5 stars, with some reservations. 5 stars for the idea. 5 stars for the inclusion of Roberto Bolaño as a character (many thanks, Javier, many thanks indeed). 5 stars because I’m not one to challenge the opinions of Bolaño, Mario Vargas Llosa, or Susan Sontag (at least with regard to this novel). Some minor demeriting for what, at times, seem a relentless history of Spanish and French battles during WWII. 5 stars for Part Three, which bested my skepticism during Part One and Part Two (how does one empathize with a Falange founder and primary propagandist for Franco’s regime?). 5 stars for Miralles (who is Miralles? Read the book.)
The title summary is adequate, and I won’t belabor it other than to say that Bolaño is a significant character in Cercas’s “true tale.” And it is a result of reading Bolaño’s [b:Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003|9550623|Between Parentheses Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003|Roberto Bolaño|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41YogrOZDFL._SL75_.jpg|1332036] that I persevered through the first two parts of this novel to see how he handled the character of Bolaño. Expecting a minor character, someone mentioned only in passing, I was thrilled (really, shameless RB fan that I am) that Cercas recounts conversations with RB discussing heroism, fiction, and RB’s research for a title he was working on (which very well might have been the recently published in English, [b:The Third Reich|10792024|The Third Reich|Roberto Bolaño|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41XeSg4oPiL._SL75_.jpg|6857871]—and would call into question its “written in 1989” claim by the the publisher). However, RB assures readers (in Between Parentheses) that the Roberto Bolaño who appears in Soldiers of Salamis is fictional, in the same way the Javier Cercas who appears in the novel is not the Javier Cercas who authored the novel. Enough doubt is created on the truth/fiction continuum to render the characters as compelling as the authors.
Go for it!