The novelist tells how he dredged up the ghost of his own great uncle, a fascist ‘martyr’, to throw light on Spain’s struggles today

Leaning across a cafe table in his Barcelona barrio, Javier Cercas delivers a tirade against the “national populist” perversions of history that he blames for the return of Spain’s far right, Brexit, Donald Trump and Catalan separatism. “This national populism is a postmodern mask for what fascism in particular and the totalitarianisms of the 1930s were about,” warns the novelist, who returns to that decade and the trauma of the Spanish civil war in his latest novel, Lord of All the Dead.

He makes no apology for bundling together separatists, some of whose leaders are being tried in Madrid on sedition charges, with the return of Spain’s historically “terrifying” far right for the first time since General Franco’s 40-year dictatorship ended in 1975. In fact, he blames the appearance of the Vox party directly on separatists who tried to push his fellow Catalans into independence two years ago.

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