THE MOST IMPORTANT FRENCH BOOK OF THE YEAR
'One cannot be said to be keeping abreast of contemporary literature without reading Houellebecq's work.' Karl Ove Knausgaard, New York Times
Dissatisfied and discontent, Florent-Claude Labrouste feels he is dying of sadness. His young girlfriend hates him and his career as an engineer at the Ministry of Agriculture is pretty much over. His only relief comes in the form of a pill – white, oval, small. Recently released for public consumption, Captorix is a new brand of anti-depressant which works by altering the brain’s release of serotonin.
Armed with this new drug, Labrouste decides to abandon his life in Paris and return to the Normandy countryside where he used to work promoting regional cheeses, and where he had once been in love. But instead of happiness, he finds a rural community devastated by globalisation and European agricultural policies, and local farmers longing, like Labrouste himself, for an impossible return to what they remember as the golden age.
Written by one of the most provocative and prophetic novelists of his generation, Serotonin is at once a devastating story of solitude, longing and individual suffering, and a powerful criticism of modern life.
In his latest provocation, Houellebecq (Submission) brilliantly pokes at modern questions of free trade, social decline, and overmedication, while continually undermining the work with puerile sequences that have little to do with the plot. Florent-Claude Labrouste is an aging, chain-smoking Ministry of Agriculture employee based in Paris. After a brief interlude in Spain, he realizes that he despises his live-in girlfriend, Yuzu. Shortly after, he also discovers that she has been in a sequence of gang-bang videos (one involving dogs) and decides to vanish. Labrouste quits his job, takes up residence in a hotel, and starts taking a pill for his depression, one that kills his libido. Suddenly emboldened, he goes back to the Normandy of his youth in search of his lost love, Camille. There, he lives with his old friend Aymeric, a depressed dairy farmer struggling against E.U. quotas. The farmers arm themselves, and a violent denouement looms. Along the way there is a bizarre child pornography sequence that seems to exist mainly to perpetuate Houellebecq's long-standing enfant terrible reputation. And yet, despite so much that alienates (Labrouste's causal racist and sexist remarks pepper the book), Houellebecq is a seductive, talented writer, and he remains strangely prophetic about current issues (in this case, protests against free trade). The result is an unexpected page-turner about the dairy trade.