Mia Levitin

A spiral of deceit

When 17-year-old Nofar falsely accuses a man of sexual assault, the lie spirals out of control

The Hebrew word for ‘truth’ – see above left  (emet) is comprised of the first, middle and last letters of the alphabet. Truth, scholars say, pervades all things. Talmudists add that the aleph, mem and tav that form emet are balanced, grounded characters, while the letters that make up the word for‘lie’ – see above right (sheker), teeter precariously on the page. In our post-truth era of Pinocchian politicians and social media spewing falsehoods, however, it may well be truth that sits on shakier ground.

Like Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s previous novel Waking Lions, Liar considers the consequences of a moment of misjudgment that unfolds as if fated. Following a verbal altercation at the ice-cream parlour where she works, 17-year-old Nofar finds herself falsely accusing a has-been talent-show star of sexual assault:

She didn’t know things would go so far. She just wanted him to leave her alone. But then everyone came and he humiliated her again, this time in front of everyone, and when they asked her if he’d touched her, a kind of ‘Yes’ came out of her, not intentionally, the ‘Yes’ of hysteria, and then it continued with the police and, later, on TV.

In the aftermath of the incident, there is little room for Raskolnikovian remorse; rather, the retelling of the tale to a widening audience allows Nofar — whose name means ‘water lily’ — to blossom. ‘The truth becomes some people,’ writes Gundar-Goshen, ‘and others are made beautiful by falsity.’

Liar offers a modern twist on the Cinderella story. Why settle for the attentions of a pimply Prince Charming when one can escape the ‘abyss of ordinariness’ with the adulation of the crowd? The plot proceeds at a brisk clip, as suspense builds as to whether Nofar will recant, be turned in or send an innocent man to jail.

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