The problem is, it’s just not enough to live according to the rules.
Sure, you manage to live according to the rules. Sometimes it’s tight, extremely tight, but on the whole you manage it.
Your tax papers are up to date. Your bills paid on time. You never go out without your identity card (and the special little wallet for your Visa!).
Yet you haven’t any friends.
The rules are complex, multiform. There’s the shopping that needs doing out of working hours, the automatic dispensers where money has to be got (and where you so often have to wait).
Above all there are the different payments you must make to the organizations that run different aspects of your life. You can fall ill into the bargain, which involves costs, and more formalities.
Nevertheless, some free time remains. What’s to be done? How do you use your time? In dedicating yourself to helping people? But basically other people don’t interest you. Listening to records? That used to be a solution, but as the years go by you have to say that music moves you less and less.
Taken in its widest sense, a spot of do-it-yourself can be a way out. But the fact is that nothing can halt the ever-increasing recurrence of those moments when your total isolation, the sensation of an all-consuming emptiness, the foreboding that your existence is nearing a painful and definitive end all combine to plunge you into a state of real suffering.
And yet you haven’t always wanted to die.
You have had a life. There have been moments when you were having a life. Of course you don’t remember too much about it; but there are photographs to prove it.
This was probably happening round about the time of your adolescence, or just after. How great your appetite for life was, then! Existence seemed so rich in new possibilities. You might become a pop singer, go off to Venezuela.
More surprising still, you have had a childhood. Observe, now, a child of seven, playing with his little soldiers on the living room carpet.
I want you to observe him closely. Since the divorce he no longer has a father. Only rarely does he see his mother, who occupies an important post in a cosmetics firm. And yet he plays with his little soldiers and the interest he takes in these representations of the world and of war seems very keen.
He already lacks a bit of affection, that’s for sure, but what an air he has of being interested in the world!
You too, you took an interest in the world. That was long ago. I want you to cast your mind back to then. The domain of the rules was no longer enough for you; you were unable to live any longer in the domain of the rules; so you had to enter into the domain of the struggle.
I ask you to go back to that precise moment. It was long ago, no? Cast your mind back: the water was cold.
Whatever (French: Extension du domaine de la lutte, literally „extension of the domain of struggle“) is the debut novel of French writer Michel Houellebecq, which was published in 1994.
It primarily highlights the „disaggregating effects of post-Fordism on the intimate spaces of human affect“ through the story of a depressed and isolated man stuck in a tedious but well-paying programming job.
It was adapted into the 1999 film Whatever, directed by and starring Philippe Harel.