Book Notes: Javier Cercas’s Independencia

Remember how I finally found a good Spanish mystery novel? It was by Javier Cercas and it was titled Terra Alta.

Independence is the second novel in the series and it’s even better than the first. Cercas understands the soul of the mystery genre like few (or actually none) among Hispanic writers. The structure, the pace, the plot – everything is superb. Cercas had gotten the Premio Planeta – the second highest paying literary prize in the world – for the first novel in the series, and it was richly deserved. The man single-handedly gave Spain its own crime novel genre that isn’t a pale copy of the English-language police procedural. Everything in Cercas’s mystery novels is fresh, fun, and exciting.

The title of the novel refers to Catalonian attempts at independence. Cercas is a bit of that scared one-issue conservative I wrote about previously. He’s very much against the independence – and what reasonable person isn’t? – but feels the need to compensate by arguing that anybody who is against open borders is a dishonest, perverted fascist.

That’s OK, though. I don’t read fiction to find validation for my political beliefs. The novel is excellent, and I don’t care about anything else.

I saw several reviews whose authors complained that the novel is titled “independence” when it’s not about Catalonian independence. Those are people who either can’t read or are complete idiots. The whole novel is an argument against Catalonian independence, which is explained in every possible way. Cercas believes that independence is a plot by Catalonia’s business and political aristocracy to get more money and power for themselves. They never meant to take it as far as it all has gone. The whole point was to have a bargaining chip to extort Madrid. But then it all kind of went out of hand when people took the pro-independence slogans seriously. And now it’s a mess that nobody can unravel.

The novel is set in 2025, and I really liked that COVID was presented as an insignificant blip long in the past. Just like Catalonian independence.

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