English-Spanish Translations and Censorship in Spain 1962-1969

By Marta Rioja Barrocal (University of Leon, Spain)


The main purpose of this essay is to shed light on the type of translations that were translated and imported into Spain and how they were conditioned by the constraint of censorship. In doing so we will focus particularly on translations from English into Spanish during the Francoist period of 1962-1969, taking into account the kind of national literature that was basically produced during the 1960s. At the same time we will explore the censorship procedures during those years, in order to better understand how the system functioned and affected the way translations were made, so as to achieve acceptability among the potential target readers.

Keywords: censorship, francoism, fascism, spain, 1962-1969, translation

©inTRAlinea & Marta Rioja Barrocal (2010).
"English-Spanish Translations and Censorship in Spain 1962-1969", inTRAlinea Vol. 12.

This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: https://www.intralinea.org/archive/article/1658


A lot of ink has been spilt in the process of uncovering what happened during the Franco’s dictatorship with regard to cultural production and its encounters with censorship: Abellán (1976a/b, 1978a/b/c/d, 1979, 1980), Díaz-Plaja (1971), Beneyto (1977), Gubern (1980), Delibes (1985), Sinova (1989), Oskam (1991), Neuschäfer (1994), Cisquella (2002), Laviana (2006), to name but a few. They have offered a general approach from a historical and/or political point of view. Others have focused on particular authors and their dealings with censorship; Lázaro (2000), Camus (2007), Ortega Saez (in press). During the last decades, the members of the TRACE[1] project, acronym of CEnsored TRAnslations, have mainly sought to explore the influence of censorship in Spain during the 1939-1975 period and the consequences of censorship on present day translation activity. However, four decades of dictatorship is too extensive a period to be fully examined by one researcher, and for that reason, the project is divided into different sub-periods and genre areas: translation and censorship of narrative, theatre, audiovisual texts (cinema and television) and poetry.

More specifically and as part of TRACE, I have limited the scope of my own research to the censorship of translations of narrative texts during the years 1962-1969, seeking to provide a deeper insight into this apparently more open period of the regime; indeed these were eight significant years during which the Minister of Information and Tourism (MIT), Manuel Fraga Iribarne, served as minister from 10 July 1962 (BOE 11-VII-62) until 29 October 1969 (BOE 30-X-69), and was in charge of the censorship apparatus. In comparison to his predecessor, Gabriel Arias Salgado, and his successor, Sánchez Bella, the latter much stricter in terms of applying censorship procedures, Fraga was a more lenient agent. His tenure is generally referred to as the apertura period.

All available information that surrounds a translation and its environment is of great interest for us, that’s why the first main section in this article offers a general view of the Spanish target context in those years (1962-1969), including a brief depiction of the literary environment. Cultural aspects can be so influential on the resulting product that the translators / censors are often forced to adapt the source text/ the translation to the target audience to render it widely acceptable, or as Toury (1995: 29) put it: “translations are facts of the target culture; on occasion facts of a special status, sometimes even constituting identifiable (sub)systems of their own, but of the target culture in any event”. The contextualisation of the period 1962-1969 is intended to help us better understand the type of literature in demand at the time, either national or foreign, and the extent to which it was affected by the bureaucratic system of censorship.

The article also includes a summary of empirical research that I have carried out on some novels imported into Spain that were translated from English into Castilian Spanish. This is based on an initial catalogue, or Corpus 0 TRACEni, I compiled containing 9.118 entries of novels whose source language was English and which were translated into Castilian Spanish from 1962 to 1969. Although, absolutely everything imported or produced in the country, regardless of source language and genre, had to undergo censorship, for the purposes of my research I focused on the language pair English-Spanish. In this descriptive study I have made particular use of Toury (1995), who assigns primary importance to the target culture, and Tymozcko[2] (2002), whose essay includes both a macro and micro-level perspective. The two authors defend a descriptive perspective which is able to explain and shed light on the empirical data found.

Recipient context: the status-quo in Spain.

