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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars


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on 19 December 2015
Absolute masterpiece. The, albeit brutally, honest portrayal of the characters, each different sides of the same coin, was not only heartening but strangely repelling. I read this a lot on the bus, and had to hide to one side whenever I got to any particularly explicit parts (which make up lots of the book). Bruno was an incredibly interesting character; the way the author writes with complete honesty about the sexual inadequacies and inner shames was amazing. The scientific knowledge and research needed for the writing of Michel's parts shows just how committed Houellebecq is. An absolute triumph of a book.
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on 23 March 2017
APPALLING TRANSLATION, full stop.
I speak fluent French and English as native.
Houellebecq is also a poet and his writing has fantastic prosody, his use of language
is quite like a music piece, sharp short turning into long or irrelevant to previous lines etc.
This translation truncates whole sentences, literally at places fabricates words which
author didn't even use in the sentence at all (or, worse, what even an A-level student could
see in his dictionary that a translated word is entirely wrong - a wrong fact, like translating
for example plane tree as chestnut tree). This translation is more of a summary of
author's intentions in a sentence through Mr.Translator rather than an effort to render author's literary
intentions as accurately as possible - it feels as if the Frank Wynne couldn't be bothered at some lines.
And this I wrote after comparing only first thirty pages with the original... it felt like licking
ice cream from behind a glass, the plain inaccuracies and errors are way too many.
Vintage publisher can do far better - as its past publications show. It's interesting to know that the
translator claims lots of ''awards'' to his name for some other works - this book, he destroyed, its art.
Sadly, English reader has no other choice... Google Translate App will soon do better work.
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on 18 November 2015
Good
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on 19 September 2016
If you can get past the pretentiousness, long paragraphs of pseudo-science and relentless unpleasant sex, then you will find some rewarding commentary on western culture and its failings. Quite a big ask though!

Basically a story of two brothers who had differing but dysfunctional childhoods, there is commentary on how the sixties generation defied their parents but built a vacuous me-me-me society that let down their children too. There's plenty to relate too but it's the sex that is so depressing. The formula seems to be that if there hasn't been an orgasm for six pages then one has to be slotted in quickly, even if it's a quick one off the wrist under the office desk.

Houellebecq also has an irritating habit of referring to one of the brothers by both first and last name in the same paragraph, almost as if they are different characters. And the sci-fi ending is rather a leap too far.

Yet still this book has something that others lack. It is a compelling read. It has stop and make you think observations. Few writers would be able to attempt something like this. A book that, despite many flaws, somehow stays with you.
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on 2 September 2009
This is a book of ideas, but not very good ones. You do not have something important to say just because you have heard of quantum physics and Aristotle.The next book I started to read was Don Quixote and in the prologue Cervantes has the narrator agonising over his inability to name drop philosophers to make himself look cleverer and to juxtapose within the same paragraph a bit of romance and a sermon to give an impression of gravitas.That was 400 years ago so I'm not pointing out anything new. There are no real characters or character development in Atomised: the two main characters,Bruno and Michel and the narrator all have the same voice. The women are 2-d and the book contains so many expressions of misogny from its characters that it seems quite possible that the author does not know any actual ladies. There is not much of a plot just the promise of a revelation about some dramatic new era in world history the ideas behind which will be revealed by the book. Fortunately I approached this with a degree of sceptism so I was not too disappointed!
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on 11 February 2012
Atomised was highly recommended to me by friend who is a scientist. I am more the philosophical type and I loved the book too.
I understand that it is not a 'pleasant' book in the sense that it deals with some traumatised, even tortured characters. However, the writing is perfect, the characters real and justified as they are mostly 'symptomatic of their time and circumstances they happened to be born in'.
This book has everything: life, death, science, philosophy, sex, manipulation, disorder all presented in a natural, interlinked way. I think that Houellebecq attempts a vitriolic criticism on the westernised, individualistic society as we have known it for the last century.
In my opinion, those who criticize the book as being misanthropic, fail to notice the deeper meaning of this book and its philosophical, existential underpinning. Houellebecq to me has a place up there along with writers like Camus, Kundera, Nietzsche and Foucault from which he has probably been influenced and inspired.

