The True

Sarah Kornfeld
Integral Publishers ($22.99)

by Ekua Agha

A contemporary reading into the interconnections between post-revolution Romania and the post-Trump U.S., Sarah Kornfeld’s The True is an extraordinary satire of the corrupt economy engulfing the world. In this ambitious book, the author explores how she gets lost in a cultural dreamscape, a nightmare we all now share.

Beautifully fusing narrative nonfiction, true crime, memoir, and autofiction, The True presents Kornfeld’s search for why her former lover, famed Romanian theater director Alexandru Darie, died suddenly; the book deftly invokes the world of theater by bringing the ghosts of theater artists into the haunting Kornfeld experiences. Yet The True also engages the complexities of a Romanian society that has lost its bearings after the revolt against communism failed to develop into a mass social revolution. Peopled by a host of ghostly/ghastly characters—Anya and Peter, for example, who lure the author to Romania with tales of foul play surrounding Darie's death—the book focuses on those who have lost their cultural identity and seem to have no choice but to reinvent themselves. Anya reveals this mindset to a bemused Kornfeld: “I mean, I can get pretty crazy, pretty serious when I need to. . . . I can make anything possible.”

While Kornfeld’s true-crime investigation leads her to discover a con that is a compelling reflection of the "great con" of our post-truth world, The True also offers readers a way to look at the normalization of post-colonial fascism, which African writers have been describing for decades—providing yet another lens through which to read this book. African philosopher and political theorist Achille Mbembe refers to this proximity to the oppressor as “the mutual zombification of the ruler and the ruled.” Using Mbembe’s concept of conviviality, it is possible to comprehend, for instance, the horror Kornfeld feels while being taken on a tour of the dictator Ceausescu’s house upon arriving in Bucharest. In the end we are left without closure on Darie’s death, but with a full view of global dislocation and manic identity complexes.

Employing a prismatic narrative, The True may be a new form of “post-post-truth literature,” offering a new lens by which we can explore not only our shared alienation, but our global connection.

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