The Impostor by Javier Cercas

The Impostor

Javier Cercas

With both profound compassion and honesty, Javier Cercas takes the reader on a journey not only into Enric Marco's lie of being a Holocaust survivor, but also, our opposing needs for fantasy and reality, and our appetite for affection.

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From the award-winning author of Soldiers of Salamis, a propulsive and riveting narrative investigation into an infamous fraud: a man who has been lying his entire life.

Who is Enric Marco? An elderly man in his nineties, living in Barcelona, a Holocaust survivor who gave hundreds of speeches, granted dozens of interviews, received important national honors, and even moved government officials to tears. But in May 2005, Marco was exposed as a fraud: he was never in a Nazi concentration camp. The story was reported around the world, transforming him from hero to villain in the blink of an eye. Now, more than a decade later--in a hypnotic narrative that combines fiction and nonfiction, detective story and war story, biography and autobiography--Javier Cercas sets out to unravel Marco's enigma. With both profound compassion and lacerating honesty, Cercas takes the reader on a journey not only into one man's gigantic lie, but also--through its exploration of our infinite capacity for self-deception, our opposing needs for fantasy and reality, our appetite for affection--into the deepest, most flawed parts of our humanity.

Advance Galley Reviews

In his books, Spanish novelist Javier Cercas tackles the theme of "historical memory," focusing on the Spanish Civil War and the Francoist State. So it's no wonder that Cercas would be drawn to the story of Enric Marco, a man caught taking advantage of Spain's popular interest in historical memory. A master of self-promotion, the charismatic Marco fashioned himself a hero of the Spanish Civil War, an anti-Francoist rebel, and a Nazi concentration camp survivor. "Truthfully, just as an insistence on bravery betrays the coward, an insistence on truth betrays the liar.” Javier Cercas knows what it takes to craft a novel. He argues that Enric Marco is a living novel, a man with an unremarkable life who remade himself into a remarkable fictional character, like Don Quixote. "And so, the ultimate enigma of Marco is both his utter normality and his absolute exceptionality." Cercas spends a lot of the book repeating himself, hammering away at concepts such as narcissism; kitsch; Camus's definition of a rebel: "A man who says No;" the definition of the 'nonfiction novel,' or 'a novel without fiction.' I'm not sure the repetition succeeds. Cercas also spends a lot of time deliberating about whether or not he should write this book, which by the way, is brilliantly translated by Frank Wynne. Initially, my reaction was: Do it, or don't, but don't show us your soiled petticoats in the process. That is, unless your soiled petticoats further the book's argument, and if they further the book's argument, we need to know even more about your stake in the argument. In the end, Cercas did not disappoint. The author's personal reflections, especially in the closing chapters, bring his points successfully home. This book is not just about Enric Marco. It's also about this period in Spanish history and how Marco's personal history reflected the history of his country. It's about how this period in history embraces the selfie -- the glossed-over edition. And, finally, it's about literature's thread in society's fabric.

“Truthfully, evangelists of truth are not to be trusted. Truthfully, just as an insistence on bravery betrays the coward, an insistence on truth betrays the liar.” It’s a wildly self-conscious “novel without fiction”—probably because, in addition to the bits of true biography of The Imposter (the book’s premise, but hardly its focus), there is quite a lot of discussion on literary theory and the lies told by authors and novels. An author who claims to be writing “a novel without fiction” is obviously worried about lying; an author who writes himself into his novel about how he came to write this novel is trying to cover his tracks just as would a liar caught in his lies. But it works and the moments between Cercas and The Imposter are by far the most enjoyable in the book. The other interests in history and politics didn’t work as well for me, and it’s ultimately an interesting read but insistently repetitive. Though the English translation by Frank Wynne is astounding.

I wanted to like this book. I am an avid reader of history, especially World War II. Despite this, I found this book very difficult to read. The writing is very dry. It is difficult to feel anything for the characters. It took me a week to read the introduction.This is a translation, so this could explain the dryness. I received a galley copy of this book through First to Read in exchange for an honest review.

