Literary Award

The World Doesn’t Exist


“I had a friend once. I met him on a winter’s day quite long ago, leap­ing out of his car and bound­ing up the steps of Franklin High School. That’s the most endur­ing mem­o­ry I have of him, an unri­valed impres­sion of radi­ance and beau­ty – the shim­mer­ing col­ors of an era when all my sen­sa­tions were intense. Frozen on those steps, filled with admi­ra­tion and shame, I was lost in my state of “new­ness,” lost in myself. He saved me – from oth­ers, from my own youth. Years lat­er, when this man had become a hat­ed fig­ure, I tried to save him. I want­ed peo­ple to know who he real­ly was.”
When Adam Voll­mann, a reporter for The New York­er, sees an image of the sub­ject of a man­hunt appear on the screens above Times Square, he rec­og­nizes him right away: it’s Ethan Shaw. Hand­some Ethan, who 20 years ear­li­er had been the star of their high school and his only friend, has been accused of rap­ing and mur­der­ing a young Mex­i­can woman. Refus­ing to believe in his guilt, Adam returns to Drys­den, where they knew each oth­er, to launch an inves­ti­ga­tion. But as he con­fronts the past, all his cer­tain­ties are shaken…
A breath­tak­ing nov­el and vir­tu­osic med­i­ta­tion on the pow­er of sto­ry­telling, The World Does Not Exist is a dizzy­ing inter­ro­ga­tion of a soci­ety blind­ed by lies, where real­i­ty and fic­tion are one and the same.


Just imag­ine: you find your­self in Times Square, in mid­town New York, when sud­den­ly a pho­to of your child­hood best friend appears on the giant screens. It’s real­ly him, Ethan Shaw, the high school gold­en boy, ris­ing star from the small town of Drys­den. For the nar­ra­tor, Adam Voll­mann, Ethan was a sav­ior: by extend­ing his friend­ship, he enabled Adam to fit in. And this same man now stands accused of rap­ing and killing an ado­les­cent, want­ed across the country!

Adam, a jour­nal­ist, will launch an inves­ti­ga­tion and head back to where it all start­ed. But no one can retrace their past unscathed. And what Adam will dis­cov­er about Ethan, the vic­tim and him­self could change every­thing. In this nov­el con­ceived as a thriller by design, noth­ing is famil­iar: the char­ac­ters prove elu­sive, the hall of mir­rors per­fect, and real­i­ty, in the land of Don­ald Trump, dan­ger­ous­ly resem­bles fic­tion. Amidst a David Lynch-like atmos­phere and against a back­drop of fake news, the author inter­ro­gates iden­ti­ty, what lies hid­den behind names, and our rela­tion­ship with the truth. A fas­ci­nat­ing trea­sure hunt in which we get lan­guid­ly lost and where sus­pense and manip­u­la­tion reign supreme. An inspired masterwork.

Ari­ane Bois

Jour­nal­ist & jury mem­ber of the Lucien-Bar­rière Lit­er­ary Award

Associated artists

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