Is postmodernism attractive to sociopaths

PhiN 56/2011: 66

Martina Stemberger (Vienna)

Tourism, terrorism or the impossibility of an island:
The remeasurement of the world according to Houellebecq

Tourisms, Terrorisms or The Impossibility of an Island: The Re-Measuring of the World according to Houellebecq
The narrative work of Michel Houellebecq testifies to a special sensitivity for geographic, cultural and social spaces as well as for "le pouvoir poétique de la topologie" (Houellebecq). A vast meditation on the difficulty of 'inhabiting' the world, on changing urban topographies, on an essentially 'touristic' postmodern condition, on the restructuration of the globe's topology by a new international division of labor, new traffic systems and migration streams, but Also on "cartographic narratives" (Schlögel) and on space as an object of artistic (re) creation, Houellebecq's œuvre proceeds to a radical 're-measuring' of the world, sketching a metaphorical cartography of post-postmodernity. This article traces a brief "topoanalysis" (Bachelard) of Houellebecq's texts and their particular "phantasmagorias of space" (Benjamin) - beginning with the depressive collapse of social spaces in Extension du domaine de la Lutte (1994) and Les particules élémentaires (1998), continuing with the touristic-terroristic reconfigurations of a globalized world in Plateforme (2001) and the apocalyptic SF-vision of post- or 'neohuman' spaces in La Possibilité d'une île (2005), leading to the meta-spatial reflections in La carte et le territoire (2010), Houellebecq's latest novel.

1 Introduction

Michel Houellebecq, "grand consécrateur de l'ère du vide", who reflects on his epoch as a 'medium', indeed 'incarnated' (Bardolle 2004: 47f.), Has decisively shaped an entire literary generation in France. His work disturbs, triggers violent reactions from both critics and audiences; and not only because Houellebecq, master of provocative self-staging, consistently takes up sensitive ideological issues.1 About playing with the ostentatious injury to everyone political correctness"(Leopold 2005: 266) central fears and obsessions of the present are articulated in his texts. Houellebecq's oeuvre," univers romanesque […] délibérément en phase avec la mondialisation "(Laforest 2007: 265), testifies to a special sensitivity for culture and social spaces, for "le pouvoir poétique de la topologie" (Houellebecq 2002b: 66), yes from an "obsession spatiale" (Laforest 2007: 272);2 it can be read as a metaphorical cartography of (post-) postmodernism, as a series of spatial imaginations that - from Extension du domaine de la Lutte (1994) via Les particules élémentaires (1998), Lanzarote (2000), Plateforme (2001) and La Possibilité d'une île (2005) to La carte et le territoire (2010) - is constructed 'topo-logically' in itself. In the following, a brief "topo-analysis" (Bachelard 2001: 35) of the works of Houellebecq will be outlined and the question will be reflected on what information these texts provide about our present "age of space" (Foucault 2005: 931), about an epoch, in which "the disquiet [...] fundamentally concerns space and far less time" (ibid .: 933) are able to give.

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2. Expansion of the combat zone or space disasters

Houellebecq's protagonists, dreary anti-heroes of our time, have lost all spontaneity in dealing with physical and social spaces. "Spacing processes" of all kinds and the associated "staging work" (Löw 2001: 208) are an agonizingly conscious act, whether it is about furnishing an apartment, choosing a seat in the office, restaurant, bus or transcontinental travel. The figures, obsessive observers of the "social morphology" of space (Lefebvre 1991: 94), accompany their practical failure with elaborate reflections on space theory; at the beginning of his trip to Thailand, the protagonist of Plateformethat although he was perfectly prepared for the spatio-psychological conditions of the trip, he missed his "positionnement" (PL 43) in the group's space. These figures hardly (any longer) have the ability to appropriate spaces, to 'inhabit' them (Sloterdijk 2006: 403f.). They have no home that deserves this name ("mon retour 'à la maison', si l'on peut dire", EXT 104), no house that would be "our corner of the world", even a "cosmos" (Bachelard 2001: 31). Interior design worries can become a cause for suicide;3 the cynical commentary on one's own interior design failure is provided by advertising, which, together with the right interior, also promises the right life.4 Self-positioning in space becomes a complex strategic examination of the subtle mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, of 'prohibition' as "the ultimate foundation of social space" (Lefebvre 1991: 35). The laws of the market also prevail in zones of 'freedom', which is strictly limited in time and space: In discotheques, sexual and social livelihoods are destroyed;5 Swinger clubs are scenes of libidinal competition that operates with the centimeter tape; in the Mediterranean nudist paradise of Cap d'Agde, fragile heterotopia,6 you live in a 22m2-Studio (PE 215).7 Especially supposedly alternative leisure spaces are places of competitive terror, which even the spiritually disguised room meditation in the New Age camp cannot change much ("Circulez, rencontrez-vous dans l'espace; prenez le temps de vous rencontrer", PE 114).

Physical presence by no means means presence in social space, although not even “the condition of residence in the affluent space, purchasing power possession” (Sloterdijk 2006: 336) guarantees this presence. In complete isolation those who do not meet the criteria of "Sexual Darwinism" (Harms in Houellebecq 2006: 49) - according to Houellebecq the same as those of National Socialism, namely "[j] eunesse, beauté, force" (PI 72) - vegetate and insofar on the in L'Humanité, second stade8 problematized "marché du désir" (Houellebecq 2009: 166) are losers from the start; according to Raphaël Tisserand, "[l] e personnage le plus tristement darwinien de Houellebecq" (Bellanger 2010: 28). Even a fat and ugly schoolgirl named 'Brigitte Bardot' may be physically in the classroom, but in terms of group dynamics she couldn't be further away on Mars ("elle ne participait à rien du tout. Sur la planète Mars elle n'aurait pas été plus tranquille ", EXT 88). Even those for their belonging paid are marginalized - like that outsider in the New Age colony who aggressively claims his right to participate in social space and is deported to psychiatry (PE 130).

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The "synthesis performance" necessary for the constitution of space (Löw 2001: 159) seems to be constantly threatened; In a "context de désenchantement global, témoignant d'une spatialization de l'angoisse dépressive" (Laforest 2007: 266), space is only experienced "as a piece of work [...]" (cf. Löw 2001: 85).9 Urban 'mythologies' are systematically dismantled ("j'avais également renoncé […] à l'aventure urbaine. Paris pour moi n'avait jamais été une fête", PL 19910); but also the naive anti-urbanism, which fantasizes an intact social space beyond the big city, is parodied: "À Paris on peut crever sur place dans la rue, tout le monde s'en fout. Chez elle, dans le Béarn, ce n 'est pas pareil. Tous the week-ends elle rentre chez elle, dans le Béarn "(EXT 27). The staging of spatial 'normality' is only maintained with great effort. The protagonist of Extension du domaine de la Lutte, chronically incompetent reader of the urban text Paris,11 'loses' his car in the city; After a party, he can no longer remember in which street the metropolis, which is both banal and eerie in its monotony, could have parked it: "toutes les rues me paraissaient convenir, aussi bien. La rue Marcel-Sembat, Marcel-Dassault ... beaucoup de Marcel. Des immeubles rectangulaires, où vivent les gens. Violente impression d'identité. Mais où était ma voiture? " (EXT 8). This lack of spatial competence appears as an embarrassing psychosocial deficit that must be hidden at all costs: "Avouer qu'on a perdu sa voiture, c'est pratiquement se rayer du corps social; décidément, arguons du vol" (EXT 9). He tries in vain to overcome the depressing arbitrariness of a fragmentary space; on a Michelin map, he chooses an unknown mountain village to visit got toto put his life in order: "j'ai acheté la carte Michelin numéro 80 (Rodez-Albi-Nîmes). […] Verse dix-sept heures, une conclusion m'est apparue: je devais me rendre à Saint-Cirgues-en-Montagne. […] Une révélation d'un ordre ultime m'attendait là-bas "(EXT 129). Needless to say, this frontal attack against the contingency of existence also fails.

