Top critical review
20 people found this helpful
A poor translation of a good novel
on 18 April 2001
I found "Whatever" interesting mainly because of its relationship to Houellebecq's far superior "Atomised". It is in itself a fairly good book, entertaining and occasionally insightful, though perhaps a little disjointed in some ways.
My major problem with this book was the translation. The title, as a reviewer below mentions, is not a fair reflection of the original French - but the language is all over the place too. We have a fairly unattractive combination of American, British and "MTV Europe" English, and the overall effect is to break-up the reader's involvement in the narrative. Generally, the translation SOUNDS like a translation, and that is a great pity.
The marketing of the book is also a little unrealistic. It is not really an "Etranger" for the information age, or any kind of generation x, slacker novel. One would be forgiven for thinking that this is a would-be cult novel for computer-using males in their late teens, but Houellebecq's writing suggests that he offers something quite new and different: he is very much a European writer (in the sense that Joyce was a European writer), whose philosophical reach and empathy for others is vast.
So - worth a read, but it would be nice to see "Whatever" republished with an appropriate translation and marketing likely to attract the audience it deserves.