Can you still be an enfant terrible at the age of forty-seven? Michel Houellebecq is long in the tooth but he is as insolent as ever. Not content with denouncing the decadent West in his novels Atomised and Platform, he ended up in a French court for calling Islam ‘the most stupid religion’. On being acquitted, he claimed a victory for free speech and moved to Spain, where he befriended the Raelians, a sect that champions cloning. The hero of his latest novel shares much in common with the author. Daniel finds fame and fortune as a politically incorrect comedian renowned for his anti-Islamic jokes (‘Let's Drop Miniskirts on Palestine!’). He then relocates to Spain, where he is drawn to the cult of the Elohimites, who believe in an immortality made possible through cloning.
The Possibility of an Island is part science fiction, part satire and part polemic. In other words, it's a novel of ideas. But don't let that put you off. It is this conjunction of genres that makes Houellebecq such an exhilarating writer. You don't read him for his unadorned prose