Javier Cercas was born in 1962 in the family of veterinarians in the town of Idahernando, Extremadura, in the west of Spain. A close relative of politician Alejandro Cercas, the long-standing European parliamentarian from the socialist wing. As a child he moved with his family to Gerona, the heart of Catalonia, and although he never ceased to return to his native region, he remained perpetually immersed in the Catalan cultural circle: he studied in Barcelona, taught literature in Gerona and is a long-time influential commentator of the Catalan edition of El País, whose literary essays and social evaluations are read all the way from Madrid to Oxford, where he also taught as a visiting professor of comparative studies. Cercas spent his formative years in the ambience of Franco’s radically conservative integralism, a time when almost every family still felt the direct consequences of strict divisions. “There is a story my mother told me hundreds of times, which never ceased to fascinate me,” he says. “It is a story about a family hero, her handsome 16-year-old uncle, who went to the war and died a hero, and his niece never forgot him.” Before he recently published ‘this’ novel (El monarca de las sombras), he made a name for himself with a series of narrative structures, based on the crossroads between documented and fictional worlds. The first such story, Soldiers of Salamis, caused quite a stir: when Susan Sontag says this is a “miraculous” novel and Vargas Llosa that he had not read such a good book in years, Cercas’s friend Roberto Bolaño is proven right, believing in his literary worlds while he was still writing only beautiful, artificial novels. When The Economistremarked that the Anatomy of a Moment, a literary chronicle of an attempted collapse of Spanish society’s modernisation, “echoes in our times louder than one might have ever imagined”, this statement seems to form a prologue to the current European drama, in which Cercas reverberates as a rare voice of superiority.
(Photo © Joan Tomás)
We are hosting Mr. Cercas thanks to the support of Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) through the Programme for the Internationalisation of Spanish Culture (PICE), in the framework of the Mobility grants.