The Third Lie

Agota Kristof, Author, Marc Romano, Translator Grove/Atlantic $20 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1583-6
Concluding her trilogy that began with The Proof and continued with The Notebook, Hungarian-born Kristoff (who lives in Switzerland and writes in French) uses a tale of twin brothers alienated from themselves and from each other to speak to the condition of post-WW II and post-Cold War Europe. The first section is narrated by Lucas, aka Claus, a man who fled his native, unnamed Central European country 40 years ago to live in the West and has now returned, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, to reconcile with his past. Through his eyes, the reader is introduced to a world of daunting moral choices where self-preservation often means sacrificing both family and strangers. The second section is told by his brother, named Klaus, who is not happy about the return of Lucas/Claus. The book's first section interweaves memories of past and present to create a sense of increasing desperation in the aloof but charismatic Claus. But the second section rushes to a conclusion that fails to capitalize on the tension generated in the first part. That said, Kristof elegantly folds postmodern tricks (e.g., the anagrammatic relationship of Claus and Lucas) into a novel that strives for the moral punch of a traditional parable. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!