PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


'Pretending Is Lying' Explores the Complexity of Human Relationships

The nostalgic self-reflection in Dominique Goblet's work is painfully honest and verges on the bittersweet.

Pretending Is Lying

Publisher: New York Review Comics
Author: Dominique Goblet
Price: $24.95
Format: Hardcover
Length: 144 pages
Translated: Sophie Yanow
Publication date: 2017-02

Where is the line between pretending and lying?

When does the multifaceted gaze of subjectivity turn the haze of memory into a shimmer of deceit? When does self-doubt morph into self-deception, and when two people are involved, how do differing subjectivities align their understanding of events which may both be as true as they are starkly divergent?

Lofty themes punctuate Dominique Goblet’s work, but she often treats them with the simplest of sketch illustrations. The award-winning Belgian comics artist has treated autobiographical material before, and her work is most striking for its ability to pair a profound complexity of subject matter with compellingly simple artwork. There’s a temptation to call the simple pencil line drawings ‘childlike’, but they control and compel the reader with a subtlety that reminds us surface simplicity is not an end in itself but an invitation to plumb the greater and more elusive depths which it masks.

Pretending Is Lying spills a variety of such autobiographic profundities from the lives of its protagonists onto the pages of its narrative. The failed father figure, whose alcoholism and lofty self-image inure him to the sufferings of those around him, yet whose frail humanity, in the end, leaves him hard to blame. The abusive mother figure, loved by the author despite it all. The two-timing, weak-willed boyfriend who in fact collaborated with Goblet on the chapters outlining their painful relationship. The daughter Nikita who remains a spark of light through it all, and whom Goblet thanks movingly in her acknowledgements.

Pretending Is Lying, originally published in French in 2007, weaves together narratives from Goblet’s childhood and adulthood; narratives which Goblet spent 12 years struggling to frame together and wring from memory to paper. The story is framed around Goblet’s efforts, as a grown-up adult with a four-year-old daughter, to come to terms with her relationship with her father, a blustery and alcoholic firefighter.

This is interwoven with the story of a romantic relationship between Goblet and her lover, Guy Marc Hinant (who co-authored these segments); what emerges is a portrayal of the indifferent cruelties of weak-willed men and the self-deceptions they weave about themselves and which inevitably affect the lives of those around them. The narratives possess a self-revealing coherence, but they jump back and forth through time in a manner that underscores the recurring personal failures of the men in her life. There are no neat answers here; no pat conclusion to tie the book together with a satisfactory sigh; but then art echoes life echoes art, does it not?

Goblet’s skill lies in helping to convey this sense of complexity in human relationships. The artistic style of the work varies, which is apt, given the leaps in time between chapters. Her simpler sketch work may be difficult for some readers at first, but it quickly grows on the reader who allows themselves to be absorbed by the deeply human story it tells. In other segments, simplistic line drawings merge into lush, painted streetscapes almost imperceptibly. The artwork deserves aesthetic appreciation but serves more to accentuate the powerful human story told by this painfully beautiful book.

The over-arching quality of this work is one of poignancy. The nostalgic self-reflection is painfully honest but verges on the bittersweet without falling into its enervating trap. No one is really bad; no one is ultimately redeemed; the reader is enveloped in a poignant air which is rescued from becoming truly depressing through its simple narrative honesty. To the reader, the men in Goblet’s life appear as misogynistic failures; but it’s harder to see someone that way when you’ve loved them; harder yet when a part of you still does.

Goblet communicates this painfully and effectively. Her ability to do so -- even if it took her 12 years to get this story right -- underscores her talent as a comics artist, which has been widely recognized in Europe yet remains less known to North American audiences. Goblet won the Topffer Prize for the French publication of Pretending Is Lying and has also been awarded the EESI Prize at the Angouleme Comics Festival. Her work received acclaim of a different sort when an exhibition she’d been invited to do with German artist Kai Pfeiffer was censored and shut down in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2015. For Pretending Is Lying’s English language edition she collaborated with talented North American comics artist Sophie Yanow, who translated the work.

Pretending Is Lying is a perceptive and poignant contribution to the fields of both experimental comics and graphic autobiography, and well worth the read.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.