Platform (novel)  

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"There seems to be a near perfect match between the Western men, who are unappreciated and get no respect in their own countries, and the Thai women, who would be happy to find someone who simply does his job and hopes to come home to a pleasant family life after work. Most Western women do not want such a boring husband. One easy way to see this is to look at any publication containing ‘personal’ ads. The Western women want someone who looks a certain way, and who has certain ‘social skills’ such as dancing and clever conversation, someone who is interesting and exciting and seductive. Now go to my catalogue, and look at what the girls say they want. It’s all pretty simple, really. Over and over they state that they are happy to settle down FOREVER with a man who is willing to hold down a steady job and be a loving and understanding HUSBAND and FATHER. That will get you exactly nowhere with an American girl! As Western women do not appreciate men, as they do not value traditional family life, marriage is not the right thing for them to do. I’m helping modern Western women to avoid what they despise." --Cham Sawanasee in Platform

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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.

Platform is a 2001 novel by French writer Michel Houellebecq (translated from the French by Frank Wynne). It has received both great praise and great criticism, most notably for the novel's apparent condoning of sex tourism and anti-Muslim feelings. The novel, and an accompanying interview led to a trial.

Contents

Plot summary

The story is the first-person narrative of a fictional character named Michel Renault, a Parisian arts administrator who, after the death of his father and thanks to a hefty inheritance, engages in sexual tourism in Thailand, where he meets a travel agent named Valérie. Valerie and Renault begin an affair, and, after moving back to France, hatch a plan with Valerie's boss (who works in the travel industry in the Aurore group, an allusion to the real-life Accor group) to launch a new variety of package holiday called "friendly tourism", implicitly aimed at Europeans looking for a sexual experience whilst on vacation. Single men and women—and even couples—are to be targeted, and would vacation in specially designed "Aphrodite Clubs".

Initially, the name "Venus clubs"—an allusion to the Villa Venus clubs dreamed of by Eric Veen in Vladimir Nabokov's classic Ada or Ardor—is suggested, but is rejected as being too explicit. It is decided that Thailand is the best location for the new clubs, with the advertising making it clear that Thai women would also be easily available. The tours are to be marketed predominantly to German consumers, as it is perceived that there will be less moral outrage in Germany than in France.

Michel, Valerie and her boss Jean-Yves travel to Thailand on one of their company's tours incognito and enjoy an idyllic holiday. They decide that they will move to Thailand permanently, to perpetuate the bliss they experience there. However, towards the end of their holiday, Muslim extremists commit a terrorist act in which Valérie is killed. Michel is left bereft, and at the end of the novel he travels back to Thailand to die. At this point, the reader realizes that the novel is in fact his suicide note.

Literary significance & criticism

The novel has been criticized for its controversial content, including sexual elements some consider to be obscene, such as bisexuality and polyamory, and opinions some consider offensive to Islam.

Extracts from the novel, together with an interview he accorded the magazine Lire led to charges being brought against him by France's Human Rights League, the Mecca-based World Islamic League and the mosques of Paris and Lyon in a trial reminiscent of Britain's Salman Rushdie affair. A panel of three judges, delivering their verdict to a packed Paris courtroom, acquitted Houellebecq of the charges of provoking racial hatred, ascribing Houellebecq's opinions to the legitimate right of criticizing religions.

Trivia

The book mentions The Hollow.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Platform (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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