Book Review

Lanzarote by Michel Houellebecq

Lanzarote by Michel Houellebecq

I am never entirely sure as to the definition of a novella but Michel Houellebecq's Lanzarote is barely even a good short story. Readers starting on Houellebecq with this book will wonder why the fuss, why his earlier novels were deemed so important; those who have read and enjoyed (or been appalled) by his work before will wonder why on earth this was ever deemed worthy of seeing the light of day.

Houellebecq has a strong and controversial reputation and Lanzarote was obviously published because Houellebecq's name on a book is guranteed to ensure that it shifts considerable units. But Lanzarote is rubbish! There is nothing here worthy of praise. Nothing exceptional or brave or challenging or moving or intelligent is evidenced here. And the over-praised writing - which is what readers are there to be moved by, after all - is perfunctory, unchallenging, grey. All we have here is a negligible idea of a story padded out with Houellebecq's trademark concerns (porn/sex and genetics) and, in addition, some of his character's oh-so-shocking xenophobia (so we have side-swipes at the Belgians, the Luxembourgians, the British, the Germans and at Islam) invoked for light comedy effect.

What is so disappointing with Houellebecq's book is that the questionable politics that in Atomised and Whatever are structurally embedded within the narrative and arise naturally from the character's ennui and disappointment seem so tired, cliched, careless and unintelligent in Lanzarote. But to criticise Houellebecq's latest offering any further would seem to be engaging in a caricature of one's own: Lanzarote is simply too insignificant and meagre to be worth bothering with. I started reading Platform after having very much enjoyed (with significant reservations) Atomised and Whatever but put it down bored by the tawdry racism on show. I think I should go back to Platform and read it through and engage with that - Lanzarote was, quite simply, a waste of time.


-- Reviewed by Mark Thwaite on 12/08/2004

Further Information
ISBN-10: 0434009180
ISBN-13: 9780434009183
Publisher: William Heinemann
Publication Date: 03/07/2003
Binding: Hardcover
Number of pages: 112

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