Ibahernando, España, 1962
Javier Cercas holds a PhD in Spanish Studies and worked as a professor of Spanish literature first at the University of Illinois and later at the University of Girona, a job that he held for some years while also writing narrative. In 2001 he published Soldados de Salamina. It was a resounding success both in Spain and abroad, winning praise from prestigious authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa, George Steiner, J.M. Coetzee and Susan Sontag. Since then Cercas has dedicated himself to writing full-time, occupying a lead role in Spanish narrative and taking an active part in cultural and political debates in the country in his articles in the press, which have a very broad readership. He is a regular contributor to the newspaper El País. Cercas’s work has earned international acclaim, and is a daring exploration of the lines that separate reality and fiction, the author himself describing his work as “real stories”, always with a view to scrutinising the present and its roots in the past.
- “Cercas belongs to the line of great writers.” Livres Hebdo
- “Cercas’s writing has echoes of Scott Fitzgerald, in the intense, shining clarity of its emotion, and of Faulkner.” The Independent
- “One of the greatest works of literature in the Spanish language of our time.” Alberto Manguel (on Anatomía de un instante)
- “A masterful parable on political violence and suffering, but also – and crucially – on the strange logic of compassion and reconciliation. Soldados de Salamina ... should become a classic.” George Steiner
- “Everyone will admire this apparently simple but artful novel”. Doris Lessing, The Guardian (on Soldados de Salamina)
- “A masterful storyteller.” J.M. Coetze
- “With irresistible directness and delicacy, Javier Cercas... has written a marvellous novel.” Susan Sontag (on Soldados de Salamina)
- “This book is magnificent... one of the best I’ve read in a long time” Mario Vargas Llosa, El País (on Soldados de Salamina)
- “A masterpiece” Kenzaburo Oé (on Soldados de Salamina)
Javier Cercas’ most personal and cathartic novel, and one of the best novels that could be written about the Spanish Civil War
El monarca de las sombras is a courageous journey into Javier Cercas’family history and that of a country collapsing from a fratricidal war. The author revisits Ibahernando, his parents’ village in southern Spain, to research the life of Manuel Mena. This ancestor, dearly loved by Cercas’ mother, died in combat at the age of 19 during the battle of the Ebro, the bloodiest episode in Spain’s history.Read more
Biography / Memoirs
El monarca de las sombras is a courageous journey into Javier Cercas’ family history and that of a country collapsing from a fratricidal war. The author revisits Ibahernando, his parents’ village in southern Spain, to research the life of Manuel Mena. This ancestor, dearly loved by Cercas’ mother, died in combat at the age of 19 during the battle of the Ebro, the bloodiest episode in Spain’s history.
Who was Manuel Mena? A fascist hero whose memory is an embarrassment to the author, or a young idealist who happened to fight on the wrong side? And how should we judge him, as grandchildren and great-grandchildren of that generation, interpreting history from our supposed omniscience and the misleading perspective of a present full of automatic answers, that fails to consider the particularities of each personal and family drama?
Wartime epics, heroism and death are some of the underlying themes of this unclassifiable novel that combines road trips, personal confessions, war stories and historical scholarship, finally becoming an incomparable tribute to the author’s mother and the incurable scars of an entire generation.
Prix du Livre Européen, 2016 - Taofen Award (Pekín) 2015 - Premio Letterario Isola d’Elba ‘Raffaelo Brignetti’ (2016) - Premio Friuladria 'La Storia in un Romanzo' (Italia); longlisted for The Man Booker International Prize 2018 (UK)
This is a fascinating non-fiction novel saturated with fiction. However, the fiction is not provided by the author, but by Enric Marco. Who is Enric Marco? A Barcelona man in his 90s who claimed to be a Nazi concentration camp survivor. Marco was unmasked in May 2005 after chairing the Spanish survivors association for three years, giving hundreds of speeches, granting dozens of interviews, receiving important honours, and even moving some Spanish parliamentarians to tears when they met to pay tribute for the first time to the Republicans deported by the Third Reich. The story was reported around the world, making Marco the great, widely reviled imposter. Now, nearly a decade later, in this hypnotic thriller that is also a “banquet with many dishes” –narrative, chronicle, essay, biography and autobiography– Javier Cercas lays siege to Marco’s enigma, his truth and his falsehoods. Through this investigation, which covers nearly a century of Spain’s history, he delves with kamikaze passion and heartrending honesty into the deepest parts of ourselves: our infinite capacity for self-deception, our conformism and our lies, our insatiable thirst for affection, our opposing needs for fiction and reality, and the most painful areas of our recent past.
