"They call us guards, warders, invigilators, room keepers, gallery assistants. We are watchmen, sentinels, but we don't polish guns, shoes or egos. We are custodians of a national treasure, a treasure beyond value stored behind eight Corinthian columns of a neoclassical faade, the dreams of the ancients stuccoed to our building."
Marie's job as a museum 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 belie their own fragility. There also lingers the legacy of her great-grandfather Ted, the warder 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 apart.
Asunder is a rich, resonant novel of beguiling depths and beautiful strangeness, exploring the delicate balance between creation and destruction, control and surrender.
Chloe Aridjis was born in New York, and grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico City. She received her DPhil in nineteenth-century French poetry and magic from Oxford, then lived in Berlin for five years. Her first novel, Book of Clouds, published in 2009, won the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger in France. She lives in London.
"I loved Chloe Aridjis's Book of Clouds so it was exciting to read her new novel, Asunder, which, in a story about art, guardianship, damage and philosophy, revealed again the deftness and depth of narrative understanding of this subtle and courageous writer."
New Statesman - Ali Smith
"Exhilarating. The novel wonderfully disobeys all conventional rules of realism and plotting, of show-don't-tell. Powerful and artful, Asunder works like a poem, pulling us into a labyrinthine sequence of connected images. By the end, it seems like an abstract painting, apparently defying narrative time. This all makes for rapturous and enraptured reading."
Independent - Michele Roberts
"Strange, extravagant, darkly absorbing. This is a book about quietness and violence. There is a Nabokovian rhythm in Asunder's obsessive permutations, and in the novel's dance of fluttering life and slow decay. Her novel thrills with energy because of it."
Guardian - Alexandra Harris
"Chloe Aridjis is crafting a poetics of the strange. To describe her novels as inconsequential is not to deny them substance, but to highlight their shadowy randomness, their pearlescent impressionism and the way in which they work by hints and cross-references... this is deft and shimmering fiction."
Times Literary Supplement - Kate McLoughlin
"Aridjis has risen to the occasion with Asunder. Given that Asunder lacks a conventional plot, the fact that it is such an absorbing and moving book says much about Aridjis's skill as a writer. Her unusual imagery and lyrical style breathe life into this otherwise sombre story."
"[A] stunningly good second novel... 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 (US), starred review
"Aridjis's writing is refreshingly escapist... Moreover, the novel itself has escaped from the strait-jacket of convential narrative and plot. This leaves Asunder free to devote itself to mood and atmosphere, in which it is highly successful. Reading Asunder offers an unusually absorbing experience. It is also an unusually enjoyable one. "
Independent on Sunday - Peter Carty
"Asunder exists with an intensity stronger than that of most novels. Reading it is absorbing and enlarging to the imagination"
"Set amidst the stillness of museums and the magic of indeterminate urban spaces, this is a subtly lyrical novel about the lasting seductions of art, the ubiquitous processes of decay -- and the surprising renewals that can come from these. Chloe Aridjis writes about sensations at the edges of perception, capturing experiences rarely included in fiction. A surprising sensibility and an effortlessly original voice"
"Marie, the narrator of this charming novel, has the ideal job for someone who likes a quiet life. She's a guard at the National Gallery in London... but she's starting to long for change. In a story this elegant, it had to be Paris where her shell will be cracked."