Welcome to the website of the French Institute of South Africa!
Bienvenue sur le site de l'Institut Français d'Afrique du Sud !
Michel Houellebecq embodies a strange paradox among French contemporary writers. Hated and despised by artistic elites for his alleged "lack of style" and "intellectual void" - he even published a book on the topic called "Public Enemies", along with Bernard-Henri Levi, another controversial figure - he remains, novel after novel, a best-selling author in France and abroad. This contradictory fate finally seemed to turn for the better in 2010 when the writer was awarded the prestigious Prix Goncourt for "The Map and the Territory", an original, bitter-sweet novel that has just hit the shelves of Dibuka (Johannesburg) in both French and English.
The book's main character is Jed Martin, a famous painter renowned among other things for his "tributes to human labour". His works bear names such as "The Palo Alto conversation", where Steve Jobs and Bill Gates discuss the future of the computer science, or "Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst sharing the art market", where the two contemporary masters evoke their respective clients. Despite his fame and fortune, Jed cannot help to feel unsatisfied about life - but, as a genuine Houellebecq's character, cannot explain why. His father death and other minor events will inexorably encourage Jed to think about his past and reconsider his present...
Houellebecq is at his best here, writing in his inimitable style made of detachment and irony counterbalanced by subtle touches of brief but always pertinent philosophical remarks. "The Map and the Territory" is a book about art, money and death set in a contemporary France reduced to an open-air museum ; a must-read for any one wishing to have fun - and, incidentally, to get to know one of France's best contemporary writer.
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