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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last battle of the Spanish Civil War
Following his unconvincing meditation on American atrocities in the Vietnam war in "The speed of light" Javier Cercas returns to his own country's history for his latest work. "The anatomy of a moment" revisits the theme of the Spanish Civil War and its consequences that Cercas so brilliantly explored in "Soldiers of Salamis". However in his new book he eschews fiction,...
Published on 21 April 2011 by Aidan J. McQuade

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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Overlong tedious and a disappointment
I came to this book being a big big fan of his fiction. His three previous books are 2 5 star and 1 4 star publications for me. I am also a big reader of history.

This is a fascinating topic but the written style employ really starts to grate after a while and them becomes annoying by repeating a serious of if, buts and mnaybes in succession. Also it seems to...
Published on 12 Aug. 2011 by Mr. Geoffrey Noble


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last battle of the Spanish Civil War, 21 April 2011
By 
Aidan J. McQuade (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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Following his unconvincing meditation on American atrocities in the Vietnam war in "The speed of light" Javier Cercas returns to his own country's history for his latest work. "The anatomy of a moment" revisits the theme of the Spanish Civil War and its consequences that Cercas so brilliantly explored in "Soldiers of Salamis". However in his new book he eschews fiction, even the "post-modern" variety that he practices, which blurs the distinction between the real and the imaginary. Instead he employs a part philosophical, part journalistic meditation on the 1981 attempted coup to overthrow Spanish democracy.

"The anatomy of a moment" focuses on the three parliamentarians who refused to duck when the Civil Guard who invaded the Cortes opened fire. They were Gutteriez Mellado, a former Francoist general now deputy Prime Minister, Santiago Carillo, head of the Spanish Communist party, and Adolfo Suarez, the outgoing Prime Minister. Suarez is above all the hero of the book - in Cercas account a Francoist functionary and "provincial non-entity" who grew into the architect of democracy and a giant of Spanish history. The author returns again and again to the image of Suarez sitting alone on the prime minister's bench as the bullets fly around him, one of only three people prepared to risk their necks while those with more impecible democratic credentials cower behind their desks, as most of the rest of us would naturally and rationally have done in similar circumstances.

Parts of the book are difficult - the author talks to the reader as if they are already au fait with the history and politics of Spain. This leads, I thought, to a richer experience than books which spoonfeed the reader the historical background: in the end you feel you have earned the understanding you have achieved.

In places the book has the characteristics of a non-fiction thriller as the details of both the coup, led by senior elements in the army, and the countercoup, led by the King, are plotted. The book is also very moving, particularly regarding the travails of Suarez in later life, and a deeply affecting coda when the author reflects upon the life and politics of his own father.

The book is also deeply political, rejecting a current view prevalent in Spain that the rupture between Francoism and democracy was false and that Suarez ensured that those who had power under the dictatorship retained it under the constitutional monarchy. Cercas argues instead that the rupture was real and that Suarez was a "hero of the retreat" from dictatorship. That the author is prepared to set out such forthright opinions on this and other aspects of the coup add to the pleasure of the book: it is widely researched, deeply opinionated history, provocative, but not gratuitously controversialist. It demands the reader thinks while keeping them entertained.

A great book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Meditation on a Moment in History, 23 Jan. 2014
By 
Brian Hamilton (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Anatomy of a Moment (Paperback)
Despite my long-standing interest in Spain, I'd never understood what the Tejero coup was aiming to achieve, or what had led to it. This book does a fine job of explaining its historical background and personalities to a general readership. I should point out, though, that this is as much a literary as a historical work.

Stylistically, it's a meditation on one key moment.

When Lt.-Col Tejero and his goons burst into the Chamber of the Parliament and started shooting, three Deputies kept their seats while all the others (sensibly) hit the floor. One was Adolfo Suarez, the outgoing Prime Minister, who had led Spain from dictatorship to democracy despite his own Francoist history. Another was Santiago Carillo, the veteran Communist Party leader whose political evolution from Stalinist to Democrat mirrored that of Suarez. Finally, the civil war era General Mellado, who despite his advanced years, bravely confronted the intruders.

Suarez is the main focus of the book. Despite a humble provincial background, he had a meteoric rise to power during the Franco era. After the dictator's death, Suarez was seen by the old guard as a safe pair of hands in which to entrust the future of the regime. Instead, the man described by the author as a 'pure politician' began a brilliant series of political manoeuvres which quickly destroyed Franco's legacy. His charm was a key asset. He could be all things to all men. He gained the trust and friendship of the King, and even the old Communist Carillo described their first meeting as being like falling in love.

