After the second rock number the disc jockey put on a slow song. It was Nino Ferrer’s Le Sud; a magnificent record it has to be said.
… they got up of common accord…and in a few seconds they were on the dance floor…
She confidently pressed her body against the guy’s.
Tisserand sat down again at my side; he was trembling in every limb. He watched the couple, hypnotized. I waited a minute or more; this slow dance, I recalled, went on forever. Then I shook him gently by the shoulder, repeating ‘Raphael’ over and again.
- What can I do? He asked.
- Go home and have a wank.
- You reckon its hopeless?
- Sure. Its been hopeless for a long time, from the very beginning. You will never represent, Raphael, a young girl’s erotic dream. You have to resign yourself to the inevitable; such things are not for you. It’s already too late, in any case. The sexual failure you’ve known since your adolescence, Raphael, the frustration that has followed you since the age of thirteen, will leave their indelible mark. Even supposing that you might have women in the future – which in all frankness I doubt – this will not be enough; nothing will ever be enough. You will always be an orphan to those adolescent loves you never knew. In you the wound is already deep; it will get deeper and deeper. An atrocious, unremitting bitterness will end up gripping your heart. For you there will be neither redemption nor deliverance. That’s how it is.
from Michel Houellbecq’s Whatever, 1994
One of the reasons Michel Houellebecq’s books raise such passionate responses (hatred and love) is that when writing about damage, failure and despair he refuses to offer the possibility of redemption. And this is a surprisingly radical position to take – in fact the myth of redemption is central to christianity, capitalism and psychoanalysis.
Believe hard enough, work hard enough, work on yourself hard enough… and you can be fixed.
But what if it isn’t like that?