I’ve been postponing this post because I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to say about this book. Did I like it? Yes, no, Kind of. It was easy to read and it raised some very interesting questions but in the end, it was far from satisfying.
Plaform tells the story of Michel a man with no faith or purpose in life. After his father dies he decides to go on a trip to Thailand where he will meet Valérie and, despite his scepticism, will fall in love with her. This will give some meaning to his life and will introduce us into Valérie’s world. She works in the tourism industry and finds herself trying to promote a failed chain of hotels.
One of the first feelings I got after finishing the book is that Houellebecq is a bit all over the place. I enjoyed the nihilistic nature of Michel’s character, a product of today’s society. He finds no meaning or joy in life and spends his days watching television and doing a job he doesn’t care about. It sounds to me like a lot of the people that populate the Western world who live out of habit without trying to make something of their existence. This is not, however, everybody as Houllebecq tries to make us believe and here is one of the biggest mistakes he makes in the book: generalization. Yes, there are people like Michel but they are just a part of the population, his feelings don’t represent the feelings of the whole European society. Besides, he never tries to explain why Michel is this way. We are left to assume that it was society and his dad’s lack of parenting skills but to me, this doesn’t seem enough. This is another of the problems in this novel: it lacks depth.
Then there is the question of sex tourism. I simply can not accept that sex tourism is a natural consequence of our society and much less that it is something that should be condoned. He accuses our society of puritanism and double standards. And while I do think his accusations are right I don’t think this means we should allow prostitution. We should be able to talk about it but to stop it and not to promote it. Not to mention all the unjustified sex scenes in the book. Call me conservative, but there were times in which Valérie seemed more like a character from an adult movie than one from a regular fiction book.
Another of the things that brought him big criticism was the anti-Muslim passages in the novel. I do think that some of the points he makes are true but, like he did with the Western world, he tends to generalize and a lot of the things he says can not be applied to everybody. Besides, what he criticizes in Islam could be criticized in a lot of other religions. He makes Islam look like the big enemy of the Western world but the excuses he tries to give for this point of view lack a real knowledge of Islam . I am an atheist and have very strong opinions about religion and yet he doesn’t manage to convince me of Muslims being the big evil of our days.
Reading this book I felt like I was listening to somebody ranting in bar, it might be amusing and slightly entertaining but it is just that, ranting, not a very meaningful reflection. He does manage to raise some interesting points and he is successful in pointing out the hypocrisy of our world but that is it. I think it is a book that had potential but ended up being too superficial.