am 15. Oktober 2001
Well, Adrian does not belong to the kind of people one would like to call reliable and he most certainly is not easy to deal with. But luckily he is one of the most witty and interesting characters created so far. Dunno where Stephen Fry gets his brilliant ideas from let alone his ability to play with language. Adolescent Adrian is one of the biggest liars that walk this earth - lying to teachers (good boy), to friends, to parents, to other relatives and very convincing and imaginative he is, too. Being convinced that he is the only "real" person in a strange game called life he has some serious problems with imagening others to have feelings as well. He creates his own world where he can be master, fooling everyone else just for the hell of it. Very fortunate for him after having spent a few years at a public school and unnerving everyone there he meets his master in Cambridge - old Professor Trefusius. "The old fart" finds him very amusing, challenges him and finally takes Adrian on a journey across Europe with dubious and dangerous people following them. It is a quest for some device, which, in the wrong hands, could cause considerable damage to the world. But nothing is what it seems and the quest will lead into Adrian finding out that there is a real world after all. Deep emotions play a major role in Stephen Fry's debut novel and he surely knows how to bring them alive. In case one has read his autobiography (first part of it) some clear connections with his own life will be discovered. But believe me, this only makes his outrageous first novel even better. Hm, and it will make you think again about the reliabilty of "old" manuscripts of classic writers. The world will be fooled.
am 10. Mai 2000
I put myself at a disadvantage by reading Stephen Fry's second novel, The Hippopotamus, before reading The Liar. In so doing, I fostered expectations that The Liar would not live up to. The Hippopotamus is a much funnier, racier and scathingly witty work than Fry's first novel. But, after the initial shock of having my expectations dashed, I was rather pleasantly surprised at how engaging, charming and unpredictable this novel is. Well, okay, I wasn't really all that surprised. Stephen Fry is so good a writer that one book--one chapter in fact--is enough to convince you he is unlikely to disappoint. Fry writes with such clarity, flare and adeptness that one is left basking in the sheer joy of the English language. Fry lifts the veil of dreadfully dry, pretentiously hip, consciously urban and premeditatedly mainstream English that dominates literature today to reveal a language that is once again fresh, smart, vibrant, intellectual and tantalizingly naughty. Delightful! Forget that The Liar is chock full of sordid trysts (real, imagined and fabricated), homosexual and bisexual liaisons and scandalous accusations about the sexual traditions of English public schools, this is a masterful book in language alone. But if that is not enough for you, The Liar is also an exciting and maze-like blend of international intrigue, murder, teenage male prostitution and the coming of age of a pathological liar of the first degree. Or is it? You're never really sure which way's up in this book until Fry brings things to a last-minute wrap-up that would be the envy of even the most devious mystery writer. Is the Liar funny? Yes, but in a wholly different way than The Hippopotamus. It is possibly a more conventional a novel than the one immediately following it, less bizarre in its plot and less mysterious throughout. But in construction it is more compelling, intermingling episodes from different times in the Liar's life in such a way that the act of story telling itself entices the reader on. Add to that the espionage theme and the appalling escapades of Adrian, the Liar, and you end up with a novel that is hard to put down, is a smart and witty read and completely worth your time.
am 3. April 1998
Follow the life story of Adrian Healey, from prep-school dandy to college ghost-writer, London catamite to international spy, and the result leaves nothing else to be desired from one of Britain's most genius comedians. Laced with its delicious undertones of intrigue, homosexuality, intelligentsia, and of course compulsive confabulatings, 'The Liar' does for the reputation of the English education system what Bonnie and Clyde did for that of armed robbery: prose and poetry are eloquent and titillating; the reader is drawn into the stony facades of English schools with many a manic guffaw.
The plot is simple enough to begin with: Adrian loves Hugo, and would do anything for (and to) him. Adrian circulates a lurid underground magazine and scandalizes his school. Adrian is expelled. From here onwards the plot thickens, as does the reader's bewilderment and enjoyment; the only real voice of recount is that of Adrian's - and he is a compulsive liar. Is he telling the truth? was he arrested for possession of cocaine whilst prostituting himself in the West End?
Despite (or perhaps because of) his failings, Adrian continues his studies at Fry's very own Alma Mater - Cambridge - and is promptly reduced to plagiarizing his theses, forging teachers' signatures, and counterfeiting Dickensian plays. It comes as little surprise, then, that there is great demand for his flawless lying and total lack of scruples in the big world of espionage, although here the novel fragments somewhat and forces the reader to return to previously unexplained asides. Suffice it to say that Adrian begins to find himself completely outclassed by the ruthless, seamless professional liars of the world's top secret services...
