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The Map and the Territory


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"The Map & The Territory" is the latest novel from French author Michel Houellebecq. The main character, Jed Martin, is an artistic photographer and like most Houellebecq lead characters, leads a life in seclusion from the majority of humanity. (He sees his father once a year for Christmas dinner. Actually this would demonstrate better human relations than other Houellebecq main characters).


In part 1 of the book , it deals with Jed Martin's early life including his exhibition of photos of Michelin maps and the relationship he had with Olga.

Part 2 of the book deals with Martin's new exhibition. Martin has moved from photography to painting and in the next exhibition, set 10 years after the first exhibition, he paints occupations in which he is trying to convince the great novelist Michel Houellebecq (i believe a fictionalised version of Houellebecq based on the views of critics of his. The author Houellebecq takes many a shot at the character of Houellebecq which i believe a critic of Houellebecq would really enjoy apart from it being written by Houellebecq) to write the guide to the paintings for the exhibition.


In part 3, Martin is asked to assist in an utterly gruesome murder (this is on the back of the book. therefore if it's a spoiler, then it's the publisher's spoiler) I found this is be darkly brilliant writing. I do not like the gruesome nature of murders in general or most things. However the victim being who it was made it a whole lot easier to read.


It does lack the standard Houellebecq controversial subject matter, however he does get his shots in in wonderful although somewhat controversial writing (which i personally may not agree with). This includes an observation about the type of people he gets onto a shuttle bus to the airport with being those unproductive members of society (maybe including himself as an artist in that category?)


And of course there is the standard Houellebecq anti-sexual/anti-procreation rant in there that was strewn in both "Atomised" and "possibility of an island"


There had been the notion of controversy in terms of plagiarism. After reading this book. I think this was just blown out of proportion.


The book is a commentary on the world we live in, how maybe Western Europe has lost it in terms of creating/building stuff and have now rely on other less important things. While the father was an architect, his architecture work was mostly to do with tourist resort rather than something practical. The loss of the practical nature of Europe is at the heart of the book


The book also deals with love, personal relationships (in 1)lack of and 2)end of) and a fraught father/son relationship, money, the role of the artist in society and the decline of the individual and possibility humanity in general. This is a nihilistic view of the world.


Overall i did really enjoy this book and it was just superbly written.



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