Cercas’ book on the 1981 coup reviewed

February 8, 2011

Anne Chisholm, in this Sunday’s Telegraph, and Michael Eaude, in the Independent, review Javier Cercas’ Anatomy of a Moment, a prize-winning fictionalized history of the failed February 1981 coup:

The Anatomy of a Moment is extensively researched, rigorous with the facts. It is not only history, though, for where the facts end Cercas enters people’s minds and speculates on their motives. … Cercas moves back and forth from historical background to the tense events of the long, cold night of 23 February, when the whole Parliament is held captive and the whole country crouches in suspense around their radios. Certain parts may make heavy going for English-language readers without direct knowledge, but Cercas is a masterly storyteller: the more analytical passages are rarely dull and the book is rich with vivid images, paradox and action.(Eaude)

Cercas first wrote the story as a novel; then he changed his mind. The more he discovered about the coup, the more he explored what he calls “a shimmering labyrinth of almost always irreconcilable memories” the more he came to feel that “for once, reality mattered more to me than fiction”. … Cercas is not only writing a scrupulous, truthful account of the failed coup, he is helping to bring the tormented story of the Spanish Civil War to its conclusion at last. His subtle intelligence, narrative gifts and intellectual honesty are outstanding. (Chisholm)

More here. Buy the book at Powell’s and support ALBA.