Soldiers of Salamis
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Soldiers of Salamis

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,845 ratings  ·  130 reviews
In the final moments of the Spanish Civil War, a writer and founding member of Franco's Fascist Party is about to be shot, and yet miraculously escapes into the forest. When his hiding place is discovered, he faces death for the second time that day-but is spared, this time by a lone soldier. The POW becomes a national hero and a member of Franco's first government, while...more
ebook, 224 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 2001)
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Mike Puma
Jan 09, 2012 Mike Puma rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mike by: Roberto Bolaño
Shelves: spanish-author, 2012

5 stars, with some reservations. 5 stars for the idea. 5 stars for the inclusion of Roberto Bolaño as a character (many thanks, Javier, many thanks indeed). 5 stars because I’m not one to challenge the opinions of Bolaño, Mario Vargas Llosa, or Susan Sontag (at least with regard to this novel). Some minor demeriting for what, at times, seem a relentless history of Spanish and French battles during WWII. 5 stars for Part Three, which bested my skepticism during Part One and Part Two (how does one

The first two parts of this book revolve around a rather unheroic but entirely factual figure, Sanchez Mazas, a founder member of the Falangist group in Spain in the 1930's and later a minister in Franco's government with the status of national hero, who, we are told right at the beginning, escaped death by firing squad during the Spanish civil war.
The narrator, a journalist and writer called Javier Cercas, but who is entirely fictional, becomes obsessed with this reprieve from death story and...more
4.5 stars? Fiction that feels unlike fiction. Fiction that's partially about how it's not fiction. Non-fictional fiction about writing, about war, about endurance/persistence, about poets realizing their ideal worlds through political action, about heroism, about historical reconstruction from fragments as a creative act that keeps the dead alive, especially the dead who live on in the words of people almost gone themselves. Structurally interesting novel about a writer trying and failing to wri...more
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 25, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 501, 1001-non-core
Just when is the right time to set records straight? Wait, in the first place, do we always need to? Are there instances when it is better to leave them as they are?

These are the questions this 2001 novel, Soldiers of Salamis originally written in Spanish by Javier Cercas (born 1962) try to pose to us. In this novel, the questions can be applied to both national, i.e., Spain particularly in that part of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) when the Falangist poet Rafael Sanchez Mazas was not killed...more
Ben Winch
The word 'revolution' gets bandied about a lot, often without context and usually with positive intonations, as though the act of revolt itself were somehow desirable. In an age that makes a pop-star of Che Guevara, Javier Cercas writes, soberingly, of a right-wing and unheroic revolutionary, the largely-forgotten Spanish Falangist writer Raphael Sanchez Mazas, and in doing so exposes the senseless bloodlust that motivated this facist's revolt. Sanchez Mazas's cause, the 'moral and aesthetic def...more
El Avestruz Liado
Apr 03, 2013 El Avestruz Liado rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, Bolaño fans
Recommended to El Avestruz by: Semana's list of top 100 novels
Thomas Carlyle once said “The history of the world is but the biography of great men". Well, this book is a novel revolving around the antithesis of such a statement.

The driver of the novel is the history of the shooting of Rafael Sanchez Maza, one the main ideologists behind fascism in Spain during the first half the past century. He escapes his shooting and in the ensuing persecution one of the soldiers looking for him allows his escape. The protagonist of this novel is a journalist (writer?)...more
There is a fascinating earlier post on this book by Javier Garcia, in Spanish, which links to a longer post of his on the book, and then to one by the author Roberto Bolaño. The review by Bolaño is largely a description of the book, but because he knows Javier Cercas he reveals two important facts that are relevant to understanding Soldiers of Salamis. One is that the 'Javier Cercas' who appears in the novel is not the author, or at any rate has several characteristics that are not those of the...more
What a peculiar little book! At first we completely failed to get on - long lists of names, jumping between dates, a narrative that flitted between various points of the Spanish Civil War and the present. The book is split into three parts, detailing first the writer's early forays into researching his novel, the middle part is the novel, albeit in an unfinished form, and then he ends with more present day narrative of his thoughts and investigations post novel. As the story enters the second bo...more
Para una persona que no es española, me encanta esta breve novela sobre la guerra civil en España, y al fin y al cabo me hizo darme cuenta de las realidades complejas de esta gran lucha. Al centrarse en la vida de Sánchez Mazas y su escape del pelotón de fusilamiento, Cercas crea un relato apasionante que no sólo es de enorme importancia para el futuro de la Falange Española, sino también completamente factual. Con humor sutil, Cercas habla de las frustraciones de ser escritor, pero de no tener...more
A little like Galeano or Zinn in its insistence that history lives and breathes in the personal narratives of those who lived it, and that official versions malign or at best hint what it was like to live through civil wars, through dictatorships. Book is an elegy for a past that has gotten far too past far too quickly, an argument for memory, for care in assessing heroes, for seeing the humanity in all sides of a conflict, for how the secrets to one's national past lie locked away in nursing ho...more
A strange novel, not strictly a novel really, more a biography, real and imagined. It's in three parts with parts 1 and 3 being by far the easiest to read. Part 2, the title part, seems stilted and very dry. This is the actual biography together with some polemic and history. One is almost tempted to give up towards the end of this part, it seems merely a more formal and expanded telling of the outline given in part one. The book is redeemed by part 3, the search for the mysterious Republican so...more
Julia Boechat Machado
All my reviews are currently in Library Thing. I'm no longer updating my GR since it was bought by Amazon.

Un libro sobre la guerra civil, y miren que no me suelen gustar los libros sobre la guerra civil. Pero éste es especial. Es la historia de un novelista que busca material para escribir una novela, que es precisamente la novela que acaba escribiendo y que tenemos en nuestras manos. Una novela profundamente autorreferencial en la que se mezclan las pesquisas del autor con las historias de la gente sobre la que investiga, los recuerdos de una guerra, la nuestra, en la que hubo, como en todas, muest

Jose Vera
Javier Cercas nos embarca en un viaje que combina en partes iguales la nostalgia y el romanticismo pese a que gran parte de la historia se desarrolla durante la guerra civil española.

En la primera parte del libro Cercas se presenta a si mismo como un periodista mediocre y un escritor frustrado. Con un par de novelas escritas en una no tan lejana juventud llega a sus oídos una historia que le resulta fascinante. Rafael Sánchez Mazas uno de los fundadores de la Falange española y luego ministro de...more
Brilliant example of historical fiction. This book won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2004. Soldiers of Salamis is the story of two men who have survived the Spanish Civil War during 1930's. One was a prominent fascist political person and other was an ordinary Republican soldier and the latter helped the other to escape from a firing squad though both were fighting against each other.

All these hitorical stories were long forgotten and now its being re investigated by a young journali...more
Geoffrey Fox
No tiene nada que ver con la batalla de Salamina (entre áticos y persas, 480 a. de j.c.), pero sí con los días finales de la II República en España, y especialmente el frustrado fusilamiento de un fundador de la Falange, Rafael Sánchez Mazas, por los milicianos en desbandada. Al final Cercas encuentra a un viejo veterano, Antoni (o Antonio) Miralles, que pudo haber sido el miliciano que se negó a matar al falangista fugitivo cuando lo encontró escondido en el bosque; sea él o no ese miliciano, e...more
Y yo que pensaba que no me iba a gustar... es uno de los mejores libros que leí.

A pesar del título, el libro no tiene nada que ver con la batalla de Salamina (480 a.c)sino que es una "historia real" como dice el narrador, centrada en hechos que acaecieron durante los años de la guerra civil española.
El propio Javier Cercas se transforma en personaje de su libro, haciendo de periodista. Comenzará una investigación del fusilamiento fallido de Rafael Sánchez Mazas, uno de los lideres Falangistas...more
A brilliant novel, epic in ambiton but as clear and concise as a short story. A failed novelist and reluctant journalist becomes intrigued by the story of a noted spanish falangist who escapes a firing squad at the end of the Spanish civil war. The book is divided in three parts: the first covers the journalists story; the second is an account of what actually happened and the third and most satisfying is the bravura piece which ties it to the emotional context.

The story effortlessly flits betw...more
Esta novela no es más, en el fondo, que una velada apología del escritor falangista Rafael Sánchez Mazas, el héroe "negativo" (o antihéroe) de la trama.
"False novels" - that favored blend of fact and fiction and self-reference - are easily becoming a popular genre in Latin American writing. Along with authors I've been reading a lot (César Aira, Javier Marías, Roberto Bolaño), Javier Cercas is one of its best practitioners. Soldiers of Salamis is a cleverly structured treatise on memory and narrative direction. Its experimental elements hark back to the whimsical device of the playful author of the Quixote (
Strange and unusual book this.

I was expecting a history of an element of the Spanish Civil and was presented with a personal story of the author's journey to understand why a Falangist leader survived a firing squad and to try and explain how and why he was spared.

