cover image All Men Are Liars

All Men Are Liars

Alberto Manguel, trans. from the Spanish by Miranda France. Riverhead, $16 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-59448-835-1

Manguel’s latest (after The Library at Night) pays homage to the intricate puzzles of writers like Borges and Cortazar without rising to their level. Most of the novel consists of a character relating a version of events to a journalist investigating the death of Argentine expatriate Alejandro Bevilacqua, a rising literary star in 1970s Madrid. Bevilacqua fell from “Alberto Manguel’s” balcony the night his debut novel, the self-proclaimed masterpiece, In Praise of Lying, was released. The journalist also records the testimony of Bevilacqua’s ex-lover, receives a letter from a former cellmate and a confession from a secret policeman, and speculates on the case himself. Separate portraits of Bevilacqua don’t unite, creating a mysterious mood and suspense. But aside from the elegiac portrait of Argentines adrift in Europe, haunted by memories of torture and imprisonment, this truth-shifting shell game is all the novel has up its sleeve. When a credible explanation of Bevilacqua’s death does emerge, it turns out that events have evolved along predictable lines, which is perhaps this intricate novel’s final twist. Intentional or not, the effect isn’t particularly rewarding. (June)