“ [The Impostor] vibrates with an insomniac energy. I did, too, while in its throes. There’s no looking away from it; it has the hot, charged energy of sitting through a trial. . . The brilliance of The Impostor is how Cercas connects Marco’s desire for reinvention with Spain’s national project of burying its history as it transitioned from dictatorship to democracy. . . The language is precise, distinctive and delicious...” Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
“A mesmerizing biography of a fraud. This rigorous work shines a light not only on the methods of the deceiver but the willingness of the deceived to accept such falsehoods.” Publishers Weekly, a starred and boxed review
“Cercas ponders the case from every angle: Is it possible, he wonders, that even with the evasions and lies, Marco might tell us something truthful about the experience of fascism? Even though he ‘needed to be admired, to be a star,’ might he not have something to say after all? Who doesn’t enjoy a little self-aggrandizing confabulation? The answers come slowly, deliberately, and certainly not definitively even as Marco transforms himself from man on the street to Holocaust survivor ‘just as, at a certain point, Alonso Quixano became Don Quixote.’” Kirkus Reviews
"Javier Cercas is one of Europe's most serious and attractive writers ... Cercas is not content with the easy story, in this case the unmasking of a false hero. He boldly searches for the hidden truths of his elusive subject and his times." Michael Eaude, Literary Review
"An insightful psychological study ... Both convincing and compelling.” Daniel Hahn, Spectator
"A fascinating, highly charged, scalpel-sharp dissection" Siobhan Murphy, The Times
"Masterly ... Cercas probes this mysterious and extraordinary life with uncommon patience, uncommon skill and uncommon sympathy." Allan Massie, Scotsman
"The Impostor is a humane, artistically responsible and civilised book" David Mills, Sunday Times
"This meticulous research reads like spy fiction.""Precisely the grades of doubt determine the fascination, or better: the suspense of the book." Cornelia Geissler, Frankfurter Rundschau
"The true story of a fake heroe -entertaining and useful, stimulating and alarming." Carsten Hueck, Deutschlandfunk Kultur
"Javier Cercas is considered the master of transferring contemporary events into literature". Claudius Wiedemann, Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung
"With that other life he invented, the protagonist wanted to be loved, and may now have achieved part of that late reward. We also love Cercas more after this book, which is quickly read but not soon forgotten." José Carlos Mainer, El País
“There’s no way of knowing whether Javier Cercas will write a better book than El impostor in the future. What is certain is that he’s published his best book to date.” J.M. Pozuelo Yvancos, ABC Cultural
In the late 1970s, as Spain was adrift between the death of Franco and the rebirth of democracy, people were moving from the poor south to the cities of the north in search of a better life. But the work, when there was any, was poorly paid and the housing squalid. Out of this world of limited opportunities a generation of delinquents arose whose prospects were stifled and whose rebellion would be brief and violent…
One summer's day in Gerona a bespectacled, sixteen-year-old Ignacio Cañas, known to his few friends as Gafitas, is working in an amusement arcade, when a charismatic teenager walks in with the most beautiful girl Cañas has ever seen. Zarco and Tere take over his pinball machine and his life. Thirty years on and now a successful criminal defence lawyer, Cañas has tried to put that long, hot summer of drugs, yearning and delinquency behind him. But when Tere appears in his office and asks him to represent El Zarco, who has been in prison all this time, what else can Gafitas do but accept.
A powerful novel of love and hate, of loyalty and betrayal, of true integrity and the prison celebrity can become, Outlaws confirms Javier Cercas as one of the most thrilling novelists writing anywhere in the world today.
