INTERVIEWERWhat was your fascination with the tourism industry?
HOUELLEBECQI find it an absolute pleasure to read travel guides, especially the Michelin guides, and their description of places I know I’ll probably never visit. I spend a large part of my life reading descriptions of restaurants. I like the vocabulary they use. I like the way they present the world. I love the descriptions of happiness and discovery. And then there are some basic questions I started to ask myself. China in seven days, for instance. How do they choose the different stages? How do they turn the real world into a pleasant, consumable world?
INTERVIEWERTell us about Pattaya, Thailand, where the sex tours take place.
HOUELLEBECQI was completely fascinated by Pattaya, where the book’s ending takes place. Everyone goes there. The Anglo-Saxons go there. The Chinese go there. The Japanese go there. The Arabs go there, too. That was the strangest part. It was something I read in a guidebook that made me make the trip to Thailand. They said that in one hotel in Bangkok, the Thai prostitutes wore veils to please their Arab clients. I found that fascinating, that adaptability. There are lots of French Algerians from the projects who go to Pattaya for the whores. So the Thai girls speak French but with a ghetto accent. “Ouais, j’tassure! Ouais, ta mère!”
There are karaoke bars for the Japanese, restaurants for Russians with lots of vodka. And there’s a poignant side to it, too, something end-of-the-road about all these people, especially the old Anglo-Saxons. You sense they’ll never be able to leave. And there’s the dust, in the afternoon, when the go-go bars are still closed. There’s something very poignant about that moment when the girls start arriving on their scooters and you see the old Anglo-Saxon tourists start to come out like turtles walking in the dust. There is something very, very strange about that town.
Fuente: Paris Review