The International Bestseller of the Spanish Civil War - Winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize
In the final moments of the Spanish Civil War, fifty prominent Nationalist prisoners are executed by firing squad. Among them is the writer and fascist Rafael Sanchez Mazas. As the guns fire, he escapes into the forest, and can hear a search party and their dogs hunting him down. The branches move and he finds himself looking into the eyes of a militiaman, and faces death for the second time that day.
But the unknown soldier simply turns and walks away. Sanchez Mazas becomes a national hero and the soldier disappears into history. As Cercas sifts the evidence to establish what happened, he realises that the true hero may not be Sanchez Mazas at all, but the soldier who chose not to shoot him. Who was he? Why did he spare him? And might he still be alive?
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 . . . a marvellous novel
This is a masterly parable of political violence, of suffering, but also, and decisevely, of the strange logic of compassion and healing . . . should become a classic
He has succeeded, with one perfectly crafted book, in single-handedly redeeming the epic genre
A truly wonderful, magnificent novel. It is understanding, intelligent, compassionate . . . If you were required to read only one book about Spain and its civil war, this should be that book. - Scotsman.
This is an important, fresh and original book ... Above all, it demonstrates how eloquent and exciting fiction is still capable of being. - Irish Times
Very few novels have the power to alter received opinion, but this marvellous book may well be one . . . A remarkable book. - Sunday Telegraph
Javier Cercas was born in 1962. He is a novelist, short-story writer and columnist, whose books include Soldiers of Salamis (which sold more than a million copies worldwide, won six literary awards in Spain and was filmed by David Trueba), The Tenant and The Motive, The Speed of Light and The Anatomy of a Moment. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages. He lives in Barcelona.