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Whatever by Michel Houellebecq

Whatever (1994)

by Michel Houellebecq

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,894306,029 (3.44)20
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)
Recently added byLuis_Castrillo, private library, feverell, Macrobius, dogmania, 10dier, Fesp, kaikai1, Saradmu, lorexose

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English (19)  French (4)  Italian (4)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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 |
I would call this a modern existentialist novel. The unnamed narrator in this novel is a computer programmer in Paris in the mid-nineties. He is relatively well off and has a decent job, but he is dissatisfied with pretty much everything in life and is alienated from all of the other people he encounters. He assumes that everyone else in the world must feel the same way he does due to the increasingly competitive nature of a capitalist society in which some people get everything they want and others get nothing. To sum up the narrator’s attitude: “I’ve lived so little that I tend to imagine I’m not going to die; it seems improbable that human existence can be reduced to so little; one imagines, in spite of oneself, that sooner or later something is bound to happen. A big mistake. A life can just as well be both empty and short.”

It was difficult to rate this book because I felt completely apathetic about it. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t dislike it either. It helped that the book was short; if it had been long it would have gotten quite tedious. It felt like an interesting experiment in literature and I see what the author wanted to do, but meh. The title, which is nothing like the original French title, is very apt since my thoughts on the book basically amount to “whatever.”

I do have to give Houellebecq credit for this quote which I think a lot of us here can relate to: “An entire life spent reading would have fulfilled my every desire.” ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
204) Whatever Michel Houellebecq

According to the blurb and the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list this book provided the "catalyst for a disaffected and caustic group of young French writers who have been hailed at the most exciting literary phenomenon since the nouveua roman" for me this just appears to be an excuse for vulgar writing.

The book does not have a cohesive plot, it is told entirely from the point of view of a 30 something year old man who happens to work with computers, who is a bit of a loner and who is obviously headed for a break down (something the 1001 people appear to enjoy is first person break downs)

While there are some funny quotes in the book "the tale was usually told with a slight ironic smile; yet there was nothing to laugh about; these days the purchase of a bed does present enormous difficulties, enough to drive you to suicide" (having just bought new TV I can appreciate this sentiment) I found it to be largely distasteful particulary in the descriptions of women and sex.

I guess I am not young enough, disaffected enough or caustic enough to appreciate this, that said with no idea of the French literary scene I will have to accept that it deserves its place on the list for inspiring a whole new generation of writers (heres hoping I never have to read them)
( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Houellebecq, Michelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Haan, Martin deAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haan, Martin deTranslatorsecondary 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Average: (3.44)
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