Abstract

Narrated by a depressive and socially isolated protagonist, Michel Houellebecq’s first novel Whatever traces the disaggregating effects of post-Fordism on the intimate spaces of human affect. Set in the burgeoning information technology industry of the mid-1990s among a hitherto literarily neglected social group of middle managers (cadres), the novel suggests that the cultural project of post-Fordist capitalism blights all human relations and leads to an existential pauperization of everyday life. The affective spaces of the human subject are no longer sites of pleasure but deeply agonistic ones. Heir neither to the hygienic aesthetic of the nouveau roman nor to a “death of affect” strain of literary postmodernism, Houellebecq’s work is generically difficult to situate in the French or Anglo-American novelist tradition. A terse rejoinder to its socio-economic epoch, What-ever tests the viability of novelistic form in the face of the “indifference and nothingness” of the post-Fordist subject.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1464
Print ISSN
0022-281X
Pages
pp. 41-56
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-02
Open Access
No
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