Discuss Javier Cercas is to present a particular chronicler capable of turning any testimony that comes his way into a fictionalized story. It is always interesting that these types of storytellers find new testimonies to narrate about. As in one of his last cases, The monarch of the shadows, which delves into the life and work of Manuel Mena.
And it is likely that from the testimonies imported into so many books by this author, much of the truth resides beyond the official. The truth is made up of small realities and in its final sum it can be manipulated or misrepresented. Going down to the concrete can shed light amidst confusion and noise. And this is what good old Javier Cercas is trying to do. For my part, among all those good books, I am going to take three to raise my usual ranking ...
Top Recommended novels by Javier Cercas
Soldiers of Salamis
Perhaps the most recognized work of this author. And certainly with justified success. The conflict of the Spanish Civil War seen with a singular point of humanity. The man who points to another man and prepares to end his life is a moment of fatal transcendence that cannot always be approached coldly. Fights are one thing and melee is another.
Perhaps the difference is in the look, in crossing the look with your potential victim ... When in the final months of the Spanish civil war the republican troops retreat towards the French border, on the way to exile, someone makes the decision to shoot a group of Francoist prisoners.
Among them is Rafael Sánchez Mazas, founder and ideologist of Falange, perhaps one of those directly responsible for the fratricidal conflict. Sánchez Mazas not only manages to escape from this collective execution, but, when they go looking for him, an anonymous militiaman shoots him at gunpoint and at the last moment spares his life. Soldiers of Salamina was taken to the cinema in a film of the same title.
With properly cultivated emotions decanted over many years, the next thing is to sing and sing for any "leader" who is set to lead the herd. Others before had the patience and pampering to graft hatred and feelings of differentiation onto repellency. with whom he can easily atone for his own sins. The new "leaders" just have to persist, taking advantage in the meantime for the most indecent advancement.
And yes, the matter of separatism and its derivatives is very appropriate for someone like Javier Cercas delve again into a particular world of politicians made totem poles, with their carte blanche and their adoring blind people (justice version but the other way around). In fact the crime novel and even more so the crime novel with a Catalan cradle like that of Vazquez Montalban o Gonzalez Ledesma it has always been about undressing miseries and uncovering corruption ultimately surpassed by reality.
For the occasion, nobody better than a Melchor Marín already made a memorable protagonist since his appearance in Terra Alta. A protagonist made in Cercas that surpasses each new plot ...
How to confront those who wield power in the shadows? How to get revenge on those who have done you the most harm? Melchor Marín returns. And he returns to Barcelona, where he is claimed to investigate a glassy case: they are blackmailing the mayor of the city with a sex video.
Burdened with his regret for not having found his mother's murderers, but also with his inflexible sense of justice and his rocky moral integrity, Melchor must dismantle an extortion that it is not known whether it pursues simple economic gain or political destabilization, And to do so, he enters the circles of power, a place where cynicism, unscrupulous ambition and corrupt brutality reign.
Over there, this absorbing and wild novel, populated by a plethora of memorable characters, becomes a devastating portrait of Barcelona's political-economic elite, but above all in a furious plea against the tyranny of the owners of money and the masters of the world.
Anatomy of an instant
Perhaps it is justice that a novel is written about Spain suspended in time that February 23, 1981 in which the army tried to assault power. That was Javier Cercas's idea, fiction based on what led to the attempted coup, but in the end he opted for a richly nuanced documentary work.
Thus, from a moment that brings together three brave gestures, that of Adolfo Suárez, that of Gutiérrez Mellado and that of Santiago Carrillo, who amidst the bullets fired by the kidnappers of the congress resisted throwing themselves to the ground on the day of the coup de In this state, Cercas puts together an extraordinary story, using that moment as a peephole through which an era and a country can be contemplated.
With an absolute knowledge of the documentary sources and a masterful command of the narrator's tools and resources, he manages to thread in a fascinating book, the best chronicle of a decisive day, achieving that by reviewing the events of that day and the events that led To him, the reader is immersed in a time, an environment and some circumstances. Without a doubt we are before the fundamental work of the Spanish transition.
The monarch of the shadows
We close the ranking with this work that I already reviewed at the time. It is the latest written by this author with a return to the theme of the Spanish Civil War, of the characters who inhabited those unfortunate days.
In his work Soldiers of Salamina, Javier Cercas makes it clear that beyond the winning faction, there are always losers on both sides of any contest. In a Civil War there can be the paradox of losing family members positioned in those conflicting ideals that embrace the flag as a cruel contradiction.
Thus, the determination of the ultimate victors, those who manage to hold the flag in front of everything and everyone, those who raise heroic values transmitted to the people as epic stories ends up hiding deep personal and moral miseries. Manuel Mena is the introductory character rather than the protagonist of this novel, the link with his predecessor Soldados de Salamina.
You begin to read thinking of discovering his personal history, but the details of the skills of the young military man, absolutely rigorous with what happened at the front, fade to give way to a choral stage where incomprehension and pain spread, the suffering of those who understand the flag and the country as the skin and blood of those young people, almost children who shoot each other with the fury of the adopted ideal.
Other books by Javier Cercas ...
Touch record change for a Javier Cercas that we were more accustomed to fiction made chronic and to the chronicle adorned with that suggestive literary setting of the intrahistories that make up the mosaic of the most transcendent realities.
No doubt this novel Terra Alta, awarded with the Planet award 2019, It seems the natural flow into the creative flow of the Catalan author. Its great component of a suspense novel, becomes a new natural channel, opened from new creative torrents. Because Javier Cercas' ability to generate narrative tension in each of his works that transits both sides of the real and the fictional, has made him one of the leading authors of today.
When two businessmen and partners appear murdered in a scene as clearly defined as the Tarragona Highlands, Melchor Marín gives himself up to the cause of the resolution of the case in his role as a policeman.
Except that the discoveries around the torture and death of the owners of Gráficas Adell, awaken in him old ghostly echoes of other times. The deaths of the businessmen do not point to possible economic confrontations but to other aspects that are much more dangerous if possible.
In the haven of peace of the remote town where Melchor has been able to rebuild himself, he had been able to bury old tribulations, until today. In tune with a universal literary reference such as the novel The Miserables, Melchor Mauri is caught up in dilemmas with aromas between the existential and the essentially romantic, that which exposes the human being to moral dilemmas, ghosts and fears.
But her new life is well worth fighting for her without quarter. Neither his wife, nor even less his daughter Cosette should know aspects of his past determined to be exhumed now. Right from the turning point of the crime that has shocked the entire region.
As Melchior hunts down the assassins, he has to come up with his own plan to escape his dark days. And perhaps in the end he will have to account with his past, like Jean Valjean. He is also the protagonist of his particular novel in which life exposed him to injustice and guilt. And he too will seek above all to survive and defend the little but essential that he has managed to build for the better in his life.