Even if "the speedometer technology of the 20th century12 [...] have made such a degree of overcoming distance a matter of course that the space is now perceived as an almost negligible size "(Sloterdijk 2006: 392f.), Transcontinental evasion tourism appears as an ordeal that can only be overcome with massive pharmaceutical support, whereby the sleep / wake phases of the sedated traveler in Plateforme deliver a sarcastic comment on the constitution of a world measured by the degree of media attention: the narrator falls asleep about ex-East Germany and wakes up when Chechnya has just been left behind; He swallows a second sleeping pill over Afghanistan after wishing the Taliban down there 'simmering in their filth a good night, not without cynicism (PL 34f.). Space is both a prerequisite and an obstacle to the tourist machinery; the only good room is "a dead room" (Sloterdijk 2006: 394) or a "espace écrasé"(PI 55). The universe of 'posthumanist' tourism (Granger Remy 2007) strives towards the ideal of total" time-space compression ", which in turn provokes identity crises (Harvey 2001: 123f.).

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The fatal alienation of people, but also "des choses de ce monde" (EXT 8) is a leitmotif of Houellebecq. His characters, active in the service industry, surrounded by things that 'lie' in order to hide their origin (Lefebvre 1991: 81), cultivate their nostalgia for 'production': "Qu'avais-je produit, moi-même, pendant mes quarante années d'existence? À vrai dire, pas grand-chose "(PL 88, cf. also PE 201f., PL 217f.); They compensate for their alienation with absurd precision in the description of fetishized spaces and objects - typically tourist accessories of the dreary nomads of postmodernism.13 In La Possibilité d'une île All that remains of the occidental myth of industrial progress is a helpless, affluent western citizen, alone in a disused metallurgy factory where the operating instructions for the machines are only available in Turkish (PI 13).

The protagonists of Houellebecq, members of the relatively privileged middle class, theoretically have good "chances of constituting space" insofar as these are "dependent on the resources of wealth, knowledge, hierarchy and association" (Löw 2001: 214f.). But the seemingly limitless availability of the world creates its own paralysis: Bruno in Les particules élémentaires comes to Paris as a student, moves into the studio bought by his father in a prime location; it is only up to him to start the longed-for 'new life'. But 'his' cosmopolitan city quickly reduces to a desolate bulimic-onanistic course that leads him day after day along Boulevard Saint-Michel through the same fast-food bars, pastry shops and porn cinemas (PE 150f.).

The subject, "séparé du monde par quelques centimètres de vide, formant autour de lui comme une carapace ou une armure" (PE 86), "protégé du monde par une pellicule transparente, inviolable, parfaite" (EXT 99), experiences the skin , "central metaphor of separation" (Benthien 1999: 7), as a real 'border' ("Je ressens ma peau comme une frontière", EXT 156); It lives as if it were wrapped in cellophane - lonely, unrequested goods that are sadly about to expire in the monstrous 'supermarket of the world':14 "J'ai l'impression d'être une cuisse de poulet sous cellophane dans un rayon de supermarché" (EXT 99). Even sexuality strives towards the ideal of 'untouchability', which the Parisian SM avant-garde excercises in their clubs: "il n'y a plus aucun contact physique. Tout le monde porte des gants, utilise des ustensiles. Jamais les peaux ne se touchent "(PL 185).15 From this space characterized by total isolation, in which communication is no longer possible ("L'espace sépare les peaux. La parole traverse […] l'espace entre les peaux. Non perçus, dépourvus d'écho […] ses mots se mettaient à pourrir et à puer ", PE 113), the characters shift the meager remnants of their social life into virtual spaces; Minitel rose replaces the visit to the brothel, the satellite television the direct contact with the world: "Je n'étais pas malheureux, j'avais cent vingt-huit chaînes" (PL 23).16 After the "cocon familial" (PL 127), "le dernier îlot de communisme primitif au sein de la société libérale" (PE 116), has been destroyed, the individual is the "société de marché"(Houellebecq 1998: 63) at the mercy of defenselessness. The longing for these intimate spaces that no longer exist (" de petites places chaudes irradiées par l'amour. De petits spaces clos, réservés ", PE 87f.)17 leads to various (male) protagonists of Houellebecq in tirades of hate against everything and everyone who seem responsible for their destruction (the 'sexual liberation', 'modern women' etc.). For frustrated men, the female genitalia becomes the last refuge: "L'univers était lent et froid. Il y avait cependant une chose chaude, que les femmes avaient entre les jambes; mais cette chose, il n'y avait pas accès" (PE 61). Bruno in Les particules élémentaires staggers lost through a world that only female genitals give vag (inal) e structure ("il entama un parcours erratique […] il titubait, en quelque sorte, entre les vagins", PE 115). Only sex can fleetingly restore the illusion of an intact, sensually pleasurable 'experienceable' social space; so on an orgiastic car course through Paris ("Elle jouit à peu près à la hauteur de la place d'Italie", PL 251). The aggression is correspondingly high when the temporary asylum in the vagina is refused: As a teenager, Bruno, extremely symbolically, kills a cat who does not want to watch him masturbate (PE 70f.) After he has learned the sex of his mother, who is not only indifferent to sleep Janine alias 'Jane' - "Janine, sa mère, qui s'était fait rebaptiser Jane" (PE 252) is a misogyne caricature, Americanized hippie version of a 'degenerate' Joan of Arc18 - has looked at.

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The narrator of Extension du domaine de la Lutte, whose ex-girlfriend - described unflatteringly as "un détritus entouré de papier glacé" (EXT 104) - wanted him to be expelled from the apartment by the police, regrets not having slit her ovaries (EXT 104f.). For the aging protagonist in La Possibilité d'une île the rejection of his amorous advances by his much younger (ex) lover becomes an occasion to finally say goodbye to immortality as his own clone. In nostalgic chauvinism, women are conjured up as heroines of the eroticized Caritas: "les femmes étaient meilleures que les hommes […] plus caressantes, plus aimantes, plus compatissantes […] moins portées à la violence, à l'égoïsme, à l'affirmation de soi "(PE 164). The eroticization of 'exotic' spaces reacts in a compensatory manner to the social and sexual "suicide occidental" (PE 237); if the occidental vaginae remain closed to him, Bruno is ready to travel to the 'end of the world', or at least to Bangkok, to get a "petite chat" in a miniskirt (PE 106). In the strategic marketing of distant countries, sexual resources play an increasingly important role, whereby the charms of 'exotic' women and animals - safari or sex destination? - are weighed against each other: "elles sont bonnes, les femmes au Kenya. [...] Oui, mais des femmes tu en as partout. Au Kenya tu as quand même des rhinocéros, des zèbres, des gnous, des éléphants et des buffles" ( PL 245).

3. Nouvelles Frontières or The Tourist's Curse

The occidental subject in the vain search for 'new frontiers' (the name of the agency 'Nouvelles Frontières' becomes running gag) the tourism industry not only sells 'happiness' based on strict tariffs (PL 205), but also the illusion of being a 'traveler' and not just "un simple tourist" (PL 166). Tourism, the collective evasion enterprise of a suicidal occidental human race (PL 31), appears as a senseless and largely joyless 'consumption' of space (Lefebvre 1991: 349), whereby various 'exotic' travel destinations approach the vanishing point of total arbitrariness: "Anne reviendrait d'une expédition Nouvelles Frontières, à l'île de Pâques ou au Bénin, il ne se souvenait plus au juste "(PE 165). Michel in Plateforme, extremely ambivalent tourist, feels like a 'fool' in his role right from the start ("Et maintenant j'étais là, seul comme un connard, à quelques mètres du guichet Nouvelles Frontières", PL 31). While his travel companions are enjoying themselves at the "feast of authenticity" (Lefebvre 1991: 84) prepared for tourist purposes, a naive fanaticism of the exotic couleur-coutume-cuisine locale cultivating (PL 73), he has no illusions about the authenticity of his experiences: "'C'est un peu trop touristique…' Qu'est-ce qu'elle voulait dire par là? Tout est touristique. Je me retins une fois de plus de lui foutre mon poing sur la gueule "(PL 52). the novel Plateforme, which is "from the beginning under the sign of the culturally and ethnically different" (Leopold 2005: 256), is a single illustration of the "malédiction du touriste", who, full of hatred for his own kind,19 on the frenetic search for the 'non-touristy', for 'authenticity', makes this disappear (PL 299f.). While the first part of the novel presents the hero as a (albeit hyper-conscious) tourist, in the second section he switches behind the scenes: through his new partner, tourism manager, he gains insight into the "arcanes de l'industrie touristique" (Granger Remy 2007: 277) and the marketing machinery behind the cosmopolitan illusion ("Ouais, les moments magiques ... fit Jean-Yves avec lassitude. [...] N'oubliez pas de le mettre quelque part, 'moments magiques', bizarrement ça marche toujours ", PL 169).

