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Seven Lies

Seven Lies

by James Lasdun

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“Superb. . . . Every page of this narration bears examples of Lasdun’s own poetic mastery. . . . Shockingly vivid.”—Time Out
Part political thriller, part meditation on the nature of desire and betrayal, Seven Lies tells the story of Stefan Vogel, a young East German, whose yearnings for love, glory, and freedom express themselves in a


“Superb. . . . Every page of this narration bears examples of Lasdun’s own poetic mastery. . . . Shockingly vivid.”—Time Out
Part political thriller, part meditation on the nature of desire and betrayal, Seven Lies tells the story of Stefan Vogel, a young East German, whose yearnings for love, glory, and freedom express themselves in a lifelong fantasy of going to America. By a series of increasingly dangerous maneuvers, he makes this fantasy come true, his past seemingly locked behind the Berlin Wall and a new life of unbounded bliss ahead of him. But then his world begins to fall apart.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lasdun's acclaimed first novel, The Horned Man, followed three short story collections and several books of poems. This second full-length outing seductively and stylishly dissects a life of Cold War fabrication told in flashback. Stefan Vogel, a narrator as insinuatingly unreliable as one of Patricia Highsmith's blithe psychopaths, grows up in the grim fantasyland of Brezhnev-era East Germany, the son of parents whose scuttled diplomatic ambitions for a "better life" in the West consume him. A minor dissident, he is sprung, along with wife-to-be Inge, from an East German prison by a West German government intent on making a showpiece of him. Instead, he and Inge emigrate to the U.S. In the picaresque process of realizing his dream of America, his succession of identities and impostures eerily shadow that of the waning Cold War: eager apparatchik, exotic poet, noble dissident-and last year's news. Of course, America turns out to be as ridden with mendacity as his vanished homeland, and after five years in New York City and 15 in self-imposed upstate exile, the labyrinth of lies (the seven of the title come from Martin Luther) begins to close in on his orderly life and marriage. Sly, witty and just allegorical enough to make one reflect on one's own deceptions, Lasdun's latest is a bracing and accomplished entertainment. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Why does a mysterious woman in pearls toss a glass of wine in Stefan Vogel's face at a fancy New York party? That's the mystery that launches this invigorating new work from poet/novelist Lasdun (The Horned Man), who offers an acute look at life under a totalitarian regime. For Stefan was born in East Germany and grew up longing for America-not America as it is but America as the repository of all his aspirations. An unhappy child, Stefan has been proclaimed a poet by his mother-the first of many lies he clings to while chugging through life, accepting everything as inevitable until he commits the final, awful betrayal revealed at the novel's end. Stefan does have one stroke of luck: meeting dazzling actress Inge, who, unfortunately, is engaged to dissident Thilo. Funny how Thilo ends up in jail and how Stefan steps into the breach and manages to whisk Inge to America. But even there Stefan cannot escape his past. Perceptively written in precise, exquisitely rendered prose, this work challenges readers with a host of questions on fate, responsibility, and the relationship between the political and the personal. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/05.]-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The poisonous compromises and complicities of the old German Democratic Republic follow a child of the system from East Berlin to the America of his dreams. Lasdun's brief tour through the life of Stefan Vogel is almost unbearably intimate. The younger son of a privileged couple living just on the edge of power in the weird isolation of East Germany, Stefan is intelligent but untalented, unathletic and, by decision of his schoolmates, unpopular. Longing vaguely for the idea of America, where his father's job might take the family, and living without any moral compass other than the veiled wishes of the totalitarian state, Stefan finds early on that he is willing to abandon the truth when the truth seems to offer neither help nor refuge. As a youth, he makes a deal with the devil, the trade of his sexual innocence for the works of Walt Whitman, books held under lock and key by a hideous building supervisor. Stefan needs Whitman to fulfill his artistically ambitious mother's wish that he be a poet, a vocation for which he has no feel. With his father's fall from partisan grace and the family's subsequent recession from the good life, Stefan drifts further into the phony world of state-approved art to which his aristocratic mother clings. When he meets Inge, an actress so attractive to him that he is willing to sign on any number of dotted lines to keep her, Stefan solidifies his spurious identity as a poet and puts himself in a position to offer her comfort when she is left by her lover. When Stefan, in company with Inge, finally reaches America, the agreements he made in East Germany prove disastrously binding. Good reading, but bad news for anyone who has ever fudged the truth.
The New Republic
“A surprising and nuanced novel . . . that skillfully blends the political and the personal.”
New York Sun
“Poet James Lasdun confirms his career as an important novelist. . . . Macabre but sensationally authentic.”
Toronto Globe and Mail
“Pitch-perfect. . . . And what finely wrought characters. . . . [Seven Lies’s] complex plot falls into place with the irresistible inevitability of a clockwork’s gears and levers.”
Marcus Eliason - Associated Press
“Grimly funny, painfully sad, and beautifully written.”
Associated Press Staff
Grimly funny, painfully sad, and beautifully written.— Marcus Eliason

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.79(d)

Meet the Author

James Lasdun is the author of The Horned Man and Seven Lies, as well as six collections of poetry. He teaches creative writing at Columbia University and The New School and lives in upstate New York.

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