Cover of the U.S. paperback release of the novel.
Platform (French: Plateforme) is a 2001 novel by French writer Michel Houellebecq (translated into English by Frank Wynne). It has received both great praise and great criticism, most notably for the novel's apparent condoning of sex tourism and Islamophobia. Houellebecq was charged for inciting racial and religious hatred after describing Islam as "stupid", but the charges were ultimately dismissed.
The story is the first-person narrative of a fictional character named Michel Renault, a Parisian civil servant who, after the death of his father, engages in sexual tourism in Thailand, where he meets a travel agent named Valérie. Valerie and Renault begin an affair, and, after moving back to France, hatch a plan with Valerie's boss (who works in the travel industry in the Aurore group, an allusion to the real-life Accor group) to launch a new variety of package holiday called "friendly tourism", implicitly or explicitly aimed at Europeans looking for a sexual experience whilst on vacation. Single men and women—and even couples—are to be targeted, and would vacation in specially designed "Aphrodite Clubs".
Initially, the name "Venus clubs"—an allusion to the Villa Venus clubs dreamed of by Eric Veen in Vladimir Nabokov's classic Ada or Ardor—is suggested, but is rejected as being too explicit. It is decided that Thailand is the best location for the new clubs, with the advertising making it clear that Thai women would also be easily available. The tours are to be marketed predominantly to German consumers, as it is perceived that there will be less moral outrage in Germany than in France.
Michel, Valerie and her boss Jean-Yves travel to Thailand on one of their company's tours incognito and enjoy an idyllic holiday. They decide that they will move to Thailand permanently, to perpetuate the bliss they experienced there. However, towards the end of their holiday, Muslim extremists commit a terrorist act (coincidentally very close in similarity to the Bali Bombing which occurred after the novel was published) in which Valérie is killed. Michel is left bereft, and at the end of the novel he travels back to Thailand to die. At this point, the reader realizes that the novel is in fact his suicide note.
- Webster, Peter (September 18, 2002). "Calling Islam stupid lands author in court". The Guardian.
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