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Anatomía de un instante

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,642 ratings  ·  202 reviews
Un relato vibrante, tenso y pormenorizado que empieza leyéndose como una novela policíaca y acaba leyéndose como una novela de terror.

«Este libro es un ensayo en forma de crónica o una crónica en forma de ensayo. Este libro no es una ficción. Este libro es la anatomía de un instante: el instante en que Adolfo Suárez permaneció sentado en la tarde del 23 de febrero de 1981,
Paperback, 463 pages
Published March 3rd 2015 by Literatura Random House (first published 2009)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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Nancy Oakes
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Jorge Luis Borges once wrote that "every destiny, however long and complicated, essentially boils down to a single moment -- the moment a man knows, once and for all, who he is." Thirty years ago in February of 1981, that moment came for three people who refused to comply with the demands of Lt. Col. Antonio Tejero and other members of the military, who came into a session of the Spanish parliament waving a gun and ordered everyone down to the floor. It was, it seems, the beginning of a coup. F ...more
Only two of the books I read this year made it to my favorites list, and this was one of them.

Anatomy of a Moment is difficult to get into, but well worth the diligence to persist. The reader is gripped by Cercas’s rythmic delving into the players on both sides of the 1983 failed coup attempt in Spain that started with the rebels' incursion of the Cortes, the Spanish legislature. It is a gradual pealing away of first the surface version, the iconic televised pictures of Adolfo Suarez, General M
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: español, spanish-lit
"Was Borges right and it is true whatever one's destiny, however long and complicated it may be, reality is constant in only an instant, the instant that a man knows forever who he is?"

Javier Cercas asks us this question far into his epilogue about the coup d'etat that happened on February 23, 1981 in Spain. For 16 1/2 hours, President Adolfo Suárez and his government was taken by a group of military men hoping to return Spain back to its days of Franco with the backing of the king. The king ref
Lilly Roth
May 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An interesting approach to non-fiction. Javier Cercas X rays a moment in Spanish history as if it were suspended in time. He digs into each and every character, their past and present, excavating into their souls and minds to understand what drove their actions.
An fabulous page-turner!
Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, history, 2011
Cercas is a novelist who found his literary attempts to arrive at the truth of Spain's February 23, 1981 coup d'etat no match for the mysterious reality of the event itself. Instead, he assumed the role of the historian, conducted interviews of the coup's central and peripheral figures and read everything he could on the subject. Cercas also watched endlessly the 35 minute video recorded inside of the Cortes where, as guns blazed and rightwing golpistas charged about, outgoing Prime Minister Ado ...more
Andy Chirls
May 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some history is written as the product of the sweep of events and great forces, and other history is written as influenced by individuals. This book focusses on the individuals, and it does so beautifully. The writer works hard to convey the complexity of how the key individuals involved acted from moment to moment, and to convey the difficulty of understanding some of their motivations. As literature, it is beautifully written, with long, contemplative sentences that convey the complexity and b ...more
Although I have a few more pages to go, I am enjoying this book so much that I wanted to provide an early review. I was lucky enough to win this via the Goodreads FirstReads, so thanks for the opportunity to read this one early!! I lived in Spain a few years ago and studied Spanish history, including the 23 Feb attempted coup. The more I read, the more I'm remembering...and learning. I love the way the author has dissected the 35 minutes of the video and looked at the coup from so many different ...more
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Cercas manages to crank out nearly 400 pages on the 1981 coup attempt in Spain. At the center of the story is Adolfo Suárez, described by Cercas as the accidental hero of this incident and the successful transition of democracy in Spain. While I am not certain how the author made his decision to organize the content of the book (which seemed a bit disjointed), the frequent repetition of certain themes and phrases cast an almost musical aura over this work of non-fiction. Cercas leaves no stone u ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A detailed analysis of a single gesture in Spanish Parliament during coup d'état attempt gathers in a single moment Spain's 20th century history. Some parts seemed slower, but it was worth the effort in the end.

