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About the book
  • Published: 1 October 2019
  • ISBN: 9781785152245
  • Imprint: William Heinemann
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $32.99

Serotonin




Written by one of the most provocative and prophetic novelists of his generation, Serotonin is at once a devastating story of solitude, longing and individual suffering, and a powerful criticism of modern life.

THE MOST IMPORTANT FRENCH BOOK OF THE YEAR
___________________
'One cannot be said to be keeping abreast of contemporary literature without reading Houellebecq's work.' Karl Ove Knausgaard, New York Times

Dissatisfied and discontent, Florent-Claude Labrouste begrudgingly works as an engineer for the Ministry of Agriculture, and is in a self-imposed dysfunctional relationship with a younger woman. When he discovers her ongoing infidelity, he decides to abandon his life in Paris and return to the Normandy countryside of his youth. There he contemplates lost loves and past happiness as he struggles to embed himself in a world that no longer holds any joy for him.

His only relief comes in the form of a pill – white, oval, small. Captorix is a new brand of anti-depressant, recently released for public consumption, which works by altering the brain’s release of serotonin. With social unrest intensifying around him, and his own depression deepening, Florent-Claude turns to this new medication in the hope that he will find something to live for.

Written by one of the most provocative and prophetic novelists of his generation, Serotonin is at once a devastating story of solitude, longing and individual suffering, and a powerful criticism of modern life.

  • Pub date: 1 October 2019
  • ISBN: 9781785152245
  • Imprint: William Heinemann
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $32.99

About the Author

Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq is a poet, essayist and novelist. He is the author of several novels including The Map and the Territory (winner of the Prix Goncourt), Atomised, Platform, Whatever and Submission.

Also by Michel Houellebecq

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Praise for Serotonin

“Michel Houellebecq has good claim to be the most interesting novelist of our times … Houellebecq has often shown alarming prescience in his fiction … The novel burns with anger … Cutting between brand names and sweeping generalisations, exhilarating in its nihilism, often very funny and always enjoyable ... Yet the anger he expresses here about the destruction of the deep France that he loves could not be more to the point, reflecting deep despair about what is happening now. There’s no British equivalent to Houellebecq. After years of being shunned by the French establishment, he has now been fully embraced by it. On New Year’s Day, he was awarded the Légion d’honneur. Just so.”

Evening Standard

“Every few years, Michel Houellebecq takes his literary scalpel to French society. It usually hurts, often shocks, and always causes a commotion … There is no equivalent in France to the arrival of a new Houellebecq novel … The novelist’s wit, and skill at shifting from the banal quotidian to the existential, are intact … Mr Houellebecq has once again managed to put his finger on modern French (and Western) society’s wounds, and it hurts.”

Economist

“France’s literary event of the year [is] the publication of Michel Houellebecq’s new novel, Serotonin … The critics have lavished praise and the public are plucking it from the shelves … Why is this 62-year-old Frenchman so popular across Europe? It’s easy to explain, when you take into consideration the prescience of his prose but more specifically his courage in tackling subjects that most of his contemporaries shy away from … Houellebecq’s willingness to speak his mind in an age of stifling literary conformity has earned him the predictable epithet of the ‘enfant terrible’ of French literature … One man who can’t get enough of Houellebecq, somewhat surprisingly, is Emmanuel Macron … Last week, Macron awarded Houellebecq the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest distinction … Macron will no doubt read Houellebecq’s latest novel with interest.”

Spectator

“Houellebecq is a deeply political novelist – he has said he never votes in elections, only in referendums – and Sérotonine reflects his country's present discontents … It is revelatory how much French critics praised the book. They clearly regarded Houellebecq's implicit denunciation of the French establishment, French society and the EU as utterly accurate. If your French is up to it, do read this remarkable novel – even though parts require a strong stomach – because Houellebecq is a remarkable stylist. If not, let's hope the translation does him justice.”

Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph

“Not many readers will necessarily embrace Houellebecq’s world view. That, I would firmly suggest, is beside the point. As Howard Jacobson once put it: “Encountering what is not you, indeed what might well be inimical to you, is one of the first reasons for reading anything.” If you have not read Houellebecq before — and don’t insist on virtuous literature — the thrill of heresy that the novel offers could well be enough, with plenty of admittedly rather bracing material to enjoy or argue with.”

Times

“Any new book by Houellebecq is guaranteed to make waves, and Serotonin is no exception ... A bleak, uncompromising novel. But it also feels like an important one, asking some necessary questions in characteristically mordant fashion.”

