Nominated by:

Munchner Stadbibliothek, Munich, Germany

Stadbuchereien Hannover, Hannover, Germany

Leipziger Stadtische Bibliotheken, Leipzig, Germany

Deichmanske Bibliothek, Oslo, Norway

Publisher of nominated edition:




2002 – Atomised

Michel Houellebecq      

Translated from the original French by Frank Wynne

Winner of the 2002 Award

2002 Shortlist     2002 Longlist

The Judges’ Citation

Michel Houellebecq’s darkly brilliant novel, Atomised, provides a bleak yet often humorous portrayal of modern life as viewed by the novel’s two protagonists – half-brothers with wildly different personalities seeking wildly different goals. The author’s addictively readable narrative of Michel – a saintly introvert devoted to scientific research and Bruno – an incorrigible sinner obsessed with sexual pursuits, is filled with energy, mordant humour and (throughout the book) wondrously passionate excess.

While following the separate but interlocked odysseys of the two brothers, Hoellebecq weaves discussions of history, biology, politics and, not least, sexuality as these affect his protagonists’ lives. For all the frustrations and failings of the brothers’ separate experiences, Atomised in the end presents a paradoxically (if at times perversely) moral view of these two anti-heroes, each alienated from surrounding society in his own way.

For these distinctive qualities, the judging panel of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is pleased to present its year 2002 award to Michel Houellebecq for his extraordinary novel, Atomised, translated by Frank Wynne.

Judges: Michael Holroyd, Jennifer Johnston, Steinunn Sigurdardottir, Audrey Thomas, Jorgé Volpi. Non-voting Chair, Allen Weinstein

About the Book

Half-brothers Michel and Bruno have a mother in common but little else. Michel is a molecular biologist, a thinker and idealist, a man with no erotic life to speak of and little in the way of human society. Bruno, by contrast, is a libertine, though more in theory than in practice, his endless lust being all too rarely reciprocated. Both are symptomatic members of our atomised society, where religion has given way to shallow ‘new age’ philosophies and love to meaningless sexual connections. Atomised tells the stories of the two brothers, but the real subject of the novel is the dismantling of contemporary society and its assumptions, its political incorrectness, and its caustic and penetrating asides on everything from anthropology to the problem pages of girls’ magazines.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

A poet and a novelist, Michel Houellebecq is the author of one previous novel, Whatever (Extension du Domaine de la Lutte). He is a past winner of the Grand Prix National des Lettres, and, for Atomised, the Prix Novembre.