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4. Claustrophobia in the Crystal Palace or Die Welt as an airport

For tourists ruled by metaphysical claustrophobia ("L'univers était un champ clos", PE 205), the globe is transformed into an 'airport' in which national cultures can still be 'consumed' in accordance with the standards of the brave new world of goods in a commercialized form :

Bien que le hall de l'aéroport soit entièrement couvert, les boutiques affectaient la forme de huttes, avec des montants en teck et un toit de palmes. L'assortiment des produits mêlait les standards internationaux (foulards Hermès, parfums Yves Saint Laurent, sacs Vuitton) aux productions locales (coquillages, bibelots, cravates de soie thaïe); tous les articles étaient repérés par des codes-barres. En somme, les boutiques de l'aéroport constituaient encore un espace de vie nationale, mais de vie nationale sécurisée, affaiblie, pleinement adaptée aux standards de la consommation mondiale. Pour le voyageur en fin de parcours il s'agissait d'un espace intermédiaire, à la fois moins intéressant et moins effrayant que le reste du pays. J'avais l'intuition que, de plus en plus, l'ensemble du monde tendrait à ressembler à un aéroport. (PL 128f.)

Houellebecq's global 'airport' is reminiscent of Sloterdijk's "inner space of capital", understood as a "socio-topological expression [...] which is used here for the interior-creating power of contemporary transport and communication media" (Sloterdijk 2006: 308f.). 'Globalization' would essentially be the matter of an international network of privileged members of the 'First World' ("Je suis un Occidental […] pour l'instant c'est encore moi qui ai le fric", PL 114), residents of a " dynamic and comfort-animated artificial continent [s] in the ocean of poverty "(Sloterdijk 2006: 306), which, despite all attempts at evasion by tourists, never leave the great" comfort greenhouse "(ibid .: 357).

In Plateforme with his sensitivity for "spatial textures"(Lefebvre 1991: 42) the" space of speech "is presented in interaction with the" space of bodies "(ibid .: 403). The world is perceived through the filters of advertising brochures and travel guides against which the"lecteur-tourist"(Delorme 2007: 289) developed considerable aggression, but without being able to do without his" lecture-écran "(Granger Remy 2007: 284). The occidental (trivial) text is always with you on the road - even the person sitting next to you lets it on the plane in sleep "un best-seller anglo-saxon merdique d'un certain Frederic Forsyth" (PL 34) fall; the protagonist's travel reading is limited to "deux best-sellers américains […] achetés un peu au hasard à l'aéroport" (PL 38), Grishams The Firm and Baldaccis Total control. The travel guide, the object of a violent love-hate relationship, remains the most important defensive instrument in the struggle with foreign reality. All of them succumbed to the tourist obsessional neurosis of the 'autopsy', the members of the tour group are constantly busy checking and correcting what has been 'perceived' on the basis of their guides. The narrator flings his own Guide du Routard furious of himself (almost ruining the Sony television in his hotel room, his other 'window to the world', PL 55), finally dumping it in the garbage can of a motorway service station (PL 102); he buries his bestsellers on the beach. Since life without reading is too 'dangerous' ("Vivre sans lecture c'est dangereux", PL 92f.), He steals a copy of a fellow traveler Cubit (PL 94).

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The "formerly wide world", which has become a "dirty little ball" (Sloterdijk 2006: 392), appears hopelessly 'read out' ("le monde désespérément connu, cartographié et mondialisé du roman houellebecquien ", Laforest 2007: 275). The foreign culture disappears in the travel guide (" Du roi Ramathibodi il ne restait pas grand-chose, sinon quelques lignes dans le guide Michelin ", PL 82); Paradise 'has long since degenerated into a tourist simulacrum ("l'hôtel évoquait parfaitement l'image du paradis tropical tel qu'on le représente dans les dépliants d'agence ", PL 87); once there, the dreary postmodern Adam doesn't know what to do with himself other than to hide in his bungalow and in between alcohol and snacks in the nearest mini-market The parodied tourist advertising discourse remains the only - and apparently the only possible - comment on the seen / overlooked 'reality'; apart from the travel guide there is helplessness and speechlessness: "'Il faut reconnaître, quand même, la nature, oui ... 'dis-je. Valérie tourna vers moi un visage attentif […] 'La nature, quand même, des fois…' poursuivis-je avec découragement "(PL 119).

Tourism, "entreprise égotiste avec le seul but d'isoler le voyageur en un vacuum" (Verpoort 2007: 305), reduces the space of the other to a 'non-lieu' in the sense of Augé (1992). The 'exotic' outside world is experienced (as if) behind glass; the protagonist of Plateforme perceives Thailand through hotel and bus windows, additionally isolated by filters from pharmaceuticals in the blood and insect repellants on the skin. The prostitutes in the hotel's own Health club like in Pussy Paradise are numbered behind glass (PL 50, 110). Sloterdijk takes up Dostoevskij's image of the 'Crystal Palace' to characterize life in the 'inner space of capital': "a greenhouse that has drawn everything that was outside inwards" (Sloterdijk 2006: 26).20 This world under glass provokes the desire to break out and break in: acts of terror counterpoint the success story of tourism (PL 198);21 they represent "the self-endangerment of the advanced comfort system through stress-romantic protest phenomena" (Sloterdijk 2006: 348). The figures experience space as 'alive' only in extravagant bio-geographical visions of lust / fear, for example in the following passage with its remarkable 'medical' metaphorization of the migration flows that, like blood vessels, pervade the 'body' of Europe - extremely ambivalent between perspectives of the re-vitalization of this allegorical (collective) body and the pathologization of an 'other' or religious / ethno-cultural 'stranger' who circulates as a potentially fatal threat in the 'veins' of the old continent: "J'eus à ce moment une espèce de vision sur les flux migratoires comme des vaisseaux sanguins qui traversaient l'Europe; les musulmans apparaissaient comme des caillots qui se resorbaient lentement "(PL 27).

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The world is also turning into a huge 'airport' because the ground is uprooted in depressive elegance homo touristicus is gradually becoming too dangerous - not only in São Paulo, where, as a tourism manager recounts, one only gets around by helicopter in the milieu of the privileged ("Au niveau du sol, la rue est abandonnée aux pauvres - et aux gangsters ", PL 193). While one hardly leaves the familiar, comfortable living environment when traveling, there are more and more zones in one's own country that are beyond the control of the security and affluent society: The "banlieues sensitive"(PL 161), in which the tourist giant group Aurore (aka Accor) are much more 'exotic' than all of Thailand. In the group one works to sell others the fascination of the distance, the encounter with the 'other'; the encounter with 'one's own others' on the doorstep, the unemployed immigrants and young people from the suburbs prepared for violence, triggers pure panic. Shopping is done via the Internet, and you only leave the company premises in a securely locked car; when a co-worker disregards this holy commandment, the 'punishment' follows immediately: the young woman - with the extremely significant name 'Marylise Le François', which leaves no doubt about her (national) allegorical status22 - is brutally raped by three black people in the express train (PL 191f.). Your career in the group is over; heavily traumatized, "comme paralysée" (PL 193), she is hardly able to work and also tends to "réactions racistes", which she in the tourism industry with her "obligation professionnelle" to (cosmo-) political correctness persona non grata power (PL 194). The room protection measures are tightened, whereby the precarious situation allows the employer a comfortable paternalistic attitude: The corporation that protects its employees from the "prédateurs", the "vie sauvage" (PL 193) out there has only childlike gratitude, none deserves critical distance or possibly pedantry under labor law.

