The Possibility of an Island by Michel Houellebecq
Reviewed by Paula
Daniel, 24, and Daniel 25, are emotionless neo-humans, the result of successive generations of cloning. They take a look back to the life of their prototypes and thus to our world: a world which is about to break all the taboos and in which people are afraid of getting old. Although the neo-humans are liberated from these anxieties that plagued the people of our time, happiness eludes them. Therefore, Marie and Daniel start to search something else: an island where things are different.
This short synopsis prompted me to buy the book and read it through in a weekend. Our world is depicted from the perspective of Daniel, a wealthy middle-aged ex-comic star and cynical atheist who was even totally indifferent when his own son commits suicide (“he was a loser”).
The world in which Daniel lives is a world without grace, a world where God is not desired. It is world of deepest despair, terrible loneliness, anesthetized by money, 'success,' sex and drugs. A world where only those “who freed themselves from the desire to love” thrive; a world where to grow old and die is almost obscene. A world which worships youth. Daniel is ultimately destroyed by this world when his refuge, "his island," the relationship with Esther, is taken away from him.
In an ultimate attempt to beat old age and to achieve eternal youth he associates with a sect which conserves the DNA samples of his members. From their DNA the neo-humans are derived, a few hundred years after Daniel´s death.
The world of the future, populated by neo-humans which survived a global nuclear catastrophe is described as an emotionless, closed system, whose unique goal was the self-conservation and the “autonomy” and “independence”of members. It is a world which is technologically perfect. Immortality and eternal youth have been achieved but the price is a soulless, godless world.
Existentially Chilling. Too Late.
This is not an easy book to read: one gets chilled between the despair and cynicism of Daniel and the emotional emptiness of his neo-human clones.
Left to its own devices, our time evolved into the neo-human world. When two neo-humans try to find “an island” of emotions within their world they both fail. It is too late. Love is no more because love cannot survive isolated, on an abstract “island” detached from the world.
Maybe this book will make some understand why God´s wrath against a world sinking into its own degradation is actually a must and a mercy. Maybe some will understand that there is a far more terrible alternative than living in a world in which God has the last word: it is to live in a world where human beings are left to their own devices, 'science' and technocracy.