For 'Every Man in this Village is a Liar'...

Why has each chapter been named the way it has? How is the chapter name connected to the content in the chapters themselves?

How do the titles link to the ideas in the chapter?

1 Answer

Best answer

One the hardest aspects in answering this question is that it is possibly an anticipatory reading question - the title has some meaning that will be revealed by reading the actual chapter.

For example the term "liar" is mentioned some 7 times throughout the book, but the first and most important mention (other than the title) is:

"Back in Pakistan, before I crossed over into Afghanistan, somebody said to me: “Every man in this village is a liar.” It was the punch line to a parable, the tale of an ancient Greek traveler who plods into a foreign village and is greeted with those words. It is a twist on the Epimenides paradox, named after the Cretan philosopher who declared, “All Cretans are liars.” It’s one of the world’s oldest logic problems , folding in on itself like an Escher sketch. If he’s telling the truth, he’s lying. If he’s lying, he’s telling the truth. That was Afghanistan after September 11."

So check out: https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~sjblatt/notes/nottrue.html

Relate this back to the context of the storyline in that chapter. What can you conclude after reading the chapter about the significance of the title?

Chasing Ghosts

"I was in the mountains one day. The sky was white and gray and empty overhead. Bitter cold swept down from the north. I was close to the front line, but not quite there. Deep below, a river cut through the cliffs. There were land mines and gun skirmishes on these twisting trails. Sharp mountainsides plunged into deep valleys. It was hard to keep your bearings, hard to understand who was shooting at whom, and why. It was utterly confusing. Then a commotion of voices echoed through the valleys, and the Afghans began to race up the mountain. All of the reporters charged instinctively after them, choking for oxygen in the thin mountain air. At my side ran another woman, a reporter. “Where are we running to?” she gasped. “I don’t know,” I panted. “But it must be something.” She screwed up her face. “I think it’s really disturbing that we’re all running up the mountain and we don’t know where we’re going,” she yelled. She was right , of course. It was disturbing, random, and emblematic. But at the time, each of us squinted at the other as if she were dim- witted.

She stopped running. I kept going, chasing my curiosity up the hill. But when I got to the top, there was nothing to see. We were charging after ghosts."

Relate this back to the context of the storyline in that chapter. What can you conclude after reading the chapter about the significance of the title?

With each title, and remembering that Stack is a journalist, each title will refer either as an allusion to some aspect that she was reporting on, or an actual factual inclusion.

1 Every Man in this Village is a Liar
2 Chasing Ghosts
3 As Long as You Can Pay For It
4 Terrorism and Other Stories
5 Forgive Us Our Trespasses
6 The Living Martyr
7 The Leader
8 Sacrifice
9 We Expected Something Better
10 A Question of Cost
11 Loddi, Doddi, We Like to Party
12 A City Built on Garbage
13 The Earth Quake Nobody Felt
14 All Things Light And All Things Dark
15 There Would Be Consequences

Titles, especially title chapter have significance both before we read and after we read; they are a cause of anticipation and a consequence of an event or a thought reported or suggested in the chapter.

Any substance that you as a reader give to the title is a product of your reading and of the writer's possible intention. Sometimes the title will be ironic ... sometimes merely factual, or anticipate a moral consequence of some event in the chapter.

Take the title "Sacrifice" ... how does this anticipate what happens in the chapter? Or are there other meanings that can be given to this "word"? How might these relate to the story within the chapter? What is "sacrifice" to one might not be a "sacrifice" to another ... etc.

Hope this helps a little!