The Elementary Particles

The Elementary Particles

Paperback - 2001
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An international literary phenomenon, The Elementary Particles is a frighteningly original novel--part Marguerite Duras and part Bret Easton Ellis-that leaps headlong into the malaise of contemporary existence.

Bruno and Michel are half-brothers abandoned by their mother, an unabashed devotee of the drugged-out free-love world of the sixties. Bruno, the older, has become a raucously promiscuous hedonist himself, while Michel is an emotionally dead molecular biologist wholly immersed in the solitude of his work. Each is ultimately offered a final chance at genuine love, and what unfolds is a brilliantly caustic and unpredictable tale.

Translated from the French by Frank Wynne.
Publisher: New York : Vintage International/Vintate Books, 2001, c2000.
Edition: 1st Vintage International ed.
ISBN: 9780375727016
0375727019
Characteristics: 263 p. ; 21 cm.
Additional Contributors: Wynne, Frank

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d
dennismmiller
Aug 16, 2017

Michel Houellebecq's novel of the twilight of Western civilization is the story of the nearly parallel lives of a pair of half-brothers, one focused on seemingly abstract scientific theories and phenomena, the other preoccupied with fantasies of sexual conquests, the former oddly detached, the latter pathetically desperate. Each is, in related ways, less than fully human.

The Elementary Particles is a portrait of a dying world that has abandoned the intellectual and moral to pursue the physical to the exclusion of all else. Houellebecq writes with a clinical objectivity, analyzing his characters rather than sympathizing - or inviting the reader to sympathize - with them. Unfortunately, like Chuck Palahniuk, his attempts to shock his readers sometimes seem desperate. The novel might be called pornographic in that it is explicit without being erotic, simultaneously obsessed with sex and pervaded by a sense of futility. From this bleak vision, Houellebecq offers no hope of renewal or escape.

l
lukasevansherman
Jan 26, 2016

"This book is dedicated to mankind."
I've been pronouncing guy's name as Hollaback, but really it's "Wellbeck." No wonder people laughed at me at the creperie. Anytime I hear that a writer (or any artist) is provocative or a bad boy (and it's invariably men) or an enfant terrible, I think that it's more likely they're just a jerk. The French-born Houellebecq has generated his share of controversy, but the real controversy is how mediocre his books are. Perhaps his most notorious novel, "The Elementary Particles" is a misanthropic, contemptuous, sex-soaked look at the sick heart of Europe. In the vein of far superior books by Gide, Camus, Celine, and Ballard, Houellebecq thinks he's shocking by talking about Mallarme one minute and black penises the next (He has made some inflammatory remarks about Muslims), but really he's just conventionally decadent, which is about as bourgeoisie as you can get. Oh, there 's also pedophilia. His latest book is called "Submission." PS-I don't think this is really sci-fi (see 6675tap).

6
6675tap
Nov 29, 2015

Saddening and disturbing. And like no other science fiction I have ever read.

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6
6675tap
Nov 29, 2015

"Most of her published papers were on the DAF3 gene in the fruit fly. She was [fortyish and] unmarried."

(p. 10, First Vintage International Edition)

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