Michel Houellebecq‘s novel Anéantir [Annihilate] is not yet translated in English! It is translated in Dutch [Vernietigen], but this very short essay is in English, as I don’t want to confine it to the Dutch public. I will try to reveal as little as possible, but as – for me – the description of capital as cancer is the theme of Annihilate that can’t be completely avoided.
Annihilate starts with the description of terrorist attacks. Strange enough, there are no demands attached to these attacks. Nothing is required from nobody. They are bloodless technical high profile attacks on seemingly random objects, made public by hacking websites. The first attack is even entirely virtual! They are accompanied by an unintelligible, seemingly occult message.
In a review it’s suggested that Annihilate is about the annihilation of the “white body”, better described as the (angry) old white male. This suggestion is not without merit, but the real issue is where the white body – especially the angry old white male – stands for.
It stands for Western culture, the Enlightenment. Enlightenment in its essence is the birth and “worship” of modern reason The name of the protagonist – Paul Reason (Raison) – who [spoiler] at the end gets annihilated by cancer, points to this. Even more so as he can avert this for some time by giving up the faculty of speech, in other words language, reason and Western enlightenment. His father loses speech at the beginning of the book, and they seem quite content sitting together without speaking, observing nature.
Cancer absorbs more and more energy while growing uncontrolled and can only be cured by annihilation, otherwise it sucks the body of its life. This is the reality of capitalism, of capitalist reason: uncontrolled growth, sucking the life out of humanity. First of all social life, by unbinding society in elementary particles who become obsolete for their own reproduction. Followed by the destruction of the living conditions: the destruction of the human bodies.
Uncontrolled growth is the goal of capitalism, the absolute reason of its present existence. It sucks intelligence and knowledge out of human society into Artificial Intelligence, better called IT, Information Technology. Humanity – in fact all biological life – becomes obsolete and can be done away with after being virtualized, although that is not strictly necessary. The Singularity probably will get enough satisfaction out of the Buddhist ohm in its further inhuman growth. Maybe it will let the capitalist elite survive, wandering uselessly around in their super yachts.
The seemingly random terrorist attacks turn out to be an attempt to annihilate capitalism.