Australian Journal of French Studies

Networks of Good and Evil: Michel Houellebecq's Fictional Infrastructures

Australian Journal of French Studies (2012), 49, (3), 211–225.

Abstract

A striking feature of Michel Houellebecq's fiction is the pervasive presence of infrastructure, whether consisting of nineteenth-century transport and administrative networks underpinning a national territory, or modern-day electronic networks underpinning those of distribution and exchange in a liberal economy. The former are presented in a largely positive light, and are depicted as creating bonds which connect a cohesive community; the latter, despite their overwhelming presence in all areas of social life, succeed only in disconnecting human beings. The network is thus for Houellebecq a means of establishing the ideological problematics of his work, which critiques the demise of community based on shared moral values, and the rise of an amoral individualism. It represents also a thematic link with other infrastructural networks: those of nineteenth-century fiction. In deconstructing the networks underpinning modern activity, and demonstrating their functioning - and collapse into dysfunction - Houellebecq constructs, like his naturalist predecessors, an epistemological infrastructure of the contemporary world.

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Duffy, Larry