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Soldiers of Salamis
     

Soldiers of Salamis

by Javier Cercas
 

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In the final moments of the Spanish Civil War, a writer and founding member of Francos Fascist Party is about to be shot, and yet miraculously escapes into the forest. When his hiding place is discovered, he faces death for the second time that day-but is spared, this time by a lone soldier. The POW becomes a national hero and a member of Francos first government,

Overview

In the final moments of the Spanish Civil War, a writer and founding member of Francos Fascist Party is about to be shot, and yet miraculously escapes into the forest. When his hiding place is discovered, he faces death for the second time that day-but is spared, this time by a lone soldier. The POW becomes a national hero and a member of Francos first government, while the soldier is forgotten. Sixty years later, Cercass novel peels back the layers of truth and propaganda in order to discover who the real hero was. Elegantly constructed and told with self-deprecating, melancholy humor, Soldiers of Salamis is a wholly original work of literature by a modern master.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Spanish journalist and novelist Cercas strives for a "true tale" in his first book to be published in the U.S., the story of a political prisoner during the Spanish Civil War who cheated death twice in one day. Narrated by a Spanish journalist also called Javier Cercas, the novel is the chronicle of his quest to uncover a story as slippery and charmed as its protagonist, Rafael S nchez Mazas, a founder of the fascistic Spanish Falange, who became a minister without portfolio in Franco's postwar government. Before rising to his position of power, however, S nchez Mazas was captured by a group of Republicans and marched into the woods along with his comrades to be executed; moments after his daring flight, "an anonymous defeated soldier" spied him but said nothing. The facts of this fascist writer's miraculous escape quickly became legend, aided in no small part by the oral and written efforts of S nchez Mazas himself. Sixty years later, Cercas, an inadvertent archeologist digging through his nation's bloody past, unearths revelations and epiphanies that are far less wondrous than the surface gloss, but much more useful to present-day existence. His thematic conclusions are powerful and humane enough to compensate for a narrative voice that is often speculative or long-winded. This work sometimes suffers from a scarcity of scenes and dialogue, but its moral core is smart and compelling. (Feb.) Forecast: Europeans, deconstructionists and perhaps even fans of Paul Auster will be intrigued by this novel's air of literary detection. It should appeal to would-be writers, too; Cercas's metafiction is insightful and sometimes funny ("Shit!" a friend says to the character Cercas. "Didn't I tell you not to write about a fascist? Those people fuck up everything they touch. What you have to do is forget all about that book and start on another one. How about one on Garc a Lorca?") rather than theoretical and hollow. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Cercas's US debut is a strange and intriguing amalgam of epic, elegy, and mystery about a journalist's efforts to uncover the story behind a soldier's quasi-miraculous escape from firing squad in the Spanish Civil War. How much of the tale is fiction, many readers will ask, since most of the characters are historical figures and the narrator, like the author, is a Spanish writer named Javier Cercas-but never mind all that. We begin with a broken-down journalist in a provincial town who has written a few novels that flopped and is depressed because his father has died and his wife has left him. While researching an article commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War, Javier hears an interesting legend and works it into the piece: Nationalist hero Rafael Sanchez Mazas, founder of the right-wing Falange Party and onetime cabinet minister under Franco, was once captured by leftist troops, shot by firing squad-and survived. Not only that, but afterward, making his way across enemy lines, he was discovered and recognized by a Communist guerrilla: an unknown militiaman who deliberately let him get away. Among the usual letters to the editor after the article is published, Javier receives contradictory leads as to the true identity of the soldier, and he becomes increasingly intrigued. He tracks down the son of a Communist partisan who sheltered Sanchez Mazas during his escape and discovers a notebook kept by the escapee describing his ordeal. Eventually, he pieces together an account of Sanchez Mazas's exploits during the last days of the war, and he finally meets the man whom he believes spared his life. But is it really him? It doesn't matter-like the sled in Citizen Kane, theman in the forest (whoever he was) eventually becomes much less interesting than the search itself. Cercas's lyric intensity becomes quite moving (especially toward the end) in a beautiful account of loss and reconciliation.
From the Publisher

“This book is magnificent...one of the best I've read in a long time.” —Mario Vargas Llosa, El Pais

“With irresistible directness and delicacy, Javier Cercas engages in a quick-witted, tender quest for truth and the possibility of reconciliation in history, in our everyday lives - which happens to be the theme of most great European fiction. He has a fascinating tale to tell, which happens (mostly) to be true. He has written a marvelous novel.” —Susan Sontag

“Cercas has succeeded, with one perfectly crafted book, in single-handedly redeeming the epic genre.” —Alberto Manguel

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596917378
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
12/10/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
240,169
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

Javier Cercas is a lecturer in Spanish Literature at the University of Gerona. Soldiers of Salamis has been published in fifteen languages.



Anne McLean has translated Latin American and Spanish writers such as Carmen Martin Gaite, Orlando González Esteva, Julio Cortázar, Paula Varsavsky, Ignacio Padilla and Luis Sepúlveda.

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