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Whatever (1994)

by Michel Houellebecq

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,967336,138 (3.43)26
Just thirty, with a well-paid job, depression and no love life, the narrator and anti-hero par excellence of this grim, funny and clever novel smokes four packs of cigarettes a day and writes weird animal stories in his spare time. A computer programmer by day, he is tolerably content, until, that is, he's packed off with a colleague - the unimaginably ugly, sexually-frustrated virgin Raphael Tisserand - to train provincial civil servants in the use of a new computer system... A painfully realistic portrayal of the vanishing freedom of a world governed by science and by the empty rituals of daily life.… (more)
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English (21)  French (4)  Italian (4)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (32)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Very obviously a first novel, even though it shows signs of Houellebecq's later skill in analyzing what truly connects us to our fellow man. There's not nearly so much sex in this one, and the protagonist comes off as more overtly misogynistic than provocative, though to be fair he hates everyone. There's plenty of that classic Houellebecq-ian anomie and detachment from the world, but without a good plot to drive it along or any interesting conundrums to make you think much beyond "Gee, this guy really doesn't like his job", you just kind of watch the protagonist stagger along until the book ends. The non-ending in particular doesn't offer any sort of narrative or intellectual closure - it's all very well to observe that the world is full of dull and stupid people doing boring and meaningless things, but why bother to write about that unless you have something interesting to say about it? There's no science fiction, no art criticism, no social commentary, just chain-smoking, unpleasant bar-hopping, and being bad at your job. Overall this is basically a less funny and thoughtful, more pessimistic and nihilistic Office Space. I'm glad this wasn't my first Houellebecq. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Wish I'd read this 10-15 years ago. Probably would have done if it wasn't for that god-awful cover - like the art for the 3rd single of a terrible BritPop band. Enjoyably angry. ( )
1 vote arewenotben | Jul 31, 2020 |
L'étranger in new, awful shape. Great, sick humour. ( )
  kaikai1 | May 10, 2020 |
bleak. worth reading ( )
  Alex_JN | Dec 16, 2019 |
Definitely his worst book. Lacks the pointed insight and humor of his later books, just the vile sexism and cynicism. While I respond to his other work with lots of reservations, this one isn't worth picking up. ( )
  triphopera | Apr 14, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michel Houellebecqprimary authorall editionscalculated
Haan, Martin deAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haan, Martin deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hammond, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keynäs, VilleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Friday evening I was invited to a party at a colleague from work's house.
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Just thirty, with a well-paid job, depression and no love life, the narrator and anti-hero par excellence of this grim, funny and clever novel smokes four packs of cigarettes a day and writes weird animal stories in his spare time. A computer programmer by day, he is tolerably content, until, that is, he's packed off with a colleague - the unimaginably ugly, sexually-frustrated virgin Raphael Tisserand - to train provincial civil servants in the use of a new computer system... A painfully realistic portrayal of the vanishing freedom of a world governed by science and by the empty rituals of daily life.

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