『Possibilité d’une Ile -Prix Interallié 2005- 』 Michel Houellebecq (Editions Fayard)：English translation 『The Possibility of an Island』 (Translated by Gavin Bowd)
Michel Houellebecq is a provocative and direct author. Possibility of an Island is his latest novel for which he has won the 2005 “Prix Interallie” which rewards novels written by journalists.
After reading French critics, I decided to read the book to see what all the fuss was about, and I came to the conclusion that Houellebecq is definitely hated by many Parisian “intellos”. Nearly all the French critics are negative, but then again, how could the book win a literary price?
Possibility of an Island could almost be classed as a philosophical prose; the author addresses his usual big issues such as search for love, eternal life, mankind’s stupidity and sexual freedom. Also the main story line illustrates the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s image of the replacement of human life by an automated species as he quoted “human existence resembles a theatre performance which, begun by living actors, is ended by automatons dressed in the same costumes”.
The form of the novel can be a bit complicated at first. Indeed, we follow the life of Daniel through the narration of his two clones named Daniel 24 and Daniel 25 who live several thousand years into the future of the hero.
Daniel is a forty something stand up comic who makes his public laugh with provocations against the Islamic world and generally criticising the worst that mankind can bring to our modern society, and makes a fortune which astonishes him. He is in the quest for love and thinks he reaches it by meeting and marrying Isabelle, a very successful magazine editor, but unfortunately this love dies when Isabelle becomes old, ugly and fat and when Daniel realises that his wife does not love sex. Later in his life, he meets Esther who is half his age and is totally incapable of loving him but loves sex. This is when he becomes interested in the Elohimite sect, which claims eternal life, not by some sort of belief but primarily to a revolutionary technique of human cloning. At that point of the book, Houellebecq tends to drag on a bit but later, the events he relates illustrates perfectly the hypocrisy of any kind of sect.
The epilogue of the book is the narration of the quest of Daniel 25 to find other neo-humans and to settle down and live his eternal life in the perfect place. The narration of his trip around a destroyed Spain is a demonstration of all the disgust Houellebecq feels towards the lowest form of mankind.
I very much enjoyed reading Possibility of an Island as I agree with Houellebecq’s ideas and conception of life. I couldn’t help but feeling sorry for Daniel in search of eternal life and fearing what we all fear, getting old and never finding true love. However, if you are not familiar with the author’s work, you may find it difficult to appreciate his latest novel, which I consider very good, but he has yet to write his masterpiece.