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The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels

(The Book of Lies - Twins Trilogy #1-3)

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  8,323 ratings  ·  876 reviews
These three internationally acclaimed novels have confirmed Agota Kristof's reputation as one of the most provocative exponents of new-wave European fiction. With all the stark simplicity of a fractured fairy tale, the trilogy tells the story of twin brothers, Claus and Lucas, locked in an agonizing bond that becomes a gripping allegory of the forces that have divided ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 23rd 1997 by Grove Press (first published 1986)
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Average rating 4.39  · 
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 ·  8,323 ratings  ·  876 reviews

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Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who won't cringe from racking truths
Recommended to Dolors by: Ema

This is the story of Claus and Lucas or Lucas and Claus or Klaus and Lucas.
This is maybe the story of none of them or of them all.
This is a story of twins whose names contain the same letters in altered order, of twins who write in first person plural as if they were one, as if they were two faces of the same coin. Two souls merged in one single being? Or one single soul disjointed in two beings?
Be brave and dare to play with Agota Kristof’s game of mirrors, where multiple reflections reveal
Grandmother is Mother's mother. Before coming to live in her house, we didn't even know that Mother still had a mother.
We call her Grandmother.
People call her the Witch. She calls us "sons of a bitch."

Once upon a time, the time was unpredictable. The innocence was lost in the demonic smoke of war and brutality of mature years took refuge in the childhood of Lucas and Claus. They left their home and entered a house and along entered a Notebook in which the words were written without exposing them
Dec 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: my dopplegangers
Recommended to Mariel by: Nate D
Shelves: my-love-life
The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels. My copy is published under "The Book of Lies". My first book of 2012 is a favorite. I am a lucky dog.

I never wanted to stop reading them. You may have heard this a lot (I definitely have as I am an identical twin) about twins being two halves of a whole. That you don't know where one ends and the other begins. I don't know where this story ends and where it begins. Where the thread of influence ends, if the tug on my line is going to reach
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ema by: Mariel & Nate D
When I was younger, I used to have a recurring dream about a world I haven't experienced in real life: I found myself in a place that was being bombed. I was hiding inside a house, a deafening noise around me; through the windows I could see the planes and hear the explosions. I was living intensely in a dimension that was at war; I felt the terror, the helplessness. I have no idea why I had those dreams. I haven't lived through a war, I don't know how bombardments feel like. But my dreams felt ...more
Nate D
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: vicious twin conspirators
Recommended to Nate D by: fifty years of repression, fear, turmoil
Recently, another review of Lazlo Krasnahorkai's harrowing story of abuse of power and wartime Hungary, The Melancholy of Resistance, observed that the other reviews (presumably mine included) were "mostly perfunctory in their praise". Well, there's nothing perfunctory about my admiration for Kraznahorkai's gracefully contorted writing, or the eerie, perceptive allegoriy he spins in Melancholy. But even so, it wasn't a book that gripped me by the throat and wouldn't let me go. It wasn't seered ...more
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Praj by: Ema
Shelves: hsk

Toughening exercises....resistance....a composition.
War.....mortal solitude.....a composition
Love....objectivity.....a composition.
Truth.....lies....a composition.
Words.....immortality.....a composition.

The sharpened graphite moves silently in the dark attic on naive white paper sheets, reciting nightmarish trepidation. Every thought, every word emitting a chaotic soul finds refuge in the scribbling of the graphite. Amid the sirens of an air raid, it moves zealously. New pages are explored as
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shoah, favorites
Some Quotes from Robert Bresson

”I simplify everything, first by elimination on paper and then, much more so, during shooting, so as not to over-burden the pictures, so as not to render them opaque.... The poetry, if there is any, comes from the tautness. It is not a "poetic" poetry, but a cinematographic poetry. It arises out of simplification, which is only a more direct way of seeing people and things….”

“The sound of a train whistle conjures up the whole station.”

“Once I heard someone
An exquisite pain, a welcome disturbance, the anti-Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus?

I often find myself defending books that people call depressing, claiming that there's so much more to it than the surface suffering, death and decay. McCarthy's The Road is at once a love-letter to his son and an extended border case, a proving ground for philosophical ethics. Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is not just an epic farce, but a highlight of modernist form expansion, a cubist novel. Kafka is funny.

Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Cheryl by: numerous GR friends
Where to begin? There is no entry point. Maybe, like history, it will become apparent only with time and distance.

The more I think about the three books together, the more knotted I become.
Perhaps I should stop thinking about it as a puzzle.