It is generally assumed that Franco’s dictatorship as such started in 1936 when on 29 September 1936 General Franco was proclaimed “Head of the Spanish Government and the Highest General of the Spanish Armed Forces” by the National Defence Board. It should be noted that throughout this article all translations from Spanish are my own [unless otherwise indicated]. The nearly 40 years of dictatorial government ceased on 20 November 1975 with Franco’s death. The Franco Regime institutionalised its grip on power by means of several laws which contributed to maintaining the orthodoxy of its rule; these laws foregrounded the concepts of Nation (Spain), Family and Religion (Catholicism). Some of these laws mentioned by Tamames (1973: 439-456) were: El Fuero del Trabajo, 9 March 1939 (BOE 15-II-39), la Ley Constitutiva de la Cortes, 17 July 1942 (BOE 19-VII-42), el Fuero de los Españoles, 17 July 1945 (BOE 18-VII-45), la Ley de Sucesión en la Jefatura del Estado, 26 July 1947 (BOE 27-VII-47), la Ley de Principios del Movimiento Nacional, 19 May 1958 (Decree 779/1967, 20 April 1967, BOE 21-IV-67) or la Ley Orgánica del Estado (BOE 11-I-67).

With regard to the politics of the years 1962-1969, the government mainly concentrated on offering Spanish society a renewed image, even though political repression was still evident and affected people whose ideas were opposed to the government. This is exemplified in the execution of Julián Grimau, a member of the PCE (Partido Comunista Español/Spanish Communist Party), in Madrid in 1963. Generally speaking, the period 1962-1969 was characterised by the institutionalisation of the regime thanks to the Ley Orgánica del Estado, passed on 14 December 1966 (BOE 11-I-67), and the Law which regulated the civil right of Religious Freedom, Ley de Libertad Religiosa, promulgated on 21 July 1967 (BOE 22-VII-67)[3]. This law was finally passed by Fernando Maria Castiella, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and reinforced by the declaration of the Pope John XXIII during the II Vatican Council of 1965 (Marqués de Lozoya 1976: 468). Nevertheless, freedom of speech and therefore of religious practice was disguised in the form of a national referendum, the purpose of which was allegedly to clean up the image of a repressive totalitarian regime (Gubern 1980: 181). In this particular case Spanish citizens over eighteen were called to vote in a referendum in which they could apparently vote for one or another religion. In this sense the dictatorial regime guaranteed the religious freedom, as stated in the article number 6 of the Fuero de los Españoles (1945) through which “Nobody will be bothered by its religious beliefs or by the private exercise of its cult”. Nevertheless Catholicism was over-imposed in the end, as the article above continued: “Other ceremonies or external manifestations different to those of the Catholic Religion will not be allowed” (BOE 18-VII-45). Despite the change in the government on 7 June 1965, Franco’s first objective was to reassure the political grounds by basing them upon Europeism[4] and Technocratism[5].

During the four decades of dictatorship, the government was rather efficient in perpetuating its social, political and religious principles. Thus, various state mechanisms acted as gatekeepers; any public discourse, such as in education, literature and the mass media was strictly regulated in order to protect the dominant ideology against any potentially harmful ideas coming from abroad. According to Pegenaute (1999: 87), “any kind of pernicious idea, immoral concept or Marxist propaganda, anything which implies a disrespect for the dignity of our glorious army, any attack against the unity of our mother country, a disrespect for the Catholic religion or, in short, anything opposed to the meaning and goals of the Glorious Crusade” was censored.

Franco’s regime was imposed after a cruel civil war finishing on 1 April 1939 and, among its numerous aspects, the following characteristics may define this political movement: national, conservative, anti-democratic, autarchic and catholic. As a dictatorial government, one might find certain differences and similarities with other European totalitarian countries, such as Italy (see Tusell 2004). The Italian Fascist and Spanish dictatorships shared similarities in that both states tried to centralise things, they had a wide popular base, and they were both chauvinistic. Both governments shared ways of greeting, rhetoric and aesthetics which praised those traditional and conservative dictatorships. The Spanish system was also supported by Germany mainly for strategic reasons. Although Dunnett specifically refers to heavy state intervention in Italy (2002: 11), a similar situation applies to the Spanish government, which also regulated the influx of translated works and national products whilst safeguarding the business interests of publishers.

Although Franco’s regime did its best to have absolutely every single aspect under control, some Spanish social sectors expressed their opposition to the State during the 1950s in various areas, for example: trade unionism, which had began in Barcelona in 1951, and which expanded to the Northern mining region of Asturias in 1962 and reached Bilbao, where a brutal riot, known as Laminados de Bandas broke out in 1967; student movements (demographics and access to education were changing); and finally nationalist movements in various regions. All these instances of protest started by challenging the monolithic and orthodox vision of the nation that the dictatorship stood for. Spanish life during the 1960s continued immersed in social tensions and public confrontation with the regime.