This is Fry's first, and though now facing competition with its later siblings, 'The Liar' stands as an admirably fun read. There is no sense of disgrace about this book to mar its entertainment value, dealing even as it does with such unlaudable matters as willful untruthfulness, drug-peddling, and Eng! lish schooling. The plot complicates and convolutes, and a second or third reading may be suggested in order to fully grasp the implications involved - but given the writer and the overall excellence of the book, this is hardly a disagreeable task.
am 28. Januar 2000
This books leaves you dazed and amused. That doesn't say it's a good book. In fact, it isn't. It's a fake throughout. It just leaves you as dazed as you would be if you discovered a good friend has been telling you lies all along, and as amused as one feels after having been played a practical joke.
The books' content is a (good, clever, superb, funny, whatever) assemblage of stereotypes and cliches found in (homoerotic) childhood novels (e.g. Gide's Counterfeiters, Julien Green's L'autre Sommeil, Cocteau's Enfants terribles - Fry further "credits" JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird). There is no single original ('true') feeling or insight expressed in the book itself - whenever it goes emotional, works of literature are quoted. The author does 'outside' what his fictional character Adrian does inside: cheat and copy, and by reading the appraisals here and on the cover, just as him it seems he's getting away with it.
Now the author tells you on the first page that no word of the following is true. So he has his own 'Liar's Paradox' here, forcing even critics that recognize the book a deceit to admit that it contains some truth. In fact, the book hardly disguises it's a joke, with its absurd spy story frame. My guess is that the author, in the beginning, set himself a spy story outline (with T-shirts and jackets as protagonists), and devoted himself to filling these blanks by characters developed from the sheer impossible other end of a pseudo-autobiographical homoerotic childhood and campus novel. The lingering suspicion that the whole book is an intentional fraud or joke (just look at the dedication line) became conviction when getting to the German conversations in the last slippery slope of events (liars letting liars tell the truth in order to support a lie). The German used here by the philological genius Trefusis quite surprisingly contains wrong grammar and wrong choice of words. That's unlikely accidental. I mean, if one does a debut novel and includes foreign languages, it seems one would turn to some native speaker for possible corrections - that is unless one does in fact want it only to convince the quick reader. Under a scrutinizing eye the book is as 'original' as is the hero Adrian's mock-Dickens "Peter Flowerbuck".
Since it is so obvious the author tries to be discovered the same kind of fraud his hero is, one wonders whether the (then truly 'autobiographical') book hasn't some morals after all. With all the displayed wit, humour, mastery of language, the author seems to say: "See, I could have sold you some enjoyable read without you even knowing everything is second hand - the other bestselling authors do it all the time. I just tell you." That's a liar's morals. The title seems apropriate then (maybe it's even meant to read as part of the author's name, as in "Stephen Fry the Liar"), and since not only this idea is original but also its execution superb, I suppose the book has a well deserved place in literature's monstrosities cabinet.
am 4. September 1999
Anders als Ian Fleming kommt Stephen Fry's "The Liar" ohne barbusige Bond-Girls und optische Effekte von der Größenordnung des Urknalles aus. Dafür knallt es bei dieser verworrenen Jagd durch Mitteleuropa zwischen den Ohren umso mehr. Fry beutelt den Leser mit so vielen verschiedenen Handlungssträngen, scheinbar unwichtigen Details und verschiedenen Versionen von Licht, Schatten, Wahrheit und Lüge, daß es eine wahre Pracht ist, und der Leser am Ende nicht weiß, ob die Puzzlestücke, die am Ende eins ums andere in das Mosaik eingepaßt werden, nun tatsächlich die Wahrheit darstellen, oder es sich wieder nur um einen diabolischen Geistestrick handelt, der zwei Seiten später in allen Einzelheiten seziert wird. Ungläubig hält man gegen Ende das Buch in der Hand, nur um es vorn wieder aufzuschlagen und von vorne zu beginnen. Wie in guten alten Miss-Marple-Filmen hat man das Gefühl ein wichtiges Detail von vornherein verpaßt zu haben, und tatsächlich. Mit jedem Male vermag man neue Nuancen und Anspielungen zu entdecken, die sich erst dem aufmerksamen und vorbereiteten Leser erschließen. Davon abgesehen überzeugt das Buch durch seinen Messerscharfen, schwarzen und urbritischen Humor, dem Fry ein guter Bekannter ist, sowie durch eine geschliffene, exakt-verspielte Sprache, bei der man mehr als einmal unwillkürlich schmunzeln muß.
