The Map and the Territory (La carte et le territoire)

Michel Houellebecq

The Map and the Territory (La carte et le territoire)

Having made his name with an exhibition of photographs of Michelin roadmaps – beautiful works that won praise from every corner of the art world – Jed Martin is now emerging from a ten-year hiatus. And he has had some good news. It has nothing to do with his broken boiler, the approach of another lamentably awkward annual Christmas dinner with his father or the memory of his doomed love affair with the beautiful Olga. It is that, for his new exhibition, he has secured the involvement of none other than the French novelist Michel Houellebecq. The great writer has agreed to write the text for the exhibition guide, for which he will be paid handsomely and also have his portrait painted by Jed. The exhibition – ‘Professions’, a series of portraits of ordinary and extraordinary people at work – brings Jed new levels of global fame. Yet his boiler is still broken, his ailing father flirts with oblivion and, worse still, he is contacted by one Inspector Jasselin, who requests his assistance in solving an unspeakable, atrocious and gruesome crime. 4.0 out of 5 based on 9 reviews
The Map and the Territory (La carte et le territoire)

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardcover
Pages 304
RRP £17.99
Date of Publication September 2011
ISBN 978-0434021406
Publisher William Heinemann
 

Having made his name with an exhibition of photographs of Michelin roadmaps – beautiful works that won praise from every corner of the art world – Jed Martin is now emerging from a ten-year hiatus. And he has had some good news. It has nothing to do with his broken boiler, the approach of another lamentably awkward annual Christmas dinner with his father or the memory of his doomed love affair with the beautiful Olga. It is that, for his new exhibition, he has secured the involvement of none other than the French novelist Michel Houellebecq. The great writer has agreed to write the text for the exhibition guide, for which he will be paid handsomely and also have his portrait painted by Jed. The exhibition – ‘Professions’, a series of portraits of ordinary and extraordinary people at work – brings Jed new levels of global fame. Yet his boiler is still broken, his ailing father flirts with oblivion and, worse still, he is contacted by one Inspector Jasselin, who requests his assistance in solving an unspeakable, atrocious and gruesome crime.

Reviews

The Sunday Times

William Boyd

However, as I read this droll and intriguing novel I found my mind was nagged by a sense that I had encountered this attitude, this world-view, before: that there was a literary precursor. Where else could one find this flat, unemotional, neutral tone of voice, this intense familiarity with all that is “modern”, this lack of interest in character and narrative, this fixation on the banal fringes of consumerist society, this sense of impending catastrophe, this sociosexual anomie, this alienation? The answer came to me — the late, great JG Ballard ... there can be no higher praise.

11/09/2011

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The Evening Standard

Melanie McGrath

From the very first paragraph of this brilliant, often preposterous, Prix Goncourt winning novel, the reader can be in no doubt that they're in the blisteringly bleak, darkly inventive grand massif that is Houellebecq land ... It's worth getting past his irritating, self-conscious provocations, most notably his casual homophobia and sniggering, adolescent worship of exotic, Amazonian women, because, though it would pain him to read this, in a world of copycatting and fakery, Michel Houellebecq is an exceptional writer and a stand-out original.

22/09/2011

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The Financial Times

Donald Morrison

The Map and the Territory is a delight to read – a felony in contemporary French fiction, where navel-gazing and high seriousness are valued over mere accessibility. Though readers of the book’s new English translation may be puzzled by all the Gallic celebrity cameos – it helps to know your Frédéric Beigbeders from your Michel Druckers – The Map and the Territory is vigorously, enjoyably un-French.

17/09/2011

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The Guardian

Alex Clark

A wonderfully strange and subversive enterprise, in which a semi-satirical examination of the art world gives way to a gory police procedural, realistic fictional characters mingle with utterly improbable figures who are in fact taken from real life, the author himself makes a low-key entrance and a thoroughly dramatic exit, and subjects under discussion range from the changing nature of the French countryside to the possibility of accurate artistic representations of art and the probability of writing a compelling thriller about radiators.

21/09/2011

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The Observer

George Walden

The book is a bundle of reflections tied together by a story, but the reflections are entertaining as well as elegiac and the story carries you along ... A true original ...

10/10/2010

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Standpoint

Tibor Fischer

...technically, his best novel and the strongest since his first, breakthrough book ... Although La carte has the usual Houellebecqian traits, unhappiness and prostitutes, it is in many ways a typical, Balzacian 19th-century novel.

11/10/2011

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The Times

Douglas Kennedy

As with all of his novels, plot is secondary to acidic social observation and musings about the state of modern France. As he notes toward the end of this thoroughly curious but strangely engaging novel: we all grapple with “the perishable and transitory nature of any human industry” ... an entertaining pessimist — and, as such, one who should be read.

17/09/2011

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The Literary Review

Andrew Hussey

The plot is ludicrous, teasing and entertaining in roughly equal measure ... Like his best books, The Map and the Territory is a deeply flawed work which, for the most part, also happens to be a page-turner.

01/10/2011

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The Daily Mail

Carla McKay

So much has been written about Michel Houellebecq, the arch-cynic bad boy of French literature, that he has now evidently decided to write himself into one of his plots. It could have been a disastrous move, but in fact this novel is probably the least inflammatory, most playful and most accessible of all Houellebecq’s fiction to date.

30/09/2011

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