On the other hand, a noticeable shift within official Church institutions started to emerge. There was a transition on the part of the Church, first supporting the State in the 1940s, then timidly criticising it in the 1950s, until some tensions were made clear in the 1960s. At the beginning of the dictatorship, the Catholic Church legitimised Franco as “Caudillo de España por la gracia de Dios”/“Caudillo or Leader of Spain by the grace of God”. The result was a fundamentalist vision of Catholicism: nationalcatholicism. Catholicism became the state religion and civil marriage, divorce and abortion were consequently prohibited. In this way the Church benefited enormously from the State, obtaining subsidies and a powerful control over press and education, as well as massive attendance to any liturgical events such as masses, weddings, processions, and funerals. This was guaranteed since these religious functions were mandatory. During the late 1940s and the 1950s, some catholic intellectuals tried to impose a new liberal model of Catholicism and some working-priests (curas-obreros) started to vindicate social rights mainly through two organisations: the HOAC (Hermandades Obreras de Acción Católica/Working Brotherhoods of Catholic Action, founded in 1946) and JOC (Juventud Obrera Católica/Working-class Catholic Youth). Some years later, the II Vatican Council (1962-1965) brought with it new ways of thinking. By the year 1962 the Church-State relationship had begun to suffer from severe tensions. Several priests took part in riots against Franco’s regime, especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country. Thus, the government was well aware that they had to restructure the old ideological methods of control to the new situation.

These developments, of course, were not unconnected to important developments on the part of the regime as well. In essence, for protest to take place, the political conditions must change such as, repression (its fluctuation/ opening approaches), access to political rights, shifting alignments in the population, influential allies that helped the population and divided dictatorial elites. Apart from the Church-State tension, another significant change that occurred in 1962 was the substitution of Gabriel Arias Salgado as the minister of Information and Tourism by Manuel Fraga Iribarne, in power from 10 July 1962 to 29 July 1969. As a result of this change of minister the Public Education Secretarial Office (Subsecretaría de Educación Pública) was transferred to the MIT, created on 19 July 1951 (BOE 20-VII-51) and which had substituted the previous Book Inspection Service (Servicio de Inspección de Libros), an organism which depended on the Press and Advertising Service (Servicio de Prensa y Propaganda) and was in charge of controlling the publication, distribution and sale of any kind of book.

Particularly during his period in office, Fraga created the Connection office (Oficina de Enlace), on 26 November 1962 (BOE 06-XII-62), an organisation which strictly depended on the MIT and which controlled any dissident element wherever it came from. For example, José María García Escudero was the General Director of Theatre and Cinema (Dirección General de Cinematografía y Teatro from 1951-1952 and from 1962-1968) and promoted the publication of the censorship criteria for public spectacles in the form of an official law[6]. These restrictive norms of censorship for public spectacles were never made explicit for narrative texts, even though they were taken into consideration. Nevertheless, and despite official norms of censorship, generally speaking the years 1962-1969 were considered a period of openness in comparison to previous periods of the regime. There were three fundamental aspects in the Fraga period which, according to Gubern (1980), led to a more relaxed approach to issues of censorship: 1) the rise of tourism; 2) the attempt to disseminate a positive image of Spain, with the help of the North-American advertising agency, MacCann Ericsson; and 3) Fraga’s innovative creation of the new Press Law of 1966 (BOE 19-III-66), which substituted the previous law of 1938 and introduced important reforms. In principle, this new Law implied a signal of cultural cleaning, because it recognized a certain number of rights, among them the right to the “freedom of expression by means of forms” (Art. 1), “the freedom of companies” (Art. 16), the one of “informative agencies” (Art. 44) and the one of freely choosing “publishing houses” (Art. 50), although with certain restrictions. Fraga’s new policy and the creation of the Press Law of 1966 undoubtedly helped to create a more open intellectual environment. Moreover, the corollary of ‘porous’ borders and mobility in general in the 1960s also created a mobility of ideas; the very effective vehicles of this movement of modern values and ideas were the cinema, literature, theatre and tourism. This is the point when Spanish society was evolving and started regarding the dictatorship as an obstacle against progress.

Literary environment

As far as literary life in general is concerned, several factors during the 1940s and 1950s created severe difficulties for the literary environment. Some of these problems were the lack of paper (anyway of poor quality) and money to publish, together with the exile of great literary authors because of their dissident ideas. At that time, being able to buy books was associated with social prestige and very few people were in such a position. Moreover, a strict control was exercised on the circulation of books, the activities of libraries, with many publications being withdrawn from the market or simply destroyed. This was the case of Italy, where the Fascist regime “adopted an increasingly autarchic cultural policy” (Rundle 1999: 427). This situation could be similarly extrapolated to the Spanish dictatorship.

