Javier Cercas is one of Europe’s most serious and attractive writers. Soldiers of Salamis, his breakthrough novel (published in English in 2003), dealt with an incident of mercy in the Spanish Civil War, The Speed of Light (2006) with the empty heart of a Vietnam War veteran, and Outlaws (2014) with a gang of thieves in Girona. These fine, diverse novels have in common Cercas’s luminous style, reminiscent at times of F Scott Fitzgerald; in all of them too, Cercas offers a subtle exploration of the nature of heroism.
The Impostor resembles The Anatomy of a Moment (2011): both are ‘novels-without-fiction’, in Cercas’s phrase, that strive to dispel legends created around real events. The Anatomy of a Moment investigates the attempted coup of 1981, when members of the Guardia Civil occupied Spain’s parliament building. One of The Impostor’s central