Les Particules élémentaires

Les Particules élémentaires

"Les Particules élémentaires" ("The Elementary Particles") is a novel by the French author Michel Houellebecq, published in France in 1998. It tells the story of two half-brothers, Michel and Bruno, and their mental struggles against their situations in modern society. It was translated to English by Frank Wynne as "Atomised" (Heinemann,UK)/ "The Elementary Particles" (Knopf, US) and won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for writer and translator.

Plot summary

Despite the essentially elaborate scope of the plot (i.e. the eventual emergence of cloning as a replacement for the sexual reproduction of the human race), the narrative focuses almost exclusively on the bleak and unrewarding day-to-day lives of the protagonists; two half-brothers who barely know each other. They seem devoid of love, and in their loveless or soon to be loveless journeys, Bruno becomes a saddened loner, wrecked by his upbringing and failure to mature, while Michel’s pioneering work in cloning removes love from the process of reproduction. Humans are proven, in the end, to be just particles and just as bodies decay (a theme in the book) they can also be created from particles.

Setting and narrative

The story unfolds as a sort of framed narrative, so despite the events described therein having taken place mostly in 1999, the story is essentially set some 50 or so years in the future. A similar device was used by Kurt Vonnegut in the novel Galápagos, however unlike Vonnegut, Houellebecq only reveals the frame to the reader in the epilogue. Large sections of the story are presented in the form of suppertime storytelling dialogues between Michel, his childhood sweetheart Annabelle, Bruno, and Bruno's post-divorce girlfriend Christiane.

Characters

The story focuses on the lives of Bruno Clément and Michel Djerzinski, two French half brothers born of a hippie type mother. Michel is raised by his maternal grandmother and becomes an introverted molecular biologist who is ultimately responsible for the discoveries which lead to the elimination of sexual reproduction.Bruno's upbringing is much more tragic as described: shuffled and forgotten from one abusive boarding school to another, he eventually finds himself in a loveless marriage and teaching at a high school. Bruno grows into a lecherous and insatiable sex addict whose dalliances with prostitutes and sex chat on Minitel do nothing to satisfy him, to the point where he finds himself on disability leave from his job and in a mental hospital after a failed attempt at seducing one of his students.

Reception and recognition

The novel's publication caused quite a stir in French literary circles, and it sold hundreds of thousands of copies and vaulted Houellebecq into the French intellectual and literary spotlight during the summer and autumn of 1998. The vivid, almost pornographic sexual descriptions were a frequent target of criticism, and Houellebecq himself attracted both scorn and praise for his erratic proclamations and behaviour on television interviews and the like. The author was eventually awarded the Prix novembre in recognition of the novel.

In April 2008, Houllebecq's estranged mother, Lucie Ceccaldi, returned to France to publish "The Innocent One", a rebuttal to his alleged mis-characterization of her parenting as contained in the novel. In press interviews, she promised that "if he has the misfortune of sticking my name on anything again he'll get my walking stick in his face and that'll knock his teeth out." [http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSN0137893420080501?sp=true]

Film adaptation

A film version premiered at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival and won the Silver Bear award. The German film "Elementarteilchen" was directed by Oskar Roehler, and had reportedly been sold to distributors in 23 countries within days of its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. The cast includes Moritz Bleibtreu (Bruno), Christian Ulmen (Michel), Franka Potente (Annabelle), and Martina Gedeck (Christiane).

External links

* [http://imdb.com/title/tt0430051/ IMDB page of the movie (Elementarteilchen)]
* [http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/1323/ The prophets of pessimism] , Josie Appleton, "Spiked", August 3 2006
* [http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSN0137893420080501?sp=true "Just in time for Mothers Day!"] , Estelle Shirbon, "Reuters", May 1, 2008. Accessed May 2, 2008.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Les Particules elementaires — Les Particules élémentaires  Pour l’article homonyme, voir Les Particules élémentaires (film).  Les Particules élémentaires est un roman de Michel Houellebecq publié en 1998. Résumé L’histoire, en trois parties, se passe entre le 1er… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Les Particules Élémentaires —  Pour l’article homonyme, voir Les Particules élémentaires (film).  Les Particules élémentaires est un roman de Michel Houellebecq publié en 1998. Résumé L’histoire, en trois parties, se passe entre le 1er juillet 1998 et le 27 mars… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Les particules élémentaires —  Pour l’article homonyme, voir Les Particules élémentaires (film).  Les Particules élémentaires est un roman de Michel Houellebecq publié en 1998. Résumé L’histoire, en trois parties, se passe entre le 1er juillet 1998 et le 27 mars… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Les Particules élémentaires — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Les Particules élémentaires (film) et Particule élémentaire. Les Particules élémentaires Auteur Michel Houellebecq Genre Roman Pays d origine …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Les Particules elementaires (film) — Les Particules élémentaires (film)  Pour l’article homonyme, voir Les Particules élémentaires.  Les Particules élémentaires (Elementarteilchen) est un film allemand d Oskar Roehler sorti en 2006. Il a été récompensé d un Ours d argent… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Les particules élémentaires (film) —  Pour l’article homonyme, voir Les Particules élémentaires.  Les Particules élémentaires (Elementarteilchen) est un film allemand d Oskar Roehler sorti en 2006. Il a été récompensé d un Ours d argent du meilleur acteur en 2006. Le fim… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Les Particules élémentaires (film) —  Pour l’article homonyme, voir Les Particules élémentaires.  Les Particules élémentaires Données clés Titre original Elementarteilchen Réalisation Oskar Roehler Scénario …   Wikipédia en Français

  • PARTICULES ÉLÉMENTAIRES - Présentation générale — Les physiciens poursuivent l’étude de la structure de la matière dans le but de trouver plus d’unité et de simplicité dans un monde qui nous frappe par sa diversité et sa complexité apparente. N’est il pas remarquable de pouvoir ramener la… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Particules élémentaires — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Particules élémentaires, constituants fondamentaux de l univers décrits par le modèle standard de la physique des particules ; Les Particules… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • PARTICULES ÉLÉMENTAIRES — LA physique des particules élémentaires est, par essence, une discipline frontière. Elle est à la limite du savoir dans l’étude de la structure de la matière; elle est souvent à la limite des possibilités technologiques par les moyens qu’elle… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”