The Map And The Territory – Explaining How Michel Houellebecq Introduced Maps To His Acclaimed Novel
Among the most controversial and celebrated French writers, Michael Houellebecq has earned rave popularity with his four novels including Platform, The Elementary Particles, Submission and The Map And The Territory. In a satirical approach to modern world, Michael has defined a new definition of ‘maturity’ in The Map And The Territory for which he was awarded Prix Goncourt in 2010. With this novel, his primary concern was to introduce readers with a universe contrasting to the modern lifestyle including swinger lifestyle, clones, cults, molecular biology, sex tourism and stand-up comedy. The multi-faceted art offered opportunity for him to exercise appetite for his decadence, gloomy meditation on the global capitalism and more.
“The world is weary of me, / And I am weary of it” – the epigraph with which the novel starts, signifies the alter ego of the author –the character of Jed Martin, a charismatic photographer and painter. While reflecting his philosophy as described in his earlier novels, the epigraph along with the book turns out to be quite ironical with the very French-like self-portraiture and occasional criticism.
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Introduction Of Jed Martin And French Maps
The first section pictured in the early 2000’s features Jed Martin without hinting much on his history. Jed is found taking a plunge into the world of art with the photographs that take inspiration from Michelin maps of France. Readers would find how Houellebecq paints France like the ideal tourist destination both for Americans and Englishmen during 21st century and Indians and Chinese during 21st century. In the course of the middle section, Jed’s paintings give a critical view of contemporary society some of which might not be agreeable to the readers but the smooth coherence in featuring the sensibilities and realities of the 21st century is what makes the perspective deep.
The first 2/3rd of the novel depicted in terms of a biographical or historical fiction from the future in 21st century have a sci-fi touch, especially in the epilogue bearing future geopolitical saga in 2040’s. The past, present and future mapping technologies along with dysphoria induced by globalization from 3rd person perspective tracks Jed Martin’s life. Jed is found to be somewhat autistic and reticent with devotion towards his work and devoid of romantic notions. Apart from shopping at the Hypermarche, Jed has no inclination towards hobbies and also has etiolated social relations. Here readers also find glimpse of his retired architect father and techy boiler best friend.
Third Section Of The Map And The Territory
The contemporary third or last part of The Map And The Territory features the new settings with a thriller vibe and Houellebecq brings the character of detective to suit the settings of a crime thriller. As a consulting citizen in police investigation of a decapitated dog and its owner, Houellebecq depicts the quaint house in French countryside village. The gory description of the flesh cut in shape of ribbons with precision of a surgeon becomes more cringe-worthy when Michael says that the ribbon-like flesh pieces were strewn across the living room resembling pappardelle. The themes of death, ageing, loss of sexual lust with ageing, generation gap and conflicts are nuanced but have balance by analysis of “big picture” of the socio-cultural values.
The novel now moves towards denouement where Houellebecq shares his grievances regarding the advancement of technology, human dependency on it as well as facing horrors of body. Just like the modern police procedures, he brings CBI into the investigation picture and shows how instead of one sleuth, the department appoints a team. Although the novel has an advanced view to the future world of technology, the author satirizes the contemporary world and the elites of French media. He rather brings real-life personages to create caricatures of the modern-day people –homosexual TV celebrity Jean-Pierre Pernaut, egoist drunk Patrick Le Lay, newsreader Claire Chazal, Patrick Kechichian who writes religious verses and is art critique, Houellebecq’s editor Teresa and of course the hysterical addict Frederic Beigbeder.
Mercurial, neurotic, coy, phobic, intellectual, depressed, vigorous, lively and calm –all these traits are present in Houellebecq’s character. He is found to travel from France to an active life in Ireland, gaining philosophical insight and being self-mortified make the final section quite thought-provoking. The readers are left with many questions while the combination of satire, crime fiction and Bildungsroman make The Map And The Territory deserving for multiple awards.