Anti-Matter: Michel Houellebecq and Depressive Realism by Ben Jeffery

By Ben Jeffery

Michel Houellebecq, writer of 5 novels together with Atomised and Platform, has develop into in all probability the world's most renowned literary pessimist. His paintings announces that lifestyles is painful and disappointing, demise is terrifying, and the human is a bad kind of comic story. He has been wildly profitable – translated into over 25 assorted languages and hailed because the voice of a iteration.

Beginning with Houellebecq's novels, this ebook explores the idea that of 'Depressive Realism' in literature and philosophy – the proposition that the proof of lifestyles are bleak and unkind. Ranging over paintings via David Foster Wallace, Susan Sontag, Fredric Jameson and Margaret Atwood, Anti-Matter surveys the case for pessimism, asks how a mass tradition rooted in sentimentality and trivialisation manages to provide loads cynicism and apathy, and hunts for the gap that continues to be for severe, life-affirming paintings.

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Extra info for Anti-Matter: Michel Houellebecq and Depressive Realism

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Typically (in the course of twelve episodes, or one hundred and twenty minutes running-time, or three-hundred pages, or whatever) narrative art gives us images of lives more vividly felt and wholly eventful than our own. There’s nothing sinister about this. Dramatic compression is a practical necessity – audiences won’t usually allow themselves to be bored. It’s just that the more of this colourful stuff you take in, the harder it is to avoid the thought of how relatively mundane and colourless your own existence is compared to 54 all these interesting people onscreen and on-page.

What is it that makes a particular book good? What attracts someone to one piece of art but not another? 48 But just that Houellebecq’s books have blind-spots and inconsistencies isn’t proof that what they say is wrong, only an invitation to consider how it’s not completely right. e. its identity as an ‘unreal’, imagined thing – artifice. Every kind of art is unreal after a fashion, but the point is particularly obvious with respect to literature. ). So with any sort of literary realism there’s a certain degree of ambiguity about what’s being asserted.

The easy example is that, and one that I go through over and over with students in writing classes, is that these students are far more afraid of coming off as sentimental than they are of coming off twisted, obscene, gross, any of the things that used to be the really horrible things that you didn’t want to betray about yourself. The great danger of appearing sentimental is that sentimentality is mainly now used in what appear to be very cynical marketing or mass-entertainment devices that are meant to sort of manhandle the emotions of large numbers of people who aren’t paying very close attention.

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