While the experts in global space marketing continue to indulge in illusions of total control on their 'platform', strategically divide and divide the world ("nous établissions une plateforme programmatique pour le partage du monde", PL 242), their megalomaniac sex tourism project by perfect "tourisme de charme" (PL 257),23 the immediate outside world begins to rebel more and more clearly. The banlieue seems already of those "hordes barbaric"(PL 261), which one no longer meets in the exotic distance; only through the permanent police counter-space foundation, the" topographie rassurante des uniformes "(ibid.), The city remains under control (already the hero of Lanzarote moves to the "quartier hyperfliqué" around the Assemblée Nationale, LA 75 for fear of urban crime. Terror grips the international airport world; He breaks into the tourist luxury colony in Thailand in the form of an Islamist assassin. At that moment when the protagonists are planning their somewhat cliché 'exit', they are reminded that the Crystal Palace has no 'outside' for them. In the middle of (pseudo) paradise, the tourism manager Valérie is killed; for a moment the 'bell jar' splinters, the room itself 'tears up' (PL 321). But the international 'comfort greenhouse' quickly closes itself around the sad hero who, after a psychiatric interlude in Paris, withdraws to the end of the (or at least his) world - to Pattaya, Thailand, "une sorte de cloaque, d'égout terminal où viennent aboutir les résidus variés de la névrose occidentale "(PL 342).

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Terrorism, "romanticism of pure attack" (Sloterdijk 2006: 277), "strategy of one-sided expansion on the post-historical continent 'attention'" (ibid .: 284), shifts because the real division of global territories and resources can no longer be reversed is, the fight on "terrain in the wide open world news room" (ibid .: 282); the terrorists who "as content provider have almost a monopoly in the real violence sector ", once again turn out to be accomplices of the" hysterical infosphere "(ibid.). Also Plateforme makes it clear "why neoliberalism and terrorism like recto and verso of the same sheet belong together "(ibid .: 284). Incidentally, Houellebecq's victims themselves had long been in favor of the terror that puts an end to naive evasive fantasies, ready: Fears of terrorism and dreams of terrorism are present in the text from the start; barely arriving in Thailand, the protagonist has a 'prophetic' dream or fear of an Islamist attack, which he observes through a partition of glass (PL 41).

The conclusion of Plateforme reminiscent of those of Extension du domaine de la Lutte and takes that off La Possibilité d'une île First of all: the longed-for breakout from the 'Occident', from a culture that only produces immense unease, always fails, the happy (re-) fusion with the world always fails: "Jusqu'au bout je resterai un enfant de l ' Europe, du souci et de la honte; je n'ai aucun message d'espérance à délivrer "(PL 349).

5. The (im) possibility of an island or the posthuman age

In the Plateforme failed evasion falls into La Possibilité d'une île, Science fiction version of the (final) fall of the West, to disaster. The tourist bashing continues half-heartedly ("backpackers australiens armés d'un guide Let's go Europe et d'un plan de localization des McDonald's ", PI 223f.); in contrast to Plateforme ("le tourisme sexuel était l'avenir du monde", PL 107) but not even sex tourism shows a way out. Even if nothing can be compared with the "perfection mobile" of a late capitalist shopping center (PI 30), the colorful commercial oversupply of the world finally collapses in an "espace immense, gris et nu" (PI 161) in which - physically and mentally paralyzed - Driving people around in wheelchairs, "sans remarquer les autres […] sans même prêter attention à l'espace" (PI 161f.).24 Shortly before their flight into immortality, civilized humanity is gradually being affected by the "terreur pure de l'espace"(PI 418) recorded. But redemption is approaching: La Possibilité d'une île closes on the 'posthumanist' epilogue of Les particules élémentaires an (PE 307ff.), in which the transformation of humanity into a "nouvelle espèce, asexuée et immortelle" (PE 308) prophesied by protagonist Michel Djerzinski has long since become reality.25 After the "premier représentant d'une nouvelle espèce intelligent créée par l'homme 'à son image et à sa ressemblance'" saw the light of day in the new posthuman world in 2029 with the greatest media participation, half a century later there are only a few "humains de l'ancienne race" (PE 315) remaining: "Leur taux de reproduction […] diminue d'année en année, et leur extinction semble à présent inéluctable" (PE 315f.).

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In La Possibilité d'une île it is the 'Elohimites' who seek (and find) the secret of eternal life; evolution definitely enters its "technological-scientific phase" (Virilio 1996: 128). The center of the biotech sect is the island of Lanzarote, the product of a "catastrophe géologique totale" (LA 49) and very similar to Mars (Houellebecq 1998: 147); here is the earthly receiving station for the 'Elohim' (Avatar of the 'Anakim' from Lanzarote), Science fiction god substitute.26 The world of the aspirants to eternal comfort is already beginning to close; When an attempt is made to break out of the Elohimite camp, the 'chosen ones' find that they no longer have "espace commun" with 'normal' people (PI 255f.).The new elite species of the "néo-humains", which are potentially infinitely reproducible thanks to elaborate bio / cyber technology27 forms a paradoxical, since completely asocial, abstract and virtual community (PI 456), which lives under conditions of a "séparation physique totale" (PI 415) in its high-security residences, strictly isolated from the outside world (PI 437).28 This is where the 'sauvages' live, the last mortal (and dying out) people - including the "sauvages urbains" (PI 460) in the ruins of earlier metropolises such as New York or Madrid. The split between the 'inner space' of the privileged neo-human clones, "dignes descendants des touristes décrits dans Plateforme"(Granger Remy 2007: 286), and an 'outside' condemned to violence, disease and death takes on extreme forms here. The destruction of social spaces precedes the devastation of physical spaces; the novel thus grotesquely illustrates Harvey's thesis, according to which the inner contradictions of capitalism are expressed through "the restless formation and re-formation of geographical landscapes" (Harvey 2001: 333). In a historical retrospect, the 'immortal' protagonist (version "Daniel24,9") evokes the last stage of late capitalism , Beginning of the 21st century - before various "explosions nucléaires" (PI 433) and climate catastrophes, before the post-historical epochs of the "Première Diminution", the "Seconde Diminution" and the "Grand Assèchement", which drastically reduced the world population, whereby the future - and definitive - "Troisième Diminution" is still pending (PI 112). The social space is paradoxically renaturalized, it is transformed into a 'savannah', a ' Jungle '(PL 320), according to whose' laws of nature 'one must learn to live (PI 188f.). The hero, entirely in the tradition of tourist escapism, finally leaves his neo-human residence and embarks on a journey through a world that is again confusing and no longer mapped to the last (PI 433). But the 'eternity' of the immortals also turns out to be a closed space: "l'univers était enclos dans une espèce de cocon ou de stase [...] J'étais indélivré" (PI 471ff.).

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6. Meta-novel and meta-space: About God, Michelin and the map (s) of the world

"Whenever a world comes to an end and a new one is initialized, it is map time. Map times represent the transition from one spatial plan to another," states Karl Schlögel (Schlögel 2007: 87). At La carte et le territoire, Houellebecqs last so far and in November 2010 with the Prix ​​Goncourt excellent novel29 - as a product of such a 'map time' the carte already leads in the title - it is a refined metaliterary text;30 the author is drawing a somewhat cruel caricature of himself,31 where he indulges in extremely vivid descriptions of the devastated corpse of 'Houellebecq', murdered by a psychopathic killer, and his burial at the Montparnasse cemetery - in the best of literary company (CT 317); a complex reflection on the existence of the writer and the place of literature in a postmodern world, on the specifics of prose and poetry, on the (im) possibilities of narration (the text shows a profound skepticism towards "Le monde comme narration" , CT 259),32 but also about the literary business, the Parisian art and media scene, the 'business' of the novelist and that of his critical 'enemies'.

