Magazine article The Spectator

What Lies Beneath

Magazine article The Spectator

What Lies Beneath

Article excerpt

All Men Are Liars

by Alberto Manguel

Alma Books, £12.99, pp. 240,

ISBN 9781846881091

Of all the fashions in contemporary fiction, the least mourned, I suspect, will be those novels in which the author ambles on at some point in the narrative and proceeds to offer an arch and intrusive commentary on what's happening. All Men Are Liars not only plays the author-as-character trick, but comes festooned with a host of other modish accessories.

There's the pretty-much-mandatory South American setting, the gloomy reflections on the nature of reality and unreality, along with a clutch of wildly unreliable narrators. It even has the added cachet of having been written in Spanish by a Canadian and then translated into English. If ever there was a book that demanded to be hurled across the room by anyone who's not a regular user of the word 'ludic', this surely is it.

It therefore comes as a considerable surprise to report that All Men Are Liars is a remarkable novel - richly textured, ingeniously constructed and deeply unsettling.

The book starts with an account, by Manguel, of his friendship with an Argentinian called Alejandro Bevilacqua, who has fallen to his death from the balcony of Manguel's flat. Bevilacqua, we learn, was a sad, watery figure, obsessed by his past and by seeking to tell the truth. He was 'a man who did not believe in invention'.

The first indication that this might not necessarily be the case comes with the news that Bevilacqua was the author of a novel called In Praise of Lying. In the next section, an ex-girlfriend of his rubbishes everything that has gone before, including Manguel himself - 'Alberto Manguel is an asshole'. …

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