Snippet: Javier Cercas’ “King of the shadows”

Javier Cercas, El monarca de las sombras [The shadows’ monarch], 2017, 304 p.

Publisher’s summary:

More than 15 years after the publication of Soldiers of Salamis, Javier Cercas returns to the Spanish Civil War with a very intimate and personal novel that delves into his family’s most awkward past.

No family escapes its heritage. On the winners and the defeated, and the secrets we all kept quiet about.

This is the novel that Javier Cercas had been preparing to write since he wanted to become a novelist.

Or even before.

El monarca de las sombras narrates the search for the lost traces of a nearly anonymous young guy who fought for an injust cause and died on the wrong side of History. His name was Manuel Mena and in 1936, when the Civil War broke out, he joined Franco’s army; two years later he died in the Battle of the Ebro [July – November 1938], and during decades he turned into the official family hero. He was the Javier Cercas’ great uncle, and Cercas refused to research his story until he felt oblidged to do so.

The result of this inquiry is an absorbing, plethoric novel full of action, humor and emotion, that presents some of the essential topics of Cercas’ narration: the radiant, polyhedral and mysterious nature of heroism, the stubborn survival of the dead and the difficulty of accepting one’s most embarrassing past.

At the same time a local and universal exploration, personal and collective, a belligerently anti-war novel, El Monarca de las sombras gives an unexpected and dazzling turn of the screw on the question of the heritage of the Spanish Civil War that Cercas posed years ago with Soldiers of Salamis.

El País offers a short review online (in Spanish). Spanish state TV’s  literature program Página 2 [page 2] did an extensive author interview (in Spanish) to talk about this book, “probably Cercas’ most emotional so far”.

The subject matter sounds interesting, Soldiers of Salamis was outstanding, and Cercas is a writer who hasn’t disappointed this blogger so far.

SOURCE: Penguin Random House (publisher)

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