Mise à jour du 29 juin 2016: droits acquis par les Éditions Gallimard
An original and unusual Künstlerroman, as well as a meditation on the asymmetries on which our world is built
by Lisa Halliday
Simon & Schuster, TBA
Agent: The Gernert Company
ASYMMETRY is in fact comprised of two novellas—“Folly” and “Madness”—plus a short coda that reprises a character from the first. “Folly” is the story of Alice, a young American editor with a famous and much older writer in New York during the early years of the Iraq War. “Madness” is narrated by Amar, a young Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. The stories are very different stylistically—one might call them asymmetrical—and the experience of moving from “Folly” to “Madness” is initially a disorienting one. But as a subtle connection between the two emerges, the book becomes an original and unusual Künstlerroman, as well as a meditation on the asymmetries on which our world is built: power, money, fame, talent, luck, injustice, history and—perhaps most acutely of all—the question of what any individual can do with the aleatory brevity of life in the face of the certain eternity of death.
Given the example of the writer on whom Alice’s paramour in “Folly” is largely based (and who has given this book his enthusiastic blessing), the book becomes both a furtherance of the autofictional project that he did so much to initiate—and which has been taken up by so many younger writers today—as well as a statement on its limitations. This is, in short, a small novel with a lot to say, and there’s a lot to say about it in turn.
From 1998 to 2006, Lisa Halliday worked for The Wylie Agency, where she oversaw contracts and worked closely with Louis Menand, Deborah Treisman, Adam Gopnik, Louise Gluck and Louise Erdrich, whom she interviewed for The Paris Review in 2009. Her only published piece of fiction, “Stump Louie,” also appeared in The Paris Review, in 2005. She now works as a freelance editor and translator in Milan. ASYMMETRY is her first novel.