Tag Archives: science fiction

‘The Possibility of an Island’ is world literature classic #110


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The Possibility of an Island is very much a philosophical novel, as is most of Michel Houellebecq‘s fiction. In this particular novel Houellebecq juxtaposes Plato’s soulmate theory to Saint Paul‘s ‘one flesh’ remark in the Epistle to the Ephesians, remarking that this ‘love craving’, this need for emotional symbiosis is the origin of much unhappiness.

In the words of Houellebecq:

“It was [Plato’s Symposium] that intoxicated Western mankind, mankind as a whole, which has inspired in it disgust at its condition of a rational animal, which had engendered in it a dream that it had taken two millennia to try and rid itself of, without completely succeeding.”

Below is Plato’s soulmate theory in which Zeus split the four legged and four armed primeval humans in two parts, giving birth to creatures who are forever searching for the other half, the soul mate, to reunite their flesh:

“[Primeval man had] … four hands and four feet, eight in all … they made an attack upon the gods … Zeus discovered a way [to punish them] … I will cut them in two … after the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half … longing to grow into one … when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them … and clung to that … so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man … each of us … is always looking for his other half. Suppose Hephaestus … [was] to come to [a] pair who are lying side by side and to say to them … ‘do you desire to be wholly one … I am ready to melt you into one and let you grow together, so that being two you shall become one … if you were a single man?’ … there is not a man … who when he heard the proposal would deny … that this meeting and melting into one another, this becoming one instead of two, was the very expression of his ancient need … and the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love.” —Plato’s Symposium

And this is Saint Paul’s remark in the Epistle to the Ephesians:

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”

This is not the new flesh but the old flesh.