MADRID – Spanish writer Javier Cercas was awarded Spain’s National Narrative Prize on Friday for a novel about a defining moment in his homeland’s transition to democracy following Francisco Franco’s 1939-1975 dictatorship.
Cercas, honored for “Anatomia de un instante” (Anatomy of a Moment), told Efe he strived in the book to be faithful to the truth without “concealing the positive and negative (aspects) of everything.”
He said he was thrilled to win this prestigious award for a work he described as the most difficult of his career because it delved into the attempted coup of Feb. 23, 1981, known in Spain as “23-F.”
“23-F was like the assassination of (President John F.) Kennedy in the United States. Putting yourself there is like putting yourself in a real wasp’s nest, with real people, with transcendental events for Spanish history,” the author said shortly after learning he had been awarded the prize.
He noted that the work has been “very well received by readers in Spain and abroad” and also garnered positive reviews from critics.
A previous novel by Cercas, “Soldados de Salamina” (Soldiers of Salamina), won numerous awards in both Spain and abroad and was made into a feature-length film.
“Anatomia de un instante” recounts the fateful events of Feb. 23, 1981, inside Spain’s lower house of Parliament, where then-Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez famously remained seated even as shots from the coup plotters whistled around him and most of the lawmakers took cover under their chairs.
The attempted putsch by Francoist officers fizzled out the next day in the face of staunch opposition from King Juan Carlos.
The award, accompanied by a cash prize of $27,900 and given out by Spain’s Culture Ministry, recognizes the best narrative work published in Spain in 2009 in Spanish or any of Spain’s three co-official languages: Catalan, Basque and Galician.
The jury was headed by the Spanish Culture Ministry’s director of books, archives and libraries, Rogelio Blanco, and also included members of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, writers and the previous two recipients of the award. EFE