Main reason I was attracted to this book was the fact that I knew so little about 23rd February and it's main players, so this was a worthy history lesson. The juxtaposition of physically same gesture between three important, but different political figures and detailed analysis of their
Duarte Valente
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book on the attempted coup d’État of 1981 in Spain. The research seems thorough and, while the length is long, the book is interesting and easy to read. Would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about this period, the Spanish transition to democracy and the key characters that played a defining role in it.
Nov 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So P. suggested that N.’s suggestion of Javier Cercas’ Anatomy of a Moment might have been an instance of 10-10-12 sabotage. Here I am, seven books from the end, and N. suggests at 450 page (dense) history of the 1981 failed Spanish coup. And I, ever the sucker for recommendations from those I trust, took the bait. Almost two weeks later I’ve finished the thing, so glad I read it, so glad for the recommendation, but not entirely without suspicion. Were these two weeks meant to be gobbled up in o ...more
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strangely addictive read, in spite of the incredible page-long sentences: I don't know whether the author or translator were to blame but the results sometimes push English grammar to breaking point.

I knew nothing about this episode. I knew Spain's democracy had been fragile but I had not realised how fragile how recently. There's a lot to think about in here about the responsibilities of politicians: where loose language might lead and what compromise can achieve. I'd like to remember: the hu
Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This non-fiction novel by Spanish author Javier Cercas explores in detail the half an hour of video footage of the 23 February 1981 coup d'etat in post-Franco Spain. When an armed faction of the military entered the Cortes and took the entire parliament hostage, three men refused to get down on the ground even while soldiers threatened them and bullets flew through the air. Cercas was so entranced by this video and the gestures of Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez (one of the men who refused to get d ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazingly detailed insight of the failed 1981 coup in Spain. The starting point is three characters who, unlike their political contemporaries, didn’t duck and cover when Lieutenant Colonel Tejero’s golpistas started firing off machine guns in parliament. Cercas explores the background and motivations of General Manuel Gutiérrez Mellado, Santiago Carrillo (the leader of the communist party) and outgoing Prime Minister Adolfo Suárez.

Many pages are dedicated to Suárez. Like so many I’d always t
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't call it a great book, as the subject matter is fairly modest - a failed coup in a country that should have moved beyond such things decades earlier - and it does get bogged down in detail now and again, but it's hard to imagine a better book on the subject. The three primary figures (Suarez, Mellado, Carillo) could so easily be dismissed as opportunists or worse, and Cercas brings them to life without making a hero out of any of them, and he presents the primary villains (Milans, Armada, ...more
Michael Castro
Oct 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Anatomy of a Moment recounts a pivotal moment in history, just as Spain was on the verge of leaving Franco's dictatorship and embarking on a new era of democracy. Cercas moves back and forth from historical background to the tense events of the long, cold night of 23 February 1981 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 of the events.

