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Hervé Le Tellier: “The Anomaly”

The literary formal constraints that Hervé Le Tellier imposes on himself in his books are invisible to readers. They are internal fun for the members of OuLiPo, the Paris “workshop for potential literature”. But the studied mathematician always wants to entertain, despite all his subtle literary subtleties. And indeed: Hervé Le Tellier’s novel “The Anomaly” turns out to be exciting from the first page, its plot as polyphonic and rapid. With each of his characters, the 64-year-old Parisian draws us into a new, very contemporary reality: be it through the six-year-old daughter of a French officer who is on duty in Afghanistan, or through a well-paid black US lawyer who comes from the bottom up, or about a grizzled architect who cannot give up the obsessive search for young lovers. And then there is the 43-year-old unsuccessful writer and translator Victor Miesel:

“The small world of literature seems like a burlesque train to him, in which fraudsters without a ticket and with incompetent controllers as accomplices settle loudly in the first class, while modest geniuses – a dying species that Miesel does not belong to – on the platform stay behind. “

    (laif / Opale via Leemage / Gallimard) (laif / Opale via Leemage / Gallimard)Translator about Hervé Le Tellier – “He rises above the seriousness of life”
With the Prix Goncourt, Hervé Le Tellier has received the most important French literary prize. The excellent novel “L’Anomalie” is philosophical and light-footed at the same time, says Le Tellier’s translator Jürgen Ritte.

What do all these figures have in common? You happen to be on the same plane from Paris to New York in March 2021 and have to survive extreme turbulence on the approach to landing. The fact that Victor Miesel writes the book “The Anomaly” about this “experience of unrealization” and then kills himself is not the problem. The problem is that the Air France plane lands again four months later with the same passengers on board.

An airplane full of doppelgangers

Of course, the US politicians and military want to keep everything secret and bring order to the chaos with a firm hand. They strictly follow the instructions in “Protocol 42” drawn up by two mathematicians after the attacks on September 11, 2001. But that turns out to be a joke – borrowed from the Steven Spielberg film “Encounters of the Third Kind”. In any case: the professor who co-authored this protocol, in view of the thesis that humans are only puppets of a simulation, concludes:

“The appearance of the machine cannot be attributed to any mess in the simulation – it would have been so easy to ‘delete’ it, go back a few seconds. No, it’s obviously a test: How will billions of virtual beings react when exposed to the Revealing their virtuality? “

The identical doppelgangers are missing more than three months of their lives. This scenario opens up an infinite number of, often humorous, combination possibilities for Hervé Le Tellier: When the aged architect wants to convey the twisted district of a young beauty again, but this time much more convincingly.

Highly ironic chaos

In many scenes in his novel “The Anomaly”, Hervé Le Tellier presents a highly ironic chaos that makes most decision-makers ridiculous. On the other hand, many doppelgangers experience fundamental existential crises: Can a man live with two identical women, one of whom is now pregnant? Why is there only jealousy for some, but for others – like the homosexual Nigerian musician Slimboy – an envious collaboration as a duo? Again Victor Miesel, the writer who became rich through the suicide of his alter ego, has to serve with an answer.

“It is hope that forbids us to act, it is hope that prolongs the misery of people, because, right, contrary to all evidence, ‘everything will be fine’. It cannot be what must not be … The The real question that we should ask ourselves every time is: ‘To what extent does a given point of view suit me?’ […] May I remind you of this sentence by Nietzsche? ‘The truths are illusions that have been forgotten they are.’ […] There will be no supreme savior. We have to save ourselves. “

Romy and Jürgen Ritte have translated Hervé Le Tellier’s novel “Die Anomalie” brilliantly in its linguistic dynamism and complex playfulness. Hervé Le Tellier presents an unimaginable situation that one only knows from science fiction or mystery novels. At the same time, however, he demonstrates the blindness and absurdities of our western societies today and – quite incidentally – launches a wonderful parody of the Parisian literary scene. “Die Anomalie” is an exceptional novel, an intellectual fireworks display: full of surprises, full of provocative, clever sentences – and with a tough, disturbing finale. Whether the oulipotic compulsory form is a mathematical formula or a Scoubidou model, as suggested in an interview, remains Hervé Le Tellier’s secret. In any case: You don’t have to be a literary expert to get your money’s worth with this ambiguous novel.

Hervé Le Tellier: “The Anomaly”
Translated from the French by Romy Ritte and Jürgen Ritte.
Rowohlt Verlag, Hamburg. 368 pages, 22 euros.



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