Gut Symmetries

January 12, 1998

This is a story of time, universe, love affair and New York. The ship of Fools, a Jew, a diamond, a dream. A working class boy, a baby, a river. The sub-atomic joke of unstable matter…

Travelling across the Atlantic on board the QE2, Alice – a bright, young physicist – meets Jove, short for Giovanni, one of the world’s most respected experts on time travel and a confirmed lothario.

By the time the pair land in New York, Alice has become Jove’s mistress, an affair of the heart which is only complicated further when Alice meets Jove’s, wife, Stella; a tempestuous beauty born with a diamond at the base of her spine.

As this love triangle turns into a menage-a-trois, Alice, Stella and Jove struggle against the currents immersing them, while their romance pulls into its wake the stories of other generations, philosophies, quantum physics and time travel.

A celebration of the human heart in all its frailty, confusion and excess, Gut Symmetries is a lyrical evocation of parallel lives, loves and universes, from one of Britain’s best loved authors.

Why did you want to write about quantum physics?

I was interested in it. Science fascinates me and I’ve taken New Scientist for years. All of my books are preoccupied with time – it starts right back in Oranges in the Deuteronomy section. In Sexing the Cherry I use time vertically, not just horizontally, and in Gut Symmetries I wanted to explore the dimensionality of time. How do we understand time? What happens to the past? Does the future already exist? These are questions the book deals with, not because I hope to answer them, but as a way of adding to the puzzle.

More love affairs, more married women?



Triangles are so much more fascinating than straight lines. It’s a geometry thing.

Just maths then?

No. The human heart is my territory. Gut Symmetries is about all kinds of relationships – between parents and children, children and grandparents, husbands and wives, friends, as well as sexual affairs whether heterosexual or queer. I write about love because it’s the most important thing in the world. I write about sex because often it feels like the most important thing in the world. But I set these personal private passions against an outside world – sometimes hostile, usually strange, so that we can see what happens when inner and outer realities collide.

What about the title?

It’s a play on words. GUT stands for Grand Unified Theory – the theory of everything science wants to discover – and it’s gut as in gut instinct, the feelings that lead us on much more than we like to admit. Symmetries, well, it’s the search for a perfect parallel universe, the one just like ours but without the problems. I suppose that’s what we look for when we fall in love…

They were letting off fireworks down at the waterfront, the sky exploding in grenades of colour. Whatever it is that pulls the pin, that hurls you past the boundaries of your own life into a brief and total beauty – even for a moment – it is enough.

Publication: January 12, 1998

Publisher: Granta Books