The Truth About the Savolta Case

Eduardo Mendoza

translated from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam
Harvill Press 1993 [1975]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2008
In 1917, the Savolta Company's armaments factory in Barcelona appears to be flourishing, but all is not well behind the scenes.

Legal clerk Javier Miranda, working for the shadowy lawyer Cortabanyes, is picked by Savolta director Lepprince as an unwitting go-between in organising violence against union leaders and workplace agitators. Then an investigative journalist he has befriended is killed, and soon afterwards assassinations of the Savolta company directors begin. And the police inspector who probes this too aggressively finds himself transferred first to Morocco and then to Guinea.

Miranda himself is uncritical and unwilling to rock the boat, but is drawn into personal involvement in the Savolta case and the shadowy underworld of Barcelona through a liaison with a gypsy dancer. Part of his story in The Truth About the Savolta Case is told through documents — depositions and transcripts from a later legal case, letters, newspaper reports — and part of it in the first person, while other perspectives are presented by an omniscient narrator. The mosaic structure extends to variation in tone and manner and the use of elements from the mystery and romance genres.

The result is both a compelling story and a vivid portrait of Barcelona at the end of the First World War, fractured by stark class divides and shaken by social unrest. The Truth About the Savolta Case was published in 1975 as La verdad sobre el caso Savolta and reflects something of the turbulence of Spain's transition to democracy, but subtly so.

October 2008

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%T The Truth About the Savolta Case
%A Mendoza, Eduardo
%M Spanish
%F MacAdam, Alfred
%I Harvill Press
%D 1993 [1975]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0002713284
%P 339pp