When a lifetime of lies unravels

Marco professed to be an active resistance player in the Spanish Civil War when he wasn’t a resister of any sort. His deceptions were believed by millions worldwide.

By ELAINE MARGOLIN
September 6, 2018 22:42
ENRIC MARCO receives the Creu de Sant Jordi Award in 2001, four years before his web of lies began t

ENRIC MARCO receives the Creu de Sant Jordi Award in 2001, four years before his web of lies began to unravel.. (photo credit: THE GOVERNMENT OF CATALONIA)

 
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Novelist Javier Cercas’s latest work takes a look at the real life of Enric Marco, a man who lied for decades about being a Holocaust survivor • ELAINE MARGOLIN Novelist Javier Cercas carries the burden of Spain’s tortured history heavily upon his shoulders. Born in 1962, he grew up the son of a strictly Catholic Francoist father with whom he quarreled incessantly. He was 13 when Franco died, and his most famous novel, Soldiers of Salamis, blends autobiography and fiction while ingeniously probing the fragility of historical memory. Cercas repeatedly examines the complex web of lies we tell ourselves and tries to explore the reasons we do so. He is impressed by those who are able to reinvent themselves into something extraordinary simply by the force of their own imagination.

Such a man was Enric Marco, the subject of Cercas’s latest brilliant work, The Impostor: A True Story, translated into English by Frank Wynne. Marco claimed to have spent time in the Flossenburg concentration camp despite having never been there. Marco professed to be an active resistance player in the Spanish Civil War when he wasn’t a resister of any sort. His deceptions were believed by millions worldwide. He was a brilliant liar who instinctively understood how to combine his falsehoods with snippets of truth and was a mesmerizing public speaker.

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