Michel Houellebecq jokes at his own expense

The author’s next novel abandons “human despair” for humour.

The French newspaper Le Parisien has had an early sighting of Michel Houellebecq's new novel (due in the first flush of la rentrée littéraire at the beginning of September), La carte et le territoire ("Map and Territory"). It seems the novel is notable especially for its drastic change of tone -- gone are the nihilism and "human despair" of Whatever and Atomised, and in their place appear humour and "self-derision".

Houellebecq (who makes an appearance in the book when he is asked to write an essay for a catalogue that will accompany an exhibition of work by the artist protagonist Jed Martin) doesn't reserve his comic barbs for himself alone: the novelist Frédéric Beigbeder and the minister of culture (and nephew of François) Frédéric Mitterrand, among others, also come in for some rough and, by all accounts, "hilarious" treatment.

Though they're not treated as roughly as the author himself, who is portrayed as an alcoholic and depressive who "stinks a little less than a corpse" and resembles nothing so much as "a sickly old tortoise".

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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SRSLY #83: The Awards Special 2017

On the pop culture podcast this week: all the action from the Oscars, plus our own personal awards.

This is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

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Anna's report on the Oscars.

Our episodes about Oscar-nominated films La La Land, Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Lion and Jackie.

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Caroline is watching MTV’s Sweet/Vicious.

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PS If you missed #81, check it out here.