It i
David S
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating non-fiction that reads like a spy novel. I read this because I love the city Barcelona, and was a bit distressed about the recent conflict over Catalonian separatism. I wanted to get a better understanding of Spain's history. It took me a while to get into it, but by half way I was hooked. I initially found the writing a bit difficult; in one sentence I counted five commas, one semicolon and a parenthetical clause. But once I got in tune with the author's style, I loved the book.
Estep Nagy
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intensely impressive. I love Cercas' process for getting to this book, which is that he wrote a draft of a novel about the February 1981 Spanish coup attempt but then came to think that reality (and its discontent, the imagination) was more potent. It is also a part of history that is grossly under-studied in the US. And Cercas, as one of Spain's great novelists, is compellingly sensitive to the subtlteties and murmurings of both people and events. Not only have I learned a great deal about hist ...more
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That it takes nearly 400 pages (in English translation) to explore the political context of 35 minutes of videotape should give a sense of the neurotic obsession to detail, the fear of a single missed nuance, that drives this work blending history and fiction. Much of the detail was lost on me since I knew nothing about Spanish politics going into this book. I do, however, appreciate and intimately understand the effort that goes into this kind of project.
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is based on the story of an attempted Francoist coup in Spain in 1981. The author uses it as a jumping-off point for his own ruminations on the main players, such as the Spanish Prime Minister and the head of the military. I learned a lot about the period from reading the book, but I thought it would have been better with a more straight-forward narrative.
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A glimpse into the people and events which made modern Spain. Personally for me the book as a whole was quite interesting (though certain sections were a bit tedious to read) and provided quite a lot of information on the politics and circumstances that shaped Spain post-Franco. If you are curious about Spain or the 1981 coup d'état then read this book.
Klaas Jan
Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Offers great analyses, it's literally an anatomy of a moment, where every detail, every person of the coup is thoroughly analyzed. It gave me a deeper understanding of what happened that day in the broader context of the Spanish transition period after Franco's death in 1975.
Paul Mena
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a heavy, but ultimately worthwhile read, going well beyond the headlines of the 23 February 1981 coup attempt and examining the individual players and their motivation.
Jonathan Phelps
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting to read about Cercas’ perspective on the failed coup in Spain. Although I’ve studied Spanish history and lived in Spain, the transition after Franco’s death is rarely talked about. Cercas does a good job of breaking down the key players/events and interweaves some opinion along the way.
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
February 23rd, 1981. The Congress of Deputies, Spain's lower house of the legislative branch of government, is in the process of electing Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo as President of the Spanish government and Prime Minister of the country, replacing the controversial and almost universally reviled Adolfo Suárez, the first Prime Minister elected after the end of Franco's dictatorship. Calvo Sotelo needs a simple majority, which is all but guaranteed after he failed to win an absolute majority in an ele ...more
William Maya
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book about one of the most important events in the modern history of Spain that no one has heard of. However, there are two warnings that must be stated first: as this book was written for a Spanish audience it assumes the reader is knowledgeable about the political history of Spain for the last 75 years; the author also has a very distinct style of writing. He favors very long, convoluted sentences with numerous repetitions of ideas.

This book is about an attempted coup d
Dave H
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
High praise.

Why bother with a book about the 1981 Spanish coup d'état? Before reading Javier Cercas everything I knew about modern Spain I learned from Chevy Chase and Garrett Morris: “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead!” Only a little bit is the book about Spain and a little bit is it about the push for democracy. More than a little bit is it about a coup d'état and being about one coup d'état it may be about all of them. Certainly having read the book I feel a better acquainted with
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spain, favorites
Well, I was 8 then, too small to know what was going on.
23 February 1981. Spain.
I do remember some things though: a few days before the coup my next door neighbour and best friend commenting how glad his dad would be that the president Mr Suarez had resigned, after seeing the tv news; and then, on the fateful day, 23 February, while I was doing the day's homework at the table in our room, while the dusk gathered in outside and the village went dark, I was somewhat distracted by the noises coming
Jan 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absent a major interest in Spain, how could a bloodless, failed coup in a then hermitic country that took place more than thirty years ago hold our attention?

We tend to vote for and hold politicians in esteem who we believe have noble qualities that are stable whatever the circumstances. These qualities combine with immutable political beliefs that garner -- or repel -- or vote.

However, the reality of how politics, particularly political change, takes place is quite different. Would anyone, fo
Jan 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
In the early eighties, just when Spain was consolidating itself as a democracy, in fact during the first fully democratic vote in congress for a new prime minister, a right wing military command led by Colonel Tejero entered Congress and began firing shots. All of the members of Congress present dove under their seats. Only three members of Congress remained sitting, defying the military command. They were: Adolfo Suarez the then outgoing PM who had steered the country away from Franco's spiritu ...more
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Javier Cercas Mena (Ibahernando, provincia de Caceres, 1962) es un escritor y traductor español.

Hijo de un veterinario rural, cuando contaba cuatro años, en 1966 su familia se trasladó a Tarragona, y allí estudió con los jesuitas. Es primo carnal del político Alejandro Cercas. A los quince años la lectura de Jorge Luis Borges le inclinó para siempre a la escritura. En 1985 se licenció en Filología

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