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The Possibility of an Island: A Novelby Michel Houellebecq
"There is something here for everyone, and especially for the laddish reader of Maxim and GQ. The Possibility of an Island adumbrates Houellebecq's vision of the misery of sexual liberalism....Whatever one thinks about this body of work, it is scandalously alive. And his new novel suggests a deepening moral vision. Still, there is a difference between fruitful ambiguity and helpless confusion." James Wood, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
A worldwide phenomenon and the most famous French novelist since Camus, Michel Houellebecq now delivers his magnum opus — a tale of our present circumstances told from the future, when humanity as we know it has vanished.
Having made a fortune producing comedies that skewer mankind's consumerism, religious fundamentalism, sexual profligacy, and other affronts, Daniel is forty before he falls prey to the human condition himself: his beloved's body sags with age, their marriage dissolves, and true happiness seems a luxury reserved for their dog, Fox. After the colossal failure of his second great love affair, he joins a cult of health fanatics determined to produce a misery-free eternal life — manifested here in the voices of Daniel's subsequent clones, who enjoy the umpteenth Fox's companionship but shun the bands of fugitive "humans" on the horizon. Their commentary on Daniel's fate, and on the race as a whole, illuminates the basic tenets of our existence — laughter, tears, love, remorse — and their nostalgia for such emotions, all of which have long since disappeared.
Laugh-out-loud funny, philosophically compelling, and flatly heartbreaking, The Possibility of an Island is at once an indictment, an elegy, and a celebration of everything we have and are at risk of losing.
"Like the New Age camp of The Elementary Particles and the Thai sex tourist hotels of Platform, Houellebecq's latest novel has a self-enclosed setting: the shifting sites at which the Elohimites, a UFO/cloning cult, hold their seminars. Daniel, a shock jock famous for such slogans as 'We prefer the Palestinian orgy sluts,' narrates what turns out to be his life story. Early on, Daniel's partner, Isabel, leaves him after her breasts begin to droop and she gains some pounds. Then Daniel, following a catastrophic love affair with nubile Spaniard Esther, gets interested in the Elohim, gets close to the 'prophet' and witnesses an event that catapults the group into the center of world history. Daniel's part in this converges with his jealousy of Esther. Meanwhile, the West is going to hell in a handbasket, and the Elohim idea of substituting cloning and suicide for reproduction and old age is catching on. Everything ends frighteningly (unless you like clones) and satisfactorily (if you take a cynical enough view). Houellebecq has never written better, yet this novel seems stuck in the groove — clunky mini-essays, gonzo porn digressions — first etched by his earlier novels. 50,000 announced first printing." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A verbose novel of crushing ideas, ostentatious carnality and deep misanthropy that fail to connect." Kirkus Reviews
"The Possibility of an Island [is] a skillful amalgam of prophesy, satire and science fiction, covering some of the same ground as Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake but with much more finesse and conviction." Merle Rubin, Washington Post Book World
"Brutally honest, hilarious and often crudely explicit....The social criticism offered in this novel is often surprisingly relevant and revealing, [with] an underlying empathy for the plight of humanity." Richmond Times-Dispatch
"A book of large ideas that attempts to explore, but fails to cohere, the unwieldy ideas of love, isolation, sexual necessity, personal expression, and technology." Boston Globe
"Bewitching....Ingenious....The Possibility of an Island is often brilliant and searing [as] the logic of sexual liberation [is] run to its absolute extreme." Stephen Metcalf, The New York Times Book Review
"Daniel is a bore. His rants and ramblings are so tiresome; I couldn't wait to be done with the book. It was a chore to read and left me feeling a bit like I was stranded on a desert island with a really bad man. The Possibility of an Island for me is dreadful." San Antonio Express-News
"[A] strange bit of sentimentality from a man who seems, by all accounts, heartless." Booklist
"The Possibility of an Island has more than just nasty opinions; it has a plot — in fact, too much plot....As a vision of the future, Houellebecq's novel is of little interest. As science fiction, it is unsatisfying." Denver Post
"A bleak comment on contemporary society, at times funny, brutal, and revolting, which pushes notions of hope and hopelessness to a dismal and logical conclusion." The Economist
"[A] provocative, often funny, intellectually engaging novel...combining lurid sexuality with an avalanche of philosophically informed reflections on desire and death." South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"A sharp check on our hubris, our complacent assumption that things are getting better and better. It is always worth asking whether they are." Wall Street Journal
"[Houellebecq's] flat tale to illustrate the idea of the end of history is merely neophilosophy, pseudothought. Without originality, without poetry and with an odor of sanctimonious self-seriousness, he has given us a wanna-be novel of ideas." San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Michel Houellebecq has won the prestigious Prix Novembre in France and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. He lives in Ireland.
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