Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681377186
Pages: 248
Publication Date: April 4, 2023

The Liar

by Martin A. Hansen, translated from the Danish by Paul Larkin, introduction by Morten Høi Jensen

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An NYRB Classics Original

The May 2023 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club

When the first chapter of Martin A. Hansen’s The Liar was broadcast by Danish state radio in the spring of 1950, Denmark’s towns and villages fell silent. Combining terse, Nordic Saga–like prose with an unreliable narrator, The Liar is one of the greatest works of modern Scandinavian fiction, and in Paul Larkin's translation Hansen's masterpiece now finds its true voice in English.

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 ice entirely cuts off from the world at large. It is winter when the book begins, and for years now Lye has lived alone, even as he nurses a secret passion for Annemari, a former pupil. 

Annemari, however, is engaged to be married to a local man, Olaf—away now, but expected to return in the spring—while she is also being courted by a young engineer who has come to work on the island. Such are the main players in the book's compact drama, which we observe through the lens of Johannes's at once ironic and self-lacerating diary. 

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 while proceeding to a supremely suspenseful conclusion.