Renowned internationally for her lyrically unsettling novels, PEN/Faulkner Award winner Chloe Aridjis now offers readers her first collection of shorter works, with an introduction by Tom McCarthy
Chloe Aridjis’s stories and essays are known to transport readers into liminal, often dreamlike, realms. In this collection of works, we meet a woman guided only by a plastic bag drifting through the streets of Berlin who discovers a nonsense-named bar that is home to papier-mâché monsters and one glass-encased somnambulist. Floating through space, cosmonauts are confronted not only with wonder and astonishment, but tedium and solitude. And in Mexico City, stray dogs animate public spaces, “infusing them with a noble life force.” In her pen portraits, Aridjis turns her eye to expats and outsiders, including artists and writers such as Leonora Carrington, Mavis Gallant, and Beatrice Hastings.
Exploring the complexity of exile and urban alienation, Dialogue with a Somnambulist showcases “the rare writer who reinvents herself in each book” (Garth Greenwell) and who is as imaginatively at home in the short form as in her longer fiction.
About the Author
CHLOE ARIDJIS is a Mexican American writer based in London. She is the author of three novels, Book of Clouds, which won the Prix du Premier Roman Étranger in France; Asunder, set in London’s National Gallery; and Sea Monsters, which was awarded the 2020 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Aridjis has written for various art journals and was guest curator of the Leonora Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014 and the Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer’s Award in 2020. Aridjis is a founding member of XR Writers Rebel, a group of writers who focus on addressing biodiversity loss and the climate emergency: www.writersrebel.com.
The Boston Globe, A Best Book of the Year Literary Hub, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year The Millions, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year
“This fabulist work goes beyond the experimental; it is simply an experience—unsettling, monstrous and lovely.” —Venita Blackburn, The New York Times Book Review
“One of the most distinctive voices writing today . . . In Aridjis’s work, every shadow can be a portal to another dimension.” —Leland Cheuk, A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year
"In stories that capture whole worlds, and essays that dissect full lives, Aridjis has now proven her adeptness at nearly every form." —David James Poissant, New York Journal of Books
“Dreamy and awake, channeling a deep intelligence that marries both intellectual knowledge and some collective unconscious. A haunting, revelatory dreamscape.” —Bridget Quinn, Hyperallergic
"Dialogue with a Somnambulist will show you why Chloe Aridjis is one of the most exquisitely poetic and stirring writers alive. When you enter her world, often darkened by shadows and lit with dreams, you do so with her acutely focussed play of the senses. Nothing escapes her illuminating attention; everything is enhanced: sounds, visions; scents. Her writing inhabits that quiet space where the merest rustle of life is perfectly registered, even or especially when the room is haunted, the cliff edge close and visions turn fugitive. Which does not preclude her, often from being lethally funny." —Simon Schama, author of Foreign Bodies
"Beautiful. It sits like a jewel in your mind . . . Chloe’s writing matters not because its topics are ripped from today’s headlines but because she is trying to illuminate this world using only words . . . And the single-minded search for words that 'will surely fit'—better than any template or tailored suit—is what animates every page of this wonderful book.” —Zadie Smith, The Paris Review
“Aridjis’ prose, with its delicate precision and evocativeness, its deliberately antiquated expressions and atmosphere, possesses an extraordinary visceral persuasiveness.” —Francisco Goldman, Electric Literature
"Eclectic and entertaining . . . [F]unny, sexy, and, like most of Aridjis’ work, seems from another time—one blessed with less technology and more introspection. What fascinating fun it is to take part in these rich observations and imaginings." —Booklist
"Aridjis’s novels map the tension between enchantment and disenchantment. Her debut Book of Clouds limned the ghosts of Berlin, capturing that city’s gorgeous hauntedness. Sea Monsters celebrated the entwined enchantments of teenage infatuation and 80s goth-pop music. For each, enchantment is essential. ('Life’s not complete without some kind of haunting,' says Marie, protagonist of Asunder.) Readers searching for a similar vibe will not be disappointed with Dialogue." —Brendan Driscoll, The Millions
"Mexican American writer Aridjis conjures the strange and marvelous in this dazzling collection of stories and essays . . . A surreal mood and intellectual heft sustain and unify the varied collection. Readers will eagerly turn the page to see where Aridjis takes them next." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"The nonfiction pieces, including the portraits of famous and ordinary people, are treasures. Here, Aridjis’ curiosity feels vast, her intelligence finely tuned to discover hidden connections, her playful, searching style capable of enlivening anything. Heady, marvelous work about the familiar and obscure." —Kirkus Reviews
"A book full of sublime treasures from one of our boldest writers." —Deborah Levy, author of Real Estate
"Exquisite dreamworks that exert alternative logics and make a compelling case for the idea that we are born into fantasy and only gradually acquire a sense of a much narrower and more rational reality." —Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Pond
"Chloe Aridjis’s stories and essays are beguiling, her language fresh, her bright mind refreshing. She joins fantasies with realities, to startle the senses, to unite what seems unlikely—a mother eating sea monkeys, a son who can’t leave his house. With elan, she investigates life’s profound and peculiar mysteries. Reading Dialogue with a Somnambulist, one page after another, entranced, I was filled with admiration and love for this daring, excellent writer." —Lynne Tillman, author of MOTHERCARE
"Aridjis fuses the explosive restlessness of pop culture with the elegance of highbrow restraint to create new and subversive cultural forms. Hybrid currents collide and coalesce in bizarre refractions of expressionist horror film, surrealist painting, Mexican wrestling, insomnia, hypnotism, dwarfs and even some of the comic book novelties that sprang from the fetid business brain of mail order millionaire Harold Braunhut. This isn’t just literary slippage, it’s a landslide of subtle laughs and extraordinary artistic innovation." —Stewart Home