cover image The Anatomy of a Moment: Thirty-Five Minutes in History and Imagination

The Anatomy of a Moment: Thirty-Five Minutes in History and Imagination

Javier Cercas, trans. from the Spanish by Anne McLean, Bloomsbury, $18 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-60819-491-9

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.)