Literary production had to face material difficulties, as seen above, but it also had to get rid of the deep feeling of pessimism that dominated Spanish writers in the 1940s and 1950s. That is why the 1960s stand out because of the desire for change and experimentation. Tired of the dominant realist aesthetic, in the 1960s, the writers abandoned the descriptive novel and looked for new aesthetic ways in their writing style. The ills of Spanish society were tackled from a less explicit and more individual perspective and writers tried to exploit the artistic and semantic value of language. Quite often, writers tried to imitate the language employed in other genres such as journalism, police reports, or advertising and publicity - sometimes resorting to difficult technical language. They even employed foreign language quotations and wrote long dialogues in French. Among some of the new innovative techniques, there is a frequent use of parody and of interior monologue. The novels did not have a specific content and the characters were vague so that everybody could identify with them. Chronological narrative was avoided, incorrect use of punctuation was frequent, there were constant changes of viewpoint, more than one narrator and sometimes the reference to space in the novels was abstract and writers tried their most not to refer to any recognizable Spanish setting. As stated by Sanz Villanueva (1984: 148-161), stream of consciousness was frequently used along with language which was not immediately accessible. In general, the tendency was the demystification of Spain and the revision of the national past, since there were more and more possibilities to go abroad and make comparisons other European countries.

This experimental tendency is exemplified in the novel Tiempo de Silencio (1962) by Luis Martín Santos (Sanz Villanueva 1984: 160). Some of the experimental writers were José María Guelbeniu, Ramón Hernández, Antonio F. Molina, Pedro Antonio Urbina or Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Moreover, this renewed way of writing was encouraged by the founding of the three influential journals such as: Atlántida (controlled by the Opus Dei), La Revista de Occidente and Cuadernos para el diálogo, and by the appearance of an array of independent publishing houses, such as ZYX, Nova Terra, Ediciones 62 S.A., Edicusa or Ciencia Nueva. Publishing houses were also given guidelines as to what was publishable and what was inadmissible (Ruiz 2008). Nevertheless, despite the efforts of these publishing houses, the problem of self-censorship, particularly on the part of translators, remained a powerful constraint and there is enough evidence that it continued to be reflected in some translations of novels such as Dangerfield by Barnaby Conrad, The Old God’s Laugh by Frank Yerby or Assignment Palermo by Edward S. Aarons. (see Rioja Barrocal 2008).

The literary environment was constantly changing and it was more and more frequent to come across some intellectuals who encouraged other colleagues to resist the Francoist regime. Sometimes they used subversive leaflets or they expressed their opinions in journals like Realidad, one of the most important clandestine cultural journals in Spain which first came out in 1963. It was printed in Italy under the aegis of the Communist Party. Apart from the controversial writings produced at home, there was a massive reception in 1966 of popular writers abroad who were in exile, who had previously published in Ínsula, founded in January 1946. Some examples were Francisco Ayala, Muertes de Perro (1958), and Sender, Novelas y Cuentos (1967). Besides that, the proliferation of the Hispanic-American novelists[7], together with the creation of several literary prizes such as Bullón, Alfaguara, Águilas, Nadal, Biblioteca Breve, Miguel Cervantes or Planeta, contributed to the decline of the descriptive novel in the late 1960s.

Translated literature in Spain. Remarks from Corpus 0 TRACEni (1962-1969)

A descriptive analysis of the initial catalogue Corpus 0 TRACEni (1962-1969) was carried out. It currently contains 9.118 entries of novels originally written in English and translated into Castilian Spanish during the period concerned. Entries were included in the Corpus 0 TRACEni (1962-1969), not according to the criterion of popular vs. canonical literature, but instead according to the following criteria: source and target language pair (English-Spanish), text types (novels and short stories) and target period (1962-1969).

Considering the literary themes most frequently published and which were well received by the Spanish readership at that time, a similar trend to that noted by Rundle (2000: 74) in the Italian context can be observed: popular literature, either imported or native, became the dominant genre. Foreign authors, whose novels the public was so eager to read, were Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, John Faulkner, Jack London, Sinclair Lewis and Edgar Wallace, to name a few. This kind of literature included detective stories, romances, erotic and pornographic literature, science fiction, neo-gothic books or thrillers. According to Moret (2002: 96) the popular fiction[8] of this period was characterised by the lack of any political ideas and by a generally low aesthetic value. Popular literature could be generally defined as a source of information as well as a form of entertainment (Pascual Soler et al. 1998: 38), or as a kind of literature either native or pseudo(translated), which was very widely consumed and which was condemned by the literary establishment. There are many factors which helped popular literature to be a leader in the publishing field. These were books that were meant to address the general public, because they dealt with common experiences which everybody could identify with, and the publishing houses benefited economically from the accessibility of this type of literature which was very easily distributed; therefore publishers were willing to supply and stimulate the demand.

As the figures obtained from Corpus 0 TRACEni (1962-1969) show, the percentage of translated literature was constantly increasing at that time.

Figure 1. Volume of translated literary works from English
into Castilian Spanish per year (1962-1969)

The increase seen here coincides with the period of liberalisation mentioned above, when the government attempted to restore the image of the country. What is rather noteworthy is the increase of imported literary products, particularly during the years 1966 and 1967. This leads us to conclude that the promulgation of the apparently more liberal Press Law of 1966, compared to the previous one of 1938, had a clear influence and impact on the increasing number of published works. However, the figures show a decrease in the volume of works produced in Spain and imported from abroad in the year 1968. This decrease was even more acute in 1969, when Franco’s government underwent several changes, particularly with the substitution of Manuel Fraga Iribarne by a more conservative Minister of Information and Tourism, Sánchez Bella (1969-73).

Another interesting feature can be seen here and this concerns the texts from other countries which once belonged to the Commonwealth. Although the literary entries of Australian, New Zealand, Canadian or South-African authors represent only a minority, there is a marginal interest in authors whose source cultures remained mostly unknown to the Spanish target culture, as shown above.

The most striking feature, of course, is the dominant position of North-American imports (55% of the total). Inferior in number are the entries of novels originally written in the UK (36%) and in other English-speaking countries. The greater popularity of US literature is almost certainly linked to the greater dominance of US film and US popular culture in general - in Spain and in the West. This fact can be compared to the results obtained in the censored cinema during Franco times, where the tendency was also characterised by the massive import of North-American material. For instance, and despite some fluctuations, the vast majority of original films in English and released in Spain in their corresponding Spanish versions between 1951-1975 came from the USA (73, 22%), whereas only 22, 34% came from Great Britain (Gutiérrez Lanza 2000: 411).

With regard to the censorship verdict of every single work catalogued in the censorial archives, a total number of 3.581 entries, we have encountered the following possibilities: authorised, authorised with certain restrictions (deletions, modifications, etc.) also known as crossed out or with other verdicts such as suppressed, suspended, rejected or with administrative silence:

Figure 2. Total works catalogued in the archives
and their censorship verdicts (1962-1969)

This figure shows that authorized novels amounted to an overall 89%. Then, 8% of the novels from Corpus 0 TRACEni (1962-1969) were given the verdict “censored = containing textual marks”. This percentage corresponds to 278 censored novels; 3% corresponds to other types of verdicts, among which, to mention a few, we have encountered novels being suppressed (1), suspended (3), rejected (72) or with administrative silence (17). In summary, the great majority of translated novels from 1962 to 1969 were given permission to be published and did not cause much trouble for the censorship boards. However, and despite the low percentage of ‘crossed out’ novels (8%), we are very interested in those 278 pieces of writing which did cause several problems before being published in Spain, probably because of controversial contents in terms of moral, religious or political questions rejected by the regime (Cisquella 2002: 90).

Censorship in the Franco’s regime: 1962-1969

Accessing the censorship information

There are many censorship contexts in Europe and beyond where researchers face intractable methodological problems to do with documentation culture. Spain constitutes an interesting exception to this pattern, because a systematic trace of the accounts that were censored was kept. The AGA (Archivo General de la Administración/ General Administration Archive) remains the main source of information for the study of any material that was published in Spain from 1939 to 1975, since it stores either original or imported texts in the broad sense of the term (books, theatre plays, cinema scripts, radio or TV scripts) along with their corresponding censorship files. The censorship documents produced during Franco’s dictatorship have been stored in thousands of boxes: inside each box there are several different files, each of them in a different envelope where information about the file along with the galley proof of the translated version and sometimes even the source book have been kept. In my last visit to the archive, on 15 September 2006, up to 460.620 files of censored narrative texts could be studied from the years 1939 until 1983 (that is, eight years after Franco’s death on 20 November 1975). Over 200.000 entries correspond to my chosen period of study, namely 1962-1969.

