A history focused dramatically around a single instant, famous in Spain for representing the beginning of democracy after Franco’s long dictatorship – ‘23 F’, the 23rd of February 1981 – when a military coup on the Spanish parliament was foiled by the resistance of certain brave individuals who remained standing when the generals opened fire. This act of courage is the centre-point for unpacking Spain’s turbulent 20th Century. Cercas is ordinarily a novelist, and lends to this already dramatic moment a novelistic insight into the characters involved. In the process he also debunks some national myths about that famous day.


Dan Eltringham