The Speed of Light

The Speed of Light

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An aspiring young writer from Spain begins work as a teaching assistant on a Midwestern campus and finds himself sharing an office with Rodney Falk, a taciturn Vietnam veteran of strange ways and few friends. But when Rodney suddenly disappears the narrator becomes obsessed with discovering the secrets of his past. Why do people fear Rodney? What traumatic event happened at My Khe during the war? And, when the narrator's life takes a terrible twist, is Rodney the only person in the world who can save him?show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 128 x 192 x 20mm | 199.58g
  • Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0747585911
  • 9780747585916
  • 574,221

Review quote

'Cercas's writing has echoes of Scott Fitzgerald in the intense, shining clarity of its emotion, and of Faulkner' Independent 'A deeply affecting novel. A reflection on war, friendship, success and failure ... Cercas's novel carries a powerful warning for the war-hungry modern world' Scotland on Sunday 'Presents his narrator's foibles in a lucid, supple prose, well-matched to the novel's darker elements' Financial Times 'Engrossing ... it has verve and flair' Time Outshow more

About Javier Cercas

Javier Cercas was born in 1962. He is a novelist, short-story writer and essayist, whose books include Soldiers of Salamis, which was a huge international success selling nearly 1 million copies worldwide, being translated into twenty languages and winning Cercas and Anne McLean the Independent Prize for Foreign Fiction. Anne McLean has translated Latin American and Spanish novels, short stories, memoirs and other writings by writers including Carmen Martin Gaite, Orlando Gonzalez Esteva, Julio Cortazar and Tomas Eloy Martinez. Her translation of Soldiers of Salamis also won her the 2004 Valle Inclan more

Review Text

A Spanish novelist writes a novel about a Spanish novelist telling an American Vietnam vet's story, which may be apocryphal."All novels are autobiographical," writes Cercas. Like his unnamed narrator, Cercas taught at the University of Illinois and published a successful novel about the Spanish Civil War (Soldiers of Salamis, 2004). Eighteen years ago, in Urbana, the narrator met Rodney Falk, a one-eyed, misanthropic survivor of two Vietnam tours. When Rodney disappears, his father gives the narrator three file boxes of Rodney's letters, implicitly asking the narrator to write Rodney's life. Back in Spain, the narrator does research, but can't write. Years later, when the narrator's Civil War book becomes popular, Rodney shows up in Spain with a warning about success the narrator doesn't heed, thus losing his wife and child and becoming as catatonic as Rodney used to be. Finally writing The Speed of Light (part autobiography and part biography of Rodney) saves the narrator's life. To reinforce the illusion of autobiography, Cercas uses a self-limiting nonfiction style - a pedestrian language that tells and analyzes rather than shows. But the guilt of Vietnam as a metaphor for the horror of succumbing to celebrity? Another non-American writer might get away with that, but Cercas doesn't.In this game with and against readers, the novelist has tied one artful hand behind his back. Trouble is, the hand in front mostly points at himself, whomever that might be. (Kirkus Reviews)show more