Many American readers may struggle with the dense narrative, but those who stick with it will become immersed in its...




An intricately fashioned blow-by-blow account of the 1981 coup d’etat in Spain.

Spanish novelist Cercas (The Speed of Light, 2006, etc.) originally wrote a novel about the attempted coup of Feb. 23, 1981, an event in which the pistol-waving Lt. Col. Antonio Tejero and his Francoist Guardia Civil burst into the Congress of Deputies on national television and hijacked the elected parliamentarians until the next day. Frustrated by the myriad conflicting takes on the coup—was its failure a triumph of the fledgling democracy just getting on its feet after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco, or did it spell a collapse of democracy since no one raised much of a voice in opposition?—the author turned his obsession of the golpe de estado into this deeply reflective investigative work. The book is so close to its subject that it requires some knowledge of recent Spanish political history. The day of the coup, the deputies were voting to approve a new prime minister, after the resignation of Adolfo Suárez, whose crisis-plagued five-year term had followed Franco’s death in 1975. Curiously, only Suárez remained in his seat (as the other deputies cowered under their chairs), while his deputy prime minister, Gen. Gutierrez Mellado, confronted the golpistas. Cercas sifts scrupulously through the “shimmering labyrinth” of evidence and offers some plausible motivation for the coup. The economy was in a tailspin, and the unrepentant Francoists had been itching for a change of course since Suárez took power. The Basque separatist movement, the ETA, had destabilized the army through terrorism, and several members of the Spanish intelligence service collaborated with the coup leaders. The king, however, quickly put the military officers in line, and the golpistas backed down without bloodshed. Cercas provides a creatively imagined account of an event that should be instructive to students of evolutionary democracy.

Many American readers may struggle with the dense narrative, but those who stick with it will become immersed in its near-hypnotic power.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60819-491-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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