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.