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.

Show Hide image

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.

Listen using the player below. . .

. . .or subscribe in iTunes. We’re also on StitcherRSS and SoundCloud – but if you use a podcast app that we’re not appearing in, let us know.

SRSLY is hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, the NS’s assistant editor and editorial assistant. We’re on Twitter as @c_crampton and @annaleszkie, where between us we post a heady mixture of Serious Journalism, excellent gifs and regularly ask questions J K Rowling needs to answer.

The Links

Get on the waiting list for our Harry Potter quiz here and take part in our survey here.

Anna's report on the Oscars.

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

For next time:

Caroline is watching MTV’s Sweet/Vicious.

If you’d like to talk to us about the podcast or make a suggestion for something we should read or cover, you can email srslypod[at]gmail.com.

You can also find us on Twitter @srslypod, or send us your thoughts on tumblr here. If you like the podcast, we’d love you to leave a review on iTunes - this helps other people come across it.

We love reading out your emails. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we’ve discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at]gmail.com, or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.

Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 

See you next week!

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