The Good Liar

In Umberto Eco's wry novel, truth is not so true

Don't be concerned that the hero of Umberto Eco's beguiling and exasperating new novel is a cheerful liar. As Eco sees it, the universe is nothing but a sparkling tissue of lies. As for the thing we call knowledge--of ourselves, one another, the world at large--it's mostly a matter of which illusions we choose to believe.

In Baudolino (Harcourt; 522 pages), the grandest illusion of all is history, that supreme confection of myths and misunderstandings. Quite a few of them, it turns out, can be laid at the feet of Eco's resourceful Baudolino, a 12th century adventurer with a gift for...

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