Helmut Sanchez is a young researcher in the employ of renowned Yaleprofessor Werner Hopfgartner. By chance, Helmutdiscovers a letter written decades ago by his boss mocking guilt over theHolocaust. Appalled, Helmut digs into the scholar's life and travels to Austria and Italy to uncover evidence of Hopfgartner's hateful past. Meanwhile, Hopfgartner'scolleague and rival, Regina Neumann, wants to reveal the truth about Hopfgartner's sexual liaisons with vulnerable studentsbefore the professor's imminent retirement. Neumann traps Sarah Goodman, aninsecure graduate student trying to find her place at Yale, into initiatingformal charges of sexual harassment against Hopfgartner.Soon Helmut's intellectual quest for the truth metamorphoses into a journey ofjustice and blood- one with unforeseen consequences.
Intelligent and literate, Troncoso's convention-challenging philosophical novelexplores how a man of Mexican-German heritage navigates a complex moraluniverse, and how his experience reveals the differences and links betweenrighteousness and evil in the quest for the truth. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (4)
The Meaning of Right and Wrong
The Nature of Truth raises many moral questions that are crucial for the individual and for society. Teachers, professors, clergy, and everyone who wants to generate discussion about these questions in the contexts of religious and legal ethics, philosophy, psychology, social work, as well as global politics, will find this book to be an ideal starting point.
The story reveals a search for the meaning of right and wrong. Is all truth relative, depending on individual perception and experience? Or are there universal absolutes that are true for every individual, every society and culture?
In arriving at possible answers to these questions. the story takes us through a sequence of events that raises additional questions. How can a search for vengeance ever lead to justice? Is one pre-meditated murder or terrifying act (act of terror) somehow better or worse than another? Are war crimes somehow more excusable than individual crimes? Should insanity or temporary insanity be excuses for crime, or does every crime reflect mental illness? Do societies sometimes experience eras of mental illness? What can be done to prevent or atone for those times?
Are some war crimes so despicable that individuals should be allowed to avenge them even in the context of a different time and place? Doesn't all violence put all perpetrators on the same level, no matter how noble they once thought their motives to be? What is a suitable punishment for murder, and who should decide? If each individual were allowed to decide, what kind of society would result? On the other hand, when an individual shows remorse for his crime, is that enough? If we are among those who oppose prison systems and capital punishment as inhumane, what should society do alternatively in addressing criminal behavior? Are some murders o.k.? Are we comfortable with knowing that murderers who have never been convicted might be living among us? Do we excuse them once we know they are remorseful?
One of the exceptional details about the story,especially considering the fact that the author is male, involves the main female character. She invited her boyfriend on their first date, and she was the first to make sexual advances. She spent many nights with her boyfriend before either of them was sure that they loved each other. Yet she is clearly portrayed not only as a good woman, but as one of the most moral (loving) people in the book. Making love is shown as behavior that does not relate in and of itself to morality. Being honest, as well as keeping promises and commitments,are what matter. On the other hand, having sex is clearly presented as wrong when it involves exploitation, whether mutual or not.
In addition to facing readers with many important moral questions, Sergio Troncoso has also crafted a very engaging story that, especially in the scenes following the crime, becomes the kind of book that is difficult to put aside. Moreover, the characters are described in such depth that they do not seem fictitious. The dialogues and dialects of all characters are carefully and realistically presented. In addition, although the characters represent many walks of life, we may find ourselves empathizing to some extent with all of them.
Isn't this the way life should be, that we should be able to empathize with everyone's pain, at least a little? Isn't that the ultimate way to prevent and treat the sicknesses of crime, including war? If we developed more understanding, not endorsement of all behavior, but compassion for the deprivation, misery, injustice, sorrow, or whatever experiences have contributed to the unacceptable and/or criminal behavior, the world would surely be a better place. Reacting to a horrible crime with only hatred for the criminal can lead to an equally horrible crime.
If there is one truth on which we can all agree, it is that love is the universal absolute that has the potential to heal the world and promote human relationships to a more productive and harmonious level. The story also implies that those who have the most love to give may be those who have received the most through their original family lives, but it does not imply that those who have not been so lucky are hopeless or that their crimes should be excusable. However, the story may lead us to conclude that those who understand love may have a greater responsibility to share what they know of empathy and forgiveness more generously and beyond the borders of their familiar circles.
A unique contribution to American Literature
I read Sergio Troncoso's novel, THE NATURE OF TRUTH, after having heard him in Dallas recently.I didn't know the author, but his reading and Q and A were impressive, and so I decided to take a chance on this author.I am glad that I did.
His novel has boldly taken not only Chicano literature, but American literature, to new territory.I thought his story, about history and philosophy, and whether and how the past should matter, was revelatory on several fronts.How we should cross borders and reach out to other communities, not only our own (I am a Chicano).How elite universities obliterate your character with the savage pursuit of the truth.How individuals, like Helmut Sanchez and Sarah Goodman (my favorite characters in this novel) are true, realistic heroes for overcoming their limitations and fears and even mistakes to reach a point of truth in their lives.
I thought the character Helmut Sanchez was particularly well-done.He is a true modern hero, complex, with dirty hands, and yet trying to do the right thing.Several scenes are just stunning in their psychological drama, and what they reveal about Helmut.I also thought Sarah Goodman, the woman from Iowa, was an excellent character for Troncoso.This writer seems to write women very well, and he should be applauded for that.
German-Mexican exploration...interesting, but limited.
I'm not sure why it is that this book has captured the attention that it has.Frankly, it feels rushed with the characters emotional decisions.While curiously the plot felt slow and somewhat cliched.
It just feels like it's written by someone who may have the story telling down too clinical.Although Tronsco is certainly a capable writer, it still felt like the writer was still learning to write.The talent just didn't sparkle for me.
Troncoso looks young in the jacket photo, so I'm assuming that it's just that.Yale professors must really be embroiled in quiet polemics and too busy with mid-term exams to intensily give themselves to the art and craft.
Of course, the German/Mexican experience of the character Helmut is an interesting sidebar to the whole thing.Granted, I am Mexican/German decent myself, with a very different perspective from this book's norm, but regardless, so some things did resonate and certainly kept me reading.
However, this is no Crime and Punishment or Frankenstein.That's where real expressions anguish and morality in fiction exist and maybe that's asking too much from a new writer.But it's a good shot, and I hope to see more from this writer.
A wonderful book with incredible questions
I am neither Latino nor Jewish, but this book has hit home with me.It is an incredible, and risky, exploration into what makes the truth, what destroys the truth, and what links the truth to evil.The moral questions in THE NATURE OF TRUTH have been with me for weeks after I read it.The book is sexy, and controversial, and opinionated, in a way most books are not.I think most books are for entertainment.This book is way beyond that, for the pursuit of questions essential to most of our lives.
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