Tag Archives: cultural interaction

Houellebecq’s vicious satire of New Age culture

Houellebecq makes a clear connection between the individualisation, secularisation and rationalisation of society on the one hand, and the growth in New Age beliefs and practices on the other. He describes a centre in rural France which, having started as a place of hedonistic revolutionary idealism in the sixties, has turned by the nineties into a commercialised refuge for middle-aged hippy types, desperately looking for meaning and connection in their empty lives: Continue reading

Review of Atomised by Michel Houellebecq

Read my review of this book over several posts

I couldn’t face the desperate last minute search for Christmas presents this year. The trying to find something for people who want for nothing material, squeezed in amongst a throng of other shoppers driven by the rampant seasonal imperative to consume. So I decided to just go to a bookshop I like. I could face that. And I should be able to find a book for everyone.

As often happens when buying presents though, I also picked up a couple for myself. Holiday reading really. Something to take my mind off work, Christmas, and to cheer myself up. One book I randomly bought for myself was Michel Houellebecq’s Atomised. Well, in a way I chose badly, because this is certainly not a cheerful tome (although there is some dark humour). And although it contains a great deal of sex, it did not make me forget my work, because it happens to be largely about my current research themes. Continue reading


I’m quite wary about blogging on this beach visit in Salvador, Brazil. After all I have enough trouble persuading people that I am here working and researching, rather than on holiday. And although I do occasionally go, for a swim and run perhaps at the  end of another sweltering day, it tends to be a bit of a project. Get the bus, or walk, where is safe to walk? Will the beach be too empty (not  safe) or too full (not safe). Once I get there, there is the problem of what to do with my stuff while I swim. You don’t really need to take very much because cold isn’t an issue. It’s more about money really. You’ll probably want some on you, at least for a bus home, but also perhaps for a snack and a drink afterwards. The solution is to ask someone to look after your bag. I’m quite used to doing this and I’ve never had any problems with it, but it does mean scouting the beach for someone who looks friendly and trustworthy. Families are usually a good bet, but I’ve asked all sorts of people and it’s always been fine. The context here is that Salvador is fairly crime-ridden. People get mugged a lot and there are a fair amount of shootings and robberies. This leads to everyone being more or less paranoid about  security.

Today my flatmate went to  the beach and asked me to  join him. I was still doing work but said I might come later – which I did. It turned out to be a little cultural adventure. Continue reading