Who is Enric Marco? An elderly man in his nineties, living in Barcelona, a Holocaust survivor who gave hundreds of speeches, granted dozens of interviews, received important national honors, and even moved government officials to tears. But in May 2005, Marco was exposed as a fraud.
It is thrilling to be in the room with the two of them once their cat-and-mouse game commences: Marco, unctuous, a savant of manipulation; Cercas, recoiling in his chair, empathizing against his will, trying desperately not to be used ... This torsion — from outrage to compassion to revulsion to baffled admiration to outrage all over again — gives the book its squirmy drama. It vibrates with an insomniac energy. I did, too, while in its throes ... The brilliance of The Impostor is how Cercas connects Marco’s desire for reinvention with Spain’s national project of burying its history as it transitioned from dictatorship to democracy ... The language is precise, distinctive and delicious. Is there a more gifted or versatile translator working today than Frank Wynne? ... The voice of this book, the voice of Cercas, with its beautiful grain and restlessness, its swerves from pity to fury, from calm to hysteria, owe much to Wynne’s almost musical modulations.
Mr. Cercas’s book is several books at once, but, above all, it is a rigorous and obsessive quest to untangle what is true and what is false in the private and public life of Enric Marco ... As well as an incisive piece of journalistic investigation, Mr. Cercas’s book is a subtle essay on the nature of fiction and the ways in which it can invade our lives and transform them ... Mr. Cercas does not want to find this supreme impostor likeable and, so that no one can have any doubts on the matter, he heaps condemnatory epithets upon him at every turn ... What is most striking is that the person who wins the game played out in this luminous book is not the straightforward Mr. Cercas but the devious Mr. Marco ... Excellent novelist though he is, Javier Cercas was so fascinated by the theme and subject matter of his book that he forgot that good novels always turn the bad characters into good because they always end up exerting over readers ... The book that he has written, even though he might not have wished it to turn out that way, is a (magnificent) novel about an uncommon character.
... fascinating ... A singular tension...pervades the back-and-forth narrative, in which the cunning Marco tries to distort and conceal what really happened and Cercas, with his incantatory prose, strips away every fraudulent ruse. He is careful, all the while, to be fair and judicious ... Readers will be impressed by how scrupulously Cercas pursues the facts, in obvious contrast to Marco’s incessant obfuscation. By questioning his own motives and methods at every step, by making sure to separate what is indubitable from what is conjecture, he shows us how to systematically dismantle any web of lies, constructing a model of 'reflective skepticism' from which we have much to learn in our era of rampant conspiracy theories and viral Internet falsehoods ... The Impostor tells a deeper and hidden truth about Spain ... The Impostor [is] a book that is woefully relevant well beyond the frontiers of Spain.