The Liar (Paperback)
Delicately attuned to the complexities of both the natural world and human psychology, this potent classic of twentieth-century Danish literature is narrated by an isolated schoolteacher stuck in a mire of loneliness, deception, and spiritual despair.
One of the greatest works of modern Scandinavian fiction, The Liar tells the story of Johannes Lye, a teacher and parish clerk on tiny Sand Island off the coast of Denmark, a place that in winter is entirely cut off from the world at large by ice. It is winter when the book begins, and for years now Johannes has lived alone, even as he nurses a secret passion for Annemari, a former pupil. Annemari is engaged to a local man, Olaf, who has left the island but is due to return come spring. She is also being courted by a young engineer from the mainland. Such are the chief players in a compact drama, recorded in Johannes’s ironic, self-lacerating, and anything but reliable diary.
Martin A. Hansen’s novel beautifully evokes the stark landscape of Sand Island and the immemorial circuit of the seasons as well as the mysterious passage of time in the human heart, all the while proceeding to a supremely suspenseful conclusion.
About the Author
Martin A. Hansen (1909–1955) was a Danish writer of essays, novels, and short stories known for his participation in the Danish resistance movement during World War II. Born to a tenant farmer, Hansen grew up working as a farmhand and went on to train as a teacher. During the German occupation of Denmark, he began writing and eventually editing articles in the underground publication People and Freedom. Hansen was awarded several prizes during his lifetime, including the Drachmannlegatet, De Gyldne Laurbær, and the Holdberg Medal.
Paul Larkin worked for five years in the Danish Merchant Navy before taking a degree in Scandinavian and Celtic Studies. He later trained as a film director with the BBC. He had a long career in journalism and filmmaking before returning to Scandinavian languages and fiction as a translator, critic, and author.
Morten Høi Jensen is a writer and critic from Copenhagen, Denmark. He is the author of A Difficult Death: The Life and Work of Jens Peter Jacobsen. His writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Point, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, Commonweal, and The American Interest.
“Sometimes [Johannes Lye’s] jottings have a sour, dyspeptic flavour; often they are lyrical, wry, and downright sarcastic. Consequently, you cannot help but stick with Lye, with his strange magnetic voice…Larkin provides a fine translation so that the narrative never fades or stalls.” —NJ McGarrigle, The Irish Times
"Paul Larkin beautifully renders Johannes’s epiphanic final diary entries: 'On any map [Sandø] is tiny, but for any inhabitant her mass is huge … The island has immeasurable chapters of time in her. Vanished times and times that are yet to come.'" —Paul Binding, Times Literary Supplement
“A great work of art. . . . There is a palpable unease in every sentence.” —Tom Kristensen
“There is a sense of measured urgency in [The Liar], which carries you along as you read, and makes you unwilling to put the book down before you have finished, before you have learned whether Johannes sees his first woodcock of the season and achieves his love’s desire, and which of her two loves Annemari finally chooses—before you learn, in fact, the final direction of all these vivid lives which inform and make absorbing each page of the book.” —The Sydney Morning Herald