The Professor of Truth

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The Professor of Truth

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Big life-and-death questions lie at the center of Robertson’s contemplative new novel, but its premise is as commercial as that of a bestselling thriller, amped up by real-life roots. Still haunted by the deaths of his wife and daughter in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland more than 20 years ago, British literature professor Alan Tealing gets a surprise visit from a man named Ted Nilsen, who asks him provocative questions. After some verbal fencing, Nilsen explains that he’s a retired American intelligence officer with information that Tealing, who has made a second career of gathering information about the crash, will want to know. Like many others, Tealing believes that Khalil Khazar, the man convicted of the bombing, was not responsible. When Nilsen challenges him to deepen his investigation, the professor, conveniently on sabbatical at the time, accepts. The Scottish tragedy provides the framework for a deeper philosophical treatment of justice and loss and grief, all well served by Robertson’s measured, literary prose. Robertson (The Testament of Gideon Mack) makes a case for the messy complexity of truth. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"[The Professor of Truth] provides the framework for a deeper philosophical treatment of justice and loss and grief, all well served by Robertson’s measured, literary prose. Robertson makes a case for the messy complexity of truth." —Publishers Weekly

"Robertson writes brilliantly about the quest for truth and hints at the possibility of personal redemption and transformation." —Kirkus (starred review)

"Impressively blends the political with the personal, and a healthy dash of the metaphysical, as well. Robertson knows that it’s often the pursuit of truth, regardless of the truth itself, by which we should measure the work of a man’s life." —Minneapolis Star Tribune

"The Professor of Truth moves at the quick pace you’d expect from a thriller, but it’s more contemplative and thoughtful. It’s a well-rounded novel that will leave you thinking long after the last pages are turned." —S. Krishna's Books

"Thought-provoking and engaging, Robertson’s novel is a literary thriller with a conscience." —The Plain Dealer

“[A] brilliant portrayal of grief, loss, of how little justice there really is in the world...[The Professor of Truth] is a thought-provoking tragedy of someone imprisoned by his certainty…Robertson, who is one of Scotland’s more respected novelists—and deservedly so—may well have accomplished what he set out to do in revitalizing public awareness of the Lockerbie bombing.—TruthDig

Kirkus Reviews
The elusiveness and meaning of truth lie at the core of this roman à clef about the Pan Am plane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. In that tragedy, Alan Tealing, a professor of literature and narrator of the story, lost his wife and young daughter, so one might conjecture that he would welcome the conviction of Khalil Khazar, the alleged perpetrator. Yet Tealing has his doubts, doubts that come to the fore when Ted Nilsen, a mysterious CIA operative, shows up one cold winter's day on Tealing's doorstep. Nilsen is dying of cancer and wants to give Tealing one last opportunity to find out the truth, a philosophical stance to which Tealing is both personally and philosophically committed. The testimony that convicted Khazar came from Martin Parroulet, the cab driver who had driven him to Heathrow. Since, shortly after Khazar's appeal was rejected, the cab driver disappeared, it was hypothesized that his testimony was tainted because it had been "bought" (for $2 million) and that he was living somewhere under a witness protection program. Toward the end of their long conversation, Nilsen hands Tealing a piece of paper with an address for Parroulet, and in the pursuit of truth, the professor leaves Scotland to find him. Parroulet has taken a new identity, Parr, and is living in Sheildston, an obscure outpost in Australia. While there, Tealing makes contact with Parr's wife and, in the climax of the novel, has a long conversation with the reluctant Parr only due to the fact that Tealing had arrived opportunely to help save Parr's house from raging brushfires. By the end, Tealing gets close to the truth--and has an epiphany that might be as far as anyone can get. Robertson writes brilliantly about the quest for truth and hints at the possibility of personal redemption and transformation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590516324
  • Publisher: Other Press, LLC
  • Publication date: 9/10/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 685,473
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.13 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Read an Excerpt

   When I think of Nilsen now, how he came and vanished again in that one day, I don’t feel any warmer towards him in the remembering than I did when he was here. I don’t even feel grateful for what he gave me, because he and his kind kept it from me for so long. But I do think of the difficult journey he made, and why he made it. What set him off, he told me, was seeing me being interviewed on television, after Khalil Khazar’s death. He said he’d watched the interview over and over. He’d wanted to feel what I felt. But you cannot feel what another person feels. You cannot even imagine it, however hard you try. This I know.
   When Khalil Khazar died, the news went round the world in minutes— in text messages, in e-mails, through social networks, on radio and television, via websites and by telephone. I got the call at home from Patrick Bridger, a BBC journalist I knew and trusted. We’d talked, a week or so before the end, about what we would do and where we would film, knowing that it could not be long. ‘Alan, I’m on my way with a cameraman and a soundman,’ Patrick said. ‘We’ll pick you up and head straight to the location.’ I didn’t take any more calls. I was giving Patrick an exclusive. It was a way of controlling things. 
   While I waited for their car I thought about how the news would be received in different parts of the globe. There would be tears, I knew, but also there would be laughter. There would be grief and jubilation, clasped hands and clenched fists, loud dismay and quiet satisfaction. There would be one family mourning, other families celebrating. Some people would feel a sense of resolution, of justice having been done. Others would feel, as I did, a sense of things unresolved, of justice having not been done. A guilty man or an innocent man had gone to his grave: it depended on your perspective.
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