La carte et le territoire delivers a multiple Portrait of the artist: In this author and artist novel, Houellebecq not only lets his own fictionalized alter ego appear, but also portrays it from his' doppelganger 'from the field of fine arts (the painting "Michel Houellebecq, écrivain" is part of a parodic' art historical 'Ekphrasis' ausgemalt', cf. CT 184ff.), With the internal text 'Houellebecq' again commenting on Jed Martin's work. The novel becomes a veritable mirror cabinet in this way:33 "Ainsi nage-t-on dans une cascade de miroirs. Ainsi le roman est-il un gigantesque palais des glaces où l'on ne cesse de se cogner le nez en s'amusant" (Viviant 2010).

In this (meta-) novel, too, the spatial theme is already present in the title: La carte et le territoire In many respects it is directly linked to the spatial-philosophical and spatial-sociological reflections of the author in earlier works, in a certain way represents a sum and synthesis of previous positions.

Here, too, the characters are in constant struggle with the adversities of everyday existence; were already in Extension du domaine de la Lutte Problems of the adequate 'furnishing' of one's own interior as a perfectly plausible reason for suicide are discussed, that is how it begins La carte et le territoire with a detailed discussion of the grotesque difficulties of just 'dwelling' in the world. The biography of Jed Martin reads itself largely as the bizarre story of his struggle with his hot water boiler (which, with its extraordinarily diverse repertoire of indefinable sounds, over the years but also to the only 'conversation partner' of the, after the gradual cooling of his from the beginning, at best ' Well-tempered 'relationships developed somewhat lonely protagonists34) and various craft service companies à la Simplement plombiers or Ze Plomb ' (CT 14). 'Houellebecq' himself also functions as a paradigmatic figure of housing failure: even three years after moving, he still lives in empty, cold rooms full of dust and moving boxes in his Irish domicile (CT 138). After he has renounced the fiction of a 'normal' social existence, which might have required reception and representation rooms, he moves with his (hygienically not exactly meeting the highest standards) bed and his television into the living room, where he is poorly set up 'at home'.35

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La carte et le territoire also continues the reflection on changing urban topographies; after the science fiction version of a new global geography, as Houellebecq used in La possibilité d'une île designs, a certain - albeit slightly apocalyptic - sociological realism returns. Here, too, the urban center stands against them as precariously 'civilized' terrain banlieues difficiles as more or less 'barbaric' zones that are increasingly evading the grip of state power. As soon as the protagonist has provisionally solved the problem with his rebellious boiler, the next miniature battle with the service facilities of the metropolis lies ahead: that of a taxi that would be ready to take him to the traditional Christmas dinner with his father. In the course of demographic developments, the once quiet, even elegant suburb, in which his father defiantly stayed in the family villa converted into a fortress - the last "île bourgeoise" in the suburban neo-jungle36 - persevering, transformed into "une zone de plus en plus dangereuse, depuis peu à vrai dire entièrement contrôlée par les gangs" (CT 17), into which not even Speed ​​tax dares to send his co-workers; the visit there is like an adventurous expedition to the true 'dark continents' of post-postmodernism, a real 'safari' to the (mostly actually 'black') sauvagesthat needs to be planned strategically. Here, too, space appears as an obstacle that has to be overcome as quickly as possible; this is an urban space in which the figure of the traditional strollers becomes completely absurd, if not to say suicidal.37

On the other hand, the country does not appear to be idyllic either, but rather as anything 'foreign' - whereby a Parisian from the perspective of provincial aversion to everything 'different' belongs in this category as well as a North German or a Senegalese (CT 407) - towards hostile, vaguely threatening ones 'Counterworld'.38

The question of the '(im) possibility of an island' arises in La carte et le territoire So with a new virulence: The protagonists of this new novel are also on the - in vain - search for those mythical 'islands' of security in an indifferent or dangerous world. The house of the late grandmother Jeds appears as such a nostalgic place where one can still believe "à des choses telles que l'amour" - and other 'ghosts', as the narrator immediately ironically comments: "Il était tenté dans cette maison de croire à des choses telles que l'amour, l'amour réciproque du couple qui irradie les murs d'une certaine chaleur, d'une chaleur douce qui se transmet aux futurs occupants pour leur apporter la paix de l'âme. à ce compte-là il aurait bien pu croire aux fantômes, ou à n'importe quoi "(CT 59).

In this novel, too, an aggressive outside world breaks traumatically into a supposedly successfully isolated private microcosm; 'Houellebecq', who bought back the house of his childhood in the Loiret department and created a melancholy refuge there, is brutally murdered in this house by a psychopath, whose identity the police discovered by chance a few years later (CT 385ff.): "L'écrivain Michel Houellebecq sauvagement assassiné" is the headline Le Parisien (CT 313).39

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Tourism - under the conditions of a universal "désocialization" (Bellanger 2010: 124) flourishing business with a generalized discomfort in (own) culture - also remains in La carte et le territoire a central theme. After one already out Plateforme familiar patterns, the male protagonist gets into the secrets of his partner, a professional insider in the tourism industry the Industry of the future introduced; unlike Valérie Plateforme there is Olga (for her part, as a prototype of 'Russian beauty', a highly cliché figure40) precisely in her capacity as a temporary neo-French woman in a privileged position to recognize and skillfully market the charms of the supposedly authentic "franco-français" (CT 96).

Beyond the specific travel industry, tourism also functions in La carte et le territoire as a paradigm of the postmodern human condition absolutely. "Dans cette maison, dans la vie en général, il savait désormais qu'il se sentirait comme à l'hôtel", says Michel Djerzinski in Les particules élémentaires (292). In Ennemis publics Houellebecq sums up his own relationship - characterized by the total absence of any kind of 'patriotism' - towards one that has long since become completely non-binding patrie with the help of the hotel metaphor: "Jamais je ne me suis senti de devoir, ni d'obligation, par rapport à la France, et le choix d'un pays de résidence a pour moi à peu près autant de résonance émotive que le choix d 'un hôtel "(EP 122). Human existence in general becomes a temporary indeterminate stay in a 'hotel',41 in which you have to vacate your room sooner or later: "Je trouve ça un peu triste, d'un seul coup, ce que je viens d'écrire; mais c'est malheureusement vrai que je me sens dans ma vie un peu comme à l'hôtel; et que je sais que j'aurai tôt ou tard à libérer ma chambre" (EP 123).

In view of a world dominated by an essentially 'touristy' attitude towards life, in which "le dispositif général de transport des êtres humains" plays a central role "dans l'accomplissement des destinées individuales" (CT 105), social problems, different concepts of life and images of people emerge negotiated mainly about tourism and traffic-related issues. The 'air tourism' reflections from earlier works in La carte et le territoire continued; the novel outlines in miniature a global history of air travel - from the "époque surprenante des Trente Glorieuses"because aviation was still allowed to be regarded as a" symbol of aventure technologique modern "(CT 134), up to and including postmodern avia tourism as a dreary mass phenomenon that gradually emerged from the once heroic" voyage aérien "" une expérience infantilisante et concentrationnaire "made (ibid.). The flight, once a symbol of freedom and proud world domination by a person who seemed to have overcome the laws not only of gravity but of 'nature' in general, is symptomatic of the rapidly advancing restriction "Freedoms" achieved since the sixties in a security-obsessed, neo-puritanical, mature citizen in an age that is transformed back into infantile wards to be looked after at every turn (CT 134f.).42

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The car, in the most radical contrast to proto-fascist air tourism ("Les compagnies aériennes […] organizations intrinsèquement fascistes", CT 301), not only enjoys a special status as an object of metaphysically excessive consumption-fetishist meditations, but also becomes precarious Stylized (mobile) retreat, one of the last individual free spaces in an ever more restrictively regulated society: "un des derniers espaces de liberté, une des dernières zones d'autonomie temporaire offerte aux humains en ce début de troisième millénaire "(CT 301); it is no coincidence that already sets in Extension du domaine de la Lutte depicts the protagonist's depressive self-loss with a scene in which the protagonist 'loses' his car in the streets of Paris. In La carte et le territoire the automobile becomes the perfect metaphor for the hero's mildly autistic existence; the extremely comfortable insulation in the interior of a Audi Allroad A6 corresponds to everyone's position in life in general: "et il se rendit compte qu'il allait maintenant quitter ce monde dont il n'avait jamais véritablement fait partie […] il serait dans la vie comme il l'était à présent dans l'habitacle à la finition parfaite de son Audi Allroad A6, paisible et sans joie, définitivement neutre "(CT 269).