English Pen Award (2011) - Mondello International Literature Prize Città di Palermo (Italy, 2011) - Jean Morer Prize (France, 2010)- Spanish National Literature Prize (2010) -
In February 1981, Spain was still emerging from Franco's shadow, holding a democratic vote for the new prime minister. On the day of the vote in Parliament, while the session was being filmed by TV cameras, a band of right-wing soldiers burst in with automatic weapons, ordering everyone to get down. Only three men defied the order. For thirty-five minutes, as the cameras rolled, they stayed in their seats.
Critically adored novelist Javier Cercas originally set out to write a novel about this pivotal moment, but determined it had already gained an air of myth, or, through the annual broadcast of video clips, had at least acquired the fictional taint of reality television. Cercas turned to nonfiction, and his vivid descriptions of the archival footage frame a narrative that traverses the line between history and art, creating a daring new account of this watershed moment in modern Spanish history.
'A brilliant reconfiguring of a key event in contemporary European history. Audacious and wholly fascinating'” William Boyd
“'Javier Cercas' gripping account of the attempted Spanish coup in February 1981 uniquely combines a novelist's thrilling narrative skills with an historian's forensic rigour.” Frederick Taylor, author of Exorcising Hitler and Dresden
“Javier Cercas has employed the forensic skill of an investigative journalist and his natural talent for historical narrative to capture a defining moment in a nation's transition from dictatorship to democracy. With this, his latest venture into his country's turbulent history, Cercas can rightly lay claim to being one of Spain's most talented, profound as well as clear literary voices” Jimmy Burns, author of Papa Spy and Barça
Javier Cercas' third and most ambitious novel was heralded in Spain as "daring," "magnificent, complex, and intense," and "a master class in invention and truth."As a young writer, the novel's protagonist—perhaps an apocryphal version of Cercas himself—accepts a post at a Midwestern university and soon he is in the United States, living a simple life, working and writing. It will be years before he understands that his burgeoning friendship with the Vietnam vet Rodney Falk, a strange and solitary man, will reshape his life, or that he will become obsessed with Rodney's mysterious past.
Why does Rodney shun the world? Why does he accept and befriend the narrator? And what really happened at the mysterious ‘My Khe' incident? Many years pass with these questions unanswered; the two friends drift apart. But as the narrator's literary career takes off, his personal life collapses. Suddenly, impossibly, the novelist finds that Rodney's fate and his own are linked, and the story spirals towards its fascinating, surreal conclusion. Twisting together his own regrets with those of America, Cercas weaves the profound and personal story of a ghostly past.
It’s been more than 15 years since the publication of Soldiers of Salamis, one of the greatest literary phenomena in recent years. The novel achieved wildly successful sales and reviews, and established Javier Cercas as one of the most influential, essential authors of 21st-century European literature.
In late January 1939, barely two months before the end of the Spanish Civil War, a group of Francoist prisoners are executed by firing squad near the French border by Republican soldiers fleeing into exile. Among those prisoners is Rafael Sánchez Mazas, founder and ideologist of Falange, poet and future minister of Franco, who miraculously manages to escape and hide in the woods. Pursued by the Republicans, he is discovered by a soldier who takes aim, looks into his eyes, and spares his life.
Sixty years later, a failed novelist discovers this buried wartime episode by chance. Fascinated, he starts researching the story to clarify the circumstances and unravel their meaning. Who was the real Rafael Sánchez Mazas? What really happened to him during the war? Who was the soldier who let him go? Why did he do it? What secret was hidden in his eyes?
“One of the best books I’ve read in a long time.” –Mario Vargas Llosa
“A marvellous book.” –Susan Sontag
“A masterpiece.” –Kenzaburo Oé
“It should become a classic.” –George Steiner
A hilarious learning novel in which no one learns anything. Almost twenty years after the publication of El vientre de la ballena, Javier Cercas, having consolidated his position as a fundamental writer on the European scene, accepted a fascinating challenge: to revise a book by the novelist he was and face his own origins. The result is a novel that is simultaneously recognisable and new, where the wisdom and effectiveness of the mature author enhance the freshness and humour of the young writer. In this way, the tragicomic experience of 30-year-old Tomás, immersed in a life transformation as profound as that of Jonas in the belly of the whale, gives rise to an extraordinary, delicious and melancholy tale full of unforgettable characters. The reader progresses as if through an ironic learning novel in which the only thing they learn is that there’s nothing to learn. Or that they can only learn if they accept the inextricable complexity of human relationships, the perplexities of the heart, and the illusions of happiness.
