Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas

book cover of Soldiers of Salamis

I don’t have a lot of say about this but I thought it was a wonderful novel about memory, with the third part being extraordinarily powerful (nicely making up for the driness of part two). To entice you, here is a quote about the war dead, both of Spain and France in their respective wars:

Nobody remembers them, you know? Nobody. Nobody even remembers why they died, why they didn’t have a wife and children and a sunny room; nobody remembers, least of all, those they fought for. There’s no lousy street in any lousy town in any fucking country named after any of them, nor will there ever be.

I adored it, but I’m docking a star for part two, as well as the narrator being some male writer with the same name as the author with a kind of “bimbo” girlfriend (I don’t want to use that word, but her caracterisation was pretty shallow). I will also point out that it was pretty obvious the Kindle edition I read wasn’t proofread by anyone after a print edition was scanned and digitised; there were lots of things like “Rosa Krüger” becoming “Rosa Kriiger”, “Bolaño” becoming “Bolaiño”, accents being randomly grave or acute and thus inconsistent. Also there were weird quirks like “Aragonese” having an accent, thus “Aragónese”. I briefly wondered whether the translator just wasn’t that familiar with Spanish and had thought, “Oh, in Spanish ‘Aragón’ has an accent! So my English adjective must surely have an accent on that same letter!” but I mean… surely you don’t get to be a translator if you don’t understand the orthography of one of your languages (even if it’s the one you’re translating from). So I don’t know. The lesson here is, proofread your shit, people.


a cartoony avatar of Jessica Smith is a left-wing feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also very interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.