This is the third of Michel Houellebecq's novels, and in it, as in the previous two, his hero yearns, mostly in vain, for men and women who are strangers to each other to reach out spontaneously and touch each other: for men to be able to dispense with verbal courtship, for women to put aside cultural restraint, discrimination and any desire to be seduced; and for the sexes to spend as much time as they can cope with in mutually rewarding fornication. If it sounds like pornography, it often reads like it, but there is more to Platform than porn. Amid the cynicism, self-loathing and hermetic fucking, love emerges. It is hard to believe this could seem fresh: the story of a couple who start out interested in sex and end up loving each other is a familiar one in art and, indeed, life. Yet it does seem fresh. Perhaps this is because the central couple, Michel (yes, Houellebecq's own first name) and Valérie, go beyond the traditional reluctance to acknowledge that they have fallen in love. They do not treat love, as modern convention would have it, as a stage above and beyond sex, but rather as a delicious, harm-free and unexpected drug doled out to them to enhance their sex life. At one point, when Michel and Valérie are talking to Valérie's business partner, the young, wealthy, attractive and emotionally wrecked Jean-Yves, Michel reflects: 'He knew that we would go home later and fuck, and we could fuck with love.'
LRB 14 November 2002 | PDF Download