On the occasion of his travels to 'Houellebecq' in Ireland, the protagonist indulges himself in detailed flight-sociological reflections on clientele, routes, pricing and marketing strategies of traditional airlines and others low cost-Companies (for example about the 'subtle differences' between the business clientele of Air France and the colorful audience of Ryan Air, CT 160), but above all about the way in which new (cheap)
Flight networks - at the same time a product and generator of new migration flows, an instrument of a creeping but fundamental 're-measurement' of the world - design a new "geographie du monde": "Ainsi, le libéralisme redessinait la geographie du monde en fonction des attentes de la clientèle, que celle -ci se déplace pour se livrer au tourisme ou pour gagner sa vie. à la surface plane, isometric de la carte du monde se substitait une topographie anormale où Shannon était plus proche de Katowice que de Bruxelles, de Fuerteventura que de Madrid "(CT 152).43

During a trip from Shannon to Beauvais, Jed Martin experiences a surreal dream vision - this is a poetological and 'spatial philosophical' key point in the novel that refers to a similar dream by Michel Djerzinski Les particules élémentaires refers back (PE 236) - the world from a bird's or airplane's perspective as a grotesque text conglomerate, as a monstrous 'book' or as a devastated cartographic-biographical palimpsest. Your own life story no longer appears as a linear narrative, but as a chaotic 'map landscape' full of corrections, deletions, and overwrites:

Il était au milieu d'un espace blanc, apparemment illimité. […] À la surface du sol se distinguaient, irrégulièrement disposés, de place en place, des blocs de texte aux lettres noires formant de légers reliefs; chacun des blocs pouvait comporter une cinquantaine de mots. Jed comprit alors qu'il se trouvait dans un livre, et se demanda si ce livre racontait l'histoire de sa vie. Se penchant sur les blocs qu'il rencontrait sur sa route, il eut d'abord l'impression que oui […] mais aucune information précise ne pouvait en être tirée, la plupart des mots étaient effacés ou rageusement barrés, illisibles […] Aucune direction temporelle ne pouvait, non plus, être définie […]. (CT 153)

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The shift in lunar economic hierarchies, already discussed in earlier works, is discussed in La carte et le territoire consistently thought ahead; the shift of the global 'focus' - and thus also the global migration routes (CT 417) - to the new large Asian industrial nations, which Europe - which has long left industrial modernity behind - as (not only) the economic center of the world replace: "La modernité était peut-être une erhur, se dit Jed pour la première fois de sa vie. Question purement rhetorique, d'ailleurs: la modernité était terminée en Europe occidentale depuis pas mal de temps déjà" (CT 348).

The post-modern European space is radically restructured in this novel: The Ruhr area is transformed into a kind of open-air museum of the industrial era in Europe ("un conservatoire du premier âge industriel en Europe") and as the center of a new "tourism industry"established;44 around the industrial tourism hot spots the landscape is again left to 'nature' and a wildly growing vegetation, indifferent conqueror; Central Europe, once a stronghold of a 'civilization' that thought itself to be universal, is transforming itself back into a "jungle impénétrable" (CT 427f.) With incredible speed.

In the context of this new global economy, France occupies the position of a luxury Disneyland, a tourist paradise for the newly wealthy clientele of those countries in which economic power is now at home (Russia, India, China45), whereby the Russian clientele in particular continues to be stereotyped from a French perspective as extremely 'Russian' - or an "économie du potlatch", which survived all the political upheavals of the 20th century unscathed (CT 417) - faithful, particularly popular.

The provincial nest, in which 'Houellebecq' comes to a tragic end, already seems deeply inauthentic, for the generalized tourist gaze of the homo postmodernus staged French 'Potemkin village', which with its "relentlessly restored" historical monuments and with the philosophical-urbanistic miniature catastrophe of its "rond-point Emmanuel-Kant [...] un simple cercle de macadam d'un gris parfait qui ne conduisait à rien" (CT 282) is reminiscent of the décor of a television series: "Tout donnait l'impression d'un décor, d'un village faux, reconstitué pour les besoins d'une série télévisée" (CT 280). This "structurally abandoned" place, "figé dans sa perfection rurale à destination touristique", also appears at the same time as a surreal science fiction scene, an artificial world in which various aliens could comfortably settle down after a possible intergalactic catastrophe: "[ …] C'est exactement ainsi que se présenterait le monde, se dit Jed, après l'explosion d'une bomb à neutrones intergalactique. Les aliens pourraient pénétrer dans les rues, tranquilles et restaurées, de la bourgade, et se réjouir de sa beauté mesurée "(CT 360).

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When Jed, the hermit of the Creuse, goes on an excursion to the neighboring village after more than ten years of solitude, he is surprised by the changes there; the French province now resembles a single large tourism reserve: "Il ne se remémorait que vaguement Châtelus-le-Marcheix, c'était dans son souvenir un petit village décrépit, ordinaire de la France rurale, et rien de plus. Mais, dès ses premiers pas dans les rues de la bourgade, il fut envahi par la stupéfaction. […] On se serait cru à Koh Phi Phi, ou à Saint-Paul-de-Vence, bien plus que dans un village rural de la Creuse " (CT 412). As a result, he undertook all kinds of tours of discovery through France, new tourist ones terra incognita: "La France, de toute évidence, avait beaucoup changé. […] Oui, le pays avait changé, changé en profondeur" (CT 414).

The sex tourism interests of individual characters, erotically frustrated in their joyless Central European everyday life, are of course still directed towards tried and tested 'exotic' destinations,46 so the Caribbean (one of the centers of the global "tourisme de charme" project that the protagonists in Plateforme develop): Marylin,47 a moderately attractive, all the more neurotic, but professionally highly successful French PR manager, returns from her aphro vacation in Jamaica and makes no secret of her enthusiasm for the erotic qualities of indigenous masculinity: "J'ai super bien baisé [... ] putain, les mecs, ils sont géniaux "(CT 156). After all, it is France itself, after its withdrawal from industrial production, that relies exclusively on its culinary, oenological and erotic atouts and, thanks to successful cliché recycling, has established itself as a new stronghold of international pleasure and gallantry tourism: " La prostitution avait même connu, sur le plan économique, une véritable embellie, due à la persistance […] d'une image fantasmée de la parisienne […] La France, pour la première fois depuis les années 1900 or 1910, était redevenue une destination privilégiée du tourisme sexuel"(CT 415).

Houellebecq also outlines very similar future prospects for France in Ennemis publics. France, as a possible industrial, high-tech or financial power with no chance, will inevitably - and for its own good - transform itself into a thoroughly museum-like country or, crudely, into a kind of 'tourist brothel' on the worldly market in the Essentially "of the hotel de charme, the perfume et des rillettes - ce qu'on appelle un art de vivre"(CT 416), whereby Houellebecq has no objection to this new global 'division of labor':

Et comme activité économique pour la France de demain, ça suffira bien. S'imagine-t-on vraiment que nous allons devenir des leaders dans l'industrie du logiciel ou des micro-processeurs? Que nous allons maintenir une industry puissante et exportatrice? Que Paris va se transformers en un pôle d'excellence financière? Allons allons. […] Est-ce que ça veut dire que j'accepte sans broncher cette nouvelle division international du travail? Ben oui, et je ne vois d'ailleurs pas comment je pourrais faire autrement. […] Disons les choses plus crûment: est-ce que j'ai envie de voir transformer la France en un pays muséifié, mort? en une sorte de bordel à touristes? […] Sans hésiter, je réponds: OUI. (EP 125)

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One of the central themes of La carte et le territoire However, it is above all space as an object of conscious artistic design: A number of 'spatial obsessions' from earlier works by Houellebecq return here - and are all reflected on the meta-level.