Censorship procedures in Spain

First of all, censorship depended on the Interior Ministry (Ministerio del Interior) (1939-1951), then on the Vicesecretaría de Educación Popular de la Falange (1942-1945), a pro-Franco political party.  On 1 January 1944, the Secretary Office of Censorship (el Secretariado sobre Censura) was created. From 1946-1951 censorship depended on the Ministry of Education (Ministerio de Educación), and from the year 1951 onwards, on the MIT (Ministerio de Información y Turismo), created on 19 July 1951 (BOE 20-VII-51). Then Fraga created the Oficina de Enlace thanks to the Order 26 November 1962 (BOE 06-XII-62), an organism strictly dependent on the MIT and which controlled any dissident material, regardless of the source language.

The Spanish censorship office exercised tight prior control over any material before its publication in order to determine what was morally or politically unacceptable, aiming to highlight the right moral values of foreign and national literature and exclude any dangerous material. This agenda was a constant priority for the Franco regime and this explains the scrupulousness and severity that characterised its censorship policies. Conversely to what happened in the cinema or theatre fields, for narrative texts there were no explicit censorship norms, which inevitably led to arbitrary decisions and inconsistencies on the part of censors. In areas such as theatre[9] or cinema[10], censorship norms/practices applied to literature in general but in no case were those norms/practices specific to translation. However, it was a hierarchically organised system, with readers, censors and civil servants working together to perpetuate the ideology of the regime[11].

According to the way the censorship apparatus worked, during the four decades of the dictatorship several sub-periods can be distinguished, and in each of them, different laws concerning censorship were promulgated:

(1) Military censorship (18 July 1936-30 January 1938): Order 23 December 1936 (BOE 24-XII-36), Order 29 May 1937 (BOE 3-VI-37), Order 16 September 1937 (BOE 17-IX-37);

(2) Ramón Serrano Suñer (Minister of Foreign Affairs, 30 January 1938- 20 May 1941): Press Law 22 April 1938 (BOE 23-IV-38), Order 29 April 1938 (BOE 30-IV-38), Order 22 June 1938;

(3) José Luis Arrese y Magra was a distinguished Falange supporter and substituted Serrano Suñer as Minister of Foreign Affairs (20 May 1941-20 July 1945): Circular 25 March 1944 (BOE 7-IV-44), Order 16 July 1945 (BOE 28-VII-45);

(4) Alberto Martín Artajo (Minister of Foreign Affairs)/ José Ibáñez Martín (Minister of National Education) (27 July 1945-19 July 1951): Order 23 March 1946 (BOE 26-III-46);

(5) Gabriel Arias Salgado (Minister of Information and Tourism, 19 July 1951-10 July 1962): Decree 11 July 1957 (BOE 7-VIII-57), Order 21 July 1959 (BOE 11-VIII-59);

(6) Manuel Fraga Iribarne (Minister of Information and Tourism, 10 July 1962-29 July 1969): Press Law (BOE 19-III-66).

Nonetheless, in all of these sub-periods, the requirements were very much alike. For every book, the censorship office opened a file which generally contained the application form signed by the publisher or bookseller, a copy of the text (usually the galley proof of the book or the original version of the text that was to be translated), and one or more reports written by the censors. We provide here an example of one of the pages of a narrative file, which corresponds to the novel Assignment Palermo /Misión Palermo by Edward S. Aarons. Each file was given a correlative number according to the date it was opened by the Censorship Commission. The file number was always separated by a hyphen, which indicated the year in question (‘9932-67’) that’s to say ‘-67’ corresponds to 1967. In the event of any further corrections, the pages were clearly indicated, as shown in the file 9932-67:

Figure 3

Apart from including editorial information of the book, such as the author and title, the publishing house, and the number of pages, in some cases, the censors also provided a brief summary of the plot in which they might include personal opinions about the way either the original or the translation were written.

Figure 4: Madrid, 27 December 1967 (File 9932-67)

After carefully reading the book, the censors submitted a report answering a list of questions in which they justified their decision on whether the text should be ‘banned’, ‘published’ or ‘published with some alterations’.

Figure 5: (File 3128-67)

The reiterative questionnaire was as follows (Lázaro 2001: 39-40):

- Does it attack religious beliefs?

- Morals?

- The Church or any of its members?

- The Regime and its institutions?

- The people who collaborate or have collaborated with it?

- Do the censored passages qualify the whole content of the work?

When the book was eventually approved, six copies of the galley proof had to be attached to prove that the book met the demands of the censors. Many times they indicated the number of pages that were meant to be corrected and which had a different number in the galley proof. This was of great help for the second censor enabling him to easily check whether the passages of the galley proof had been corrected or not.