The Tenant is the mischievous story of Mario Rota, a linguistics professor whose life starts to unravel after he twists his ankle while out jogging one day. A rival professor appears, takes over his classes and bewitches his girlfriend. Where will Rota's nightmare end - and where did it begin? Written with a supremely light touch, that witty novella is an enjoyable masterpiece that lingers long in the memory.
"Javier Cercas is one of the hottest properties in contemporary Spanish fiction... Cercas is a superficially humorous and profoundly disturbing author. In his novels, reality is less convincing than fiction and fantasy never stranger than truth." –Amanda Hopkinson, Observe
"Light, clever and enjoyable ... assured and accomplished." –Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph
"Javier Cercas has some twisty Nabokovian fun with the plot ... the stories convey a sense of a novelist at play." –Financial Times
The first short novel by Javier Cercas, the story of a crime where the essence of his work could be sensed: intelligent, ironic and metaliterary.
The Motive is a satire about a writer, Álvaro, who becomes obsessed with finding the ideal inspiration for his novel. First he begins spying on his neighbours, then he starts leading them on, creating a reversal of the maxim that art follows life - with some dire consequences.
Published for the first time thirty years ago, El móvil is an absorbent thriller that seems to contain the seed of the entire work of the author, today acclaimed as one of the greatest contemporary European writers.
"Both funny and sinister ... The Motive is a small comic masterpiece with a satisfyingly bleak ending ... It is a pleasure to read such original, haunting stories in which so much is said with such wit and insight and above all with such refreshing economy." Anne Chisholm, Sunday Telegraph
El móvil (The Motive) has been adapted into a movie in 2017 with the title El autor (The author). Directed by Manuel Martín Cuenca, the movie is starred by Javier Gutiérrez, María León and Antonio de la Torre, and has won several prizes. See trailer
Short stories and novellas
“ [...] recounts in the first person the narrator’s memories of his student years at the University of Urbana, a time of parties and uncertainties marked by the presence of Nora, the enigmatic girl whose memory marks the protagonist’s foreseeable life beyond his return to Spain, his two marriages, his two children. Agile and contained, with no pretensions other than those it achieves, Cercas’ story manages to combine confidence and melancholy without sadness. The book ends by approaching the author himself from two perspectives, biography and bibliography, to prove that there’s life after Salamis. In fact, that’s where this story fits in, just like that splendid volume of articles by the same publisher: Una buena temporada (A Good While).” J.R.M. “Javier Cercas vuelve a América.” El País: Babelia. May 2002.
“So, literature. And mixed literature. Pleasurably mixed, like in a novel. Because if I’m not mistaken, any good chronicle aspires to a triple status: that of poem, essay and story. More humbly — or more incapably — mine renounce the first two categories in advance; at their best moments, they may tend toward the latter. In fact, they might be able to be read, one by one, as stories. As true stories.” That’s what Javier Cercas had to say about this work.
This book is comprised of columns, lectures, prologues, epilogues, essays. They are not in chronological order. Their arrangement is intended to show ways of being in the world – public and private – at different times in the author’s life: with more or less optimism, more or less bitterness, more or less innocence.
And always, at the beginning, in the middle and at the end, Cercas is a monstrous smuggler of enthusiasm, an analogue-multimedia system that shoots out names, titles and author quotes with the passion of an amateur reader and the hypertrophic intelligence of an obsessed intellectual, awakening in the reader an unhealthy eagerness to devour it all with the same gluttony with which they’ve devoured it before.” Leila Guerriero
A key book for understanding the narrative of our time.
