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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Motive

Javier Cercas

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To purchase The Tenant and The Motive

Title: The Motive
Author: Javier Cercas
Genre: Novel
Written: 1987 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 66 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: in The Tenant and The Motive - US
El móvil - US
in The Tenant and The Motive - UK
in The Tenant and The Motive - Canada
in The Tenant and The Motive - India
El móvil - España
  • Spanish title: El móvil
  • Translated by Anne McLean
  • Published together with The Tenant

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Our Assessment:

B : nicely twisted little story

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 25/6/2005
The Observer . 4/6/2005 Amanda Hopkinson

  From the Reviews:
  • "The Motive, with its Kafkaesque theme of life imitating art taken to the extreme, where a failing novelist attempts to orchestrate a real world to anticipate the fictitious one he is struggling to create, is an altogether darker tale, although the profound irony of each erupts into moments of hilarity." - Amanda Hopkinson, The Observer

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Javier Cercas' debut, The Motive, is a story about trying to become a writer, and the ideals of what literature can and should be. Its protagonist is Álvaro, a man who has: "made his life subordinate to literature". He dedicates himself, and everything, to his art (and his conception of literature).
       Before he begins his own writing, he knows that he needs to read a lot -- "to create a solid genealogy" -- and he immerses himself in books. He then carefully considers what he wants his own work to be; tempted first to write an epic poem he ultimately settles on the novel form. He has some concerns -- "could one still write novels ?" -- but believes the form still allows for the sort of artistic creation that he has in mind. His model: not more modern masters but rather Flaubert.
       Álvaro has some grand ideas for his novel, but it takes him a while to settle on his plot. Still, he reminds himself:

Any theme is good for literature; what matters is the manner of expressing it. The theme is just an excuse.
       Yet he can't resist making one of the novel's four main characters: "an ambitious writer who is writing an ambitious novel". And he's soon tempted to see -- and treat -- some of his neighbors as stand-ins for his other characters. He immerses himself in their lives, both spying on them and interacting with them -- and nudges them along, to elicit reactions he is hoping for. He wants his novel to be true-to-life and, both intentionally and inadvertently, blurs the lines between fact and fiction. Needless to say, his art consumes him.
       Given that the novel leads to murder ... well, we can see where this is headed. Of course it's entirely predictable, but Cercas' obsessive protagonist and his single-minded pursuit are nicely rendered, making it a pleasure to follow Álvaro in his dedication to work (and where we know that will lead).
       This is very much the work of a new writer, already trying to cram in everything he knows about writing, and his love of literature, into a clever story, but Cercas has the talent to pull it off. Sure, it's far from the most original idea, and it's yet another novel about writing a novel (featuring a writer who is writing a novel featuring a writer who is writing a novel ...), but it's nicely done (some fine writing here) and perfectly good entertainment.

- M.A.Orthofer, 19 February 2016

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The Motive: Reviews: Other books by Javier Cercas under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Javier Cercas was born in 1962.

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© 2016 the complete review

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