The triumph of vegetation is total.

UNDER THE BRIDGE, Fabien Baunay, 10 December 2009

UNDER THE BRIDGE, Fabien Baunay, 10 December 2009

The work that occupied the last years of Jed Martin’s life can thus be seen – and this is the first interpretation that springs to mind – as a nostalgic meditation on the end of the Industrial Age in Europe, and, more generally, on the perishable and transitory nature of any human industry. This interpretation is, however, inadequate when one tries to make sense of the unease that grips us on seeing those pathetic Playmobil-type little figurines, lost in the middle of an abstract and immense futurist city, a city which itself crumbles and falls apart, then seems gradually to be scattered across the immense vegetation extending to infinity. That feeling of desolation, too, that takes hold of us as the portraits of the human beings who had accompanied Jed Martin through his earthly life fall apart under the impact of bad weather, then decompose and disappear, seeming in the last videos to make themselves symbols of the generalized annihilation of the human species. They sink and seem for an instant to put up a struggle, before being suffocated by the superimposed layers of plants. Then everything becomes calm. There remains only the grass swaying in the wind. The triumph of vegetation is total.

Final paragraph of Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and The Territory, p. 269. First Vintage International Edition, November 2012. Trans. Gavin Bowd.

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