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. Michel Houellebecq is a French novelist, poet, and literary critic. His novels include the international bestseller The Elementary Particles and The Map and the Territory, which won the 2010 Prix Goncourt. He lives in France.
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. Not many readers will necessarily embrace Houellebecq's world view... That, I would firmly suggest, is beside the point. --James Walton, The Times [Serotonin] is engrossing; it is cartoonishly violent; it is profane; it is perverse . . . It is cloaked in the garment of melancholy that puts one in mind of walking for hours in a drenched hoodie after an autumn downpour. --Christian Lorentzen, BookForum 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. --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 Serotonin challenges its readers to soften their hearts toward those among us who are refused official pity -- the sorts of people, dairy farmers, gilets jaunes, and lonely white quadragenarian men included, who seem less likely to evoke compassion in the present political climate. Like all of Houellebecq's work, Serotonin is, at times, hilarious, sexually graphic, and shockingly irreverent. But it is also a novel of moral seriousness, daring us to increase our compassion in proportion to the seeming loathsomeness of those to whom it is owed. --Louis Betty, Los Angeles Review of Books