From Publishers Weekly
An unnamed narrator's life comes full circle as he confronts buried secrets and tragedy in this powerful novel by Spanish author Cercas (Soldiers of Salamis
). The unnamed narrator, a young writer whose hustle to survive in Barcelona doesn't leave him time to write, takes a scholarship as an assistant Spanish professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana, in the late 1980s. Once there he makes an unlikely friend in office mate Rodney Falk, a Vietnam vet who everyone else in the department thinks is insane. After Rodney disappears during winter break, the narrator visits Rodney's father, who fills him in on Rodney's troubled past. Back in Spain a year later, the narrator becomes a successful novelist, but remains haunted by Rodney (and his skeletons) which the narrator wants to write into a novel. From the electric passages chronicling the narrator's descent into writerly paralysis to his discovery of Rodney's miserable end and then his own creative resurrection, Cercas writes with verve and brings the novel to a close in a mad sardonic swoop. Cercas has delivered a wry and touching examination of the ruinous effects of war and fame. (Apr.)
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A novelist strongly resembling Cercas (they've written the same books and lived in the same places) recounts this cautionary tale of mishandled success foretold by Rodney Falk, a fellow teaching assistant at the University of Illinois. When the young writer achieves literary acclaim back in his native Spain, his monstrous ego soon destroys everything of importance to him. Grasping for purchase in the world, he attempts to track down his old classroom comrade and perhaps tell his story. He even tries the Vietnam vet's life on for size but finds it doesn't fit the way he imagined it might. They've both committed unspeakable atrocities, and Cercas explores what it is to rebuild amid the psychic rubble. He playfully suggests writing may hold the seeds of salvation as well as destruction. As Rodney puts it, "If you don't yet know what you want to say but you're crazy enough or desperate enough or brave enough to keep writing, you might end up saying something that only you can come to know, and that
might be of interest." Indeed. Frank SennettCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved