Liars and Forgers
A small encyclopaedia of deception
No one likes to be deceived, but stories of deception can be funny, shocking, sometimes poetic, even awe-inspiring. We are almost always intrigued by such tales, whether they focus on the liar’s own motives or on the often puzzling credulousness of those who fall for the lies.
Roelf Bolt has spent years collecting stories of deceit, dating from ancient times to the present day. His liars range from infamous quacks to fraudulent scientists (even including Einstein), from crooks who faked their own deaths (‘pseudocides’) to forgers of artworks, design objects, Stradivari violins, archaeological finds and documents of all sorts. Here he brings together the most attractive and fascinating cases, 384 in all. It is the first encyclopaedia of its kind, more comprehensive than earlier books on deception, which looked only at art or money, or ‘the most spectacular forgeries of the twentieth century’.
Bolt’s entries are accessibly written, short narratives in a variety of formats, including biographies and general observations on specific categories of deceit, all painstakingly documented with references. The book can be savoured for its wealth of detail or used systematically as a resource.
In his introduction, Bolt defines a liar as someone who ‘knowingly’ disseminates falsehoods. He points out that deceit should not necessarily be condemned – think of forged identity papers in times of war and occupation, items counterfeited in jest, and satires that expose pretentiousness. He also explains why he has deliberately omitted several entire categories of deceit. In politics, sports and commerce deception is so common as to be inherent (though he does deal with Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction).
Bolt excludes religion too, since people who talk of God and divine acts are not knowingly disseminating falsehoods. Nevertheless, many of the cases he cites – such as theosophy, spiritualism, homeopathy and intelligent design – hover somewhere between fact and faith. Indeed it is here that Bolt is at his most thought-provoking, coming down firmly on the side of science.
Presents the first ever overview of many famous and infamous cases of deceit, featuring art forgers, quacks and fraudulent scientists.
Raises doubts about humanity’s supposed respect for truth.
A thought-provoking book,especially when dealing with the friction between science and faith.