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The Speed of Light by Javier Cercas

The Speed of Light (2005)

by Javier Cercas

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Showing 4 of 4
This brilliant novel concerns a budding young writer who decides to leave Barcelona and travel to a university town in the US Midwest to take up a teaching position. He is befriended by an older man in the same department at the university, who is deeply scarred by his experiences in Vietnam. The two men maintain a strange and distant friendship, and as the narrator becomes a best selling novelist after his return to Spain his life begins to unravel. Once he has reached rock bottom he seeks to meet his old friend again, to help him on the road to recovery, and in doing so he finds out more about what happened to his friend during the war, and the similarities the two men shared in their disparate lives.

"The Speed of Light" is another fabulous work by one of my favorite living authors, and I eagerly await the translation of his latest two latest novels into English. ( )
1 vote kidzdoc | Mar 27, 2017 |
I picked this book up at random, without knowing anything about the author or the background to the book. I'd say I really enjoyed the first half, as I had the pleasant expectation that some twist in the plot was coming, but since it never really did, I felt a bit let down by the end of the book.

Having said that, I've since found out that the Vietnam episodes in the book really did occur, so I can see that the book has another meaning. I'd recommend it despite what I thought was a disappointing plot, and I'd definitely read Soldiers of Salamis by the same author if I found it. ( )
  zbrntt | May 23, 2009 |
A writer in residence at a university in the US meets a mysterious man. The book is about his quest to understand the friendship with the man, a Vietnam veteran. Write attains international fame and starts a family but there is tragedy, both personal, and for his friend.

Friend is involved in the MyKhe incident in Vietnam -

Well written novel I had to finish - the tragedy and collapse of his world was unexpected - very well done. ( )
  readwithme | Jun 15, 2008 |
Recently shortlisted for this year's Irish Impac Award--'The speed of light' like Cercas's previously translated novel 'Soldiers of Salamis' is a book that crosses back and forth between fiction and non-fiction. A young Spanish writer is given the opportunity to come to the United States to teach Spanish at a small mid-western (Illinois) university. While there he becomes friends with a local Vietnam veteran who also works there but is for the most part shunned by the rest of the faculty. His name is Rodney Falk--and he is large, morose, opinonated and seemingly at times aggressive. The Spanish writer hopes to one day publish a novel and Rodney has strong ideas about literature. Rodney sometimes retreats--sometimes seems to be in another world. One day he disappears and the young writer concerned goes to his house and Rodney's father chases him off but later the father invites him back and gives him not only all the correspondence that Rodney, but also Rodney's brother (who had been killed in the war) had sent him while they were in Vietnam.

From here the story shoots forward in time. The Spaniard is now a very successful novelist. Fame has gone to his head and he's unthinkingly destroying his marriage. One day Rodney reappears in his life--meets him in Madrid. Things seemed to have changed in his life too. He seems much happier, more relaxed. He has married and has a child. The writer grills him a bit about the letters--bringing back darker memories and Rodney is reluctant to tell him too much. After that Rodney returns to the United States and the writer's life heads into disaster. His life bottoms out.. He gets an opportunity to return to the United States and he agrees as long as the tour involves a return to the University where our story started out. While there he plans on visiting Rodney. His thinking is that 'Rodney has turned his life around. Rodney can help me'.

Since parting with him in Madrid though-- the Vietnam war has returned to Rodney with a vengeance. As a member of the 101st paratroop division--after the death of his brother he had volunteered for a special unit called Tiger Force. The unit received many commedations but committed numerous atrocities and it is these atrocities that have continued to haunt Rodney for most of his adult life and have come back in full force because of an investigative reporter. From here the book moves towards it's bleak conclusion.

Cercas is adept at this kind of non-fiction/fictionalized writing. It's a not a big step from his excellent Soldiers of Salamis. The book is a page turner. It's easy to fall into the confessional type of tone the writer uses when speaking of his own life--juxtaposed against the confusion and general unhappiness of the young soldier looked back from the perspective of the same man many years later with anger and pity. I liked the book very much and would recommend it. ( )
1 vote lriley | Apr 9, 2008 |
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"A young Spanish writer - the novel's protagonist and perhaps an apocryphal version of Javier Cercas himself - accepts a post as a writer-in-residence at a Midwestern American university, where he meets a mysterious man named Rodney Falk. It will be years before he understands that his burgeoning friendship with this man, a surly, intractable Vietnam veteran, will reshape his life. As the years go by, the writer attains international fame, returns to Spain, and starts a family - and just as quickly his world begins to collapse. Suddenly lost, he becomes obsessed with Rodney's mysterious past and his involvement in the "My Khe" incident in Vietnam. Impossibly, he finds that Rodney's fate and his own are linked, and the story moves back and forth between past and present, the United States and Spain, before spiraling toward its surreal conclusion."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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