20 June 2007

CERCAS, Javier - Soldiers of Salamis

Bloomsbury 2003

Read June 2007

This is a strange novel and contains just about enough movement to keep to keep you reading to the end.

The novel is structured through the narrator (a journalist and part time novelist) who is researching in order to write a historical account of a Spanish Falangist. The story is in two parts.

The first part covers the Falangist and his early attraction to fascism in Spain. In the final days of the Civil War in 1939 he is captured by the Republican forces and is sentenced to death. He is a member of a group of prisoners to be shot in a mass execution in the forest, but he manages to dodge the bullets and escape into the forest. A Republican solder finds him hiding in a ditch but just walks away. He survives with the help of locals and goes on to play a leading role in the Franco regime.

The second part concerns the narrators tracking down a now geriatric former Republican soldier who was part of the firing squad. He finds him in a retirement home in France. In an anticlimax the old man tells the narrator that it was not he who spared the Falangist’s life.

The book is an interesting read, but is far from a masterpiece.

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