The continual back and forth between the multiple stories that had been published and the author's research really made the book tedious -- it's a shame, because this is a fascinating character and a tumultuous time in history -- so if anyone could dig in to the charisma, amorality, and opportunism that led him to convincingly adopt a more grandiose, noteworthy, and heroic past with no regard for the truth, it would shed a great deal of light on our current post-truth political and cultural moment, and possibly give some insight into how to deal with those people and situations.

Ok, I think that this has more to do with the current political climate than the book itself. That being said, I found some of this title interesting, but I really hate liars especially on this scale. Hopefully the subject of this book will be kicked to the dustpan of history.

“Of course, if lies saved Marco, the truth I am telling in this book"—Cercas writes—"will kill him.” Enric Marco was never in a Nazi concentration camp. Why did he say he was? Why did people believe him? Cercas carefully reviews the exposed fraud, showing how Marco deftly combined truth and lies to weave a plausible narrative. The false survivor is a man who Cercas describes as embodying "kitsch": faking emotion, goodness, and truth due to his narcissistic flair for the dramatic. If such a man were going to mix truth and lies, Cercas advises, "he should have written a novel." With his elaborate, philosophical prose, Cercas defends the value of fiction in its proper place. The repetitive message demands patience from the reader but, in its very repetition, reveals how words can settle into our imaginations and make us take stories seriously.

What sounded like an interesting read drove me crazy! A man pretending to be a Holocaust survivor gets his in the end. I didn’t realize Spanish people had indeed been sent to concentration camps so I did gain this knowledge at least. The author should have just stuck with the story (which was very interesting and enlightening). He might have had a good book by doing so. Instead he bent over backwards trying to explain why he was writing the story and if it was right to do so. He compared Marco to Truman Compote and Don Quixote making ridiculous excuses for this man. He even wrote a fake conversation. For whatever reason Marco invented this story, I’m sure it at the beginning was for selfish reasons. If he was, in fact, trying to bring awareness to the Spanish population held during the Holocaust, there’s a whole list of ways to do that without lying about being a survivor. What he did was wrong - period. He deserves no defense from this author or any one else. Thank you to First To Read and Penguin Random House for the ARC.

The Impostor is a slow book at times, not so slow at others. It is sort of a biography, history book, philosophical book and a book about writing a novel and what makes a novel. The plot is based in a real person and real facts. The problem that Cercas presents is what's real about Enric Marco and what's fiction/lies. As Cercas does in other of his books, he mixes the present and the past, the personal and the fictional. I like the way he presents History, it is not his first book about the Spanish Civil war and its consequences, and in concrete about the region of Catalonia. It is a book that needs to be read at a slow pace to absorb everything that presents.

I received this book for free from First to Read for an honest review. This is the story of Enric Marco who lied about being a deportee to Flossenburg Concentration Camp and other facts about his life in Spain during the Civil War, World War II and after the war. The author goes into a great deal of detail about how he did not want to write this book and who he talked to as well as a lot of history of Spain. This was a really interesting read because I had never heard anything about this. The author is a good writer and now has led me to want to read more of his books. At times the book dragged but it was so interesting. I really enjoyed hearing about how he tried to find out the truth of Marco's life. Really enjoyed this book and loved learning something new.

I really tried to get into this book (Tried THREE times) but was unsuccessful. The author had way too much about himself and why he chose to write the book. *SPOILER ALERT* Eric Marco was a total imposter for years! That's pretty much the entire idea of the book. The memory of all those killed in concentration camps deserve to be honored better!!! Disappointed.

I really tried to get into this book, but was unsuccessful. What a great concept! The author had way too much about himself and why he chose to write the book. He should have trusted in the story--that would have been much more interesting. Disappointed.

I tried three times to get into this book...but didn’t. Eric Marco was a total imposter for years. The memory of all those killed in concentration camps deserve to be honoured.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. It started off simply enough and went deeper as it went along, exploring all aspects of Enric Marco’s life, in as much as documented evidence would allow. I found the wavering discussion by the author in whether indeed to write the book and how to tell the story quite intriguing. It revealed not only the pathos of the individual, but that inherent in each of us. Whether to justify or to rehabilitate the man, as the author so eloquently describes it, is a focal point of the book. Set in a turbulent period of Spanish history, it necessarily examines it as the story is told. The recall of individuals related to the interviews and family interactions add to the interest. Overall, highly educational and well worth reading.


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