The satire of the passage quoted in the previous post only shows the more benign side of Houellebecq’s prose. His distaste for contemporary life goes beyond making fun, and even beyond breaking the strictures of political correctness. His venom goes as far as being sexist, racist, misogynistic and downright misanthropic. Is this just an author wanting to shock? Is it the voice of the characters or his own? Is he giving voice to animosities which many people feel but are usually afraid to voice? Are they attitudes from an earlier age which still course deeply in Western culture, or are they even more deeply rooted in us? Or is it just the resentment of the neglected child, angry at people in the now because they were wronged long ago. Is it the frustration of being locked in a cycle of dysfunction caused by hurt, which leads to more hurt? Continue reading
Category Archives: Culture
Houellebecq’s vicious satire of New Age culture
Houellebecq makes a clear connection between the individualisation, secularisation and rationalisation of society on the one hand, and the growth in New Age beliefs and practices on the other. He describes a centre in rural France which, having started as a place of hedonistic revolutionary idealism in the sixties, has turned by the nineties into a commercialised refuge for middle-aged hippy types, desperately looking for meaning and connection in their empty lives: Continue reading
Review of Atomised by Michel Houellebecq
Read my review of this book over several posts
I couldn’t face the desperate last minute search for Christmas presents this year. The trying to find something for people who want for nothing material, squeezed in amongst a throng of other shoppers driven by the rampant seasonal imperative to consume. So I decided to just go to a bookshop I like. I could face that. And I should be able to find a book for everyone.
As often happens when buying presents though, I also picked up a couple for myself. Holiday reading really. Something to take my mind off work, Christmas, and to cheer myself up. One book I randomly bought for myself was Michel Houellebecq’s Atomised. Well, in a way I chose badly, because this is certainly not a cheerful tome (although there is some dark humour). And although it contains a great deal of sex, it did not make me forget my work, because it happens to be largely about my current research themes. Continue reading
James Bond Syndrome
He was born in the 60s. In the white heat of technology; you’d never had it so good, in the economic miracle. Everything was possible. And he was born first. Everything was for him. He was born a boy. His grandparents had known hunger. There was always enough for him.
As young teenager in the 70s he and his friends went to the matinée films. Especially James Bond. He could do everything: look cool, fence, shoot, ride, dive, fight, smile, gamble, charm. He always won. He always got laid. Continue reading
Cultural Adoption and Existential Anxiety
According to the paper by Thiele I mentioned before, Heidegger saw existential anxiety as a state with the possible positive effect of making us think about fundamental ontological questions such as: why is there anything? What is my reason for being? What should I do with this existence?
When anxiety loses its potency, it gives way to boredom. We are no longer shocked and worried by our existential conundrum, but bored by it. Furthermore, this makes worldly activity seem pointless, too. For Thiele, this state of boredom is hidden in postmodern society, by technological innovation and the resulting culture of novelty. The main purpose of technology then becomes to alleviate boredom. Continue reading
Boredom and Ritual
Today’s reading has taken me in a strange direction. I was thinking about culture stayers and culture seekers; people who spend their lives becoming more profoundly steeped in a culture they were born into, and those who turn away from their ‘native’ culture and explore another, or others. It seems to me that these are ‘types’ who in one sense are very different to each other, but often find themselves face to face, since it is culture stayers that the culture seekers seek out to learn from. They share a fascination with a particular culture, but, I would argue, from very different viewpoints. Continue reading
Political Soundscapes of Salvador
As you walk towards the heart of the historic centre of Salvador, Polourinho, you see a pass about five music shops. The are attractively presented and inside you will find many instruments strongly associated with Bahia and brazil more generally: samba band drums and hand percussion, atabaques, cavaquinhos, acoustic guitars as well as bossa nova sheet music and CDs of many well established Brazilian musicians. Further on, in the cobbled streets of Polourinho, many tourist shops sell berimbaus, musical bows used in capoeira which are a powerful symbol of Afro-Brazilian culture. Their very particular sound can be heard often around this part of the city, as well as various percussion ensembles, often accompanied by chanting and singing that evokes African traditions. this part of town is the showpiece of the city, known for samba-reggae, capoeira and Afro-Brazilian dance. It has had huge public investment, both in restoring old buildings and for cultural production, particularly of the cultural forms mentioned, as well as museums and special events.
If you happen to wander down the narrower, less welcoming street behind those music shops you saw before you will find amuch greater number of shops dedicated toanother kind musical (re)production. These, much smaller shops sell PA systems, speakers in all shapes and sizes, cables, lights, car sound systems to fit in the car, in the boot on the roof. Continue reading