By the way, has anyone noticed the spectacular ending of this book? Has anyone else made the correlation between Nietzsche's 'last man' and 'superhuman' with Bruno and Michel respectively?
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on 5 January 2000
I'm a member of a reading club here in Amsterdam and this book has been selected for our next read. I'm an English speaker and I assumed that if the others could get a Dutch translation then it would be available in English - but that is not the case. One would have thought that English would be the first language for a translation not Dutch - but the English translation is not due out for another 5 months according to my local English language bookstore. Anyway, I have thus read this book in its recent translation into Dutch as "Elementaire Deeltjes". Like Houellebecq's other books (one of your other reviewers has commented on this) - I can't figure out why the translators totally change the meaning of the title - in this case rather than "Elementary Particles" they are calling it "Atomised" (or "Atomized" if you're American). I think this misrepresents an element of societal alienation which permeates this book - or rather Houellebecq tries to deconstruct the meaninglessness of existence (now that's a new approach!). The story is ostensibly about two brothers born in the 50's whose life has been basically screwed up by their overly progressive uncaring egocentric (read yuppy before their time in that they are economically conservative but socially progressive) parents. However Houellebecq uses this plot line as a background for a harsh criticism of the commercial exploitation of sex and more importantly image -which seeks financial gain by playing on people's fears of mortality in a society where life is reduced to its physical aspect. Yet at the same time as criticising this lack of spiritual content - he ruthlessly mocks the hippies and their current day "New Age" analogues for the vapidity of their behavior and thinking. This would be all very well were it not for the fact that Houellebecq uses the same pseudo-scientific babble on quantum forces bla-bla to develop weird evolutionary biology ideas (socio-biology is a major force on the thinking in this book)about a "new man" who is totally "freed" from inviduality or sexual desire. It is only this last part of the book which is a bit less impressive - the rest is superb.Indeed the parts of the book which are a tad less convincing are those which are clearly autobiographical. Houellebecq concedes this in an interview with "de Groene Amsterdammer" - like the characters in his book he was 1) raised by his grandmother as a result of parental split and 2) like Michel in the book, Michel Houellebecq lives in Ireland. This is in itself ironical, because while giving the idea of an inner-life a total savaging (therapists and analysts get a severe going-over in this book) - Houellebecq's story seems to support and confirm the Freudian hypothesis that infant experiences determine your approach to relationships in adult life. Houellebecq even explicitly says this in his interview with "de Groene Amsterdammer" - "naturally the behaviour of children is conditioned by the attitude of their parents" - although the use of two Watson-Skinner buzzwords in one sentence makes one think that MH is a bit mixed up in his understanding of the two contrasting psychological schools (psychoanalytic vs. behavioral) - or maybe he is trying to make a synthesis of the two. All this is not to detract from this book, which, with its strategic release-timing has an excellent chance of being THE book that sets the tone for the end of the 20th century. But therein lies a problem - it sets the tone for the END of the 20th century and I suspect may date quite quickly. Nonetheless a fantastically good read - I want to conclude by noting what the BEST thing in this book is: quasi-detached scientifically observed scenes of sexual excess which are followed by superbly ironic remarks. For example, in the description of beach sex orgies, we are treated to a treatise on the social-democratic egalitarian politeness and essentially bourgeois nature of the interactions - immediately followed by sentences of crude animalistic sexual explicitness. Houellebecq sure knows how to deflate pretension and the remarkable feature in this riveting book is that the content is depressing but the style is ironic, intellectual and iconoclastic - and recalls the best moments of Balzac and Stendhal (in the latter case more "Red and black" rather than the "Charterhouse of Parma".) Houellebecq has given an ingenious new twist to an honored French literary style. A must for the thinking Western man.
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on 13 May 2000
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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on 25 December 2001
Monsieur Houllebecq clearly understands things that most people refuses to even see; the incredible way in which he describes today's life in Europe (and most parts of Western developed societies) trapped my intellect and transported me into France, the US and the UK with mixed feelings of "no way out", "fascination", "pleasure", "pain", etc... The way he "conects" characters with exact and social sciences is superb. Treatment of death as the ultimate result no matter what, perfect. His idea of loneliness as a consequence of superficiality, shocking. Definitely, a mirror in which not always you want to take a look; a great book from a very intelligent author.
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on 9 August 2017
Quite simply an astonishing book
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