Gentle Resignation

It doesn’t amount to much, generally speaking, a human life; it can be summed up in a small number of events …

Fortunate today to have been able to spend several hours reading Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory and though I’ve got another eighty or so pages to go, it seems clear that this is his major work to date. The twelve years that separate it from Atomised (The Elementary Articles) are evident in the fully realised characters, and the maturity of its metaphysics. I may write a little more about it when finished, but I am inclined to go back and reread the earlier works. This is a drive-by posting to drop off a couple of quotes that resonated.

Olga loved him, he repeated to himself with a growing sadness as he also realised that nothing would ever happen between them again; life sometimes offers you a chance, he thought, but when you are too cowardly or too indecisive to seize it life takes the cards away; there is a moment for doing things and entering a possible happiness, and this moment lasts a few days, sometimes even a few weeks or even a few months, but it only happens once and one time only, and if you want to return to it later it’s quite simply impossible. There’s no place for enthusiasm, belief and faith, and there remains just gentle resignation, a sad and reciprocal pity, the useless but correct sensation that something could have happened, that you just simply showed yourself unworthy of this gift you had been offered.

6 thoughts on “Gentle Resignation

    • “Basking in his own depression” or using his life to inform his fiction? You may be right, perhaps guilty of romanticising his melancholy, but no more than, say, Knausgard, but MH does it with a more perspicacity (I think).

  1. He’s following (this is not the right verb) the same project (not the right noun) as J.G. Ballard—he’s not a poet; or if poetry happens, it’s via some other force in the language. His diagnosis of the emerging century is likely prescient. The vision at the end of this novel is remarkable (and a perhaps more reserved but nevertheless equally utopian answer to the final chapters of The Elementary Particles).

    • Couldn’t agree more with the above. The Map and The Territory is the first novel I have read the feels like a 21rst Century novel, even more so than the myriad sci-fi novels out there. We are headed where he already is.

    • I like that comment (a lot), as I’ve been trying to answer to myself which writer(s) Houellebecq is like, who are his literary-philosophical bedmates. Ballard is good, combining nihilism with the misplaced-and the knowledge that it is misplaced-faith in the redemptive power of love.

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