Asunder (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Ever wonder what goes through the minds of the guards at your favorite museum? Ever consider what they think of the art that constantly surrounds them? Chloe Aridjis’ brief, strange, beautiful second novel ASUNDER does just that. Marie has been a guard at the National Gallery in London for nine eventful years, when suddenly, strange events and characters begin to appear in Marie’s life, forever altering its course. A meditation on art, society, women’s suffrage and mortality, ASUNDER will have you ruminating over its ideas long after you’ve put the book down.

“Painters create order from disorder, but the moment that order has been created, the slow march towards disorder begins again.”

— From Asunder (Chloe Aridjis)


Marie's job as a guard at the National Gallery in London offers her the life she always wanted, one of invisibility and quiet contemplation. But amid the hushed corridors of the Gallery surge currents of history and violence, paintings whose power belies their own fragility. There also lingers the legacy of her great-grandfather Ted, the museum guard who slipped and fell moments before reaching the suffragette Mary Richardson as she took a blade to one of the gallery's masterpieces on the eve of the First World War.

After nine years there, Marie begins to feel the tug of restlessness. A decisive change comes in the form of a winter trip to Paris, where, with the arrival of an uninvited guest and an unexpected encounter, her carefully contained world is torn open.

Asunder is a rich, resonant novel of beguiling depths and beautiful strangeness, exploring the delicate balance between creation and destruction, control and surrender.

About the Author

CHLOE ARIDJIS was born in New York and grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico. She received her PhD in nineteenth-century French poetry and magic shows from Oxford, then lived in Berlin for five years. Her first novel, Book of Clouds, won the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in 2009. She lives in London.

Praise For…

"Aridjis’ captivating, cerebral novel is set in a modern-day London that, when envisioned via her sophisticated prose, calls to mind more contemplative times of a century ago. . . [Her] layered, painterly prose evokes this world to perfection."
Booklist (starred review)

"Dark and peculiar, simultaneously sinister and playful, Aridjis’ modern gothic vision will charm those prepared to linger in her cabinet of curiosities. . . [An] oddly compelling tale."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"While there’s a distinctly feminist scent wafting through the pages of this short, beautiful novel, it never feels remotely polemical—in fact, it’s all the more powerful for being so irreducible to a single theme. Aridjis’s intelligent prose makes this slight story into something dramatic and affecting, completely coherent and oddly irresistible. It is a brilliant book."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Lyrical and haunting. . . A beautiful portrait of urban loneliness, and the pursuit of meaning amid the barbed comforts of solitude."

“[Asunder] is full of shadows and symbolism one can’t quite put a finger on. . . A study in grayness and halftones, never using the extremes of black and white or bold color. . . [yet] her observations often have a startling zing.”
New York Journal of Books

"Chloe Aridjis is crafting a poetics of the strange... This is deft and shimmering fiction."
Times Literary Supplement (UK)

"Chloe Aridjis’s debut novel, Book of Clouds—winner of the French Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in 2009—was a critical success and a daunting act to follow. [With its] unusual imagery and lyrical style. . . Aridjis has risen to the occasion with Asunder. . . An absorbing and moving book."
Financial Times (UK)

"Strange, extravagant, darkly absorbing. . . An original and assertive performance with more than a hint of the baroque. . . Having surprised us in Berlin (in Book of Clouds), Aridjis surprises us again with her comical and macabre version of London, where goths huddle in nightclub corners ‘like packed umbrella stands’ and a hypnotist might cure your headache while bequeathing you a limp. . . There is a Nabokovian rhythm in Asunder's obsessive permutations, and in the novel's dance of fluttering life and slow decay. . . Obsessed by museums and collections, the novel is itself a museum of motifs displayed in tense juxtaposition. It is the work of an addicted image-maker who fills her cabinet of curiosities and then adds some more. . . [Chloe Aridjis’s] novel thrills with energy."
—Alexandra Harris, Guardian (UK)

"In this little gem of a novel, Aridjis takes on the troubling questions of life and quietly works her way to the best answers she can find. . . Aridjis is something of a genius in her ability to enrich the ordinary with epiphanies rendered in deceptively short and simple prose."
—Bruce Jacobs, Shelf Awareness

"Brilliantly exact and disconcerting, Asunder exists with an intensity stronger than that of most novels. Reading it is absorbing and enlarging to the imagination."
—Diana Athill, author of Stet and Somewhere Towards the End

"Chloe Aridjis writes about sensations at the edges of perception, capturing experiences rarely included in fiction. A surprising sensibility and an effortlessly original voice."
—Eva Hoffman, author of Lost in Translation

Product Details
ISBN: 9780544003460
ISBN-10: 0544003462
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publication Date: September 17th, 2013
Pages: 208
Language: English