Michel Houellebecq's follow-up to the international bestseller ATOMISED takes him international, into the world of sex-tourism and cultural globalisation.
Michel is a civil-servant, an account manager at the Ministry of Culture. He is single, and likes his pleasures pre-packaged: game shows, TV movies, pornography and instant mash. When his father is murdered and he comes into some money, Michel takes leave of absence to go on a package tour to Thailand. Relieved to get away, he is nonetheless infuriated by the shallow hypocrisy and mediocrity of his fellow travellers.
Only the awkward Valerie attracts his attention. Too bashful to pursue her, Michel prefers the uncomplicated pleasures of Thai massage parlours and sex with local women. Western society, he believes, has lost the sense of the other - the sensual, the exotic - that is necessary to pleasure.
Back in Paris, he calls Valerie and they plunge into a passionate affair which strays far beyond the bounds of Michel's previous 'vanilla' existence, into S&M, partner-swapping and sex in public. Michel quits his job, and tries to help Valerie and her boss, Jean-Yves, in their ailing travel business, putting his philosophy into practice by offering consenting adults sexual tourism in the third world. The project is risky, but when the three return to Thailand, Michel discovers that sex is neither the most consuming nor the most dangerous of human passions...
“I belatedly caught up with the uproarious, inelegant pleasures of Michel Houllebecq s novel.”
Geoff Dyer, Daily Telegraph