The blind spot is an area of shadow, a territory of delicate but unequivocal delimitation: it concerns the essential question contained in some of the great literary classics. What does the whale Moby Dick represent? Is Don Quixote really crazy? Is Josef K. innocent or guilty? Who kills the Slave in The Time of the Hero? Any restless reader turning the last page of these novels will come up with multiple answers and interpretations. These touch on the very enigmas of existence, and can therefore never be resolved with a single, definitive answer. This unsolvable mystery, which escapes the control of the reader and even the authors themselves, gives rise to a masterly formulation of literary theory destined to become canonical.
This essay is based on lectures delivered by Javier Cercas as part of the Weidenfeld Chair Lecture Series at Oxford University.
Starting with Don Quixote and his own experience as a writer, Cercas launches out into a consideration of the most challenging fiction of the last hundred years, from Kafka, Borges, Perec, Calvino and Kundera, to Sebald, Coetzee, Barnes, Foster Wallace and Knausgård. First, he defines and celebrates certain aspects of the novel in the twenty-first century which are also features of Cervantes' masterpiece: its essential irony and ambiguity, its total commitment to innovation, its natural, joyful and omnivorous desire to cram the whole world within its pages, and its intricate concern with fiction and reality. Then he moves on to consider the actual meaning of the novel, the uncertain and discredited role of the writer as intellectual, and the role of the reader in the creation of a form whose aim is to tell the truth by telling lies.
The result is a dazzling short book which provides a new interpretation of novel from Cervantes and Melville to the present, and which will be as stimulating for readers and writers of literature in the twenty-first century as E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel or Milan Kundera's The Art of the Novel were in the last.
“Don Quixote does not resolve whether Quixote is or isn’t mad, anymore than The Trial tells us what crime Joseph K. has committed. The answers to these questions, like the retina’s blind spot, must be supplied by the reader’s own brain, who thus becomes an active creator of the novel’s meaning, replenishing with his living memory, his own values and his own understanding, the indeterminate space that the novel leaves open”—Domingo Rodénas, El Periódico
"..both scholarly and accessible, driven by Cercas’s enthusiasm, and provoking, for like the novel form itself Cercas’s worrying away at defining its possibilities is infinitely entertaining. [...] Intelligent, refreshing and a bracing look at what is a novel, what lies at the core of some of the great novels and with just enough of Cercas’s autobiographical thoughts to point you towards reading his own novels." –James Doyle, Bookmunch
Writer and film director David Trueba was one of the friends to whom Javier Cercas gave his novel, Soldiers of Salamis, as soon as it was published. Around June 2001, before the explosion of the "Salamis phenomenon", Trueba had already decided that, after The Good Life and Masterpiece, his third feature film as a director would be an adaptation of that novel. Filming began in March 2002 and lasted eleven weeks. At that time, the novel – which was initially destined to become a cult book, at best – had been consolidated as "something more than a novel". Soldiers of Salamis had been at the top of the bestseller lists for several months and was in the process of accumulating national and international recognitions. Even now, this process doesn’t seem to have ended.
A Barcelona photographer, David Airob, did a formidable job of capturing certain moments during the making of the movie. For an exhibition of his work, Airob asked Cercas and Trueba to write brief captions for the photos. They thought it would be nice to bring them together in a book, an initiative that immediately seduced the novel’s publishers. To accompany the photos, they thought it would be interesting to add conversations between the writer and the director.
This is a series of articles and short essays published in media such as Diari de Barcelona and Quimera. It’s not just another miscellany: revised and placed in order by the author, these texts offer many keys to Cercas’ literary works: from his peculiar, and intriguing, thesis on the concept of the novel to the role of intellectuals in today’s society, and even his ever-amusing analyses of his “bedside” writers’ works (from Borges to Bioy Casares, from Paul Auster to John Irving), making this book a sort of intellectual autobiography. This is also how Cercas himself interprets it: “Oscar Wilde used to say that literary criticism is the only civilised form of autobiography that exists. I don’t know if the papers I now bring together belong to the genre of literary criticism; on the other hand, I am convinced that the story they tell is always autobiographical.”
A critical volume based on the research for Cercas’ doctoral thesis, presented at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in 1991.
