written by Michel Houellebecq
The novel Les Particules Élémentaires (US: The Elementary Particles, UK: Atomised) is a story about two half-brothers, Michel and Bruno, and their struggle through life. The story focuses on the lives of Bruno Clément and Michel Djerzinski, two French half brothers born of a hippie type mother. Michel is raised by his maternal grandmother and becomes an introverted molecular biologist who is ultimately responsible for the discoveries which lead to the elimination of sexual reproduction. Bruno's upbringing is much more tragic as described: shuffled and forgotten from one abusive boarding school to another, he eventually finds himself in a loveless marriage and teaching at a high school. Bruno grows into a lecherous and insatiable sex addict whose dalliances with prostitutes and sex chat on Minitel do nothing to satisfy him, to the point where he finds himself on disability leave from his job and in a mental hospital after a failed attempt at seducing one of his students.
The nihilistic approach to life that Houellebecq describes, admittedly rather good, never really managed to grasp my attention. To me The Elementary Particles is nothing but an illustration of the intrinsique meaninglessness of human life. Houellebecq's book is filled with free new-age sex where sex, and more particularly the orgasm, serves as a metaphor for the neverending craving that never really manages to satisfy or hide real problems for more than a few minutes. In the end the characters with all their issues always feel more empty after trying to mask their real problems by surrendering to these cravings.
I like the idea about the orgasm as a perfect metaphor for the cravings and desires that always seem to disappoint shortly afterwards. Almost every adult can relate to this feeling. Unfortunately it's not really a new idea: If you'd like to read (or watch) something about the same frame of thought but with better execution, try the "Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera
The Elementary Particles really is a love-or-hate book. I however don't think many buddhist enthusiasts will grow too fond about the dark, nihilistic approach from Houellebecq. Try it anyway but don't be afraid to close it and never look back if you feel like it.