The anatomy of a moment by Javier Cercas

Source – library

Javier Cercas is probably the best writer in Spain at the moment he has had a number of great novels translated to english his most well-known been soldiers of Salamis a former IFFP prize winner for him and the translator Anne Maclean ,he lived in america teaching spanish literature in 80’s and 90’s and now teaches in Girona at the university .

I choose the video as that is what the book is about ,the 23 February 1981 ,Antonio Terjero burst into the spanish parliament building (Cortes).Firing shots in the air with his fellow coup members .all but three deputies fell to the ground three men bravely stood and faced him off .Javier has taken this event the last coup in  mainland western europe and written well not sure to call it a docu novel or a narrative non fiction ,but whatever this book is so well researched and absorbing I for one didn’t know a lot about 23F (as the spanish now call it ) ,I remember the world cup the year after but can’t remember this being mentioned during that .So I was gripped find out about the characters in the coup how post Franco things had been smoothed over but underneath a plot was simmering amongst the old hardliners ,about the three brave men the stood General Mellado ,he was a former Francoist ,but had taken part in post Franco reforms ,the out going president Adolfo Suarez he was an interim man after his resignation the job passing to a more left leaning leader and this Cortes was here for a handover of power .Santiago Carnilla the communist leader who sat and calmly light a cigarette a man who had lived in exile in Francos time .

with the exception of the 23 february coup – of which it was actually a basic ingredient – no event in recent spanish history had unleashed as much speculation as Adolfo Suarez resignation ;however , of all the enigmas of 23 February this maybe the least enigmatic might be Adolfo suarez\ resignation .although its impossible to exhaust the reasons that triggered it ,

Suarez resignation on the 25th january had help the coup in a way .

This book is gripping and eye-opening ,as someone with a vague knowledge of spanish politics and the fact that it had struggled post franco until PSOE goverment  and how Spain had coped post Franco in its change to democracy ,we are told about Suarez who won in 1979 and started the ball of reforms rolling ,but like everything change is a hard pill for some people to swallow and thus two years later the storming of the Cortes and over events unfold around spain .The Kings role in this event is shown to be vital who will he support ? I remember being Amazed at PSOE (spanish socialists )celebrations when in spain as a kid during the elections cars and trucks with people shouting hooting horns and airhorns ,but now as it was only a few years after this that clear joy of people became clear in my mind .Cercas has help open a crucial event in Spain history to the everyman like myself ,the book reads like a novel but a glance at the bibliography and notes show the research he put into this book .Anne Maclean is outstanding in her translation as ever she is .



13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. parrish
    May 06, 2011 @ 18:18:42

    My answer is a rather short, no. The term you could be looking for is Faction, Truman Capote coined it for his book “In cold blood” and refers to fact written as fiction.


  2. Gavin
    May 07, 2011 @ 01:29:41

    I have not read Cercas but am adding him to my must read list. Thanks for the introduction, Stu.


  3. Rise
    May 07, 2011 @ 16:23:27

    Stu, I was not aware of this coup in history but even so this book is highly wishlisted by me. I like the novel-like quality that you describe. I enjoyed his ‘Soldiers of Salamis’ and ‘The Speed of Light’.


  4. Richard
    May 21, 2011 @ 20:01:44

    Stu, I finally found an affordable Spanish copy of this Cercas book and look forward to reading it soon. Your review only makes me more enthusiastic to get started. Cercas’ Soldiers of Salamis was pretty awesome, and it also walks the fiction/nonfiction line (though it’s a novel) with characters named…Javier Cercas and Roberto Bolaño. Great stuff!


  5. sandradan1
    Feb 18, 2014 @ 19:20:55

    Cercas taught my Spanish tutor at university. Soldiers of Salamis, one of the great war novels. SD


  6. Trackback: Outlaws by Javier Cercas | Winstonsdad's Blog
  7. Trackback: Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas | Winstonsdad's Blog
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May 2011


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