Imagination takes flight in Hervé Le Tellier’s adventurous bestselling novel L’Anomalie


What would it be like to meet?

This is the question that inspired the remarkable story of Hervé Le Tellier The anomaly – a thought-provoking mix of speculative fiction, dark thriller, satirical comedy and romance.

An Air France flight experiences terrible turbulence on its Paris-New York route. Three months later, the same plane arrives, carrying identical passengers and crew. Questions and complications arise when the characters are confronted with their doubles!

Born in Paris in 1957, Le Tellier has had a career as a novelist, playwright, poet, journalist, mathematician, food critic, linguist, teacher and entertainer. The phenomenal success of The anomaly – which he describes as a kind of “thought experiment” – came as a surprise even to him.

Winner of the French Goncourt Prize, the novel has sold a record million copies in the country and is being translated into 40 languages.

Le Tellier spoke to Eleanor Wachtel from her home in Drôme in France.

The central question

“I’ve always had a curiosity about ‘Who am I?’ like everyone else does.

“To be confronted with another you – someone who has all your secrets and knows everything you know, the things you hide, all your darkness – it’s very interesting.

“The question of meeting me was really through that.

Being confronted with another you — someone who has all your secrets and knows everything you know, the things you hide, all your darkness — is very interesting.

“So that was the beginning of the book, which was the idea of ​​a lot of people facing themselves. I also knew that no one would react in exactly the same way.”

French writer Hervé Le Tellier poses after receiving the Prix Goncourt 2020, France’s most prestigious literary prize, for the French version of his novel L’Anomalie. (Thomas Samsom/AFP via Getty Images)

Divergent paths

“The path that everyone has taken has branches and crosses. Sometimes you think, ‘What would have happened if I had taken this crossing and not the other?’

“I always wonder what my life would have been like if I had done something else. That’s why I started writing and being a writer: it’s a way to explore lives that I haven’t had.

“When I wrote about being a pilot, I was so interested in the idea of ​​flying an airplane, which I’ve never done. If I write about an architect, it’s because it was something I wanted to be when I was young.

“It’s an opportunity to choose other paths that you haven’t taken.

“Your characters are duplicates of yourself who can take on a personality you don’t really have – and work in professions you didn’t choose.

I always wonder what my life would have been like if I had done something else. That’s why I started writing and being a writer: it’s a way of exploring lives that I haven’t had.

“All the choices you make lead you in certain directions; after that, it’s very hard to go back.”

The life of a writer

“I was an only child. Being an only child pushes you towards books. I was born at a time when TV wasn’t that big and I didn’t go to the movies so much.

“Books were everywhere in my grandfather’s house. I started reading very early. Being bored at home was very encouraging for reading. So I started reading because it was a way to escape. a reader.

“So what made me a writer? It’s hard to say.

Being bored at home was very encouraging for reading. So I started reading because it was an escape.

“It’s probably the fact that when you write a book, you’re building another world – one that’s totally yours. When you were a kid, you didn’t have the ability to have a world of your own.

“You are still a child when you write.”

Hervé Le Tellier’s comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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