Outlaws by Javier Cercas
Original title – Las leyes de la frontera
Translator – Anne McLean
Source – Library book
One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca source
Now I had thought of rereading Soldiers Salamis for this Spanish lit month then by chance I caught Javier Cercas interviewed on the radio four book show about Outlaws and before the interview had finished I had already clicked the order button on my library ordering system .I have featured Javier Cercas before his last book out in the UK was The anatomy of a moment a non fiction narrative about the attempted coup in the mid 1980’s in Spain .Javier Cercas is of course an award-winning spanish writer ,he and some fellow writers have spent years writing books focusing on the historical memory of Spain’s past between the civil war and Franco’s death .
“That was where I saw Zarco for the first time .The Vilaro arcade was on Bonastruc de porta street ,still in La Devesa neighbourhood ,across from the railway overpass .It was one of those amusement arcades for teenagers that proliferated in the seventies and eighties.
Ignacio first sees him at the arcade on the edge of their part of town .
Now this book is again about the time of Franco just after he has died the vacuum that Spain had ,but for once he isn’t the important figure in the book, but no this is a story of growing up in the 1970’s in a large Spanish town Gerona and a triangle of friends one Ignacio is from one side of town or as Cercas put it in the interview one side of the river he is a quiet timid one could say a perfect vision of a bookish boy .When one day he is playing pinball and his life is changed forever when two kids from the other side of town (the rough side ) ,start playing pinball with him these two Zanco and Tere ,take Ignacio into their circle and show him the other side of town for just one summer in 1978 .Now this is the first part of the tale the story is strong with what Cercas called his own childhood memories of where he grew up ,although Ignacio isn’t autobiographical he said in part he was Ignacio at that age .The second line of the story finds the three characters in the mid 90’s on different sides of the fence again Zarco has gone on to be a huge gangster who after Igancio went away has spent time in prison and has now via their other friend Tere reached out to their old friend to help Zarco who is now a folk-lore gangster .But in doing so each must reflect on their own past .Add to that Tere is a girl you can see what can happen .
“Then Tere got to the point .She told me they wanted me to defend Zarco at a trial to be held in Barcelona in a few months time ,a trail in which Zarco would be accused of assaulting two guards at Brains prison .Of course ,Tere took it for granted that I knew ,as everyone did ,who Zarco had turned into over the years
Tere find Ignacio to help their old friend
Now it’s fair to say I liked this book ,no in fact I loved this book and was so glad I caught the interview ,I know so people don’t like to know to much about a book before they read it but the interview with Cercas sold it more so to me I would have picked it up from the library at some point to read but the writer sold it to me .The book is one of those soaked in the writers own past ,but also a dreamed past of what would have happened if he had ventured more into his own childhood town dark side .But it is also a story of the bond of friendship those ties that bind and as in this case can cross class ,moral and personnel beliefs .Zarco is a character that many places have the heroic or infamous gangster a sort of superstar of the underworld . Ignacio is the boy done good and Tere is the sort of go between .In fact the spanish title laws of the border maybe tells you more about this book that is what it is a bout crossing borders in one’s life .
Have you read Cercas ?