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Extension du domaine de la lutte, de Michel Houellebecq
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Whatever (“Extension du domaine de la lutte”), by Michel Houellebecq

With his first novel Whatever (1994), Michel Houellebecq offered an unprecedented portrayal of economic liberalism and contemporary emotional anguish. Suffering from profound doubts about society, his narrator vacillates between detachment and nihilism. A tone that permeates Michel Houellebecq's entire oeuvre.

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A high-profile figure

A novelist, poet and essayist born in 1958, Michel Houellebecq has been a major figure on the French literary scene since the 1990s. In 1991 he published his first book, a biography of Howard P. Lovecraft, Against the World, Against Life (“Contre le monde, contre la vie”), followed the next year by a well-received collection of poems, The Pursuit of Happiness (“La Poursuite du bonheur”).

 

This was followed by Whatever (“Extension du domaine de la lutte”)(1994), and six other highly publicised novels, including Atomised (“Les Particules élémentaires”) (1998), which made his reputation among the general public, The Possibility of an island (“La Possibilité d’une île") (2005), winner of the Prix Interallié the year of its publication, The Map and the Territory (“La Carte et le territoire”) (2010), winner of the Prix Goncourt that autumn, the controversial Submission (“Soumission”) (2015), and finally, Serotonin (“Sérotonine”) (2019).

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An Inhuman Comedy

The narrator of Whatever is a thirty-year-old computer scientist working for a software company. His existence is a series of failures and frustrations. Single, he has abandoned all his ambitions and isn't attractive to women. His only relationships with other humans are those he maintains with his coworkers.

 

The shadow of depression emerges from his everyday misfortunes. Here, Michel Houellebecq offers a disillusioned fable about the contemporary Western subject’s loss of direction.

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The wanderings of an anti-hero

Whatever has an autobiographical aspect. Michel Houellebecq, a former IT worker, shares certain traits with the main character.

 

Although the novel was published by Maurice Nadeau in 1994 after having been rejected by many publishers, the text gained a wider audience four years later, following the popularity of Atomised.

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A global reputation

Michel Houellebecq is an internationally-known writer, whose work has been translated into forty-two languages.

 

Whatever, adapted for the cinema by Philippe Harel in 1999, was also adapted for Danish television by Jens Albinus in 2002. The novel has notably been translated into Catalan, German, English, Spanish, Swedish and Russian.

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The Institut français and the book

The novel Whatever (“Extension du domaine de la lutte") by Michel Houellebecq was supported in February 2017 by the Publication Assistance Programme - Rights Transfer Support for its release in Mongolian (Mongolia). Find out more about the Publication Assistance Programmes