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The Liar

The Liar

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

Regular price $16.95
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The May 2023 selection of the NYRB Classics Book Club

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.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681377186
Pages: 248
Publication Date:


[The Liar] is a book that will lead readers to marvel at how intricate storytelling and human life can be, and how subtly their intricacies can be linked.
—Poul Houe, Rain Taxi Review

"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

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