Although a more pressing concern over the last two decades, the concept of cloning has intrigued storytellers for thousands of years. It is obvious why: the possibility of doubles resolves all kinds of narrative problems. Euripides, in his play Helen, suggests that his protagonist had a double made from air, redeeming her from responsibility for the Trojan War. Michel Houellebecq, whom many consider the most significant French novelist today, uses cloning to address a perennial problem of science fiction and The Possibility of an Island is, at least in part, a science fiction novel : how to interest the reader in an imagined future far removed from our era. He resolves this by making one of his protagonists Daniel24 the 24th replication of a character who lives in a very recognisable present day. In doing so, he addresses the biggest crises of our age.

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Look Inside. A worldwide phenomenon and the most important French novelist since Camus, Michel Houellebecq now delivers his magnum opus—a tale of our present circumstances told from the future, when humanity as we know it has vanished. Surprisingly poignant, philosophically compelling, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, The Possibility of an Island is at once an indictment, an elegy, and a celebration of everything we have and are at risk of losing.

The Possibility of an Island is often brilliant and searing. It is always worth asking whether they are. The social criticism offered in this novel is often surprisingly relevant and revealing, [with] an underlying empathy for the plight of humanity.

Read An Excerpt. Add to Cart. Also available from:. Available from:. Paperback —. About The Possibility of an Island A worldwide phenomenon and the most important French novelist since Camus, Michel Houellebecq now delivers his magnum opus—a tale of our present circumstances told from the future, when humanity as we know it has vanished. Also in Vintage International. Also by Michel Houellebecq.

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The Book of Daniels

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Clones Behaving Badly

Daniel is a successful comedian who can't seem to enjoy life despite his wealth. He gets bored with his hedonist lifestyle, but can't escape from it either. In the meanwhile he is disgruntled with the state of current society, and philosophizes about the nature of sex and love. His two clones live an uneventful life as hermits, in a post-apocalyptic future.


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Near the beginning of Plato's Republic, Socrates and Glaucon meet with Cephalus, an aged and respectable Athenian who treats them to a discourse on the nature of old men. The ardors of their youth having fled, and family now visiting them mostly with slights, the old are complainers, Cephalus muses, but age is not the true culprit. In his previous brilliant and controversial novels "Platform" and "The Elementary Particles," the French author Michel Houellebecq has driven wisdom as far in the opposite direction of Cephalus as it can go. Near the end of his by turns bewitching and tiresome new novel, "The Possibility of an Island," Houellebecq's narrator — a middle-aged comedian turned film producer named Daniel — makes the ultimate confession.


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Sad to say, mostly the latter. The Possibility of an Island is narrated partly by Daniel, an embittered observational comedian whose reputation as a "hero of free speech" rests on bilious sketches called things like "We Prefer the Palestinian Orgy Sluts", and partly by two clones of himself thousands of years in the future. Surrounded by desolation, the "neohuman"' clones attempt to pick through the testaments of their predecessors "for the edification of the Future Ones". The present-day Daniel is a pretty joyless fellow.

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