Javier Cercas, who was born in Ibahernando (Estremadura, Spain) in 1962, is a writer of novels and essays. He teaches Spanish Literature at the University of Gerona and contributes to the daily newspaper El País.
He made his debut as a writer in 1987 with his novella El móvil (The Motive), a Kafkaesque but at the same time serious description of the relationship between reality and fiction.
Public accolades and critical acclaim arrived in 2001 with the publication of Soldados de Salamina (Soldiers of Salamis), the work which marked a turning-point in his career. In this novel, set at the end of the Spanish civil war of 1936-39, Cercas touches a nerve in Spain's collective memory, examining the political and individual responsibility for events that left such a tragic mark on the country and, going against every instinct for the repression of memory, sustains that it is essential to come to terms with the past if we are to understand the present. It is an affirmation of the ethical value of memory, which goes hand in hand with recognizing the importance of even a single gesture of humanity such as to reassert that civility exists even when everything around us would seem to deny it.
The success of Soldados de Salamina – which has been translated into fifteen languages – was confirmed by that of his subsequent work, La velocidad de la luz (The Speed of Light), a study, in the form of a novel, of the destructive power of the demons that invade the memory of a veteran of the Vietnam war.
Soon after these two major successes, further works by Cercas were published in Italy: El Inquilino (The Tenant), an intriguing short story which hinges on ambiguity and the idea of a possible parallel reality; El vientre de la ballena (The Belly of the Whale), which recounts the tragicomical ineptitude with which the protagonist attempts (in vain) to redeem himself; Anatomía de un instante (The Anatomy of a Moment), a work which interweaves history and literature, novel and essay, to analyze and reconstruct the coup d'état which Colonel Tejero attempted in 1981, and highlights its impact on the identity and the subsequent fate of contemporary Spain. The last of Cercas' books to be translated into Italian was La verdad de Agamenón (Agamemnon's Truth), a sentimental intellectual autobiography, part essay and part novella.
The importance of his themes, together with his intriguing style and wide variety of narrative approaches – from biographical novels to fiction, from historical investigations to reporting to metanarrative – have earned the writer numerous important Italian and international awards.
WORKS PUBLISHED IN ITALY
Soldados de Salamina (Soldiers of Salamis) – Guanda, 2002
El móvil (The Motive) – Guanda, 2004
La velocidad de la luz (The Speed of Light) – Guanda, 2006
El vientre de la ballena (The Belly of the Whale) – Guanda, 2008
Anatomía de un instante (The Anatomy of a Moment) – Guanda, 2010
El Inquilino (The Tenant) – Guanda, 2011
Tornare a casa (Returning Home) – Il Sole 24 Ore, 2011
La verdad de Agamenón (Agamemnon's Truth) – Guanda, 2012
His latest work, published in Spain under the title Las leyes de la Frontera, is scheduled for publication in Italy in 2013.