His first book was a biographical essay on the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Houellebecq published his first novel, Whatever, in 1994. His next novel, Atomised, published in 1998, brought him international fame as well as controversy. Platform followed in 2001. He published several books of poetry, including The Art of Struggle in 1996.
An offhand remark about Islam during a publicity tour for his 2001 novel Platform led to Houellebecq being taken to court for inciting racial hatred (he was eventually cleared of all charges). He subsequently moved to Ireland for several years, before moving back to France, where he currently resides. He has been described as "France’s biggest literary export and, some say, greatest living writer."
In 2010, he published The Map and the Territory, which won the prestigious Prix Goncourt. In 2015, his next novel, Submission, sparked another controversy for its depiction of Islam. His latest novel, Serotonin, was published in 2019.