By the time of the coup, each of the three was a spent force, reviled by Francoists, Communists and the Army for their perceived betrayals. What then, lay behind their courage in the Parliament? Duty? Bravado? Fatalism?

I must admit that the book was hard going at times. The author's sentences can be excessively long and convoluted. I don't know if this is normal in Spanish writing, but I expect it to cause problems for English-language readers.

I nevertheless recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the forces that made, and nearly unmade, modern Spain.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A stimulating anatomy of Spain; an ultimately unsatisfying anatomy of an author, 6 Oct. 2013
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Javier Cercas' "Anatomy of a moment" uses, essentially, the same device as his "Soldiers of Salamis". It takes a momentary gesture during a historical incident to "muse", in depth, on the character and defining forces of contemporary Spain, and of being an author in contemporary Spain in particular. The hook, in this instance, is Adolfo Suarez - the outgoing Prime Minister - refusal to hide under his seat in response to the storming of Parliament by a military group during the attempted coup of February 23rd 1981.

The book will appeal to and engross those with a love of and interest in Spain. As a well-researched historic drama and commentary, it tells the reader an immense amount about the incident, its genesis, and something of its aftermath/consequences. The musings include a plausible set of hypotheses that fill in the gaps where historic records are absent, or where testimonies are contradictory.

It is more difficult to see the piece working as a novel in its own right, divorced from any desire to discover something about the essence of Spain. Sentence construction is too often tortuous and overcomplex. The major protagonists (even the coup leaders) are generally too sympathetically drawn. And some of the "plot" devices - the role of TV footage; the excursion into italian cinematic reference points; and the belated homage to Cercas' father - are rather contrived. The causes of Suarez's malaise and decline - probably the major determinant of the incubation of the coup - is left unresolved. And Cercas does not pursue the clear complicity and contribution of the newly elected Reagan administration in encouraging the insurgency.

Similarly, "Anatomy..." ultimately disappoints as an insight into how growing up in Spain's transition from francoism has shaped Cercas as an author. His ability to identify the multiple, sometimes contradictory, layers and meaning of and from a single incident is powerful. But his seeming inability to nail his colours to a "bigger picture" mast suggests (to this reader) an authorial voice that is still "work in progress"...
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read, 31 Jan. 2011
By 
D. P. Mankin (Ceredigion, Wales) - See all my reviews
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Javier Cercas is one of the very few post-modernist authors that I enjoy reading. His novels are superbly written but extremely enjoyable; in that sense he can be described as a literary page turner. As I also have a strong interest in history non-fiction I decided to take a punt on his account of Monday 23rd February 1981 when a group of right-wing soldiers 'stormed' the Spanish parliament. Cercas may not be a historian by trade but he has produced an immensely engrossing account of the events that unfolded that day.He succeeds (at least I think so) in getting inside the mind of the principal protagonist that day and it is this skill as a novelist that makes the book so fascinating. I suppose some people will regard this approach as 'faction' but quite frankly who cares when a writer is so good. I can't recommend this book more strongly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars unique insight into post-Franco Spain, 12 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: The Anatomy of a Moment (Paperback)
An excellent imaginative fiction/fact-based insight into the post-Franco era in pain.
Worthy of being on the book shelves of anyone interested I modern-day Spain
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 10 Jan. 2015
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Meticulously detailed account of the foiled coup d'état in Spain
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 23 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: The Anatomy of a Moment (Paperback)
Great product and service
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forensic examination of the 1981 attempted coup, 21 April 2013
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Part history, part imagined examination of the causes and consequences of the 1981 coup in which Francoist and lapsed Francoists attempted to derail Spain's fragile democracy and return the country back to an ill defined reactionary idyll.

This book examines the complex story of the coup with a compelling narrative that is made the more intriguing by the presence of so many fascinating and frightening characters.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snapshot of a historic moment, 19 Mar. 2012
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For anyone interested in Spain this account of the failed 1981 coup is essential reading. Brilliant and revealing. Like everything about today's Spain it it is beholden to the legacy of the Civil War. Cerca is a novelist turned investigative journalist with great success.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Husband is a fan of Cercas ..., 13 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: The Anatomy of a Moment (Paperback)
... And was very happy to receive this book. The translation is really excellent.

It arrived quickly, and is greatly appreciated.
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The Anatomy of a Moment
The Anatomy of a Moment by Javier Cercas (Paperback - 5 Jan. 2012)
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