Friday, November 28, 2008


by Michel Houellebecq

The story begins with the death of the protagonist's father. This event leads the public servant of Paris to take some weeks of holiday as a sexual tourist in Thailand. He has no moral scruples about the matter as he only engages in adult women under consent, and he pays well. It appears he does not problematize the issue a bit. He has made attempts of relationships before and it does not seem to give him what he wants, and as he is starting to become middle-aged he might as well accept that prostitution and pornography are his only true partners in life. However, on this trip to Thailand the champion of the story connects with a fellow traveller, a woman in her later 20s whom things just fit with. There is no need to make any attempts of anything or try and enter a role, with her things just seem to work out.

Houellebecq portrays the hunger for meaningless happiness and the fear of committing oneself to another person. If one always has to be open for a better alternative that may or may not come up and at the same time one wants maximum joy, what option is left: Sex becomes a pleasure allowed as long as it is without desire. Houellebecq seems to ask if our careers and western life lies in the way of sexual lust and the real emotion of love. Is he a moralist or does he finger a very important part of an ongoing psychological collapse?

The protagonist's new love is working hard in the travel industry. She often spends all her time in the office and is well aware of that she constantly has to improve herself in order to survive in the business. Part of her work lies in figuring out how to lure tourists to her company's destinations. On a job trip to Cuba he gives her the idea of making sex tourism the next big thing. It would give her bureau the edge over the competitors on the market. He believes this is what westerners crave and even sees it as a solution. It is a way of opening up new markets and creating wealth, or with French lingo perhaps more accurately; a way of transferring riches. The plans are put into effect, investments made and travel packages created. But not only does the moral conscience at home oppose it, so does the Islamist terrorists. On a relaxed vacation in one of the company's resorts, where she has just told him she wants them to move away from her stressful life and start something new, Muslim radicals open fire. Killing her and many others.

The story ends with his own death. He visualizes it will come at night and he hopes it will come soon. When he is gone he wants and knows he soon will be forgotten. The reader understands that Platform is the suicide note of our protagonist, written not many months after his only love was murdered.