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The Map and the Territory (2010)

by Michel Houellebecq

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,692549,911 (3.76)58
Traces the experiences of artist Jed Martin, who rises to international success as a portrait photographer before helping to solve a heinous crime that has lasting repercussions for his loved ones.

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» See also 58 mentions

English (29)  French (11)  Dutch (6)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
I can't rate this. I did enjoy parts of it. There were some passages that were a joy to read. However, I can't forgive the author's display of ego enough to actually say I liked the book. I think I will attempt another book by the author though.
  zizabeph | May 7, 2023 |
I have to highly recommend the Map and the Territory.

I liked it much better than his Elementary Particles where the sex scenes were too long, too crazy and too irrelevant.

This book is truly excellent. Thought- provoking, amusing, and clever. The description of the main character - Jed's t artwork is fascinating and I'd love it if a painter-photographer could attempt to reproduce them.

The only downside was the murder. Although necessary for the alance of the novel, I thought it was a little too much ... A bit over the top in the same way as I found the Particle's sex scenes.

I can't wait for H's next novel. He is a true genius, a master of lateral thinking, and a great satirist. ( )
  kjuliff | Feb 9, 2023 |
I liked this more than Platform and less than The Elementary Particles. It’s true that Houellebecq is writing the same novel each time, or at using least the same characters, but I’m not bothered by that. Houellebecq is not lyricist - the interesting part of his work is that his perception of the world is clear and persuasive. I do think he seems to be a Wikipedia junkie.

Houellebecq inserted himself into this novel, which I empathize with. I just remembered that I have done exactly that before, in short stories.

Jed’s art projects are projects I would like in reality, and the time spent discussing them had the effect of inspiring me artistically. ( )
  jammymammu | Jan 6, 2023 |
Excellent writing, but I had some problems with the content. I had a hard time with the fact that the protagonist, Jed Martin, was almost devoid of feeling and having warm relationships, despite some wonderful people and gruesome incidents he runs into.
( )
  Marietje.Halbertsma | Jan 9, 2022 |
Both of the Houellebecq books I've read have been great, filled with a sort of resigned spirit of detachment yet very funny at the same time. I liked this one slightly more than The Elementary Particles though; Horace Walpole's famous line of "This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel" could have been its epigram (though its actual epigram of "The world is weary of me - and I am weary of it" is quite fitting as well). I wouldn't call his writing style "typically French" or anything, since he certainly doesn't have the same worldview that the other French authors I've read have, yet his subtle brand of humor seems perfectly suited to the changing French landscape that he explores here, as well as his other themes of abstraction and misanthropy.

I wasn't sure if the title was a reference to the famous map-territory relationship in Borges' story "On Exactitude in Science" or not - there's a later passage on p. 73 where a Chinese art reviewer attempts to catalog the main character's works that reminds me somewhat of the ancient Chinese animal classification scheme in the other Borges story "Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge's Taxonomy", but it could just be coincidence or a translation quirk. Anyway, the title is perfect because the relationship between things and their representations is the central idea of the novel, from the way protagonist Jed Martin's paintings of Michelin road atlases and famous people (and his earlier photographs of industrial objects) get valorized to the discussions of his sometime-girlfriend Olga and her job at Michelin of steering tourists to the "authentic France" via online reviews of hotels which may or may not be authentic at all. Houellebecq has some great passages discussing authenticity in that respect, as when the only people still interested in traditional French culture are foreign tourists, or even the entire concept of a painter getting famous by taking pictures of the French equivalent of a Rand McNally road map.

But the book is really moving overall, and the concept parts are secondary to the story. Jed is a somewhat numb, anhedonic fellow, but Houellebecq is able to bring out real feeling and tragedy in this guy's life. His relationship with Olga is extremely sad, a singular love affair that never lived up to its potential, yet it doesn't feel self-pitying or tear-jerking. Similarly, the stretch on p. 135 where his father talks about his failed childhood efforts to build nests for swallows and how that influenced his architectural career is magnificent, even when put up against the other strong father-son scenes.

