5 thoughts on “Sheldon Solomon Part 2; and an Astonishing Picture of My Soul, urm, Cat . . .

  1. Jasun,

    Have you read The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq? I’d be curious to hear your take on the version of transhumanism described in that novel (if the topic comes up again in future episodes….)

  2. Well, yes. Houellebecq is quite well-known in France (he may even be the best-known contemporary French-language writer today: he’s winning literary prizes, his face gets on magazine covers, etc), so we’re not exactly talking about marginal stuff certainly not in the European context. Even for North Americans, the mere fact that he has been translated into English means that he has kind of gone mainstream.

    More to the point: His novels tend to be quite critical of contemporary Western society, particularly French society, with each one usually taking aim at one (or more) of its ‘problems.’ As far as I know, all of them involve strong sexual motifs / subplots – I guess his idea there (besides selling more books) is to explore how an individual’s sexuality can be influenced by society at large and even by corporate interests. This is kind of his specialty and I think another reason you might find him interesting. Also, purely on a stylistic level, the interplay and contrast between the characters’ ruminations on various societal issues (mostly written in formal, even academic tone) and their sexual thoughts and descriptions (written in fairly explicit language – and quite often transitioning very abruptly from one to the other) can be quite funny, although on occasion I found this to be slightly gimmicky.

    In “The possibility of an island,” beside his usual theme of sexual frustrations – particularly of middle-aged Western males – he looks at transhumanism as well. The main character sort of accidentally falls into a cult that’s building a new religion whose main promise to new adherents is that they can live forever.. as a series of clones (individual ones will die, but each dead one will be replaced with a brand new copy of the “same” original person). It’s unclear what exactly happens next, chronologically, beyond the fact that apparently the cult becomes very successful at some point. And then there’s a sort of a diary that’s written by the clones of the main protagonist. About half of the book takes part roughly today (or rather about a decade ago, when the book was written) and the other half in the future.

    So yeah, I do recommend.

    P.S. Do you read French?

  3. A word of caution: “The possibility of an island” was also made into a movie (directed by Houellebecq himself, I think), but it got absolutely pummeled in the press. Not sure if this means much, but for that novel at least, I’d go with the book first.

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