Figure 6: (File 2197-62)

In the end the file was given the final approval and was stamped and archived.

Figure 7: (File 8664-68)

According to Cisquella (2002: 90), there were five main groups of criteria which were closely examined:

1. Public morality (sex, explicit description of the human body or of sexual relationships, abortion, divorce, adultery, extra-marital relationships, violence, suicide, use of contraceptive devices, etc.).

2. Political acceptability (defence of opponent regimes such as Communism, Socialism, Marxism, Anarquism, Parlamentarism or Fascism; political nuance, etc.).

3. Religious orthodoxy (scornful attacks upon Catholic religious beliefs, its ministers; defence of other religions).

4. Incorrect use of language (foreign words, coarse or rude words).

5. Collective and individual vices (drugs, alcoholism, etc.).

The Press Law of 1938 was meant to control the freedom of the press but, in fact, it was implicitly applied to all forms of written artistic production. The submission of any work (whatever its provenance) to the book censoring office was compulsory and a priori. The verdicts could be several: authorised, authorised with certain restrictions (deletions, crossing marks or modifications) or simply rejected. However, with the promulgation of the Press Law of 1966 a new image of openness was imposed with regard to censorship. The submission changed from being compulsory to voluntary in principle, something which assigned more responsibility to the publishing houses, because the financial risks were great if they decided not to voluntarily submit a novel, and the book was then confiscated after publication. To avoid this, they were careful not to publish anything which they felt might not meet the approval of the censors. Even though certain liberalisations were introduced with this law, a new controversial debate arose, particularly with reference to the ambiguous second article:

The freedom of expression and the right to spread information, recognized in the first article, will not have more limitations than the ones imposed by the laws. The limitations are: a respect towards truth and morality; the observance to the law of Principles of the National Movement and other Fundamental Laws; the demands of national defence, of the security of the State and of the maintenance of domestic public order and international peace; due respect for the Institutions and the people in charge of criticizing political and administrative matters; the independence of the courts and the safeguard of privacy and personal and family honour (Press Law, 1966. Art. 2 BOE 19-III-66).[12]

Thus, voluntary submission encouraged publishers to be more cautious than before and to censor manuscripts or galley proofs under penalty of being considered accomplices of the offences in which the published work could fall[13] (Abellán 1982: 173).

After analysing up to 153 files which had been corrected during 1962-1969, I have found that the censors generally employed the following textual marks to correct texts: crossing out, signalling between brackets or underlying passages. The dominant tendency is to cross out passages which were considered pernicious. It can be argued that the different uses of editorial techniques employed by censors reflect their assessment of the material, or a different ‘gravity’ modality as it were. The most dangerous passages for the readers in terms of content were routinely crossed out. Passages with other textual marks, such as underlining or bracketing, which are less intrusive and have a relatively lighter impact on the eye, signalling lesser severity were seen as less dangerous. However, this assumption cannot be taken to constitute a consistent norm, because sometimes the application of similar textual marks in different censored passages within the same novel seems to have been made at random and not by taking into account the content of the text.

Bracketed-off passages are less frequent than crossed out sections. Bearing this in mind, and with the impossibility of obtaining the testimony of censors, the choice between crossing out or bracketing might be more closely related to speed and comfort criteria. It may have been much quicker for censors to signal an extensive passage between brackets than to underline it since the latter is more time-consuming. Besides, it is even more comfortable to put into brackets several pieces of text if a novel contained a great number of passages subjected to correction, and especially if they were long.

Generally speaking censorship could cause the destruction, prohibition and mutilation of texts and other artistic productions. Yet it can be argued that one of its more pernicious effects was the exercise of self-censorship. Abellán (1982a: 174-176) distinguishes between explicit and implicit self-censorship. The first one “corresponds to the efforts of the writer shaped in the suppressions and modifications negotiated, accepted by censorship and proposed by the author in an attempt to safeguard his manuscript or text”[14]. The second, on the other hand, responds to “an unconscious habit, to a historical, social or even familiar constraint” (un hábito irreflejo, condicionante histórico, social e incluso familiar). José María Gironella, a prestigious Spanish writer talked about self-censorship in these terms:

Any intellectual who belongs to a censored country is, by definition, a castrated intellectual (with the only exception of genius). [...] For the word to acquire meaning, it has to be treated with “total” freedom. A writer must be able to criticize the Chief of State, the Army and everything that he considers opportune. However, the existence of censorship has forced me, like the majority of my colleagues, to stop writing many things that I would have written in the event of freedom. This is the root of what I have called castration (in Beneyto 1977: 191-92).[15]

The introduction of openness by the new Press Law (1966) was questioned by several authors, some of whom even considered it more oppressive than the previous law of 1938, like Rafael García Serrano, who asserts that:

Censorship, in all its aspects, has been much more effectively used by the Church, of course, than by the own State. [...] And supposing, as it is generally claimed, that Fraga’s Law is more liberal than Serrano Suñer’s Law, as a journalist, I have encountered more problems with the new one than with the old one (in Beneyto 1977: 93).

