April 13, 2012

Excerpts from The Map and the Territory

...by Michael Houellebecq:
Jed catalogued them as semimodern gays who were careful to avoid the excesses and errors in taste classically associated with their community, but who all the same let themselves go a bit from time to time.


*

It was a [job] transfer that she could in no way refuse: in the eyes of top management, a refusal would have been not only incomprehensible but even criminal. A manager of a certain level has obligations not only in relation to the company but also to himself. He must look after and cherish his career like Christ does for the Church, or the wife for her husband.

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Jed wasn’t young—strictly speaking he never had been—but he was a relatively inexperienced man.

*

to be an artist, in his view, was above all to be someone submissive. Someone who submitted himself to mysterious, unpredictable messages, that you would be led, for want of a better word and in the absence of any religious belief, to describe as intuitions, messages which nonetheless commanded you in an imperious and categorical manner, without leaving the slightest possibility of escape—except by losing any notion of integrity and self-respect.

*

“I read in an article that, since the end of the Second World War, eighty percent of the cafés have disappeared in France,” remarked Franz while looking around the place. Not far from them, four pensioners were silently pushing cards around on the Formica table, according to incomprehensible rules that seemed to belong to the prehistory of card games (belote? piquet?). Farther away, a fat woman with broken veins on her face downed her pastis in a single gulp. “People have begun to spend half an hour over lunch, to drink less alcohol as well; and then the coup de grâce was the smoking ban.” “I think it’ll come back, in different forms,” Jed said. “There has been a long historical phase of increased productivity, which is reaching an end, at least in the West.”

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