Also the protagonist of La carte et le territoire like his 'ancestors' from earlier Houellebecq novels, combines a pronounced 'spatial sociological' sensitivity with an inability, bordering on mild autism, to find an adequate place for oneself in social space; Like his predecessors, he is also the last member of a dying family, border crosser of the human species ("c'en était à se demander s'il appartenait au genre humain", CT 64) and in this respect a fairly close - albeit de-sciencefictionalized - Relatives not only from Michel Djerzinski Les particules élémentaires and Michels out Plateformebut also the 'neo-humains' La possibilité d'une île.

After having 'taken care of' financially as a shooting star on the international art market, Jed retreats to the French provinces, converts his grandparents' rural property into the postmodern Hermitage in a remarkable mixture of family nostalgia and worldly disgust, and, instinctively striving to do so, acquires To put as much distance as possible between himself and his 'fellow human beings', around his house an area of ​​700 hectares, which he immediately surrounds with a three meter high electric metal fence (CT 409).

Jed, entrenched in his rural high-security residence (this refuge is also reminiscent of the dwellings of the 'neo-humains' in La possibilité d'une île), does not leave his estate apart from his weekly excursions "au Carrefour de Limoges"; Here, too, the supermarket remains as the last potential place of approximate 'happiness': "Il y allait généralement le mardi matin, dès l'ouverture, ayant remarqué que c'était à ce moment que l'affluence était la plus faible. Il avait , quelquefois, l'hypermarché pour lui tout seul - ce qui lui paraissait être une assez bonne approximation du bonheur "(CT 410).

Also La carte et le territoire insofar continues the postmodern (surrogate) mythology of the supermarket from earlier works by Houellebecq, this "Baudelaire des supermarchés" (Noguez 2003: 30). To the lonely passer-by in the big evening, supermarkets and petrol station shops appear as the last "lieux de vie", the last intact coordinates in a chaotic world that only contains the desacralized 'temples' of consumption, something like human structure, emotional or 'energetic' density award: "Un hypermarché Casino, une station-service Shell demeuraient les seuls centers d'énergie perceptibles, les seules propositions sociales susceptibles de provoquer le désir, le bonheur, la joie" (CT 195).48

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Even the protagonist's father, also a 'space expert' in his capacity as an architect with failed artistic ambitions ("Oui, moi aussi, je voulais être un artist... ", CT 219),49 has spent a whole professional life building, maintaining and renovating 'living machines' of all kinds - "configurations habitables" and "machine [s] à habiter" (CT 39) - and finally, he too, was a tourism professional against his will specializes in the revitalization of run-down holiday complexes. Jed Martins - for his part extremely successful - artistic career, which runs across the media photography, painting and video, reflects all of the spatial problems of Houellebecq's oeuvre outlined above (from various 'housing disasters' to changing urban topographies and macrostructural questions of a new global economy to towards the dawn of a 'posthuman' age including a radical 're-measurement' of the world).

The nostalgic fascination for industrial 'production', already an important motif in Houellebecq's earlier texts, is artistically 'filtered' here; Jed's first major artistic project, deliberately anachronistic "homage au travail humain"(CT 51),50 is dedicated to the "photographie systématique des objets manufacturés du monde" (CT 40), the complete documentation of the 'achievements' of the occidental industrial age:51 "rien n'échappait à son ambition encyclopédique, qui était de constituer un catalog exhaustif des objets de fabrication humaine à l'âge industriel" (CT 41).

Also in La carte et le territoire Houellebecq cultivates the 'detail fetishism' that is so characteristic of his texts in the description of various utility and, above all, technical objects;52 The novel reflects in detail the identity-constitutive and -affirmative function of the things that belong to a person, whereby the obsession of the 'Choses'53 here - far beyond mere consumer ideology or capitalist status thinking - testifies to a profound, almost metaphysical uncertainty. In a world from which God & Co. long ago said goodbye - "Parce qu'en effet un monde sans Dieu, sans spiritualité, sans rien, a de quoi faire terriblement pinball"notes the author in Ennemis publics (148) - Houellebecq's figures cling to the 'things', the last (mobile, mobile, portable) islands of security and self-assurance in an indifferent, confusing world. Biographies are thus transformed into archives of consumption;54 Life stories appear as the more or less arbitrary sequence of purchase decisions that a supposedly responsible consumer has made in a thoroughly commercialized "option reality" (Sloterdijk 2007: 324).55 Only things create continuity and existential coherence; It is no coincidence that 'Houellebecq' falls into tragicomic despair at the disappearance of his favorite products from the market (CT 170).56

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After an initial creative phase in which Jed was exclusively interested in the "produits manufacturés" of this world, he turned to their producers (CT 188); his series of 'métiers', intended as "une vision exhaustive du secteur productif de la société de son temps" (CT 123), evokes an already obsolete mythology of 'work' and shows people of the epoch in their professional environment, including here special sensitivity for the respective spatial dispositive (cf. about CT 200f.): "D'un tableau à l'autre j'essaie de construire un espace artificiel, symbolique, où je puisse représenter des situations qui aient un sens pour le groupe" , Jed Martin explains his artistic 'program' (CT 149).

The second great artistic initiation experience of the protagonist becomes the purchase of a Michelin card on the way to the funeral of his grandmother in Creuse:

Cette carte était sublime […] Jamais il n'avait contemplé d'objet aussi magnifique, also riche d'émotion et de sens que cette carte Michelin au 1/150,000 de la Creuse, Haute-Vienne. L'essence de la modernité, de l'appréhension scientifique et technique du monde, s'y trouvait mêlée avec l'essence de la vie animale. […] Dans chacun des hameaux, des villages, représentés suivant leur importance, on sentait la palpitation, l'appel, de dizaines de vies humaines, de dizaines ou de centaines d'âmes - les unes promises à la damnation, les autres à la vie éternelle. (CT 54)

The "cartographic narrative"57 is here metaphysically exaggerated; the tourist map, characterized by Schlögel as a "case of harmless, apolitical maps", which show "a territory of speed and easy access to sights and the associated service facilities" (Schlögel 2007: 106), becomes an esoteric world book in which Redemption or damnation of postmodern human 'souls'.

After returning to Paris, Jed Martin immediately purchases - "dans un état de frénésie nerveuse" - all Michelin cards available on the market ("un peu plus de cent cinquante", CT 62). A series of photographs of these cards, on which - thanks to perspective experiments and Photoshop - he creates a 'magical' alternative world, "un territoire de rêve, féerique et inviolable" (CT 65), not only brings him a liaison with the Russian Olga , Marketing expert at Michelin and, by the way, after 'Frédéric Beigbeders' connoisseur judgment "une des cinq plus belles femmes de Paris" (CT 75), but also a financially highly profitable cooperation with the group itself - and not least downright dithyrambic reviews in Le Monde - a.

The Michelin project hits the - or at least one - nerve of the times: It creates an artistic outlet for a vague nostalgia of the 'Scholle', the longing for 'authenticity' in a globalized simulacre world ("le public avait soif d'écologie, d 'authenticité, de vraies valeurs ", CT 234), after a' return to nature ', which admittedly has always degenerated into a parody of itself:" […] pour la première fois en réalité en France depuis Jean-Jacques Rousseau, la campagne était redevenue tendance. […] Et la carte Michelin, objet utilitaire, inaperçu par excellence, devint […] le véhicule privilégié d'initiation à ce que Liberation devait sans honte appeler la 'magie du terroir' "(CT 89f.).

