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The Anatomy of a Moment: Thirty-Five Minutes in History and Imaginationby Javier Cercas
Synopses & Reviews
In February 1981, Spain was still emerging from Franco's shadow, holding a democratic vote for the new prime minister. On the day of the vote in Parliament, while the session was being filmed by TV cameras, a band of right-wing soldiers burst in with automatic weapons, ordering everyone to get down. Only three men defied the order. For thirty-five minutes, as the cameras rolled, they stayed in their seats.
Critically adored novelist Javier Cercas originally set out to write a novel about this pivotal moment, but determined it had already gained an air of myth, or, through the annual broadcast of video clips, had at least acquired the fictional taint of reality television. Cercas turned to nonfiction, and his vivid descriptions of the archival footage frame a narrative that traverses the line between history and art, creating a daring new account of this watershed moment in modern Spanish history.
The Anatomy of a Moment caused a sensation upon its publication in Spain, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. The story will be new to many American readers, but the book stands resolutely on its own as a compelling literary inquest of national myth, personal memory, political spectacle, and reality itself.
"The details and larger historic significance of the February 23, 1981, failed military coup 'to protect' the Spanish monarchy against Spain's frail democracy continue to be elusive. This tour de force by Cercas brings all his novelist skills to bear as he probes an event not well-known to American readers. For those with a memory of the personages and events described, this book is definitive. Originally conceived as a novel to contain all the mythic dimensions of a fascist coup given additional life via the media (TV cameras captured the spectacle), this account's most striking aspect is the group portrait of the politicians and military personnel involved. Exiting prime minister Adolfo SuÃ¡rez, handed the reins by his king five years before, is portrayed by turns as a JFK wannabe, a centrist phony, a stooge, an errand boy. Three-dimensional portraits are also painted of other big players, including Gen. Manuel GutiÃ©rrez Mellado and the Communist Santiago Carrillo. Adding pained reflections on his father, a supporter of SuÃ¡rez, Cercas conveys the complex levels of cronyism and the collective paranoia of post-Franco Spain as well as a study of modern European political power during the winding down of the cold war. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
Javier Cercas is the author of Soldiers of Salamis, The Tenant and The Motive and The Speed of Light. He has taught at the University of Illinois and for many years was a lecturer in Spanish literature at the University of Gerona. He lives in Barcelona with his wife and son.
Anne McLean is the translator of works by Carmen Martín Gaite, Julio Cortázar, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón and Tomás Eloy Martínez. She has twice won the Independent Prize for Foreign Fiction: for Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas in 2004 (which also won her the Valle Inclán Award), and for The Armies by Evelio Rosero in 2009.
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