Whatever (novel)  

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“They went on trotting out the platitudes for a good fifteen minutes. How she had the perfect right to dress as she wished, how this had nothing to do with wanting to seduce men, how it was just to be comfortable, to feel good about herself, etc. The last dismaying dregs of the collapse of feminism. At a certain moment I even uttered the words aloud : ‘the last dismaying dregs of the collapse of feminism’. But they didn’t hear me.”


"The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." --Epistle to the Romans


"Il y avait de cela trente-deux ans, maintenant ; à l'époque, on trouvait encore de vrais poulets. Sur le sujet de ma vie après la sortie de clinique, je n'avais pas de ..."

"That was thirty-two years ago now; at that time you could still find real chicken."

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Whatever (French: Extension du domaine de la lutte, literally "broadening of the battlefield") is the debut novel of French writer, Michel Houellebecq, which was published in 1994 in France and in 1998 in the UK by Serpent's Tail. The novel tells the story of a depressed and isolated man stuck in a tedious but well-paying programming job. It was adapted into the 1999 film Whatever, directed by and starring Philippe Harel.

Plot

The protagonist (Harel), known only as "Our Hero" during the entirety of the story, lives a solitary life, and has not had sex for over two years. Within most of the book and film versions of Whatever, Our Hero draws on recollections of Schopenhauer and Kant to lambaste the commodification of human contact, punctuating his inner monologue with bouts of nausea and onanism. He is wracked by the implications of decisions that would seem minor to the average person, such as disclosing his lack of a sex life through the purchase of a single bed. He is teamed up with a disturbing, desperate 28-year-old virgin, Raphael Tisserand, to deliver a series of seminars on the use of IT. Raphael looks up to Our Hero for ever having been able to hold down a relationship, and listens to his musings on love with tragic, but ultimately inspirational consequences.

Literary significance and criticism

Translated into English, Extension du domaine de la lutte has been called the more succinct Whatever. Although this word does not relate to the original French title, it connects to the protagonist's defeatist view of life. The struggle of the original title is expressly associated with class struggle in a parody of slogans made popular by the Parisian student movement of 1968, which Our Hero extends to sexual, as well as economic antagonism. "The thesis is that the sexual revolution of the Sixties created not communism but capitalism in the sexual market, that the unattractive underclass is exiled while the privileged initiates are drained by corruption, sloth, and excess."



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Whatever (novel)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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