It took me some time to get into the book and I was considering dropping it, something I rarely do. However, the second half of the book pulls together a very human story of how we remember, and that all memories only last as long as s...more
Lee Pennington
If your looking for Spanish Civil war action novels - this probably isn't it. There are shootings and the whole novel is a bit of a detective work - but Cercas is too smart just to write potboilers. This intelligent work subtly describes the process of recording and telling stories about the events (and politics) of the civil war in a way that is at times funny and still gives you a feeling for the time of this tragic historical event.
David Cheshire
This is a profound and haunting novel about the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. He inverts the fascist mantra that when civilisation "hangs in the balance" it is often saved by a squad of soldiers who endure hardship and danger to fight against its enemies, it. Instead he focuses on an obscure episode where a Republican soldier has a chance encounter with a leading fascist on the run, but does not shoot him. His reasons are inscrutable but he is offered up as a "real" hero who saves civilisa...more
Magistral novela. No va de guerras civiles (aunque el marco histórico de parte de la acción es un momento concreto de una guerra), ni de héroes (aunque el personaje tiene algo de heroico)... Descubrimientos internos, narraciones perdidas y reencontradas, ficción y realidad entremezcladas... Muy bien narrada, se lee de un tirón y se deja con pena.
I found this book difficult to get into because: 1. The facts and names in the opening section were difficult to keep track of if you don't know much about the Spanish Civil War; 2. I got distracted by trying to puzzzle out what was fact and what was fiction in this novel; 3. some of the sentence structures seemed convoluted and I kept wondering if this were a fault in the translation. So I would advise other readers to read the notes at the back of the book (they really should have been at the...more
I don't have a lot of say about this but I thought it was a wonderful novel about memory, with the third part being extraordinarily powerful (nicely making up for the driness of part two). To entice you, here is a quote about the war dead, both of Spain and France in their respective wars:

Nobody remembers them, you know? Nobody. Nobody even remembers why they died, why they didn't have a wife and children and a sunny room; nobody remembers, least of all, those they fought for. There's no lousy s
Vi la pelicula hace varios años durante un festival de cine español y mi viejo llego con el libro hace unos meses y me lo pasó. De pinga, la historia se centra en un episodio cercano al final de la guerra civil española, en la que un importante dirigente y escritor falangista, consigue escapar de un fusilamiento en masa por parte del ejercito republicano. En base a esa premisa el autor hilvana una historia ligada a todas sus aventuras y peripecias detectivescas para descubrir más detalles acerca...more
Martin Mulcahey
The introduction of Miralles and Chilean writer Roberto Bolano in the final third of the novel saved the book for me. It started well and characters are richly written, but perhaps I needed to brush up on the intricacies of the Spanish revolution (a good notes section in the back of the book does this pretty well) because I was losing interest in the main character of Sanchez Mazas as the writing slowed to give a big picture narrative of him. Enjoyed the witty self deprecation of Cercas when it...more
I enjoyed this novel (true tale) but haven't much to say about it. I was particularly intrigued when Cercas or the character named Cercas meets up with the Chilean writer Roberto Bolano or the character named Roberto Bolano, who is living in exile in Spain. After interviewing Bolano, Cercas shifts his quest from investigating the writer Sanchez Manzas (chief rhetorician of the Falange that instigated the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s) to seeking out Miralles, pasa doble aficionado & possibl...more
Biblioteca Lardero
Cuando en los meses finales de la guerra civil española las tropas republicanas se retiran hacia la frontera francesa, camino del exilio, alguien toma la decisión de fusilar a un grupo de presos franquistas. Entre ellos se halla Rafael Sánchez Mazas, fundador e ideólogo de Falange, quizás uno de los responsables directos del conflicto fratricida. Sánchez Mazas no sólo logra escapar de ese fusilamiento colectivo, sino que, cuando salen en su busca, un miliciano anónimo le encañona y en el último...more
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Javier Cercas Mena (Ibahernando, provincia de Caceres, 1962) es un escritor y traductor español.

Hijo de un veterinario rural, cuando contaba cuatro años, en 1966 su familia se trasladó a Tarragona, y allí estudió con los jesuitas. Es primo carnal del político Alejandro Cercas. A los quince años la lectura de Jorge Luis Borges le inclinó para siempre a la escritura. En 1985 se licenció en Filología...more
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“Naturally, I asked him what it'd been like to live through Pinochet's coup and the fall of Allende. Naturally, he regarded me with an expression of utter boredom; then he said:
'Like a Marx Brothers' movie, but with corpses. Unimaginable pandemonium.”
“Of course, if you ask, nobody was there when they torched the churches.” 1 likes
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