Narrated by a depressive and socially isolated protagonist, Michel Houellebecq’s first novel Whatever traces the disaggregating effects of post-Fordism on the intimate spaces of human affect. Set in the burgeoning information technology industry of the mid-1990s among a hitherto literarily neglected social group of middle managers (cadres), the novel suggests that the cultural project of post-Fordist capitalism blights all human relations and leads to an existential pauperization of everyday life. The affective spaces of the human subject are no longer sites of pleasure but deeply agonistic ones. Heir neither to the hygienic aesthetic of the nouveau roman nor to a “death of affect” strain of literary postmodernism, Houellebecq’s work is generically difficult to situate in the French or Anglo-American novelist tradition. A terse rejoinder to its socio-economic epoch, What-ever tests the viability of novelistic form in the face of the “indifference and nothingness” of the post-Fordist subject – Carole Sweeney
During the past weeks of intense banality at the office, I’d sometimes come home and write to old friends. In some of these friendly musings we were discussing Shoshana Zuboff works. I took out Zuboff’s In the Age of the Smart Machine from library and was struck at how much the child like illustrations spoke true of my present situation. I recalled my first interview in the US stating that I do not want to work with computers, I suppose this statement must have come across bizarre if not tremendously naïve to those interviewing me for an office position
As we carried on with our exchanges on the concept of working a regular 40 hours a week to earn a living, a friend recommended the film Whatever which is the English translation of Extension du Domaine de la Lutte (The Extention of the Domain of the Struggle). I immediately got the DVD out the library and watched it this evening. What can I say? Sometimes one is just in the appropriate state or frame of mind, to be able to have a film fully absorb ones full attention and consume the entirety of ones thoughts for the duration. I can say that Philippe Harel’s (screenwriter, director and actor!) performance and production was utterly compelling. As always with all films. There is no use of me saying anything more, partly, because I am incapable of giving any good work the review it deserves, the impetus to write about the film is in itself, proof that the film requires an audience.
A colleague asked me if I ever read fiction. I am always surprised when people categorize writing in such a way. To me this is a strange and ineffective binary way of categorizing writing. Nonetheless, I remarked that I have a lot of “non-fiction” to read now. Regardless I do wish I had more time for the French masters.
I still haven’t yet read all of Celine, Cendrars, Camus………..
Now to add the works of Houellebecq, Maupassant…………..
The same friend sent along a wonderful interview with Houellebecq
Laks Indrakaran – Somerville, MA