Filek. El estafador que engañó a Franco

Filek. The swindler who tricked Franco | Seix Barral, 2018

The real story of thge swindler who deceived Franco with a formula capable of turning water into fuel.

The famine-ravaged Spain of 1939 was on the verge of becoming the world’s petroleum powerhouse. An Austrian chemist named Albert von Filek, inventor of
a synthetic fuel combining vegetable extracts with water from the Jarama River, had placed his secret formula at the service of Spain’s future glory, having turned down eye-watering bids from major companies. Protected and worshipped by the Franco regime, Filek basked in the admiration of the country’s top echelons, until a simple chemical analysis called his bluff and he was put behind bars.

Witness to some of 20th century Europe’s most turbulent episodes, Filek is the star of a perfectly documented true story, with generous helpings of comedy and suspense, and a magnificent portrait of Spain in the thirties and forties.

Filek turned up in Madrid in 1931. While already trailing a lengthy criminal record behind him, he still amounted to little more than a small-time crook. Ignacio Martínezde Pisón’s novel tracks him down through the records and newspaper archives of half a dozen countries, before focusing on his time in Spain, when a twist of fate briefly turned this old-school swindler, a born survivor blessed with prodigious powers of persuasion, though short on scruples, into a major player.

Beginning in late 19th century imperial Austria, his exploits will come to an end when he is handed over as an alleged Nazi to the Allied powers in Germany at the end of the Second World War.