Michel Houellebecq wrote a 700 page book that advises readers that they should have sex with their partner— and if one of so estranged from sex that fucking is an awkward thing, it is ok to practice on a whore. I don’t laugh because the theme is trite or stupid, but because people in the 21st century have had their psychological, sexual, and social capacities so gutted that such advice is powerful.
The novel is humanistic in its acceptance of dark, negative, and evil aspects of the human imagination, but nevertheless warns that those dark energies exhaust themselves; therefore, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a map of a restricted area.
Albert Camus’ The Fall specifies a new kind of self-flagellation. While Christians throughout history have flogged themselves to purify the world through their pain, believing that their sins cause civilization-wide catastrophes, Camus’ protagonist creates a closed circuit of vice and virtue: he confesses to his vices so that he many continue to enact them.