Artist Jed Martin emerges from a ten-year hiatus with good news. It has nothing to do with his broken boiler, the approach of another lamentably awkward Christmas dinner with his father or the memory of his doomed love affair with the beautiful Olga. It is that, for his new exhibition, he has secured the involvement of none other than celebrated novelist Michel Houellebecq.
The exhibition brings Jed new levels of global fame. But, his boiler is still broken, his ailing father flirts with oblivion and, worst of all, he is contacted by an inspector requiring his help in solving an unspeakable, atrocious and gruesome crime, involving none other than celebrated novelist Michel Houellebecq...
Shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2013.
In his partly satirical new novel (after The Possibility of an Island), Houellebecq takes on the contemporary art world and the role of the artist. The book follows the sensational career of Jed Martin, an emotionally stunted Parisian art photographer turned painter, as he navigates the slick machinery of the art market and fraught relationships with his workaholic father and a bombshell Russian. Art historians' assessments of Martin's work, dealing with industry and professions, are humorously invoked throughout; his work is characterized as "the product of a cold, detached reflection on the state of the world" a description that might be applied to Houellebecq's own oeuvre. Indeed, Houellebecq appears as a central character after he is hired to write a catalog essay for Martin's exhibition and the two become unlikely friends. The author's self-parody is deadpan funny, playing on his real literary world persona of a misanthropic recluse. But Houellebecq's presence grows tiresome, and with a surprising (if clumsy) plot twist, the book morphs into a grotesque police procedural. Houellebecq is most satisfying when he shines a hostile light on a late-capitalist Western culture sated by consumerism and shorn of meaning. For this reason, his take on the art world rings true, though the meditations on mortality and death are among the more compelling sections, in particular those dealing with Martin's father. Houellebecq mostly avoids the hedonistic shock that has earned him the enfant terrible reputation parodied herein, and despite the novel's self-conscious plot contrivances, it is a brilliantly astute work of social critique.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Fantastic novel. A slight departure from his previous work yet a welcome evolution. Solid, mature and very French. Houellebecq, like his character Jed Martin points out: "makes the world a less dull place than it already is".
Great translation. Enjoyed the use of the eDictionary option at times.
Keep up the good work iBooks and thank you Monsieur Houellebecq.