By (author) Michel Houellebecq, Translated by Paul Hammond

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  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail
  • Format: Paperback | 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 122mm x 191mm x 13mm | 113g
  • Publication date: 1 February 1999
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1852425849
  • ISBN 13: 9781852425845
  • Sales rank: 349,826

Product description

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. This is 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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Author information

Novelist and poet Michel Houellebecq was born on the 26th of February 1958, on the French island of Reunion. At the age of six, Michel was given over to the care of his paternal grandmother, a communist, whose family name he later adopted. His literary career began when, at twenty, he started to move in poetic circles in France. Whatever, Houellebecq's first novel, has been translated into several languages. A novel of darkness and despair, it is, at the same time, full of humour. Since 1996, Houellebecq's work has been published by Flammarion, where Raphael Sorin is his editor. His second collection of poems, Le sens du combat ("The Meaning of the Fight"), obtained the Prix Flore in 1996. In 1997, Rester vivant and La poursuite du bonheur, in revised form, were re-released in one volume. In 1998, he received the prestigious Grand Prix National des Lettres Jeunes Talents for the entirety of his literary output. He has also won the Prix Novembre (for Atomised). The spring of 2000 saw the debut of his first album, Presence humaine, where he sings a number of his poems to the music of Bertrand Burgalat. He currently lives in Ireland.

Editorial reviews

A massive success in France, Whatever displays a stylish disaffection with IT society. Its narrator is a computer programmer whose caustic contempt for life is a reaction to, rather than a existential rage against, the machine. Broken down by a gradually crushing boredom, his only release is writing very weird animal stories that reflect his disturbed psyche. This jaded attitude to late-20th-century urban society is US slacker philosophy, Gallic-style. Witty, literate and direct, it bravely attempts to isolate the cause of the 'slacker philosophy' malaise. (Kirkus UK)