Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Episode 225: Michel Houellebecq, The Elementary Particles


This week we’re continuing our Spring of Scandal by discussing author Michel Houellebecq, who’s been a polarizing figure in the literary world for years now, particularly in France, where his books have been much-discussed best sellers but he’s been largely rebuked or ignored by the literary establishment. He didn’t necessarily help his cause when, in a 2001 interview, he went on a rant about Islam and its practitioners.

The book we read was The Elementary Particles, a novel about two brothers whose adult lives are–in different ways–rather isolated and unhappy. The book offers a pretty pointed critique of liberal French politics, though one wonders how seriously we’re meant to take the book’s various political rants.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. You can also find us in the iTunes store, or in just about any app you might use to listen to podcasts.

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Stream Episode 225:

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Thanks for listening!


Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

2 thoughts on “Episode 225: Michel Houellebecq, The Elementary Particles

  1. Hey! I really enjoyed this episode. I’m always down for some tomfoolery (and Mike-foolery), but I also enjoy it when you get into a deep discussion about something, and your attempt to work out your feelings on separating art from the artist and problematic figures in general was interesting.

    Keep up the good work, eh!

  2. “but he’s been largely rebuked or ignored by the literary establishment.”

    This is an inaccurate statement. Houellebecq is probably the only writer in France who is at the same time a popular best-seller and held in very high esteem among literary critics. The majority of the Parisian literary establishment has been licking his arse for the last 20 years (since the “Particles”). True, he’s caused controversy (especially with the last one) and some public personalities have severely rebuked him, but they read him nonetheless, and you hardly ever hear his name mentioned by a critic, a journalist or an intellectual in a French TV talk show without the expression” greatest writer alive” closely following. He even received the Goncourt prize – that’s not exactly being ignored by the establishment.

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