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The Anatomy of a Moment, By Javier Cercas


"No Spaniard who'd reached the age of reason has forgotten his or her whereabouts" on 23 February 1981. Even the insular British will hazily recall the startling event shown on the cover when gun-toting Lieutenant Colonel Tejero led an abortive coup d'etat in the Spanish congress aimed at preventing the return of democracy.

Cercas cites Borges in his patient unpicking of the event that opened "a shimmering labyrinth of... memories". His exploration of why just three Congress leaders did not dive for cover in the hail of bullets takes him back to the Civil War.

Though Cercas calls this book (translated by Anne McLean) "the humble testimony of a failure" - his first attempt was as a novel - it is a highly original triumph.