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In February 1981, just as Spain was finally leaving Francos' dictatorship and during the first democratic vote in parliament for a new prime minister - Colonel Tejero and a band of right-wing soldiers burst into the Spanish parliament and began firing shots. Only three members of Congress defied the incursion and did not dive for cover,: Adolfo Suarez the then outgoing prime minister, who had steered the country away from the Franco era, Guttierez Mellado, a conservative general who had loyally served democracy, and Santiago Carillo, the head of the Communist Party, which had just been legalised. In The Anatomy of a Moment, Cercas examines a key moment in Spanish history, just as he did so successfully in his Spanish Civil War novel, Soldiers of Salamis. This is the only coup ever to have been caught on film as it was happening, which, as Cercas says, 'guaranteed both its reality and its unreality'. Every February a few seconds of the video are shown again and Spaniards congratulate themselves for standing up for democracy, but Cercas says that things were very quiet that afternoon and evening while all over Spain people stayed inside waiting for the coup to be defeated .... or to triumph. `Cercas writes brilliantly, in simple, direct language and beautifully, uncontrivedly modulated sentences. His prose is a pleasure - easy without dumbing down' Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
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Javier Cercas is the author of Soldiers of Salamis, The Tenant & 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 Martin Gaite, Julio Cortazar, Ignacio Martinez de Pison and Tomas Eloy Martinez. 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 Inclan Award), and for The Armies by Evelio Rosero in 2009.From Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. 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 Suárez, 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 Gutiérrez Mellado and the Communist Santiago Carrillo. Adding pained reflections on his father, a supporter of Suárez, 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.)
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