In this gorgeously imagined novel, a journalist interviews those who knew—or thought they knew—Alejandro Bevilacqua, a brilliant, infuriatingly elusive South American writer and author of the masterpiece, In Praise of Lying. But the accounts of those in his circle of friends, lovers, and enemies become increasingly contradictory, murky, and suspect. Is everyone lying, or just telling their own subjective version of the truth? As the literary investigation unfolds and a chorus of Bevilacqua’s peers piece together the fractured reality of his life, thirty years after his death, only the reader holds the power of final judgment.
In All Men Are Liars, Alberto Manguel pays homage to literature’s inventions and explores whether we can ever truly know someone, and the question of how, by whom, and for what, we ourselves will be remembered.
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.