Alberto Manguel will discuss All Men Are Liars
And why we should step back from the over-reliable narrator
This article is from 2010.
Alberto Manguel’s latest book, All Men Are Liars, is ‘a tribute to falsehood’ in which no one is a reliable source; not the enigmatic figure whose death is being investigated, not those who knew him, nor Manguel himself. It’s a concept that challenges the reader’s commonly-held assumption that the author is a trustworthy guide through a narrative. ‘No amount of disclaiming will persuade us otherwise,’ Manguel has said. ‘The reader has a superstitious belief in the truth in fiction, as though writers are expressing their own voices through the text. What such an approach by the reader fails to take into account is the possibility that the author is only an instrument for creating the book; he knows no more, and perhaps less, than the reader about the subject. With no more props than ink and paper, the writer – and not a magician – conveys to the reader the magic of another world. What we look for in that world and the feelings we bring to it are not really the responsibility of the author.’
Manguel’s work traverses genre, style, and theme, from The Dictionary of Imaginary Places to News from a Foreign Country Came, and he is a prolific creator of worlds. So do we trust him in this work? As he says, ‘every minute of every day and every breath is a risk, so why not take the chance?’
Writers’ Retreat, 18 Aug (with Miguel Syjuco), 4.30pm, £7 (£5).