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The auspicious card, which pretends to be a perfect, colorful world, is unfolded into a three-dimensional space.58 on the occasion of a New Year's Eve party on the subject of "les provinces de France" (CT 233) in the luxurious residence of 'Jean-Pierre Pernaut' - proponent of the media renaissance of a pseudo-idyllic provincialism, which is rightly critically viewed,59 in the novel after leaving TF1 and coming out as director of Michelin TV active - in Neuilly, transformed for the occasion into a miniature version of a hyper-folklorized France.60 After the more or less exclusive guests have successfully passed the entrance, guarded by "paysans vendéens armés de fourches" (CT 238), a complete musical and culinary revue retro program awaits them, 'sorted' according to regions and departments (à la "une dizaine de sonneurs de biniou bretons […] un crunchy aromatisé à l'emmental et un verre de gewurztraminer 'vendanges tardives', proposés par two serveuses alsaciennes en coiffe […]" CT 239).61

The fascination for Mapping as a strategy for conquering the world in general, and for Michelin maps in particular, has been a constant in Houellebecq's work from the start (remember Extension du domaine de la Lutte, where finally only such a map seems to promise the depressed protagonist in a contingent existence that drives him to despair a remnant of order, orientation and meaning, but also of the cartographic 'promise of happiness' in La possibilité d'une île). Even the artist out La carte et le territoire And the viewers of his Michelin Opus come to the melancholy realization that the world on a map, and especially on a Michelin tourist map, looks much 'more beautiful' and, paradoxically, much more 'authentic' than any real landscape ever does could. Right at the entrance to his big Michelin show, Martin contrasts a satellite image that shows the dreary 'reality' of the earth and the photographic enlargement of a Michelin map of the same zone, whereby no inexperienced viewer eludes the insight that inspires the title of the exhibition can that the map is definitely 'more interesting than the territory':

Le contraste était frappant: alors que la photo satellite ne laissait apparaître qu'une soupe de verts plus ou moins uniformes parsemée de vagues taches bleues, la carte développait un fascinant lacis de départementales, de routes pittoresques, de points de vue, de forêts, de lacs et de cols. Au-dessus des deux agrandissements, en capitales noires, figurait le titre de l'exposition: "La carte est plus intéressante que le territoire". (CT 82)

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In a word: The protagonist's artistic project also revolves around La carte et le territoire, with which the connection to the title of the entire text would be established.62 A potential source of inspiration for this new Houellebecq title has already been mentioned on various occasions; Alfred Korzybski, founder of 'General Semantics', gave birth to the formula "the map is not the territory" (aka "la carte n'est pas le territoire"), which has now gained new popularity thanks to Houellebecq and Houellebecq experts63). On another possible source - the 'neoconservative' essayist and novelist Philippe Muray64 - refers to an article in the express.65 Another lead, however, seems even more promising, although it has already been picked up by criticism66 - and leads from Jorge Luis Borges to Umberto Eco right into the cartographic phantasmagoria of the (for the time being) last Houellebecq novel.

In his "Magias parciales del Quixote"refers Borges to the American philosopher Josiah Royce, who in the first volume of his study The World and the Individual (1899) outlined the idea of ​​a monstrous (meta) meta map - "un mapa del mapa, que debe contener un mapa del mapa del mapa, y así hasta lo infinito" (Borges 2007: 84) - the Borges' reflections causes the same 'metaleptic' dizziness as Thousand and one Night, Don Quixote and Hamlet, these classics of metaliterary confusion:

¿Por qué nos inquieta que el mapa esté incluido en el mapa y las mil y una noches en el libro de Las mil y una noches? ¿Por qué nos inquieta que don Quixote sea lector del Quixote, y Hamlet, espectador de Hamlet? Creo haber dado con la causa: tales inversiones suggest que si los caracteres de una ficción pueden ser lectores o espectadores, nosotros, sus lectores o espectadores, podemos ser ficticios ... (Borges 2007: 84)

In a short text, titled Del rigor en la ciencia (Borges 1987: 136), Borges designs the surreal (and evidenced in the best Borges manner by an emphatically 'pedantic' scientific pseudo-reference67) A vision of an 'empire' in which the art of cartography is driven to such perfection that the map of a single province occupies an entire city and the map of the empire occupies an entire province; the cartographic excess finally reaches the point at which the map of the empire "puntualmente" (ibid.) coincides with the empire itself. The following generations, convinced of the uselessness of the imperial card, leave it to the rigors of the weather; only in the 'deserts of the west' remain cartographic ruins in which animals and beggars live: "Menos Adictas al Estudio de la Cartografía, las Generaciones Siguientes entendieron que ese dilatado Mapa era Inútil y no sin Impiedad lo entregaron a las Inclemencias del Sol y de los Inviernos. En los Desiertos del Oeste perduran despedazadas Ruinas del Mapa habitadas por Animales y por Mendigos; en todo el País no hay otra reliquia de las Disciplinas Geográficas "(ibid.).68

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The correspondences with Houellebecq's room configurations in La carte et le territoire seem evident: this novel, too, depicts a world that is increasingly becoming its own representation, its own map transformed69 - until after the end of industrial modernity in Europe, large parts of this' map 'will be given up again and left to a wild vegetation, which here too around the' ruins of the map ', the museum relics of a lost scientific and technical culture, a once' civilized 'territory recaptured.

After his cartographic explorations of a postmodern world of simulacra, Jed Martin dedicates his late work, "méditation nostalgique sur la fin de l'âge industriel en Europe, et plus généralement sur le caractère périssable et transitoire de toute industrie humaine" (CT 428), a series of disturbing video projects depicting the end times visions La possibilité d'une île re-evoke and symbolically anticipate the gradual dissolution of an entire civilization. To this extent, Jed Martin's residence in the French provinces also functions as an 'experimental station for the end of the world'; the huge property is left to itself or to an indifferent 'nature' in which there is no longer any space for people, their ambitions in terms of space and space. The private 'territory' of this avant-garde of the apocalypse is already largely covered by "une forêt dense, au sous-bois impénétrable" towards the end of his life: "La trace des chemins qui avaient pu parcourir la forêt était depuis longtemps effacée" (CT 421). In this private 'jungle' Jed Martin tries to capture "le point de vue végétal sur le monde" with the help of sophisticated video technology (CT 422f.). This 'vegetal' period is followed by a final creative phase in which he documents the (artificially accelerated) process of decay of various industrial, especially electronic products and lets them disappear or literally 'drown' via digital "surimpression" in all-devouring "couches végétales" ( CT 423ff.). In his last artistic work, shortly before his own death, he stages the quasi-ritual 'extinction' of all people he has ever known or of whom he has photographs, and finally - in the form of play figures, "figurines jouets, représentations schématiques d 'êtres humains "- the extinction of the human species in general (CT 425f.). The vegetation - the archaic "magma végétal" (CT 425) - is regaining the upper hand, overgrowing or inundating the archaeological relics of human civilization. "Puis tout se calme, il n'y a plus que des herbes agitées par le vent. Le triomphe de la végétation est total" (CT 428) are the last sentences of the novel.

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7. Conclusion

Here, in the middle of the European jungle, this hike through the idiosyncratic, often disturbing 'landscapes' of Houellebecq's work ends. Houellebecq's literally eccentric "phantasmagoria of space" (Benjamin 1977: 181) - of the depressive collapse of social spaces in Extension du domaine de la Lutte and Les particules élémentaires about the tourist-terrorist reconfigurations of a globalized society in Plateforme and the virtual spaces of 'neo-human' existence in La Possibilité d'une île up to the meta-spatial meditations in La carte et le territoire - offer a unique panorama of a post-postmodern world and also "a good deal of postmodern criticism" with a neoconservative tendency that "instead of incessant différance the return to the monad "(Leopold 2005: 266) - and at the same time problematizes this return in its fatal failure. In their specific spatial sensitivity, these texts are also a commentary on the conditio (post) humana to read, as provocative reflections on central social and philosophical questions of the present, which often lead to contradiction, always stimulate thought, far beyond the area of ​​'beautiful literature' (whose traditional aesthetic conventions Houellebecq as a novelist with his consciously cultivated anti-style70 as is known, consistently refused) - because perhaps Høegs Tørk is right when he points out to the declared non-novelist Smilla: "This is a mistake. Writers see earlier than science where we are going" (Høeg 1994: 458 ).


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