Ein Buch das jeden Pfennig wert ist, auch wenn Neider (Hugh Laurie) behaupten, es sei "an ein paar nassen Mittwochnachmittagen in Norfolk" entstanden... ;-) (Dies ist eine Amazon.de an der Uni-Studentenrezension.)
am 16. Oktober 1999
I read this book some weeks ago, and I still can't quite work out exactly what happened! I think I've mastered the general gist of the story, but if you asked me to chronologically explain the plot from beginning to end, I'd be stumped. Anybody would!
I was looking forward to this, after the brilliant "Making History", and it really is quite clever (if a little to sophisticated for my own good!). Stripping away the layers of lies from the plot (including that funny little foreword he puts in, 'not one word of the following is true...') will leave you dazed but laughing nonetheless. (It's a good thing it does; I 'get' all the jokes, but I didn't laugh out loud once in wading through this.)
Finally, I haven't read Fry's autobiography, but come ON; an english public school? A flamboyant, clever protagonist called ADRIAN? What did you THINK it was about?? Even one of the quotes on the cover tells you its autobiographical!
To conclude, this is a very witty, very clever first novel, but somewhat disappointing after having read the later "Making History". "The Liar", although much more clever and MUCH more original, just isn't, in my opinion, as funny.
Must dash; I'm meeting three St Matthew's Ties for lunch.
am 4. Januar 2008
Fry gets off to a good start- the book is quite amusing and it seems like you stumbled upon a real gem, but then you get the feeling that Fry put aside his manuscript for a while and then picked it up and finished it in a completely unsatisfactory way (just threw something together to get it out). It is a true disappointment-the second part of the novel is confused, unstructured, boring, and frankly just plain silly. I would have expected more from a talented person like Fry.
am 1. September 1998
Stephen Fry's novel THE LIAR is a highly entertaining and original read. Comedic situations range from ironic to hilarious. The author's acting experience has apparently influenced his writing; this book is quite visual. The videotaped school meeting scene in Chapter 6 is a cool blend of clever dialog and slapstick humor (I'd never READ slapstick before this!). And although the book is billed as Comedy, there are in fact several scenes that are quite touching. . . . Americans may have some trouble with specifically British references, yet as shown in the following paragraph (in which Adrian and Prof. Trefusis leave school on a mysterious mission) descriptions are rich, and context explains most of what one needs to know about the scene, Horlicks notwithstanding: . . . >> The interior of the car smelt of Merton Park thrillers, Bakelite headsets and the Clothes Ration. It only needed the profile of Edgar Wallace or the voice of Edgar Lustgarten to sweep Adrian and Trefusis, with bells ringing, into a raincoat and Horlicks Britain of glistening pavements, trilbied police inspectors and poplin shirts. So familiar was the odour, so complete the vision it evoked as they swung with a whine of gears out of the college gates and onto the Trumpington Road, that Adrian could almost believe in reincarnation. He had never smelt that precise smell before, yet it was as familiar as his own socks. << . . . I recommend THE LIAR to anyone who wants to luxuriate in good writing. It's like a fine multi-layered wine. Take your time and enjoy it! - Terry Cox-Horton
am 31. Juli 1999
I have to agree with one of your other reviewers. Fry is clearly a genius and a highly entertaining and provoking read - but "The Liar" is so similar in content and characters to his autobiography "Moab is my Washpot" that one cannot help but be disappointed to a degree. Come on lad - think of something new!
am 31. Dezember 1999
Stephen Fry writes jaunty, superbly clever and often belly-achingly funny prose. Much of it can be called irreverent, but only by the irredeemably Puritan. Fry has a sharp sense of human nature, a tender spot for human frailty, and his crosshairs trained on human cruelty.
Fry's protagonist (and, so it seems, shadow self), Adrian Healey goes forth in the world of the English public schools, English public houses and English public streets as best he can--most often his best requires an assiduous disregard for the truth. But his lies are "lived and felt and acted out as thoroughly as another man's truths." This book doesn't have everything, but it does have international espionage, campus comedy and figgy oatcakes. Unfortunately, it doesn't have an organic or convincing ending, but five stars doesn't have to mean "perfect."
If you have ever fancied the idea that there is more truth in fiction than in history, this is the book for you. If descriptions of human sexual affection put you off unless they are of a married man and woman under the covers with the lights out, then you may turn a shade or three of red with THE LIAR. Honestly! If you like this book, Fry's second novel, THE HIPPOPOTAMUS, is even more hilarious (and much better plotted).