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42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not pleasant but essential. Extraordinary.
I started reading this book almost a year ago and got through the first 2/3 very quickly; then something strange happened: I was so depressed by the contents of it, the constant pointless sex, the graphic descriptions, the callousness and emptiness of the characters and the emptiness of their shallow lives that--despite knowing that all this was deliberate by Houllebecq,...
Published on 25 July 2005 by Mr. A. Jehangir

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful, pretentious, nauseating rubbish
This book sucks. Self loathing, pseudo-intellectual masturbatory nihilism with a side-order of really, really dreadful science fiction. Some might say it continues the noble tradition of French existential malaise epitomised by Sartre's Nausea. However, those people would be wrong. A vigorous enema would be more instructive of the human condition.
Published 16 days ago by Christopher Stewart


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful, pretentious, nauseating rubbish, 24 Jun 2014
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
This book sucks. Self loathing, pseudo-intellectual masturbatory nihilism with a side-order of really, really dreadful science fiction. Some might say it continues the noble tradition of French existential malaise epitomised by Sartre's Nausea. However, those people would be wrong. A vigorous enema would be more instructive of the human condition.
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42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not pleasant but essential. Extraordinary., 25 July 2005
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
I started reading this book almost a year ago and got through the first 2/3 very quickly; then something strange happened: I was so depressed by the contents of it, the constant pointless sex, the graphic descriptions, the callousness and emptiness of the characters and the emptiness of their shallow lives that--despite knowing that all this was deliberate by Houllebecq, that it was his razor-sharp deconstruction and commentary on the modern Western lifestyle--I was just not able to continue, until two days ago, when, with nothing else to do, I picked it up off my bookshelf and started from where I'd left off. The hiatus worked wonders and I whizzed through the remainder of the book, enthralled and riveted, although at times disgusted too, and full of admiration.
This is a difficult book but a necessary one and, I have no hesitation in now saying, a brilliant one. The book is full of some extraordinary ideas and incisive commentary on humanity in the late 20th century, especially that of European society. The ending--it goes into (very plausible) hard science fiction territory--the erudition of the writer, his eye for detail, and his twin obsessions of sex and violence, and his ability to be brave enough to write what he sees without any thought for political correctness or any of the other sops of the liberal left, is breathtaking and--despite the ocassional Islamophobia, nay contempt he portrays for organised religion but Islam in particular, his racism, makes this book essential reading especially after the tragic events of 9/11 and those in London on 7/7 and after. This book has more important and accurate things to say about the human condition of contemporary European man than any number of the dry academic essays on sociology and anthroplogy you can care to read. Understand Houllebecq and you understand what people nowadays really care about and think. I don't think I'd like the man but to ignore him and what he is saying would be to do so at our own peril. I haven't read a book full of such big and radical ideas for a long time.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A ferocious blast against individualism - superb, 29 Nov 2008
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
Don't be put off by the rather salacious snippet from `The Independent' review on the book's front cover. Sad (rather than filthy) sex and all, this is a mesmerising work, a mostly fairly wretched chronicle of sad lives that ends in a sort of bleak beauty. Its characters, half-brothers Michel and Bruno, are the socially dysfunctional offspring of their `hippie-whore' mother (modelled only too closely, it now appears, on Houellebecq's own mother), doomed to lead utterly individualistic lives in a world seemingly incapable of imparting any sense of the value of the social and communal. Houellebecq's satire takes this individuation to its logical conclusion, the perfectly rational elimination of sexual reproduction as a wasteful and inefficient, death-laden way of continuing the race. For all its semi-autobiographical bile, possibly one of the most ferocious blasts against the individualism of our age you'll ever read. Unflinching.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars astounding, 13 May 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Atomised (Hardcover)
The early reviews of Atomised have tended to concentrate on the vast amount of sex throughout it and ask whether it is a piece of post-modern pornography. This is utter rubbish. Comparisons with American Psycho are inevitable and both books describe genital interaction with only the most tangential relationship to sex. Houellebecq says far more with his gynaecological references than mere pornography can, with a devastating insight into the shallowness of humanity - Less Than Zero cropped up in my mind repeatedly in the decriptions of mechanical, sexual Bruno and his inability to see beyond the end of his own glans. His brother Michel is a peculiar character, more arch than any I can think of and the dialogue between them is a crude device for the author's misanthropy. No harm there, though, as he is up there with Celine in the humanity-is-an-abomination stakes. The repeated references to Aldous Huxley make the ending a little predictable but he carries the Big Ideas through to a perfect conclusion. On the cover is a quote that this is "The great novel of the end of the millenium". Thanks to a delay in translation, for us Brits it is the first great one of the next. Read it and think.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, dated and ultimately empty, 13 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
The notion of dramatic shifts in biology, thought and social structure is an interesting one, but this book is padded out with repetitive, bleak and somewhat dated narrative that does little to explore the idea, even though it does amuse on occasion. The final chapter is laughable, and suggests me that the author is more comfortable airing his complaints than in pointing a way forward. I was bored and irritated by the end, having initially put it aside after 100 pages but being persuaded to finish it by another reviewer. I need not have bothered.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Transformative, 28 Jan 2008
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
As an author, I was genuinely changed after reading "The Elementary Particles" (the Canadian edition's name). The author's ability to weave various subjects together within a single paragraph was shockingly innovative, and reminds us how linked our human dramas are to the everyday happenings within the microcosm. It is the most original of the last 60 years, easily.
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25 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fatuous, Derivative, Massively Overrated, 23 Aug 2003
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
On the evidence of 'Atomised', at least, there is nothing profound or original to Michel Houellebecq that a British reader cannot read in a column in the Daily Mail.
Sex is a commodity, human beings are emotionless automatons (or going that way); we seek instant gratification. Life is pretty crap for most of us unless we manage through some fluke to get laid.
It's a depressing - and dishonest - picture. And although, to be fair, given with some literary panache and at least a dash of humour, Atomised is just another salvo in a reactionary war against humanity itself.
Houellebecq blithely brushes over centuries of of human achievements to give us two horrific characters who we are asked to believe somehow 'represent' humanity. Michel is a scientist who could never even kiss his girlfriend and wonders about in a scientific haze. Bruno drops his trousers whenever he sees a girl - the sticky results follow soon after.
Maybe the author should leave the island he lives on and find some human contact elsewhere. He offers a laughable indictment of humanity which he has no right to give.
For a real insight into the malaise of European postwar civilisation I suggest you pick up the infinitely more erudite and, indeed, humane, W.G. Sebald. ("Austerlitz", "The Emigrants")
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One for the boys?, 26 Sep 2006
By 
Green Pixie (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
I found this to be a pretty bleak, depressing, and difficult novel to read. It is written from a perpective of 70 years or so in the future, looking back on the lives of two half-brothers through the second half of the 20th century. Both men struggle to establish meaningful relationships with their peers, especially with women, and with each other. Both have been brought up by a different grandmother,having been abandoned by their parents. Houellebecq uses their dysfunctionality to examine the society in which they live - post-religious, sexually liberal, materialist - and finds it greatly wanting. Discussing science and philosophy in this context, with frequent references to French culture, Houellebecq's fictional world was, to me, opaque and obscure. Much of it went right over my head. Houellebecq's futuristic premise is that early 21st century society undergoes a 'metaphysical mutation', entering into a Huxleyan brave new world, but one which, due to the sociological and scientific changes that have taken place since Brave New World was written, offers a genuine utopia, rather then the dystopia that Huxley envisaged. I can't decide whether this is intended to be ironic or not. Is Houellebecq suggesting that humanity will, after all, ignore Huxley's warning and go down the path of genetically manufacturing its future? He spends 350 pages discussing the hopelessness of love, and the destructiveness of desire, finally making both redundant. The novel, on the face of it, celebrates this redundancy, but is Houellebecq actually warning us that the alternative to our painful, emotional lives is a sterile, cloned existence, and inviting us to choose?? Perhaps.

