PRINT October 2017


Michel Houellebecq

View of “Michel Houellebecq: French Bashing,” 2017, Venus, New York.

THE MAP AND THE TERRITORY, Michel Houellebecq’s Prix Goncourt–winning 2010 novel, takes its epigraph from the fifteenth-century nobleman and poet Charles d’Orléans: “The world is weary of me, / And I am weary of it.” The sentiment will be instantly familiar to anyone acquainted with the celebrated, controversial French author’s work, which teems with an apparently inexhaustible array of sad sacks and misanthropes—the damaged, the soul-sick, the emotionally stunted. Among other things, The Map and the Territory is the story of an artist and a satire of a particular kind of cosmopolitan artistic milieu; it name-checks such boldface figures as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, and features a Famous Writer (one “Michel Houellebecq”) who ends up the victim of an exceptionally gruesome murder. For all this, however, the book is actually among the least jaundiced of the author’s creations:

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