Javier Cercas, or the writing without boundaries
It is very tempting to assert that there are two Javier Cercas, the one previous to Soldados de Salamina (2001) and the one born after this novel. The first one experimented with different genres, ghost novels, mystery novels, campus novels, metafictions, short stories in their diverse modes... From these trials we obtained "nouvelles" like El inquilino (1989) or El móvil -one of the five tales from the homonymous volume of his debut in 1987-, also the very intelligent El vientre de la ballena (1997) where he fictionalized the crossroad the author faced since the 80's between his literary vocation and his academic profession. Chronicles that were published by the newspaper El País where the author submerged into the everyday reality to produce pure literature that defined his new evolutionary path. He named them "relatos reales" (real tales), put them all together in a book, and from one of the tales, in a Jack and the Beanstalk fashion, the novel Soldados de Salamina (2001) stemmed. An extraordinary success that allowed the author to access a more elevated and risky literary universe.
Since this novel; which received praises from Mario Vargas Llosa, Susan Sontag, George Steiner, or J. M. Coetzee; the work of Javier Cercas has become one of the most relevant within the European scenario of the 21st century. In this novel, the author managed to identify the lines of force of a writing permeable to both history and fiction, a hybridization of truth and imagination that adopts the liberties of the essays and the tricks of the novels. A fluent combination of journalism and biographies, packed with the techniques of the literary author. Cercas was indeed a pioneer in the exploration of this realm that is not so much inter-genre, but post-genre. An environment in which the differences between genres are nonexistent, and the complexities of the real world are recreated and analyzed in subtle literary constructions, heirs of great masters of the past like Cervantes, Stendhal, Conrad, Nabokov, Borges, Bioy Casares or Vargas Llosa. From the cultivation of this speciality we have obtained La velocidad de la luz (2005), Anatomía de un instante (2009, granted with the National Narrative Award of 2010) and Las leyes de la frontera (2012), where recent history events (Vietnam war, the 23-F, or the "quinquis" phenomenon in the 70's) were focused through a completely new perspective of strong ethics.
For Cercas literature is nothing unless there is a double compromise with language and the world, with the literary tradition and the moral problems of individuals and societies, the steep problems of historical memory and the complexities of individual behaviors. This way, a novel dealing about auditable facts or inventions, is an artifact that both contests the reality in which we live, but also analyses and dissects it. Cercas has managed to make his writing a path leading to the tribulations of reality.