The Truth and Other Lies

September 2016

I’ve been re-reading some of the things I wrote while studying in Paris. I had remembered writing about truth and appearances (but must have forgotten the heavy handed zeal with which I intoned). What I found was more about lies.

In my clumsy prose, I kept returning to the idea of constructing something true out of falsehoods and as an act of pure will; of the insignificance of the truth of an individual speech act (say) compared to some deeper ‘trueness’ it belied of an underlying reality.

Perhaps borne of that ubiquitous adolescent narrative (“no one understands me!”), this idea (certainly far from revolutionary) now seems more prescient. 

The word post-truth has been thrown around a lot lately (and won prestige with the OED) but perhaps it is just a shift in understanding of what constitutes truth. Maybe when Trump talks of “grabbing them by the pussy” it is false to say he brags of groping women and true to say he captures a prevalent (and deservèd) insecurity in (male) society. Maybe when Duterte says he killed criminals to set an example for the police force under his command, his spokesperson is right to claim “he should not be taken literally”. Our words have perhaps lost potency.

An Irish friend of mine recently moved from Granada to Barcelona. I went to visit her at the end of September. Her life there seems exciting and (from what I saw) she is surrounded by wonderful people. 

We met her colleagues for a few drinks in the champanería, where we drank champagne for a euro a glass and were packed in so tightly that 40 cents of each one was spilt from the shallow coupes of Marie-Antoinettes poitrine (which are a nightmare to carry when full).

We met with Germans, Bulgarians and an astounding number of Italians (three from Puglia, each of whom explained it in turn as el tacón – ‘the heel’). My friend took me to some favourite spots, including a Scottish bar, a Cuban bar and (of course) an Irish one.

For nightlife, Barcelona did not disappoint. We crashed a hen party at lunch and witnessed a stag party (the stag dressed as a chicken) in a dance off against some gitano children.

I was pleased to see my friend having fun. In Granada, the static, insular life had got to her and before leaving, she had been suffering. Moving hasn’t swept all of that away. And I know the diverting masses of passing Europeans don’t replace the good friends she had lived with in Andalucía. Which truth wins out? Will the appearance of a contented life help her overcome the loss she feels? Or is it an unhelpful lie that only distracts from a deeper truth?

Although she does not know it, our time together helped me when I had been uprooted myself. I had thought for so long that after university I would move back to France. The friends I made in Spain helped me shed the hold that country held over me. I wish I was there now to help my friend.


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