The Liar’s Truth in the Age of Misinformation

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PUBLISHED June 26, 2022

CARACHI:

Consumers of mainstream media are on many occasions partly amused, partly horrified by the way debates, conversations and even news broadcasts unfold. Adding to this boundary, with the advent of digital media as a viable and impactful communication platform, this back-and-forth has, in many ways, slipped into an even more messy downward spiral of deliberate spreading of political misinformation and splitting down on the relentless mud-slinging.

One often wonders where to turn to consume intelligent content, delivered in a way far beyond the often mundane and frankly embarrassing boundaries. Haroon Khalid Akhtar constructs The Liar’s Truth as this engrossing, well-paced medium of consumption, making it a compelling, intellect-fueled read.

Before one manages to get their hands on the book, one enters with a presumptuous attitude. Perhaps, one wonders, this is another book that speaks of the common man as a vehicle of change, having been given a great responsibility; a second coming of age, with stepping out of the shadow of the ordinary and propelling into the remarkable as a key theme. One might even mistakenly assume that the narrative might be predictable, with a storyline that doubles as a sermon or lesson. Akhtar dismisses those assumptions early on and continues to prove them wrong at every turn, concocting mind-blowing mayhem that connects with the reader in fascinating ways.

The delightfully constructed world of Akhtar follows the story of Arsalan – or Guppy, as he is affectionately known – an ordinary man with an utterly fertile imagination, who has settled into a routine that offers him little or no of comfort. An unexpected rift in his life comes when he receives a mysterious (and initially confusing) call that is about to change the course of his life. Awash in titillating metaphors that make The Liar’s Truth a bravely written read, it’s the call Arsalan receives from Zeus (yes, the one on Mount Olympus) that sets off a transformative sequence of events.

To sum up the plot, without giving away much, Arsalan – once a secularist – is chosen to be his country’s prime minister, despite a complete lack of know-how and a crippling lack of skills. Inexperienced and naive, Guppy has an equally oblivious ragtag crew of a club singer, a gorgeous model, a pimp, a scientist, a paramedic, and a matchmaker. . Amid all the fuss, a secret plan is being hatched to hang Arsalan claiming his love is a spy. All of this ultimately leads him to the gallows from where he writes this rich and ironic memoir-exhibition laden with poignant literary gems.

Over fourteen chapters, Akhtar empowers Arsalan to be an incredible storyteller – one that keeps readers hooked with an impeccable sense of humor. The conversational unfolding of events allows you to immerse yourself in the universe of the text, to become a willing participant in everything that happens. Satire, wit, and ingenious political commentary coalesce to contribute to the narrative, making The Liar’s Truth an outstanding page-turner that you can’t put down.

One can easily place Arsalan, Zeus and other recurring characters in our universe. In fact, the countless similarities that exist between the world of Arsalan and ours open a door of parallels, making the book all the more interesting. Indeed, the lines between fact and fiction are blurred in The Liar’s Truth in the most dramatic way. Likenesses of the ongoing political circus, and its history that tends to repeat itself, appear in the frenetic life of Arsalan, and the selection of these examples, like a latent realization that clicks in the mind of the reader, adds to the overall experience of also devouring the novel.

There are many aspects of Akhtar’s narrative that touch home, perhaps in ways that are outside his comfort zone, invoking a sense of unease and making one reflect on his own helpless helplessness and his lack of active action. For example, at the beginning of the story, Arsalan speaks, in passing, of the chaos generated and the spread of a successfully fabricated hatred at an alarming rate.

Although this brief mention is stated rather casually, it juxtaposes, with immense resonance, the current state of affairs within the nation, where giants are generating chaos higher up on an ivory tower hierarchy, watching it flow for their own benefit, manifesting as seemingly intractable, yet crucial differences between the common man. On top of that, Arsalan also points to the need for a scapegoat, who bears the brunt of whatever happens, and who is, almost always, the common man as well – a fact that seems, in retrospect, to be prophecy. self-fulfilling. .

