Struggle for Democracy in Post-Franco Spain: Background information when reading The Sadness of the Samurai

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The Sadness of the Samurai

A Novel

by Victor del Arbol

The Sadness of the Samurai by Victor del Arbol
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  • Published:
    May 2012, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Struggle for Democracy in Post-Franco Spain

Print Review

Victor del Árbol's The Sadness of the Samurai begins in pro-Nazi Spain and takes place over three generations - the perfect political backdrop for the violence, betrayal, mystery and murder that takes place in the novel. Every nation struggles with its own demons, and 20th century Spain was no exception - experiencing civil war, dictatorial leaders, worker unrest, nascent democracy, and in 1981, a coup d'état that threatened to topple the newly formed democratic government.

After ruling Spain for nearly four decades, dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975. His appointed heir, Prince Juan Carlos de Borbón took over as King and lost little time restructuring Spain's government into a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected congress, called the Cortes. He promised a future of freely contested elections, but it quickly proved to be a promise he would not be able to fulfill, especially if elements of the country's right wing had anything to say about it.

Accompanying any drastic political rearrangement there will be inevitable dissenters. Among the most influential in late 1970s Spain was former Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina who, although no longer in the military, still held sway with scores of military and para-military who opposed the new order. Together with Lieutenant General Jaime Milans del Bosch y Ussía, he and others plotted to overthrow the democratically elected Cortes and appoint new leadership under a Franco-like military dictatorship.

In a dramatic show of force on February 23, 1981 Tejero lead 200 heavily armed men as they stormed the Cortes, firing automatic weapons into the air and taking the 350 ministers prisoner. They ordered those present to lie down and closed surrounding streets. The rebels also commandeered national radio and television stations and Bosch began broadcasting orders, declaring a state of emergency, ordering tanks into the streets and throwing citizens into a worried panic.

The coup was short lived however. The following day King Juan Carlos appeared on national television reassuring the public that the perpetrators had been apprehended and order restored. It is generally accepted that since he had the support of all three of Spain's military branches in addition to the favor he had garnered as Franco's personal appointee, Juan Carlos was able to quickly quash the rebellion.

Although the narration is in Spanish, you can click on the video below to watch Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina storm the congressional meeting in 1981.

Article by Donna Chavez

This article is from the May 30, 2012 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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