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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Serotonin

Serotonin

A Novel

Michel Houellebecq; Translated from the French by Shaun Whiteside

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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Michel Houellebecq’s Serotonin is a caustic, frightening, hilarious, raunchy, offensive, and politically incorrect novel about the decline of Europe, Western civilization, and humanity in general.

Deeply depressed by his romantic and professional failures, the aging hedonist and agricultural engineer Florent-Claude Labrouste feels he is “dying of sadness.” He hates his young girlfriend, and the feeling is almost certainly mutual; his career is pretty much over; and he has to keep himself thoroughly medicated to cope with day-to-day life.

Suffocating in the rampant loneliness, consumerism, hedonism, and sprawl of the city, Labrouste decides to head for the hills, returning to Normandy, where he once worked promoting regional cheeses and where he was once in love, and even—it now seems—happy. There he finds a countryside devastated by globalization and by European agricultural policies, and encounters farmers longing, like Labrouste himself, for an impossible return to a simpler age.

As the farmers prepare for what might be an armed insurrection, it becomes clear that the health of one miserable body and of a suffering body politic are not so different, and that all parties may be rushing toward a catastrophe that a whole drugstore’s worth of antidepressants won’t make bearable.

It’s a small, white, scored oval tablet.

* * *

I wake up at about five o’clock in the morning, sometimes six; my need is at its height, it’s the most painful moment in my day. The first thing I do is turn on the electric coffee...

Praise for Serotonin

"The chemical serotonin famously produces feelings of happiness and well-being in humans—not, on the whole, something that can be said of the work of Michel Houellebecq, France’s most successful literary export. Sure enough, despite its title, his latest novel is another spectacularly pessimistic meditation on the simultaneous decline of a male narrator and of western civilisation in general. As ever, too, it’s not a book likely to appeal to the increasing number of readers (and reviewers) who, like Victorian critics, require their fiction to be virtuous and edifying . . . Not many readers will necessarily embrace Houellebecq’s world view. That, I would firmly suggest, is beside the point." —James Walton, The Times

"From the opening of Serotonin it is clear that we are in safe Houellebecqian hands . . . Houellebecq writes with such facility and humour that it can look easy. Yet how many other novelists can make you moan, laugh and keep reading like he does? He deserves his reputation as the novelist who most understands our age, most reviles it, and may well come to represent it best." —Douglas Murray, The Spectator

"This most prescient of novelists—who foresaw Islamist terror in holiday resorts in Muslim countries in Platform (2001), and envisaged Islamic government in France in Submission (2015), just before the Charlie Hebdo attacks—is addressing directly the discontents of rural France underpinning the Gilets Jaunes movement. No novel has … More…

"The chemical serotonin famously produces feelings of happiness and well-being in humans—not, on the whole, something that can be said of the work of Michel Houellebecq, France’s most successful literary export. Sure enough, despite its title, his latest novel is another spectacularly pessimistic meditation on the simultaneous decline of a male narrator and of western civilisation in general. As ever, too, it’s not a book likely to appeal to the increasing number of readers (and reviewers) who, like Victorian critics, require their fiction to be virtuous and edifying . . . Not many readers will necessarily embrace Houellebecq’s world view. That, I would firmly suggest, is beside the point." —James Walton, The Times

"From the opening of Serotonin it is clear that we are in safe Houellebecqian hands . . . Houellebecq writes with such facility and humour that it can look easy. Yet how many other novelists can make you moan, laugh and keep reading like he does? He deserves his reputation as the novelist who most understands our age, most reviles it, and may well come to represent it best." —Douglas Murray, The Spectator

"This most prescient of novelists—who foresaw Islamist terror in holiday resorts in Muslim countries in Platform (2001), and envisaged Islamic government in France in Submission (2015), just before the Charlie Hebdo attacks—is addressing directly the discontents of rural France underpinning the Gilets Jaunes movement. No novel has been more pertinent this year . . . Houellebecq has always been shamelessly clear about love and sex, and the chances of any long-lived happiness in a society in which youth and desirability are traded in a free market . . . Thus does the subject of scandal—the novelist still writing so brutally about the impossibility of happiness—become a national treasure." —David Sexton, The Evening Standard

"Any new book by Houellebecq is guaranteed to make waves, and Serotonin is no exception . . . A bleak, uncompromising novel. But it also feels like an important one, asking some necessary questions in characteristically mordant fashion." —Max Davidson, The Mail on Sunday

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Reviews from Goodreads

Michel Houellebecq; Translated from the French by Shaun Whiteside

Shaun Whiteside is a Northern Irish translator of French, Dutch, German, and Italian literature. He has translated many novels, including Manituana and Altai by Wu Ming, The Weekend by Bernhard Schlink, and Magdalene the Sinner by Lilian Faschinger, which won him the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for German Translation in 1997.

image of Michel Houellebecqo
Philippe Matsas

Michel Houellebecq

Read an interview with Houellebecq in the Paris Review

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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