This is a relentlessly masculine novel, and one that, though compelling, I really didn't enjoy.
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36 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Did they think we were too thick or too clever?, 20 May 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
What really cracks me up about "Atomised" is the cover. In France (and Germany) the cover shows a very pretentious-looking Houellebecq holding a cigarette and trying too hard to look as though he knows something. The English version mistranslates "Elementary Particles" as "Atomised" perhaps in order to make it sound like something to do with a raver's lifestyle and ousts Houellebecq in favour of a topless woman. Why? Did the publishers think the English too smart to take Houellebecq seriously, or too dumb to be interested in what the continental book advertises?
It's a real dud. From the literary point of view it's written as though the last 100 years of French literature hadn't happened. Sure, Balzac couldn't have matched Houellebecq's frankness about sex, but, forgetting thematics, as an example of the writer's craft, this shows little sign of learning anything from anyone later than Balzac. Not that I mean he's as good as H de B either. He mentions Proust and Beckett, but then M. Houellebecq is one of the world's great mentioners. This is a book that gives the impression of a writer who spend too much time reading newspapers and magazines and watching television, but too little time thinking about literature.
Another reviewer said that the characters other than the brothers were flat. Add in Michel too. Bruno is the only one who engages the writer's attention, never mind ours. Sections that feature Michel without Bruno give the impression of a wearied, dutiful grind, aching to get back to the sex-starved (usually) brother.
Don't read it out of prurience, you'd be disappointed. I'm not interested in biographical speculation, but scenes of "swinging clubs" et al are thinner than paper-thin and unconvincing. At times it recalls Lou Reed's lyric "Like a dirty French novel, combines the absurd with the vulgar" - particularly applicable to the scene where Bruno's lover becomes paralysed during a session in the sex-club.
Yes it has "philosophical and literary references" that delighted one reviewer, but look at who Houellebecq feels comfortable around: Auguste Comte and Aldous Huxley.
It has irony and self-reflexivity, plays with mise-en-abime techniques and even takes the time to deploy the odd leitmotiv. But it's all painting-by-numbers stuff. Sure, its postmodern credentials (God help us) are never in doubt. But I doubt any reader will care about that as much as its author appeared to. Worst of all its most important ideas are total garbage: everyone being each other's 'twin' means no more strife..er.. ever heard of Jacob and Esau?
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Standing at the crossroads of art and science., 22 Feb 2004
By 
Sean Lynch "firbolg" (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
Someone once said that trying to introduce ideas into a novel is tantamount to letting a gun off in a theatre – in which case Houellebecq here revels in firing a shotgun during a premiere performance. His is a fresh and fascinating take on modern living, supposing that society today is half defined by our awareness of the consequences of popular science and half by our awareness of the consequences of pornography. His characters are educated and intelligent but their lives are filled with frustrated lusts and insights into an essential emptiness of the world around them. There is a deliciously honest political incorrectness about Houellebecq’s views and a fierce sense of his desire to shake-up the accepted norms. In France, where intellectual arguments can still make headlines in the popular media, the book caused a storm of protest and debate. The contention is that just because we know a lot of things about a lot of things, just because we think that we understand the dynamics of society in a way that no previous generation has, just because we feel that we have an appreciation of the value-systems that structure our lives; none of this has moved us on any distance from being prejudiced and boorish and base. Houellebecq argues that society has fractured into individuals and that this lets us see ourselves for what we really are – for all that we may have learned to walk upright and use tools, we are still just naked apes. This book is quite simply unmissable.
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