the evolved race portray themselves as gods made by inferiors, they had to exaggerate the flaws.

From the point of view of the wrapper story, I really enjoyed the idea that the creation myth was flipped on its head to be written from the point of view of gods created by imperfect beings. I also enjoyed that the standard sci-fi story was flipped on its head and told as relating what happened in the past instead of the future. Finally, I really liked how the mention of inaccuracies in the main text linked to the Biblical commentary within the text, and raised questions about the truth of the main story.

All in all I'd highly recommend this book, as long as you have a stomach for graphic sexual content and violence. ( )
1 vote sbloom42 | May 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Houellebecq, Michelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Haan, Martin deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keynäs, VilleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wynne, FrankTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is principally the story of a man who lived out the greater part of his life in Western Europe, in the latter half of the twentieth century.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Published in UK as Atomised, Published in US as The Elementary Particles
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099283360, Paperback)

Half-brothers Michel and Bruno have a mother in common but little else. Michel is a molecular biologist, a thinker and idealist, a man with no erotic life to speak of and little in the way of human society. Bruno, by contrast, is a libertine, though more in theory than in practice, his endless lust is all too rarely reciprocated. Both are symptomatic members of our atomised society, where religion has given way to shallow 'new age' philosophies and love to meaningless sexual connections. Atomised (Les Particules elementaires) tells the stories of the two brothers, but the real subject of the novel is the dismantling of contemporary society and its assumptions, its political incorrectness, and its caustic and penetrating asides on everything from anthropology to the problem pages of girls' magazines. A dissection of modern lives and loves. By turns funny, acid, infuriating, didactic, touching and visceral.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:49 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Follows the lives and fortunes of Bruno and Marcel, born to a bohemian mother during the 1960s, who are brought up separately and pursue their own individual paths-as Bruno battles madness and sexual obsession and Michel, a molecular biologist, comes up with a unique way to express his disgust with the violence of humankind.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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