The truth will out


Enrique de Hériz <em>Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 496pp, £14.99</em>

ISBN 0297

Where does fiction end and a lie begin? Every character in Enrique de Hériz's debut novel is obsessed, in one way or another, with the truth – unearthing it, concealing it, moulding it; one character suffers from a syndrome that condemns him to forever telling it. However, the truth is the one thing in this windingly elliptical novel that remains intangible: "These pages aren't a monument to the truth . . . they're more like a sewer . . . a place where I can get rid of it."

Isabel, a celebrated anthropologist and expert in tribal death rituals, is hiding from her family in the Guatemalan jungle. Believed to have been killed in a boating accident, she decides to go along with the myth of her own death. Back in Spain, her grieving daughter Serena tries to make sense of an exalted family history that, on closer scrutiny, threatens to collapse in a cloud of fabrications and embellishments.

This is a Russian doll of a novel, with story after story emerging from the one before. Unlike magic-realist authors who effortlessly blend the factual and the fantastic, de Hériz seems determined to signpost fiction’s wiliness at every possible opportunity, ordering us to frown at every word and pick apart every metaphor. Rather a wearying task by the time you’ve reached the 400th page.

This article first appeared in the 19 February 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Iran - Ready to attack