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Literature / The Book of Lies

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The Book of Lies is a series of books written in French by Hungarian author Ágota Kristóf detailing the lives of twins through the second World War. It focuses on the the depravity during the war, the terrors the two boys witnessed, and functions as a parable for East and West Europe after World War II.

The first book in the series is The Notebook. Not to be confused with the movie, this book introduces the children, Lucas T. and Claus T., and the setting, a border town which is soon to experience the Nazi army. The book is written in plural first person, and it's as though it were written by a small child. This becomes important later.

The second book is The Proof. This book focuses on Lucas living on his own after the events of the first book. He struggles with the fact that he drives away his loved ones and his loneliness without Claus around, and adopts a deformed child named Mathias. This book is written in singular third person.


The third book in the series is The Third Lie. The plot of this book from beginning to end is filled with spoilers about the first two books from beginning to end, but in short it is revealed that the first two books were fabrications of Lucas' life. Still, it can be said that this book completes the parable of West and East Europe after WWII. It is written in first person. It's definitely the most heartrending of the three, and that's saying something.

The series can be obtained here.

The first book was also adapted into an Hungarian film (titled A nagy füzet), directed by János Szász.

As a final warning, BEWARE OF UNMARKED SPOILERS, which are unavoidable given The Third Lie's take on the series.


Contains examples of:

  • And I Must Scream: The reason why Grandmother commits assisted suicide. She doesn't want to remain in this state after her second stroke, able to hear and sense but do nothing about it.
  • Arc Words: "Sons of a bitch" returns in The Third Lie as son of a bitch, which recounts Lucas' true history.
  • Beige Prose: One of the rules of contributing to the titular notebook, although it's slightly lessened in The Proof.
  • Blackmail: Lucas and Claus to the priest after it is revealed that he had molested Harelip.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Between Klaus and his sister, although it doesn't last, as she marries a surgeon.
  • Downer Ending: Lucas jumps into train tracks and dies after Klaus rejected him. Klaus pushed away the one girl he ever loved and is forced to stay with his mom who prefers Lucas to him and has said he will commit suicide after the death of his mother.
  • Driven to Suicide: Grandmother, Lucas, along with Mathias, and Klaus has stated he will do the same.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Every character has something going on:
    • Lucas lives his life a lie and invents a brother to stave off loneliness. He also commits suicide after a lifetime of searching for his brother, Klaus.
    • Mathias was abandoned by his mother and feels unloved due to his deformities, and dislikes the other children who are "perfect". This leads to his eventual suicide at seven years of age.
    • Klaus and Lucas' mother shoots and kills their father after finding out he loved another woman, leading to his death and crippling Lucas. This leads to the "thing" and all three novels could have been avoided had she not done this; the most notable impact this has is that the twins wouldn't have been separated. She spends the remainder of her life doting over Lucas' perfection and lashing out at Klaus.
    • After the "thing", Klaus is left with no one to stay with, and moves in with Antoine and Sarah. Klaus is somewhat miserable because his mother obsesses over Lucas and treats him poorly, and Lucas is never found until The Third Lie, possibly. As he grows up, even with the war passing, none of this changes, he has health issues, and he has to quit one of his jobs. He was also in love with Sarah, and has to watch knowing that he can do nothing about the situation and as she marries a surgeon. By the time Lucas finally does come around, forty something years later, he doesn't want his mother to get overexcited and Lucas' presence to disrupt the routine life his mother and he are leading, and claims he is unrelated to him.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": In The Notebook, practically every character is this (save the twins, who aren't even named until the next novel). The priest, Harelip, the housekeeper, the foreign officer...
  • Freudian Excuse: Lucas, in the orphanage, is a jerkass, and the director and old lady there think it's because his parents never visit him.
    The old woman asked me again: "Do you do these things because your own parents never come to see you?"
    I said to her, "What business is that of yours?"
  • Gainax Ending: The ending of The Proof heavily implies that Lucas was never real to begin with, along with the other characters in the novel and its predecessor.
    • The Third Lie is this for the entire trilogy, confirming the above and effectively rendering the first two books fictitious.
      • It seems like The Notebook did occur, but with only one of the twins, and bits and pieces of the final chapters of The Proofare also true.
  • Historical Fiction: Based off of WWII.
  • Jerkass: Lucas, at five, tells the other children in the hospital that their parents don't love them because they're ill, and he tells parents their child is dead. This probably stems from his parents not coming to visit him.
  • Mind Screw: The final few chapters of The Proof raise questions over whether Lucas is real or not.
    • The Third Lie reveals that The first two books were lies by Lucas and the events never really unfolded that way. Considering both of the actual twins chronically lie, it's difficult to tell what's true and what's not in the end.
    • It is entirely possible that due to the twins' chronic lying, the third or even parts of the second novel could themselves be fabrications.
  • Morality Pet: Lucas, in The Third Lie, is a complete Jerkass in the Rehabilitation Center, except to one person.
    I gave my usual whacks to the crybabies, then I went to see the little blond paralytic who doesn't move and doesn't speak. All he does is look at the ceiling, or the sky if he is brought outside, and smile. I took his hand, held it to my face, and then placed my hands against his face. He looked at the ceiling and smiled.
  • Offing the Offspring: Averted. In The Proof, Yasmine attempts to do this to Mathias, but can't bring herself to do it. In The Third Lie, the twins' mother believes she inadvertently killed Lucas, when in fact she just cripples him.
  • Only One Name: Averted. The characters, if they aren't referred to by characteristics or occupation, do in fact have a last name, although it's simply an initial. (Lucas and Claus T., Klaus T., Peter N., Maria Z.)
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Very few of the characters are actually named in The Notebook, lapsing under Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep". Lampshaded:
    The priest: Where is it? Who sent you?
    The twins: Harelip and her mother.
    The priest: What is the precise name of these people?
    The twins: We don't know their precise name.
  • Parental Incest: Father-daughter version between Yasmine and her father, producing Mathias.
  • Spoiler Title
  • Straight Gay: Peter from The Proof.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The Priest touches on this when Lucas and Claus ask him to help Harelip.
    "Although I know absolutely nothing about these people, I am willing to give them extreme unction. Let's go. Lead the way."
  • Title Drop:
    • From The Proof:
    He takes the notebooks, he smiles. "At last, here is the proof of Lucas's existence. Thank you Peter. Has anyone read them?"
    • From The Third Lie:
    The child signs the statement, in which there are three lies.
    The man he crossed the frontier with was not his father.
    The child is not eighteen, but fifteen.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Lucas and Claus, whose names are anagrams of eachother. It's also where the twins of Mother 3 get their names from.
  • The Sociopath: Lucas and Claus train to become this.
  • The Unfavorite: The twins' mother cannot stop talking about Lucas, and how he would have been successful in life in comparison to Klaus, whom she constantly scorns.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Throughout the first and second book, where it's revealed that they're just fabrications of Lucas' life, as he can't bear to tell the painful truth and thus narrates it as he wishes it played out.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The towns in the country are only referred to by letter (K, S, D, etcetera), and the foreign country is simply called just that. Other than the fact the trilogy takes place in Europe somewhere, it's almost impossible to tell specifically where.

Not a bad idea, the train.


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