Mail on Sunday

“Houellebecq has a sociological curiosity few other novelists possess, and his more considered observations are still worth paying attention to ... He understand bureaucracy, and has a gift for building high-stakes drama out of seemingly mind-numbing topics ... An unexpectedly gripping story begins to crystallise. Suddenly the book’s seemingly haphazard elements begin working together: the sexual and political impotence, the helpless yearnings for the past, the degraded (and downgraded) masculinity, the aggrieved, incel-eye view of things, the sinister new interest in firearms, all coalescing into a vision of life among a portion of humanity who have found themselves – often to their indignant amazement – stuck on the wrong side in the zero sum game of globalised commerce ... Houellebecq has been credited with foreseeing the gilet jaunes movement with this novel, especially in the dramatic scenes of armed confrontation that brings this middle section to its unnerving climax. Deservedly so, I think ... The agony and rage of the demoted, the discarded, the “deplorable” (a segment of them, if not the whole basket), laid bare. What other novelist would have the willingness to go there, let alone the wherewithal? ... Dangerously alive.”

Guardian

“To some, he is the only serious writer prepared to look at disagreeable aspects of the modern world – sex tourism, radical Islam, airports, free markets, pornography ... [Houellebecq’s] novels have a journalistic knack of chiming with events ... Houellebecq can make a narrative move along.”

Sunday Times

“Michel Houellebecq’s blend of sex and disgust remains dependably shocking ... France’s most successful literary export ... Another spectacularly pessimistic meditation on the simultaneous decline of a male narrator and of western civilisation in general. As ever, it’s not a book likely to appeal to the increasing number of readers who, like Victorian critics, require their fiction to be virtuous and edifying ... Gleefully gratuitous even by Houellebecq standards ... Gives vent to an impressively wide range of dislikes, including the Dutch (“a bunch of slags”) and the entire 18th century (“idiotic”). His main target, however, is the EU ... Not many readers will necessarily embrace Houellebecq’s world view. That, I would firmly suggest, is beside the point. As Howard Jacobson once put it: “Encountering what it not you, indeed what might well be inimical to you, is one of the first reasons for reading anything” ... The thrill of heresy ... Plenty of admittedly rather bracing material to enjoy or argue with.”

The Times

“Even his old tunes may sometimes shake the walls ... Uncannily, Serotonin appeared as the gilets jaunes paralysed France with their protests ... Houellebecq’s disdain for the emptiness of modern western life often leaves him spookily ahead of the game ... Translator Shaun Whiteside nicely captures this sleazebag pedantry, gross but finicky ... Houellebecq the satirist carves up the branded ghastliness of restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and the like with a steady butcher’s hand. Again, Whiteside relishes his tone of drily elevated snark ... Houellebecq does these deadpan takedowns extremely well ... Critics accuse Houellebecq of nihilism. Not so: he is a moral conservative behind all the libertine swagger and stone-faced mischief ... Like a Gallic Evelyn Waugh ... [Houellebecq] still loves to tease and goad ... His caustic ironies entertain ... Throughout, [Shaun] Whiteside nimbly channels that signature blend of humdrum blokeishness and name-dropping literary polish that marks the Houellebecq voice ... Houellebecq keeps his own pages turning briskly.”

Financial Times

“His blackly comic misanthropy retains its powers to shock … Houellebecq [has an] unrivalled instinct for provocation … The eternal bad boy of French fiction is up to his old tricks in this caustic tale of alienated masculinity.”

Metro

“Told in a register of plaintive resignation, laced with Houellebecq’s customary black humour … A cautionary tale about dissipated manhood … Houellebecq’s engagement with political economy compares favourably to its treatment in our recent glut of Brexit novels … Houellebecq may be, in certain respects, a man for our times… Houellebecq’s portrait of the reactionary id is all the more convincing for being riddled with contradictions, echoing the intellectual incoherence that has characterised Europe’s nativist surge.”

Literary Review

“Houellebecq’s reliable controversiality is, of course, all part of his appeal. France’s most bankable literary export... Honours and age have done nothing to soften or distract him from the civilizational malaise that permeates his writing…the very flatness of Florent-Claude’s voice and reactions becomes compelling – not least because Houellebecq takes care to leaven it with a good dose of surprisingly tender erotic nostalgia…Whether or not you agree with his views, he remains an astute commentator on the contemporary political fracas.”

Daily Telegraph

“While Houellebecq is provocative and at times deliberately controversial, his success is not based solely on his ability to shock. He also has a beautiful fluid writing style…and an uncanny ability to evoke the spleen that for him is at the core of existence.”

Irish Times


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