Granta Books has acquired two books by Milan-based American author Lisa Halliday, in a "hotly contested" seven-way auction.
Bella Lacey, editorial director of Granta, won UK and Commonwealth rights to debut Asymmetry and a second novel from Caspian Dennis at Abner Stein, on behalf of Chris Parris-Lamb at the Gernert Company.
Rights have also been sold at auction to Ira Silverberg at Simon and Schuster (US), Lena Däuker at Hanser (Germany), Marie-Pierre Gracedieu at Gallimard (France), Maria Fasce at Alfaguara (Spain), Jessica Nash at Atlas Contact (Netherlands) and Fabio Muzi Falconi at Feltrinelli (Italy).
Asymmetry tells the story of Alice, a young editor, and her relationship with a famous, much older writer in New York, during the early years of the Iraq war. Its "instantly captivating" premise – what draws them together, how does their relationship work? – is said to illuminate the attractions of knowledge and intellectual prowess, and those of naivety and intellectual promise.
Interrupting and interacting with their story is that of Amar, an Iraqi-American economist held at Heathrow on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, whose detention gives him cause to reflect on the course of his life.
"Asymmetry is an extraordinary study of the power plays between young and old, West and Middle East, luck and talent, fairness and injustice, and the personal and the political", the publisher said.
Lacey said: "It’s been thrilling to be an early reader of this quite brilliant début, which hails an exceptional new American writer. From the very first pages, it’s clear that Lisa Halliday is doing something remarkable, something startling and engaging, and with a perfect control of her material. Asymmetry is unexpected, tender, subversive and subtly, sharply funny. Its ambitions and form crack open our expectations of a novel. It will be a major publishing event, and I think readers will be delighted and amazed by the mastery, depth and versatility of Halliday’s writing."
Asymmetry is scheduled for publication in early 2018.