Chloe Aridjis

Portrait Chloe Aridjis
© Hartwig Klappert

Chloe Aridjis was born in 1971 in New York and grew up in the Netherlands and Mexico City. The daughter of poet and environmentalist Homero Aridjis studied comparative literature at Harvard and went on to do a master’s and PhD at Oxford, where, under renowned literary critic Malcolm Bowie, she wrote her doctorate on nineteenth-century French poetry and magic shows. Her writing has appeared in various journals, among them »Granta«, »frieze« and NPR’s »Berlin Stories«, and she has also written radio features for the BBC.

For five and a half years Aridjis lived in Berlin, the city she chose as a setting for her debut novel »Book of Clouds« (2009), which won her the French Prix du Premier Roman Etranger. In it the reader encounters a solitary drifter, the young Mexican Tatiana, on her wanderings as she comes upon several bizarre and equally reclusive characters; each opens new perspectives on the city and teaches her a very individual form of escapism. Starting with the prologue, at a demonstration against the Berlin Wall in 1986, historiographical reality and the subjective, sometimes dream-like visions of the protagonist merge, creating an atmospheric stream of consciousness. The tone of escapist reverie and Aridjis’ eloquent, remarkably defined, literary voice with which she reveals the various facets of urbanity have earned her praise from Paul Auster, Ali Smith and Junot Díaz. In 2012, the Belgian artist Fabienne Loodts adapted »Book of Clouds« into a graphic novel. Her second novel »Asunder« was published in 2013. Set to a large extent in London’s National Gallery, it is inspired by countless museum visits, conversations with guards, and archival research. In the passive and nearly invisible profession of museum attendant, the protagonist Marie finds a quiet dignity, her introspection mirrored both in the paintings and the people who come to see them. She is fascinated by the suffragette Mary Richardson, who in 1914 attempted to deface Velásquez’s »Venus at her Mirror«, an iconoclastic gesture that still haunts her. Aridjis’ narrator also reflects on craquelure, the centuries-old network of tiny cracks present in oil paintings, as a tangible and complex memento mori. Aridjis’ third novel »Sea Monsters« will be published in 2018.

Aridjis has been a guest at the MacDowell Colony, Ledig House and Santa Maddalena Foundation, and is a 2014 recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship. She was a co-curator of the Leonora Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool and is starring in the art-house feature film »Female Human Animal« (2017). She lives in London, where she teaches creative writing and is involved in various art projects.