We [in the west] have become cold, rational, acutely conscious of our individual existence and our rights; more than anything, we want to avoid alienation and dependence . . . These are hardly ideal conditions in which to make love. The way things stand, the commercialization of sexuality in the east has become inevitable. . . .
In short, all the rich or moderately wealthy world was here [in Thailand], all answering ‘Present!’ to the gentle and constant roll call of Asian pussy.
This book is about the decline of the west – not the economic or the moral decline but the sexual decline.
The book is about Michel, a French bureaucrat. Michel’s dad is killed by Muslims, leaving Michel with a nice (but not huge) inheritance. Michel uses this money to take a vacation to Thailand, were he enjoys the local offerings, so to speak. On his trip, he meets Valerie. They later move in together. Valerie is everything that the average western woman is not (mostly this means that she is seems to enjoy pleasing Michel).
Valerie has a high-powered job for a travel company. On Michel’s suggestion, the company starts a new line of resorts staffed by people who have sex with the resort-goers (African resorts for female patrons and Asian resorts for male patrons, naturally). The resorts are very successful. Michel is at his most happy when one of the resorts is suddenly attacked by Muslims and Valerie is killed. Michel kills himself soon afterwards. In the middle of the action, there are a few more brutal attacks on Europeans by Muslims (e.g. gang rapes in the subway).
Of course, since Houellebecq’s book does include Muslim violence, most critics can’t see anything but bigotry and the book is generally seen as anti-Muslim. These reviews miss the point.
Houellebecq is certainly anti-Muslim, but Houellebecq’s so generally unimpressed with the west that one gets the impression that he disrespects Muslims mostly for attacking such a weak civilization. Here’s a sample of Houellebecq’s take on European civilization:
I [i.e. Michel] was living in a country distinguished by a placid socialism . . . All in all, I needn’t really worry anymore. In fact, I never really had. . . .
What had I produced in forty years of my existence? To tell the truth, not very much. . . .
Those qualities of intelligence and determination shown by my ancestors, I had manifestly lost. As a wealthy European, I could obtain food and the services of women more cheaply in other countries; as a decadent European, conscious of my approaching death, and given over entirely to selfishness, I could see no reason to deprive myself of such things. I was aware, however, that such a situation was barely tenable, that people like me were incapable of ensuring the survival of a society. Perhaps, more simply, we were unworthy of life. . . .
To the end, I will remain a child of Europe, of worry and of shame. I have no message of hope to deliver. For the west, I do not feel hatred. At most I feel a great contempt. I know only that every single one of us reeks of selfishness, masochism, and death. We have created a system in which it has simply become impossible to live, and what’s more, we continue to export it. . . . Nothing of me will survive, and I do not deserve for anything of me to survive. I will have been a mediocre individual in every possible sense.
Muslim violence is just another symptom of the decline of the west. These Muslim attacks just happen every now and then. The people in the book react to the violence the same way they’d react to a hurricane or an earthquake. If anything, they’re more laid back about Muslim violence. They’d demand assistance for hurricane victims, whereas violent Muslim attacks are just facts of life.
Yet for every page Houellebecq devotes to Muslim violence, he devotes fifteen to complaining about the fact that western women are really bad at sex. They’re so bad that, sex tourism to Asia is the future. As one character puts it:
You won’t find a white woman with a soft, submissive, supple, muscular pussy anymore. That’s all gone now.
And with it western civilization?
He goes on and on cataloging the problems with western women, including divorce and S&M.
In the end, Michel eventually opens his eyes to the decayed civilization around him – best exemplified by the totally crappy sex that everyone is having. As a result, he can’t think of a reason to stay in the west.