Once More Without Feeling

Once More Without Feeling
AP Photo/Martin Meissner

The backdrop of Michel Houellebecq’s novel is by now well established. In this — his eighth — the bleak, essentially nihilistic nature of life is once again only relieved by equally nihilistic humor and sex. From the opening of Serotonin it is clear that we are in safe Houellebecqian hands. About the new antidepressant that the narrator has been prescribed: ‘The most undesirable side effects most frequently observed in the use of Captorix were nausea, loss of libido and impotence. I have never suffered from nausea.’

There are also those volcanic side explosions which are occasionally mistaken for bigotry by people who don’t recognize that Houellebecq suffers from just one bigotry, which is species disgust. The Dutch get it early and twice from the narrator of Serotonin — ‘a race of opportunist polyglot people’; ‘Holland isn’t a country, it’s a business at best.’ The narrator of Serotonin is a typical creation of the author, which is to say essentially indistinguishable from Michel Houellebecq.

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