Biography / Memoirs
A year after his death, this is a tribute to Gabriel Galmés and his work. Galmés was a writer who managed to discreetly and elegantly achieve narrative rigour and ferocious humour from his watchtower in Manacor. His was a universal view of the everyday successes and failures of men and women lost in the chaotic rhythm of urban life. This Album offers the reader unpublished texts and a minimal selection of journalistic articles. It is supplemented by a graphic portion and texts with a biographical and testimonial air, written especially for the occasion, documents that provide a clear profile of Gabriel Galmés and his writing.
Javier Cercas’ writing can be recognised by the inextricable mix of genres that coexist in his works, and the ease with which he moves from fiction to non-fiction. His novels almost always include an essay-like component, and often contain elements of chronicles, false autobiographies and literary and historical discussion. This hybrid nature can be seen in La verdad de Agamenón. The pieces of this miscellanea are grouped into four parts: Autobiographies contains stories about journeys, certain passions and personal memories. Letters of Battle features texts that are almost always vindictive and controversial, regarding our recent history and literature. New True Stories contains hilarious stories that do not escape the emotion or commitment of the author’s own memory. Finally, The Contemporaries includes exercises of admiration and dialogue with certain writers close to the author’s literary activities. In all of these, we can see that duality of criticism and narration, of personal and intellectual experience and erudition that is the essence of Cercas’ novels.
El hombre que se perdió, de Francesc Trabal, Quaderns Crema
La gran novel.la de Barcelona, de Sergi Pàmies, Anagrama
The country of the blind, de H.G. Wells, Anagrama
The doctor in the wall, de H.G. Wells, Anagrama
The story of the late Mr. Eleversham, de H.G. Wells, Anagrama
No se sap mai, de Inmma Monsó, Tusquets
Guadalajara, de Quim Monzó, Anagrama
- 2018 - Premio de Las Letras Región de Murcia por la trayectoria literaria
- 2018 - Premio Internazionale alla Carriera per l'anno 2018 (Premio Letterario L. Mastronardi Cittá di Vigevano)
- 2017 - Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize for El impostor
- 2016 - Prix du Livre Européen for El impostor
- 2016 - ‘La Storia in un Romanzo’ Friuladria Prize (Italy)
- 2016 - Isola d’Elba Raffaelo Brignetti Prize (Italy) for El impostor
- 2016 - Casino da Póvoa Literary Award (Porto, Portugal), for Las leyes de la frontera, the highest distinction awarded at the Correntes d’Escritas literary festival.
- 2016 - Radovan Galonja prize for Anatomía de un instante, awarded each year to the best book published in the area of former Yugoslavia.
- 2015 - UIAD Literature Prize (France)
- 2015 - Internazionale Ceppo di Pistoia Special Prize for El impostor
- 2015 - Arzobispo Juan de San Clemente Prize for El impostor
- 2015 - 21st Century Annual Best Foreign Novels (China) for El impostor
- 2014 - Mandarache de Jóvenes Lectores Prize for Las leyes de la frontera
- 2014 - Méditérranée Étranger Prize (France) for Las leyes de la frontera
- 2011 - English Pen Award for Anatomía de un instante
- 2011 - Ulysse Prize (France) for the entirety of his work
- 2011 - Salone Internazionale del Libro di Torino Award (Italy)
- 2011 - Mondello International Literature Prize- Città di Palermo (Italy) for Anatomía de un instante
- 2010 - Spanish National Literature Prize for Anatomía de un instante
- 2010 - Jean Morer Prize (France) for Anatomía de un instante
- 2010 - Terenci Moix International Award for Literature , Non-fiction Author of the Year for Anatomía de un instante
- 2006 - Turia Prize for La velocidad de la luz
- 2006 - Arzobispo Juan de San Clemente Prize for La velocidad de la luz
- 2006 - Athens Prize for Literature (Greece) for La velocidad de la luz
- 2005 - Extremadura Medal
- 2003 - Grinzane Cavour Prize
- Other awards: Premio Qué Leer, Premio Crisol, Premi Llibreter, Premio Librería Cálamo, Premio Salambó, The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (UK), Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy), Premio de la Crítica de Chile, Premi Ciutat de Barcelona, Premio Ciudad de Cartagena, Premio Extremadura