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Johannes Vig, Sando island school teacher, composes a memoir and history of the island and its peoples. As he tells his own story, the details of the lives of other islanders are combined with his and told as stand-alone tales, to bring the epistolary together. Through the voice of Johannes, the reader comes to understand that the tales he tells, the characterizations and pictures he paints, may or may not be true. The narrator devises notions regarding himself and others, which are a modes of viewing situations and people merely as he wishes to see them. This causes the reader to reflect on the narrator’s perceptions, ideas, and actions. There are two themes which remain present throughout the story: the character of Johannes, a liar, and the ways in which his writing reflects the actions and personalities of other islanders and all people.

Hansen’s title, The Liar, intentionally leads the reader to constantly consider the concept of truth within the pages of his masterpiece. The reader soon becomes aware of the many forms of deception, which flawed protagonist Johannes, uses with himself and others. Many are, perhaps, unintentional, and, at times, difficult to detect. Through his isolation and loneliness, over time Johannes lies more and more to himself and those around him as he: tries to please others, remain a good school teacher and parish clerk, gain the attention of the island’s women, and portray the history of the island accurately in his writing. As the story continues, the reader begins to question reasons, definitions, and values of the idea of truth.

What is the intention of the author in depicting a lonely man building a real and imaginary world on lies? The reader begins to view Johannes’, histories and relationships not in black and white, but rather in a shade of gray. When Johannes lies to himself to feel better or feels uncertain about his faith in God, he becomes more complex, more human. Hansen shows the reader that Johannes is not bad and he’s certainly not alone in his struggle to exist in a way he can accept.

The Liar reminds a reader that lies are not always what they seem; lies defend, alter and mend a person’s experiences. From these alternative perspectives, memories, change, isolation, and loneliness can be more manageable. Applying these notions both in Hansen’s text and one’s own life can be an altering and inspiring opportunity.

 

Star Rating 4 out of 5 stars

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