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Michel Houellebecq's "The Map and the Territory"

The new Houellebecq novel won’t be available in English for another year, but in the meantime, ArtInfo has seven “things to know” about the new book. As with Houellebecq’s other novels, it sounds pretty interesting . . . Here are a couple of AI’s 7 points:

HOUELLEBECQ IS A CHARACTER IN THE BOOK, AND HE’S A DEGENERATE

Jed meets the author Michel Houellebecq, a repugnant, decrepit alcoholic who looks like “a sickly old tortoise.” Houellebecq likes the short days of an Irish winter so he can go to bed early with sleeping pills, a bottle of wine, and a book, but spends spring and summer in Thailand, when it’s the tourist off-season and “the whorehouses are quiet but they are still open and . . . the service is still excellent or very good.” The author’s drinking bouts are restricted, however, to when he hangs around journalists — so he can endure their presence: “How can you meet someone who works for Marianne or Le Parisien Libéré without wanting to puke immediately?” Jed finds himself inexplicably drawn to the morose but sophisticated intellectual, who later finds happiness in the bucolic French countryside. [. . .]

THE BOOK WILL PROBABLY WIN THE GONCOURT PRIZE, FRANCE’S HIGHEST LITERARY AWARD

Houellebecq has been passed over several times for the prize, and the general consensus is that this time he will win — despite having a lot of enemies, including French-Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun, a member of the award committee, who trashed “La Carte et le Territoire” in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Perhaps Ben Jelloun has been nursing a grudge against Houellebecq since the acerbic author called Islam “the stupidest religion” in 2001. Houellebecq has certainly not done himself any favors, having previously said that the reason he hasn’t won the Goncourt Prize was that his publisher had no line in the budget for buying off members of the award committee.



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