The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq
Reviewed by James Wood
The New Republic Online
"Ten years ago, few readers had heard of a young French writer named Michel Houellebecq. He was the author of some poems and a pungently callow first novel, Extension du domaine de la lutte (1994), or Extension of the Domain of the Struggle (translated as Whatever). A decade later, Houellebecq is the most significant provocateur in contemporary literature, whose three subsequent novels have established un monde houellebecquien, in which no target is spared (except, perhaps, an idealized form of love), in which sex is written up in the most basely lucid manner, women insulted (though merely more explicitly than men), religion mocked, existence itself powerfully degraded, in which all imaginable sacred cows are quickly slaughtered in the novelistic abattoir ? or, rather, awarded the fate that Houellebecq wittily refers to in his new novel: analogizing the pointless savagery of French existence, he reminds us that during the British mad-cow crisis, French beef producers stamped their products 'Born and raised in France. Slaughtered in France.'" Read the entire New Republic Online review.