LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL 2018
A TRUE STORY THAT IS PACKED WITH FICTION - FICTION CREATED BY ITS MAIN CHARACTER, ENRIC MARCO
But who is Enric Marco? A veteran of the Spanish Civil War, a fighter against fascism, an impassioned campaigner for justice, and a survivor of the Nazi death camps? Or, is he simply an old man with delusions of grandeur, a charlatan who fabricated his heroic war record, who was never a prisoner in the Third Reich and never opposed Franco; a charming, beguiling and compulsive liar who refashioned himself as a defender of liberty and who was unmasked in 2005 at the height of his influence and renown?
In this extraordinary novel - part narrative, part history, part essay, part biography, part autobiography - Javier Cercas unravels the enigma of the man and delves with passion and honesty into the most ambiguous aspects of what makes us human - our infinite capacity for self-deception, our need for conformity, our thirst for affection and our conflicting needs for fiction and for truth.
Translated from the Spanish by Frank Wynne
"The liar has no history," novelist Cercas (Outlaws) declares at the start of this mesmerizing biography of a fraud, only to disprove that contention in his quest to understand Enric Marco, a Spanish man who for decades famously represented himself as a survivor of Nazi concentration camps. In 2005, at the age of 84, Marco was revealed to be a fraud who had, in fact, volunteered for a work detail in Germany during WWII to avoid his mandatory military service in Spain. Cercas, who interviewed Marco, depicts him as a charismatic narcissist who misrepresented his anarchist proclivities during the Spanish Civil War, changed his name repeatedly to escape his past, and lied his way into high-profile positions after the end of the Franco dictatorship, serving as a spokesperson for former Holocaust survivors and members of the resistance in Spain. As Cercas investigates Marco's psyche, he describes his own moral qualms about exposing his subject's subterfuge. He likens Marcos's "novelistic imagination" to that of a fiction writer (such as himself) and also presents it as a personification of Spain in the post-Franco years, which invented "a noble and heroic past, in which most had been resistance fighters or anti-Franco dissidents." This rigorous work shines a light not only on the methods of the deceiver but the willingness of the deceived to accept such falsehoods.