Outlaws by Javier Cercas (Translated by Anne McLean) - review by Miranda France

Miranda France

Big Trouble in Little Gerona

Outlaws

By

Bloomsbury 369pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

Javier Cercas’s new novel is set in 1978 in the Catalan city of Gerona during the febrile period between Franco’s death and the establishment of full democracy in Spain. I caught the tail end of that time as a student in Madrid in the mid-1980s and experienced the raw energy of a society waking up after decades of dictatorship. Cannabis had been legalised, junkies and transvestite prostitutes were a common sight and everyone seemed to be dabbling in the black market. My neighbour had four different passports hidden under the rug in his sitting room. I thought Spain would always be like that, but Madrileño friends tell me things changed in the 1990s and that life there is now both more strait-laced and more straitened.

In Cercas’s post-Franco Gerona a middle-class sixteen-year-old gets swept into a gang after a bully in his class humiliates him and turns him off school. Ignacio Cañas is useful to the gang because he ‘speaks Catalan and looks like a good kid’; their families are migrants from poorer parts of

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