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4.2 out of 5 stars46
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 18 October 2011
Atomised, at the time, was my favourite novel, so a new 'Wellbeck' is a significant event for me.
What a let down!
In the opening chapter the author vaingloriously has his lead character refer to Michel Houellebecq as a world famous writer. Doubtless this is meant to be comic irony but it reads like pure vanity.
The remainder of the opening is about Jed's distant relationship with his father and his troubled mind regarding his mother, who committed suicide.
Jed's girlfriend is a part-time 'belle de jour' and she charges 100 euro extra for her tradesman's entrance, 'but Jed is okay with it'...
It all reads like a dull reworking of Atomised!
Will we ever escape MH's mother fixation?
I've given up on it after 50 pages. It is just a bunch of facts about art and photography and a stream of psychosis straight from MH's increasingly troubled soul.
(And yet again a listing of philosophers and famous writers to demonstrate his erudition - do all writers have to prove that they've read everything?)
Some of the translation from the French is bizarre: 'stored in TIFF format, with a lowest resolution JPEG' and 'the capture of 48 bits RGB files' is poor English and in the former case meaningless.
All the clever humour, dry wit and savage satire of his earlier work has been replaced with a dull, dreary repetitiveness.
If an author has nothing 'novel' to say he should hang up his quill and not attempt to hang his mother in some kind of Freudian fantasy.
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on 28 December 2012
This is an outstanding work on the absurdity of the contemporary art world, on tourism, on supermarkets, on modern life: funny, iconoclastic, humane, subversive, thought-provoking. Houellebecq's self-knowledge also shines through. A brilliant work by a philosopher and, at his best, one of the most interesting novelists of our era. Wonderful.
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on 28 October 2015
I have read a few M. Houellebecq's books and this one is my least favorite so far. Part 1 and 2 were dragging, part 3 was more exciting.
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on 5 May 2013
Michel Houellebecq is a great writer. Everything seems so real, it always makes you think. I had a great time reading it.
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on 3 April 2015
Short but beautifully written and challenging. Houellebecq is the greatest writer of this generation.
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on 29 September 2012
Houellebecq has taken a slightly different turn with this novel to his previous one. All the best of his biting satire remains, as does the cynicism. However, the use of the device of putting a version of himself in his own book works brilliantly here. There is a certain playfulness within the text in those sections. It makes an excellent counterpoint to the overwhelmingly pessimistic world view that he has. The melancholy, the nihilism within Houellebecq are not for everyone. His use of excessive description as a way of highlighting the shallow materialism of the modern world is also not for everyone. However, what Houellebecq is is the most powerful writer today and the best French writer since Proust's time. "The Map and The Territory" is not a fast moving novel but it is pacier than "The Impossibility of an Island". Again, given the gnat-like attention span of most people nowadays (even amongst the soi-disant litterati), it is little surprise some people complain that "nothing ever happens". It does, it is just that they lack the observation and the processing power to deal with it. Those who persevere are rewarded in terms of pace later in the novel when Houellebecq himself makes his appearances. Again, if you're starting with Houellebecq novels, I'd suggest going to one of "Lanzarote" (short story), "Atomised" or "Platform" as an easier place to start than this. Then, if you like those, come back here and join the rest of us!
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on 29 October 2011
The best thing about Michel Houellebecq is that he's clearly raving bonkers. This book, like all his others, is great fun and completely dotty. It's about the value and definition of creativity; a well worn theme in literature true enough but in 'The Map and the Territory' it's given an extra mischievous touch by this nutty shrugger.

I really enjoyed it but I have to say I missed the outright nastiness of his other books. I've always liked the fact that he says exactly what he thinks. Just read the first three paragraphs of 'Platform' and you'll know what I mean). But on this occasion I couldn't help feeling that he's tempered his writing to make it more commercially acceptable. But don't let that put you off. If you enjoy this, try his others and get a taste of the authenticq Houellebecg.
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on 26 January 2015
Superb piece of writing, full of surprises and unexpected detail with intriguing opinions.
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on 24 January 2016
A contemporary and tough review of our intelectual times... No wonder it got the prize!
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on 10 January 2012
I thought this book was sensationally good. Imaginative and thought provoking and totally of its time. However I did not like the translation - I do read French but read the English version on my Kindle and am sure it did not do justice to Houellebecq's words. However in spite of this I felt my way through the book beside Jed Martin the creative main character. Having previously read the new novel by Alan Hollinghurst 'The Stranger's Child' which I found profoundly disappointing, although he has been an author I have admired in the past, Houellebecq's novel is and the only way I can describe it, totally in tune with what I understand life to be like today. I think that Hollinghurst should move out of his comfort zone - his current way of life and look at life thought a different lens - this is what Houellebecq has done and has succeeded brilliantly by doing so. The Map and the Territory
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