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The Map and the Territory


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The new novel from Michel Houellebecq, his first novel in five years

About the Author

Michel Houellebecq is a poet, essayist and novelist. He is the author of five novels, Whatever, Atomised, Platform, The Possibility of an Island and The Map and the Territory, which won the prestigious Prix Goncourt.


Winner of the Prix Goncourt, this deeply amusing novel by Houellebecq (The Elementary Particles) advances the boundaries of fiction. Just as a map shows much more than a simple photo of a place, so this novel shows how fiction can become more real than mere reality. Houellebecq employs the struggle of young French artist Jed Martin to explore the art of life and the life of art, taking him from photography to mapmaking to the painting of telling portraits. Houellebecq himself enters the novel, plays a part, and moves on, ingeniously transforming the plot in a way that evokes Quentin Tarantino's early film From Dusk Till Dawn. The story eventually becomes a direct investigation of the significance of the roles humans inhabit and how change affects them. The incorporation of the ideas of William Morris and the Buddhist practice of sitting with a corpse enliven the protean narrative. VERDICT A book of supreme importance, this is not to be missed. The occasional French phrase, such as a l'ancienne (old-style), may be lost on some American readers, but the ideas are universal.-Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In his partly satirical new novel (after The Possibility of an Island), Houellebecq takes on the contemporary art world and the role of the artist. The book follows the sensational career of Jed Martin, an emotionally stunted Parisian art photographer turned painter, as he navigates the slick machinery of the art market and fraught relationships with his workaholic father and a bombshell Russian. Art historians' assessments of Martin's work, dealing with industry and professions, are humorously invoked throughout; his work is characterized as "the product of a cold, detached reflection on the state of the world"-a description that might be applied to Houellebecq's own oeuvre. Indeed, Houellebecq appears as a central character after he is hired to write a catalog essay for Martin's exhibition and the two become unlikely friends. The author's self-parody is deadpan funny, playing on his real literary world persona of a misanthropic recluse. But Houellebecq's presence grows tiresome, and with a surprising (if clumsy) plot twist, the book morphs into a grotesque police procedural. Houellebecq is most satisfying when he shines a hostile light on a late-capitalist Western culture sated by consumerism and shorn of meaning. For this reason, his take on the art world rings true, though the meditations on mortality and death are among the more compelling sections, in particular those dealing with Martin's father. Houellebecq mostly avoids the hedonistic shock that has earned him the enfant terrible reputation parodied herein, and despite the novel's self-conscious plot contrivances, it is a brilliantly astute work of social critique. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Impressive...Beguiling...He is a true original. * Observer *
Elegiac...Compelling...A pleasure to read. * Times Literary Supplement *
This book, so beautifully written, so inspiriting for all its pessimism, is the new novel I have loved best this year. We have not his equal. -- David Sexton * Spectator *

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