The Impostor: A True Story

Javier Cercas, trans. from the Spanish by Frank Wynne. Knopf, $28.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3281-3
“The liar has no history,” novelist Cercas (Outlaws) declares at the start of this mesmerizing biography of a fraud, only to disprove that contention in his quest to understand Enric Marco, a Spanish man who for decades famously represented himself as a survivor of Nazi concentration camps. In 2005, at the age of 84, Marco was revealed to be a fraud who had, in fact, volunteered for a work detail in Germany during WWII to avoid his mandatory military service in Spain. Cercas, who interviewed Marco, depicts him as a charismatic narcissist who misrepresented his anarchist proclivities during the Spanish Civil War, changed his name repeatedly to escape his past, and lied his way into high-profile positions after the end of the Franco dictatorship, serving as a spokesperson for former Holocaust survivors and members of the resistance in Spain. As Cercas investigates Marco’s psyche, he describes his own moral qualms about exposing his subject’s subterfuge. He likens Marco’s “novelistic imagination” to that of a fiction writer (such as himself) and also presents it as a personification of Spain in the post-Franco years, which invented “a noble and heroic past, in which most had been resistance fighters or anti-Franco dissidents.” This rigorous work shines a light not only on the methods of the deceiver but the willingness of the deceived to accept such falsehoods. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2018
Release date: 08/28/2018
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