The Notebook is powerful, disturbing, startling. It is a gripping read, an adult fairy tale. One marvels and squirms at the relentless cruel logic of these twin children. It wasn’t originally written as a trilogy. The Notebook was a stand-alone book, but
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Declan by: Ema
Shelves: eastern-europe
Contains spoilers

By the time I had finished this trilogy of novels I had no idea what had happened. I though of Escher's famous drawing in which one hand draws another hand drawing the other hand. Except to properly represent the procedure Agota Kristof adopts in these short novels one of the hands should contain an eraser and be in the process of eliminating the hand that is drawing it.

In the fractured society she creates; in the dislocated time in which these characters have to live and in
I would have rated this higher had not I fallen out of love with sadists a while ago. The vengeful hero, the vigilante serial killer, the commander, the mastermind, the Manhattan Project brain who believed wiping out whole sections of certain hemispheres would bring about world peace. All white, all male, all done to death. Forgive me my lack of impressed engagement upon encountering the latest prototype of trangressive film; for all their displayed atrocities, they refuse to show a woman's body ...more
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well, I have to write this review in English in order to achieve wide-ranged opinions... I had to wait to think over and overcome the enchantment and astonishment a bit. Friends having read the triology and me exchanged our views and I read other reviews(especially the ones including spoilers, in order to feel that other people have sensed the same way :) ). I've been reading a lot of books about WW2 (also "The Painted Bird by Kosinski, which is about the war-story of a child too), but this ...more
M. Sarki
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to M. by: Marial, Garima, and Dolors
Shelves: 5-star-wonders

He says to me, "We're all dying of one thing or another. That's what all the experts say, anyway."
"What else do they say, the experts?"
"That the world is fucked. And that there's nothing to do about it. It's too late."

My wife and I have an English Golden Retriever, a cream-colored animal, a thoroughbred of the dog genus, handsome, smart, dignified, with nary a mean bone in his body. Still a pup, he loves to play and wrestle hard, but at two-and-a-half
Lee Klein
Dec 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
The first part ("The Notebook") was wonderfully effed-up reading: first-person plural ("we") narrator and short chapters, studded with sensationalist psychoerotic gruesomeness, focused on supersmart sinister twins during wartime. Spareness plus unspecified time/space coordinates gave it a mythic/fabulist vibe. Two-hundred pages of controlled horrifics, albeit with maybe a bit of a guilty sense for me that this wasn't quite "Waiting for the Barbarians," "Blindness," or "In the Penal Colony" -- ...more
Sep 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mainstream, read_2010
This one contains one short novel that should be by all means be a "new classic" of our times - ok the late 1980's when it was first published. This is The Notebook which is just awesome, mind blowing and something utterly original - very dark, graphic and explicit so not for everyone but awesome nonetheless

The Proof that directly continues The Notebook and The Third Lie that reinterprets all that came before are excellent too, but they are a bit superfluous and The Notebook should have been
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Stoic is the word that comes to my mind.

Agota Kristof’s three sub part novel covers differing time periods of the Claus (Krause) and Lucas brothers.

For some strange reason I was reminded of the depressing environment of Auschwitz and the tough life conditions people faced and live through. Except in this case how their lives turn out due to the choices they make in this environment.

This review does no justice to the storyline. In thinking about what Agota may have envisioned as a message from
Lorenzo Berardi
Jul 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Icy. I can't find a better adjective to describe The Notebook, the first part of this trilogy.
There are no feelings. There are merely words. Everything is objective. Even blood looks like black ink on a white paper. Death is just an analytic phenomenon.

And then the second and the third part of the trilogy are a complicated mechanism in which what you read is not what you get and while you get it, it gets you.
Oct 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book recently displaced my previous favorite book "Cruddy" and is the only book I have ever turned around and reread immediately afterwards. The writing is bare-bones, stark prose, dark & cruel, yet somehow managing to be, as well, poetic & beautiful. I could not stop thinking about this book after I read it which is why I had to reread it again immediately afterwards to try to gain a better understanding of all that went on within it's pages. I already look forward to reading it ...more
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
1)This book tells the story of Hungarian twin brothers, Lucas & Claus growing up together in the house of their grandmother during WWII.
2)This book is heavy-going, with a challenging writing style.
3)This book is a multi-layered study of the effects of grief, isolation and unbearable loss upon the mind and memory.
4)This book shows how metafiction can be used to best effect in demonstrating how memory, reality, truth and identity are all completely subjective and mutable.
5)This book is bleak
Stef Smulders
May 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
I hate this book! The first chapter is very effective in shocking the reader but then it turns out in subsequent chapters that the two children are really nasty little robots. It is not clear how they became like this (trauma?) and their behaviour is therefore not very convincing. At one time they speak in full, complicated sentences as only grown ups do, then they talk like kids again in short, simple statements. Their behaviour is equally erratic. I guess one should read the story as a kind of ...more
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: switzerland, hungary
A staggering literary kaleidoscope - the same story three times, except shaken up between every telling to extend the timeframe (war, post-war, post-wall) and change all the details. Heartbreaking, yet a complete joy to read, a language that remains crystal clear and enthralling even as we're led deeper into a labyrinth of unspeakable (and therefore changed) details.
The twins arrive at their Grandmother’s house in the Little Town carrying their little suitcases. Until Mother comes back, to get used to abuse, disappointment, pain, hunger, and life’s other vicissitudes during the war, they come up with necessary exercises.

Grandmother often hits them. Other people do too. They slap and kick them without reason. The blows hurt and make them cry. To toughen their bodies so they can bear pain without crying, the twins start their first exercise.

We are naked. We
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Though published as a trilogy, this is effectively one novel, fragmented into three parts, written by an unreliable narrator. The first part, which won two prestigious European literary awards and was Kristof's debut novel, published when the author was 51, is so utterly astonishing and brilliantly written - in the voice of a moral fable and using beautifully simple, compelling language - that it drives the whole narrative of a troubling conflict both psychological and circumstantial.

Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I'm still thinking about this book days after I finished it. It reminds me of The White Hotel (D.M. Thomas) for that reason and the fact of its various parts, the contradictions they offer, and the fact that one doesn't ultimately know what actually happened. The plot of course is fairly simply (two brothers raised in the countryside during the war). Or was one raised in the city? Who left, who came back, which acts of violence and betrayal actually took place? Clearly there is allegory here, ...more
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A must read to anyone who ever felt disconnected and discontent. it doesn't provide a soothing explanation but it festers the pain to the point of tears and relief. The language is simple, almost primitive and therefore honest, leaving you naked, impossible to be hidden from the book's cutting message.
Oct 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 1/2 stars. A disturbing story about the effect of war and trauma on childhood and memory. I do wonder whether the author knew where she was taking this story when she wrote the first of this trilogy? The first book is a much more straightforward, although graphically disturbing, but the the second and third books turn the reality of what you have previously read on its head. By the end you realise the unreliable narrator/s is a deeply traumatised individual recreating a story he can live with ...more
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
An astonishing multi-layered fabric of lies, honesty and invention. The deeper you delve into this story, the more you begin to question the reliability of the narrators. Or narrator. Or narrators. With each fresh revelation you doubt the veracity of what has gone on before until finally, even at the end, you're left scratching your head in wonder, thinking 'What really did happen there?'.

I'm still confused, to an extent, but I did love it.
Kathleen Dixon
Oct 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: translated, hungary
(I read only The Notebook - that was at least six years before I'm posting this, and I have no idea how I heard of it and why I thought I should read it)

This book is originally written in French, by a woman born in Hungary. It's set in World War 2, in Nazi-occupied Hungary. Children are being evacuated from the towns and cities and so a woman takes her twin sons to her mother at the edge of a village near the front. The boys are phenomenally intelligent, and without taboos, and we follow their
Tiffany Miss.Fiction
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book. This is a lifetime experience. A travel into your doppelganger and inside your most intimate fears and weakness. I loved and hated every minute of it, it made me cry and made me feel uneasy all the time. I think this is what makes a great book. It doesn't have to be pretty and predictable, it should preferably cut your throat when it finds you unguarded and make you feel uncomfortable, question your safe areas and give you no rest.
I read Agota Kristof's trilogy as three separate books:

Review of Part I, 'Le Grand Cahier/ The Notebook':

Review of Part II, 'La Preuve/ The Proof':

Review of Part III, 'Le Troisième Mensonge/ The Third Lie':
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Ágota Kristóf was a Hungarian writer, who lived in Switzerland and wrote in French. Kristof received the European prize for French literature for The Notebook (1986). She won the 2001 Gottfried Keller Award in Switzerland and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2008.

Kristof's first steps as a writer were in the realm of poetry and theater (John et Joe, Un rat qui passe), which is

Other books in the series

The Book of Lies - Twins Trilogy (4 books)
  • Le grand cahier
  • La preuve
  • Le troisième mensonge
“I answer that I try to write true stories but that at a given point the story becomes unbearable because of it’s very truth, and then I have to change it. I tell her that I try to tell my story but all of a sudden I can’t-I don’t have the courage, it hurts too much. And so I embellish everything and describe things not as they happened but the way I wished they happened.
She says, “Yes, there are lives sadder than the saddest of books.” I say, “Yes. No book, no matter how sad, can be as sad as a life.”
“You don't want to fight the enemy anymore?"
"I don't want to fight anyone. I have no enemies. I want to go home.”
More quotes…