Nominated by:

Openbare Bibliotheek Brugge, Belgium

Biblioteca Vila de Gràcia, Biblioteques de Barcelona, Spain

Universitätsbibliothek Bern, Switzerland

Publisher of nominated edition:

Bloomsbury UK & USA


Javier Cercas      

Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean

2016 Shortlist

Judges’ comments

A journalist is commissioned to write a book on a young and legendary criminal called El Zarco. Outlaws is the fictional transcription of the interviews with the witnesses of his live, the testimonies that show us three unforgettable characters: el Zarco, Tere and Ignacio Cañas. Paradoxically, in this novel dressed up of journalistic research, the questions that really matter are those that remain unanswered, echoing powerfully: Where is the border between loyalty and betrayal? Where is the line that separates truth from fiction? Outlaws exposes the passage from youth to adulthood as a process where all you can learn is how to make the right questions.

About the book

In the late 1970s, as Spain was adrift between the death of Franco and the rebirth of democracy, people were moving from the poor south to the cities of the north in search of a better life. But the work, when there was any, was poorly paid and the housing squalid. Out of this world of limited opportunities a generation of delinquents arose whose prospects were stifled and whose rebellion would be brief and violent…

One summer’s day in Gerona a bespectacled, sixteen-year-old Ignacio Cañas, known to his few friends as Gafitas, is working in an amusement arcade, when a charismatic teenager walks in with the most beautiful girl Cañas has ever seen. Zarco and Tere take over his pinball machine and his life. Thirty years on and now a successful criminal defence lawyer, Cañas has tried to put that long, hot summer of drugs, yearning and delinquency behind him. But when Tere appears in his office and asks him to represent El Zarco, who has been in prison all this time, what else can Cañas do but accept.

A powerful novel of love and hate, of loyalty and betrayal, of true integrity and the prison celebrity can become.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Javier Cercas is a lecturer in Spanish Literature at the University of Girona. He is the author of Outlaws, The Tenant and The Motive, The Anatomy of a Moment, Soldiers of Salamis and The Speed of Light.

Librarians’ Comments

An intriguing novel in which Cercas portrays the life of a criminal in a sensitive way. He plays with the boundaries between fiction and history to describe the experience of youth gangs in Spain after Franco’s death.

In unadorned prose, Cercas tells the story of an outlaw “El Vaquilla”. Blurred boundaries between history and fiction, strong characters and surprising revelations make this novel a fantastic read.

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