Readers familiar with James Lasdun's poetry and acclaimed debut novel "The Horned Man" will eagerly greet his second offering...

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“Seven Lies”
by James Lasdun
Norton, 204 pp., $23.95

Readers familiar with James Lasdun’s poetry and acclaimed debut novel “The Horned Man” will eagerly greet his second offering, “Seven Lies.” The novel concerns a young man who is searching for a decent life and finds it after much struggle, only to have deceptions and betrayals from the past arise to haunt him.

Poet Stefan Vogel and his actress-wife Inge flee East Germany (called the German Democratic Republic or GDR at the time) and settle in New York, filled with much hope. Stefan has always longed to live in America, since the time in his youth when his father made business visits to New York and brought souvenirs home.

Soon, however, following a rendezvous with an unsavory character from the past, Stefan finds that his identity as a poet, a painstakingly crafted edifice of lies, is about to crumble. The truth about his dissident days when he betrayed friends is threatened with exposure. Worst of all, he seems to be losing Inge’s love.

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The novel has been billed as a political thriller. However, its mystery component is less gripping than the author’s reflections on life, love, and loss, which are delivered in scintillating prose. The title comes from a quote attributed to Martin Luther: “Every lie must beget seven more lies if it is to resemble the truth and adopt truth’s aura.”

The narrative frequently reverts to Vogel’s earlier existence in the GDR, where much of the novel’s rich material is to be found. Unfortunately, his present New York life doesn’t amount to as much, leaving the reader somewhat dissatisfied and wanting more from this gifted author.