The repetition of history – the constant and tired rewriting of the same chronicles with rotating characters – is another important part of the novel. It’s also an aspect that does a double take, alternating between the text in the book and the bombardment of content on mainstream channels that feels like white noise in a local context.

Furthermore, the whole conceptualization of an omniscient, powerful and resourceful Greek god who keeps an eye on Arsalan, alongside many others, wishing to alter the state of being of a developing nation from a point of lucid view is, without a doubt, an assimilation, and a trait of creative ingenuity. the impact of the actions of this detached deity for what is presented as the greater good.In fact, one is beginning to conjure up a very specific suggestion for a vehicle that Zeus could potentially possess, given that he chooses to use a very modern and very human mode of interaction – a telephone.

One particular conclusion one tends to ponder after the novel is finished is the idea of ​​a constructed narrative – a PR message on steroids that spirals into positioning itself as the absolute truth. As we are aware from the beginning by Arsalan, the book follows his version of the truth – the way reality unfolded before his eyes.

However, the contradictory truth that exists is spread and believed equally, opening up a conversation about fabricated realities. One feels deeply disturbed, taking full account of the fact that everything being peddled to us is some version of a lie – for the absolute truth may never have existed in the first place – and that is the lie the most. more compelling and better marketed that sells for a while, until the next lie is created. Undoubtedly, when inferred from the text, the avenues of questioning the data and information around a fissure open wide in multiple directions, leading to a spiral of new questions that are – and may continue to be – without answer.

In all of this, Arsalan’s innate humanity makes him a wonderful protagonist – one with whom we forge a strange relationship, and one in whom we can even, at times, glimpse ourselves. While Arsalan doesn’t openly present itself as a microcosm to most of us, there are some hints of commonalities that help unravel the many emotions we feel for the man who tells his own story. On the other hand, Akhtar also gives birth to Arsalan in a way where the latter is a quick-witted narrator, and we have to pay close attention to everything he says, because much of the exchange between our hero and the reader is charged. with sense and humor.

The author takes a tale, that is to say, on the surface, a story that follows the ebb and flow of the course of a political leader. However, Akhtar injects magic into the spinal cord of his book, allowing readers to be swept away on a spellbinding wave that marries fact and fiction. From big punchlines to subtle shots, Akhtar outdoes himself on the leaf of each page, masterfully balancing the message he wishes to convey with varying tones.

When touching on the tone of the book, it becomes imperative to emphasize how skillfully Akhtar uses Arsalan. At many points, you find yourself reverting to the idea of ​​absolute truths, given that Arsalan himself, at many points in the story, speaks in a way befitting a politician.

From sounding delirious one moment to using great political rhetoric the next, Arsalan is sometimes mistrusted, further creating chaos on a microcosmic level in the reader’s mind. After all, isn’t Arsalan just a tool in a story, written by the truths that exist in the author’s reality? We find ourselves going around in circles, trying to chase a singular thread that could give way to a story in which we can fully believe. Perhaps that’s the lesson for readers, when all is said and done. In the absolute circus that is the socio-political sphere, one must always be prepared for smoke and mirrors.

The Liar’s Truth is the second novel by Haroon Khalid Akhtar, and in this nearly two hundred page work, one can spot instances where Akhtar remains heavily influenced by his father, the famous writer Mohammad Khalid Akhtar. Indeed, many who have consumed Akhtar’s father’s work have notably been able to highlight the pleasing similarities between wit and humor that the father-son duo shared, while maintaining the fact that the Individuality, and taking ownership of a piece of text, were key parts of the process.

In summary, it must be given to Haroon Khalid Akhtar for his courageous and revelatory dive into the deep and dark sea that is our nation’s socio-political sphere. Without a shadow of a doubt, the novel testifies to the artistic and creative goals of Haroon Khalid Akhtar. Touching, occasionally, and borrowing from the reality in which we reside makes The Liar’s Truth a dangerously rewarding read, as one grapples with the fragility of all that one knows to be true, while acknowledging reluctantly the fact that enjoying the novel far too much could become a cause of displeasure for the all-knowing, all-knowing, all-knowing eye of Zeus.


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