Javier Cercas, without concession.

Javier Cercas, without concession.

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After having devoted several novels to the recent and eminently tragic past of Spain, notably to the civil war, Javier Cercas returns once again to this theme in "The Monarch of Shadows". And it is through family history that he revisits the great story this time. Rummaging through the archives, questioning the rare witnesses still alive, obstinately trying to lift the veil of the unspoken, he investigates, somewhat like a journalist, the heroic life and death of Manuel Mena, a paternal uncle of his mother killed at 19, September 21, 1938, during the Battle of the Ebro.

Are you still going to write a novel about the Civil War & nbsp ;? What the hell are you doing? & Nbsp ;? Look, the first time it worked, you caught the audience off guard & nbsp ;; at the time nobody knew you, we could use you. Now it's no longer the same: they'll wipe you out, man! Whatever you write, some will accuse you of idealizing the Republicans because you do not denounce their crimes, and the others of being revisionist or of making up Franco because you do not present the Francoists as monsters but as ordinary, normal people. That's how it is: no one cares about the truth, haven't you figured it out yet? A few years ago, it seemed like people were interested, but it was an illusion. People don't like the truth: they like lies; and I'm not even talking to you about intellectuals and politicians. Some get irritated as soon as we put the subject on the table because they still think that the Franco coup was necessary or in any case inevitable, even if they do not dare to say it & nbsp ;; and the others have decided that to refuse to consider all republicans as democrats, including Durruti and La Pasionaria, and to admit that fucking parish priests have been murdered and fucking churches burned down is to play the game of the right. And I don't know if you noticed, but the war is out of fashion. Why don't you write a postmodern version of Sex or not sex or Divorce & nbsp ;? Oh the foot! I adapt them to you, I promise. We're going to be full of pockets.

Extract from "The monarch of shadows" at Editions Actes Sud. Translated from the Spanish by Aleksandar Grujicic, with the collaboration of Karine Louesdon

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