Michel Houellebecq and Depressive Realism
An interrogation of art's ability to face unpleasant truths.
Michel Houellebecq, author of five novels including Atomised and Platform, has become possibly the world’s most famous literary pessimist. His work declares that life is painful and disappointing, death is terrifying, and the human condition is a nasty sort of joke. He has been wildly successful – translated into over 25 different languages and hailed as the voice of a generation.
Beginning with Houellebecq’s novels, this book explores the concept of ‘Depressive Realism’ in literature and philosophy – the proposition that the facts of life are bleak and unkind. Ranging over work by David Foster Wallace, Susan Sontag, Fredric Jameson and Margaret Atwood, Anti-Matter surveys the case for pessimism, asks how a mass culture rooted in sentimentality and trivialisation manages to produce so much cynicism and apathy, and hunts for the space that remains for serious, life-affirming art.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
- Anti-Matter is an example of the kind of rigorous and refined criticism that one rarely stumbles across these days. ~ Jacques Testard, Times Literary Supplement
- Ben Jeffery's Anti-Matter is the kind of intelligent, sophisticated response to provocative work that affirms criticism's value as art in itself. ... A more rigorous, less stylized version of the kind of long critical essay usually associated with writers like Geoff Dyer and Pierre Bayard, Anti-Matter is a work of criticism that honors—and occasionally exceeds—its source. ~ Scott Esposito , Book Forum
Ben Jeffery has produced not only an excellent critical assessment of Houellebecq’s writings, but a fantastic think-piece in and of itself, refining the intentions of his subject, as well as opening up this erudite discussion of art to the act of living in the world.
~ Emmet O'Cuana , abookadaytillicanstay
- A searching and eloquent consideration of one of the definitive bodies of work of our time, Anti-Matter is also a vital essay on the more general difficulties of meaning-making for contemporary novelists and/or human beings. ~ Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision and co-editor of n+1 magazine