atomised by michel houellebecq

May 10, 2010, 11:00pm

Spoiler alert.

I can’t put my finger on a single theme / tone which encompasses Atomised topics.

“So the society is atomised”
This is exhibited through the lives of Michel and Bruno. The dissimilarity must mean each is representative of contrasting ideologies.

– carnal desire / pursuit for sexual adventure
– intellectual desire / pursuit for knowledge

Why was there much emphasis on Bruno’s carnal adventures? (And this is juxtaposed against Michel’s detachment) Is it to illustrate humankind’s pre-cloning era, when sex hasn’t been 100% decoupled from reproduction? But Bruno doesn’t “do” it to reproduce? Is it to illustrate the phase when humankind is gradually developing into the race of the gods?

Phase 1: Sex = Reproduction (past)
– society without contraception
– reproduction is dependent on sex

Phase 2: Sex = ≠ Reproduction (present)
– society with contraception, which enables sex without reproduction
– but since reproduction is still dependent on sex, the conception is an imperfect mutantion
– thus, society is imperfect

Phase 3: Sex ≠ Reproduction (future, as per Atomised)
– reproduction is asexual, i.e. through cloning
– we are able to choose the desired traits in creating humans
– then society becomes perfect, and the only way to die is through euthanasia

In this diagram, humankind is in the second stage. This was illustrated extensively by Bruno. He needed to fulfill his sexual desires from adolescence to mid-life, from wanking to orgies. Nude beach! So much variation.
On another note, Michel is the perfect representation of the third phase. His lack of sexual desire is it. In the third phase, it is not even clear if people still had sex. Maybe for the dopamine rush purely.
Each of Bruno’s sexual experience must be a representation of something (pero tinatamad na me mag-analyse). Hindi ko natumbok… I MUST READ IT AGAIN, with the pages wide open, soiling it with grubby hands, valiantly highlighting and underlining and swearing at the margins.

Some other ideas that struck me:

Houellebecq narrated two generations of Michel and Bruno’s forefathers in a few pages, in a few paragraphs lang. How could a man’s life be summarized in a few words? All his experiences and memories were crunched in a page or two. In the end we should face the reality that we are inconsequential. There is the potential to make the mark in the world, but once you’re dead, you’re DEAD. Only piercing ideas can vie for immortality. Plato, Socrates, Nietzsche, Comte, Baudelaire. Their names acknowledged for their intellectual substance.

We are mortals. And it is difficult to make our mark in this world.

Someday I will die, and the new generations will forget me. They will not even know I existed, like how ignorant I am of my forefathers’ lives. They will not know of my hypergraphia and my fondness for waxing philo. They may recognize me if I formulate a groundbreaking something for my field (if I will haha), but nothing more than that. They won’t know about my loves, my feelings, which for me is the most important thing about life. It is your most conscious state.

…Which is contrary to what Houellebecq said. Through Michel, he said that solving for the most difficult math problems, being overtly logical and analytical — is human’s most conscious state. This makes sense as well because it is consistent with the eco food chain:
plans –> animals –> humans –> ultra-genius humans who can comprehend/generate the most complex of ideas
Consciousness might be correlated with intelligence?

I imagine Atomised’s philosophical points of discussion as fractals. You may expound endlessly. Then see beauty unfold before your eyes.

I am satisfied. :)


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