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MARTIN A HANSEN’S THE LIAR
September 12, 2023—6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Read and discuss Scandinavian literature in translation as part of our Nordic Book Club, now online! Each month we select a novel from some of the best Nordic literary voices. On September 12, we’ll be discussing Martin A. Hansen’s The Liar, one of the greatest works of modern Scandinavian fiction, out now in new translation by Paul Larkin, who recently discussed the book with us in a talk streaming here.
First published in 1950, 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.
“A great work of art. . . . There is a palpable unease in every sentence.” —Tom Kristensen