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Modern French Classic,
This review is from: The Map and the Territory (Hardcover)
Set mainly in Paris this novel relates key elements in the life of Jed Martin, photographer, successful artist, and an acute observer of modern French society. His initial success was with the production of artistic photos of Michelin road maps. He really struck oil when he persuaded that great writer Michel Houellebecq to write the introductory essay to the exhibition ' Series of Simple Professions'. These paintings, which included Bill Gates and Steve Jobs Discussing the Future of Information Technology took Jed a little more than seven years to paint but thanks to Michel's introduction and some great marketing they were a huge financial and artistic success.
Jed's portrait of Houellebecq, which was the great writer's reward for his help, proved to be one of the most valuable in the display. We first meet the author of Atomised at his house in Ireland. The character Jed encounters seems to be keen to be identifies in terms of his publications, and to be particularly fond of wine, cheese and pāté. He says that he feels 'only a faint sense of solidarity with the human species'. He is pretty well informed about art. The author, his creator as it were, refers to him as 'a tired old decadent.' How similar to this somewhat reclusive fellow is to the 'real' Michel Houellebecq is anyone's guess! Which is as the novelist intended.
This novel is often very funny, with irony and satire directed at France itself as well as at most of the illusions that we all allow ourselves. In the acknowledgements we are told that 'the opinions expressed are exclusively those of the characters; in short, this is a work of fiction.' But despite the quote from Charles d'Orléans, which introduces the text, I choose to infer that the author holds on to the idea that somehow it all matters. The novel is such a joy to read that its author must, I hope, have found pleasure in its creation.