14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Disturbing, darkly humorous commentary on modern life,
By A Customer
This review is from: Whatever (Paperback)
Simultaneously successful and controversial in its native France, Michel Houellebecq's "Whatever" is a disquieting and, at times, painfully funny exploration of white, male social and sexual inadequacy. The nameless narrator is a thirty-year old IT professional, well paid and ostensibly thriving. However, underneath the surface, he is bored, depressed and frustrated by the corporate jargon and insincerity that characterise his job. This nascent sense of alienation boils over during a series of sojourns in provincial towns while training Ministry of Agriculture employees in the use of a new computer system.
Although a times sounding worryingly reactionary and misogynistic, the narrator's personal philosophy is powerfully fashioned by Houellebecq. He dares to reject all the most sacred emblems of late 20th Century life - capitalism, sexual freedom, psychoanalysis, spirituality, and, most crucially of all, the notion that the information age liberates rather than imprisons its citizens. Such nihilism reinforces one of the novel's central themes - that business-speak has rendered language worthless, as real meaning is replaced by endless newly invented "buzz" words.
What could have been a po-faced denunciation of social and economic progress becomes a sad, but hilarious portrayal of urban alienation and failure. Houellebecq has created a wonderfully compelling anti-hero to whom anyone who has ever despaired of modern life can relate.