An anatomy of writing and politics, memory and democracy

27 February 2012

In his latest novel, Spanish contemporary writer Javier Cercas delves into a key moment in Spain's recent past
In his latest novel, Spanish contemporary writer Javier Cercas delves into a key moment in Spain's recent past

Javier Cercas, Spain's most celebrated contemporary writer, will deliver a Sydney Ideas lecture in the University's Great Hall this Wednesday 29 February.

Cercas, born in Ibahernando in central Spain in 1962, was fascinated from a young age by the works of Jorge Luis Borges and determined to become a writer. He studied Spanish literature at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and his haunting Spanish Civil War novel Soldiers of Salamis became a great success.

In  his most recent novel The Anatomy of a Moment, Cercas examines another key moment in Spanish history - an attempted coup in February 1981, just as Spain was finally leaving Franco's dictatorship and during the first democratic vote in parliament for a new prime minister.

The coup was led by Colonel Tejero and a band of right-wing soldiers who burst into the Spanish parliament and fired shots. Only three members of Congress did not dive for cover: Adolfo Suarez, the then outgoing prime minister who had steered the country away from the Franco era, Guttierez Mellado, a conservative general who had loyally served democracy, and Santiago Carillo, the head of the Communist Party, which had just been legalised.

This is the only coup ever to have been caught on film, which, as Cercas says, 'guaranteed both its reality and its unreality'. Every February a few seconds of the video are shown again and Spaniards congratulate themselves for standing up for democracy. But Cercas says that things were very quiet that afternoon and evening while all over Spain people stayed inside waiting for the coup to be defeated... or to triumph.

Javier Cercas  is  the author of nine books and many shorter texts and translations. Cercas has been honoured with many Spanish and international awards, including the Premio Salambó and the Premio Nacional de Narrativa in Spain, the International Foreign Fiction Prize in United Kingdom, the Grinzane Cavour in Italy and the Athens Prize for Literature in Greece. A regular contributor to the Catalan edition of  El Pais, he lives in Barcelona.

Books by Cercas will be on sale at the event, and he will be available to sign copies after the presentation.

This Sydney Ideas event is co-presented with the  Sydney Democracy Initiative University of Sydney, and the  Instituto Cervantes in Sydney

Event details


What: Sydney Ideas lecture by Javier Cercas

When:  6.30pm, Wednesday 29 February

Where:  The Great Hall, the Quadrangle, the University of Sydney 

Cost:  Cost: $20 adult/$15 concession. Free for University of Sydney staff, students and Alumni but registration required. Click  here 

Ticket Bookings:  Seymour Centre box office or phone 9351 7940

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, 02 9351 1584, 0478 303 173,