French writer. Major works include: Whatever ("Extension du domaine de la lutte", 1994), Atomised ("Les Particules élémentaires", 1998) and Platform ("Plateforme", 2000), as well as collections of poems such as "La poursuite du bonheur" (1991) and "Le sens du combat" (1996).

Michel Houellebecq (pronounce "Welbeck") was born on the 26th of February, 1958, in La Réunion under the name of Michel Thomas. From the age of 6, he was raised by his grandmother, whose family name he later adopted. He has been compared to Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Charles Baudelaire or Albert Camus (three writers who happen to have very little in common, by the way), but it can safely be assumed that his style is simply unique.

The most important theme in Houellebecq's work is the description of modern Western societies, and more precisely of (what he seems to perceive as) their complete and absolute failure. His style is almost clinical in its dryness, but his description of ordinary people ordinarily crushed by the ordinary social machine is deeply moving. In Houellebecq's books, the losers are never beautiful. The losers are ordinary, banal, common. They are just about anybody. They are you and me.

An example: One of his favourite themes (introduced in "Extension du domaine de la lutte" is the parallel between sexual liberation and economic liberalization: in both cases, the loosening of restrictions imposed on the exchange of a given quantity (sex / money) naturally leads to a world divided between "haves" and "have-nots", namely those who can compete (the handsome, the young, the socially active) and those who cannot (the others). This is not a critique, merely an objective report of a (seemingly) obvious truth. Needless to say, Michel Houellebecq is not exactly a consensual author, and political correctness is probably not his distinctive features.

Elementary Particles (Atomized) is among the most important books published in French over the last decade. Whatever is much shorter and is a good introduction. Platform, not unlike some of Salman Rushdie's books, is frighteningly premonitory (see Bali Bombing).

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