Thursday, 13 April 2017

The Modern World

I accept the fact that we are all atomized and there is little we can do about it.
'At the Hairdresser's', Ch. 2

In late Brookner the modern world intrudes more and more. There are mobile phones, and, in The Rules of Engagement, a tentative reference to email. Yet Brookner wasn't really at all out of touch. Her reading, in particular, was varied and surprising. Frederic Raphael, for example, was surprised by and not a little sniffy about her championing of Michel Houellebecq’s works. Brookner belied her reputation, decrying the moral censorship Houellebecq was subject to, and presenting a worldliness her fans wouldn't have been taken aback by:
He is, after all, in the grip of a major idea, with which he appears to have come to terms, namely that there are no penalties for indulging in the most extreme forms of sexual licence, that monogamous partnerships have passed into history, and that it is entirely natural to pursue sexual pleasure until such time as age and infirmity take their inevitable toll. 
Such paganism would seem to commend itself, and is in any case a well worn argument. 

I mention all this because of Brookner's use of the very contemporary word 'atomized' in 'At the Hairdresser's'. Houellebecq's famous 1998 novel Les Particules élémentaires was given this title in English (and no, I won't be commenting on the whole -ize / -ise question):

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