From the famous, or infamous, Houellebecq (The Elementary Particles, 2000): a pale imitation of himself at his scandalous and probing best.
A narrator once again named Michel (at 40, resigned to life-as-disappointment) works for the Ministry of Culture in Paris arranging shows of contemporary artists’ work. When his hated father dies and leaves money, he takes a vacation to Thailand, where, between massage parlor delights, he meets a travel agent named Valérie, traveling on the same package. The two don’t hit it off in exotic and erotic Thailand, but, back in Paris, they plunge into an explicitly rendered psychosexual bliss (“I don’t know if I’ll be able to get it up right away.” “Then go down on me. It’ll do me good”). Valerie’s boss, Jean-Yves, it turns out, is offered a great position with a new company (“Is it a big company?” “I’d say so; it’s the biggest hotel chain in the world”), where he’s charged with reviving a slumping segment of the company’s worldwide chain of resorts. Valérie goes along as a partner, but it’s narrator- lover Michel who comes up with the truly brilliant idea about how to pull the resorts out of their slump (“Offer [clubs] where the people get to fuck”), as a consequence of which there’s comes to be born a whole new corporate investment in “sex tourism,” of exactly the kind Michel had enjoyed back in Thailand—the very place, once the new line of “Aphrodite clubs” has proven to be an enormous money-making success, that Michel, Valérie, and Jean-Yves return to for a celebratory vacation of their own. Bummer, though! After some initial episodes of great sex (“After a time I no longer knew how many hands or fingers stroked and wrapped around my prick”), there’s a terrorist attack on the club, turbaned men firing machine guns, a bomb going off. With tragic results indeed.
Posturing, silly, sophomoric—though the glib Houellebecq is good at trying to make you think otherwise.