Terra Alta by Javier Cercas (Premio planeta 2019)

Great novels have the ability to change the world, or rather, the reader’s perception of the world. Literature is capable of transforming us, of awakening our interests and vocations. And also, of course, to heal us, to bring us back on track. This is precisely what happens to Melchor Marín, the protagonist of Terra Altathe novel by Javier Cercas published in 2019 and winner of the Planeta Prize.


Terra Alta (Editorial Planeta), Javier Cercas tells the story of Melchor Marín, a police officer with a dark past. The son of a prostitute, at an early age he begins to flirt with the world of drug trafficking and soon ends up in prison. There, he begins a path of redemption that begins with the reading of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s masterpiece. Melchor quickly identifies with one of the main characters, a fact that allows him to redirect his life by deciding to train as a policeman. A policeman in search of justice. The protagonist’s passion for literature is expressed repeatedly throughout the novel

Terra Alta, a detective story with literature as one of its protagonists

Terra Alta Javier Cercas

Nothing ever happens in Terra Alta, or so the protagonist is told when he is assigned to this post from Barcelona. Married to the town librarian and father of a little girl, Melchor seems to have found peace and happiness in this land where nothing ever happens and where he has been living for four years. A lover of literature, it is not for nothing that his daughter is called Cosette, like the daughter of Jean Valjean, the protagonist of his favourite novel, Les Miserables.

And it is true, in the Terra Alta described by Javier Cercas, nothing ever happens, until one day a terrible crime shakes the peaceful region. The owners of its largest company, Gráficas Adell, are found murdered after having been subjected to atrocious torture

Terra Alta: a reflection on the value of the law, justice and the legitimacy of revenge

is justice truly fair? What does killing a murderer make us? Heroes? Villains? Can vengeance be justified? These are some of the questions that the protagonist asks himself throughout the novel. Melchor Marín, obsessed with the character in his favourite novel, is often torn between the desire for revenge and the belief that the law is just, that justice works and that it must be responsible for resolving conflicts

In Terra Alta, Javier Cercas masterfully weaves a compelling novel about the epic of a man searching for his place in the world and about the power that literature can have on us. With an agile pace and a reading that engages from the first pages. With very well-defined characters and a plot that deals with topics that range from recent current affairs to events that will take us back to another era, one that we must never forget. Absolutely recommendable for lovers of detective novels with historical overtones, deep reflections and lovers of classic literature

About the author Javier Cercas

Javier Cercas was born in Cáceres in 1962. In addition to the Planeta Prize, he has received several prizes for essays and journalism, as well as various awards for his career as a whole. In addition to Terra Alta, he is the author of an extensive body of work that includes: El móvil, El inquilino, El vientre de la ballena, Soldados de Salamina, La velocidad de la luz, Anatomía de un instante, Las leyes de la frontera, El impostor, El monarca de las sombras, El castillo de barbazul, Independencia.

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