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The Anatomy of a Moment Paperback – 5 Jan 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (5 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408822105
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408822104
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 166,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A brilliant reconfiguring of a key event in contemporary European history. Audacious and wholly fascinating' (William Boyd)

'Persuasive, brilliant and absorbing' (Economist)

'Richly imagined, suspenseful and surprisingly poignant ... a reminder of how Spanish history might have taken a dramatically different turn that evening thirty years ago' (Financial Times)

'An almost Shakespearean account of soldiers, politicians, mixed motives and the lust for power' (Anne Chisholm, Sunday Telegraph)

Cercas is a master storyteller (Independent)

A mesmerising achievement (Literary Review)

Cercas forces us to abandon the fiction, the legend of the coup, and look at the pictures and story anew in all their complexity (Michael Eaude, Independent)

Always a nimble dancer on the edge of history and fiction, the Spanish writer returns with a closely researched but always dramatic account of the failed coup in 1981 that almost vanquished his country's fragile post-Franco democracy (Boyd Tonkin, Independent)

Book Description

Translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean

The new novel by the bestselling author of Soldiers of Salamis (1 million copies worldwide) has sold more than 160,000 copies in hardback in Spain since publication in 2009.

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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...
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Format: 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?
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