One of the most remarked-on features of the book is of course Houellebecq's decision to write himself into the novel. It doesn't feel self-indulgent or Clive Cussler-ish at all - surely no writer looking to preen would treat himself as poorly as Houellebecq does his alter ego here - it's done to help Houellebecq get in some jabs at the Parisian literary scene (the real Houellebecq is an expatriate also) and also to bring into sharp relief the protagonist's loneliness, which is partly due to his own character and partly due to the culture he lives in. In the book France is past its glory days, becoming more and more a hollowed-out simulacrum of itself in order to please tourists, and there's a theme of capitalism as alienator and atomizer, although the book's ruminations are never polemical or vulgar-Marxist. In fact there is a great stretch of writing discussing one of Jed's paintings on p. 117 featuring Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as two different heroic faces of capitalism that could never have been written by a lazy or reactionary writer. That that bit was from an introduction to Jed's works written by the novel-Houellebecq makes it even more thoughtful in context.

Again, though, this is really much more of a human novel than anything ideological in the strict sense. The humorous parts - a surprising amount; the book is actually very funny overall, such whenever a character starts thinking about gadgets or supermarkets - battle with the stretches of pathos in Jed's life, until Houellebecq ends the novel seemingly perfectly, on exactly the right graceful note: "The work that occupied the last years of Jed Martin's life can thus be seen - and this is the first interpretation that springs to mind - as a nostalgic meditation on the end of the Industrial Age in Europe, and, more generally, on the perishable and transitory nature of any human industry. This interpretation is, however, inadequate when one tries to make sense of the unease that grips us on seeing those pathetic Playmobil-type little figurines, lost in the middle of an abstract and immense futurist city, a city which itself crumbles and falls apart, then seems gradually to be scattered across the immense vegetation extending to infinity... They sink and seem for an instant to put up a struggle, before being suffocated by the superimposed layers of plants. Then everything becomes calm. There remains only the grass swaying in the wind. The triumph of vegetation is total." ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
De kaart en het gebied is niet alleen een intrigerende aanvulling op het sowieso al rijke oeuvre van Houellebecq, het is bovendien een overwegend melancholische, bijwijlen grappige, maar steeds weer scherpe analyse van 's mens eeuwige zoektocht naar zingeving.
added by Jozefus | editKnack, Bart van Loo (May 17, 2017)
Das ist vielleicht sein bester Roman! Denn Michel Houellebecq gelingt das Kunststück, eine Satire auf den gegenwärtigen Kunst- und Kulturbetrieb zu schreiben, einen echten Entwicklungsroman dazu, und das alles äußerst selbstironisch, völlig abgeklärt, voller Wärme, ja geradezu komisch.
[O]ok na vijf eerdere romans blijft het moeilijk de vinger te leggen op wat nu precies de magie is van Houellebecq. Zijn schrijfstijl is zakelijk, vlak, maar drijft daarmee juist ook de spot met iedere vorm van mooischrijverij. De compositie van zijn romans is doorzichtig, kinderachtig, soms met onhandige perspectiefwisselingen en cliffhangers, maar lijkt daarmee ook de vloer aan te vegen met al die goedwillende schrijvers die graag een gewrocht en intelligent ogend product afleveren. Wat Houellebecq-haters aanzien voor lelijkheid en onvermogen is natuurlijk juist zijn brille.

» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Houellebecq, Michelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bowd, GavinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keynäs, VilleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
De wereld heeft genoeg van mij,
En ik al evenzeer van haar.

Charles d'Orléans
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Jeff Koons was net overeind gekomen uit zijn stoel, zijn armen uitgestoken in een enthousiast gebaar.
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De handelswaarde van lijden en dood was groter geworden dan die van genot en seks, dacht Jed, en dat verklaarde waarschijnlijk ook waarom Jeff Koons een paar jaar tevoren door Damien Hirst van de eerste plaats op de mondiale kunstmarkt was verdrongen.
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Traces the experiences of artist Jed Martin, who rises to international success as a portrait photographer before helping to solve a heinous crime that has lasting repercussions for his loved ones.

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Book description
Jed Martin is emerging from a ten year hiatus into the art world which aclaimed his exhibition of photographs. A doomed love affair and awkwardness with his Parisian architect father mars his concentration on his new exhibition plans involving a great writer. An Inspector Jasselin requests his assistance in solving an atrocious crime.
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