Michel Houellebecq, author of five novels including Atomised and Platform, has become possibly the world’s most famous literary pessimist. His work declares that life is painful and disappointing, death is terrifying, and the human condition is a nasty sort of joke. He has been wildly successful – translated into over 25 different languages and hailed as the voice of a generation. Beginning with Houellebecq’s novels, this book explores the concept of ‘Depressive Realism’ in literature and philosophy – the proposition that the facts of life are bleak and unkind. Ranging over work by David Foster Wallace, Susan Sontag, Fredric Jameson and Margaret Atwood, Anti-Matter surveys the case for pessimism, asks how a mass culture rooted in sentimentality and trivialisation manages to produce so much cynicism and apathy, and hunts for the space that remains for serious, life-affirming art.