Contrary to what is generally assumed, the Press Law of 1966 continued to be applied after the death of General Franco (20 November 1975) and it was not until the Constitution of Democracy in 1978 that the Francoist system of censorship was finally abolished.


The Francoist state efficiently monitored and censored books during the four decades of dictatorship. Controlling information and filtering cultural products was deemed of paramount importance for the State. This explains why they were so systematic in their archiving, a bureaucratic efficiency which is of great benefit to researchers today. Intervention was carried out publicly and openly and any artistic production, regardless of whether it imported or not, had to undergo the same censoring procedures and there were no differences in the way censorship boards monitored national products or translations. The risk of having an edition being confiscated was obviously an important consideration. Thus renowned writers like J. W. Goethe, Victor Hugo or F. Dostoyevsky suffered from severe attacks on part of official censorship in the same way that other less popular authors did. Similarly, prestigious writers were rejected. Works were censored on moral grounds (W. Whitman), or for their political convictions (G. Orwell, J. Dos Passos and E. Hemingway) or because of their attitude towards religion (F. Nietzsche for being anti-Catholic).

Despite the difficulty of measuring self-censorship since there are no visual traces of it in the books, it seems clear that after comparing several English-Spanish pairs, self-censorship emerged and was employed as a recurrent mechanism by translators and publishers, who removed large amounts of material that could be considered offensive (Abellán 1982, García González 2000, Rioja Barrocal 2008). Especially after the Press Law of 1966, when submission to the Censorship Commission officially became voluntary, publishers were particularly wary of risking the severe financial damage that would follow if a book they had published were subsequently banned. The pressure on them to avoid such risks by self-censoring the work is clear. So in the end, the new controlling procedures introduced by the new Law of 1966 were not so different to those that preceded them and most publishers ended up submitting the books to the boards. In principle, the period 1962-1969 was perceived as an era of greater apparent flexibility with regard to censorship matters. The introduction of voluntary submission and a more open-minded minister of Tourism and Information were two noteworthy aspects which contributed to this more open image. However, the Press Law of 1966 did not actually lead to greater freedom as the economic risks remained, and these led to a continued practice of self-imposed, risk-reducing, censorship.

An interesting issue that raises from this article would be to compare some imported novels that entered the Commission after 1969 to see whether in later times, that’s to say, during the 1970s, the apparent greater flexibility became evident or not. And if so, if this had to do with a change in the government, or it was due to the Press Law of 1966, which continued to gradually introduce more flexible censorial behaviours (see Gómez Castro 2009).


Abellán L, Manuel (1976a). “Censura y producción literaria inédita”. Ínsula, 359: 3.

Abellán L, Manuel (1976b). “Sobre censura. Algunos aspectos marginales”. Cuadernos de Ruedo Ibérico, 49-50: 125-139.

Abellán L, Manuel (1978a). “Censura y práctica censoria”. Sistema, 22: 29-52.

Abellán L, Manuel (1978b). “Los últimos coletazos de la censura (I)”. Diario 16, 438: 12-13.

Abellán L, Manuel (1978c). “Los últimos coletazos de la censura (II)”. Diario 16, 439: 12-13.

Abellán L, Manuel (1978d). “Los últimos coletazos de la censura (III)”. Diario 16, 440:13.

Abellán L, Manuel (1979). “Análisis cuantitativo de la censura bajo el franquismo (1955-1976)”. Sistema, 28: 75-89.

Abellán L, Manuel (1980). Censura y creación literaria en España. (1939-1976). Barcelona: Península.

Abellán L, Manuel (1982). “Censura y autocensura en la producción literaria española”. Nuevo Hispanismo, 1: 169-180.

Beneyto, Antonio (1977). Censura y política en los escritores españoles. Barcelona: Plaza & Janés.

Camus Camus, Carmen (2007). “El pseudónimo y la censura en la narrativa del Oeste”. Represura, 4 (Octubre 2007). [url=http://www.represura.es/]http://www.represura.es/[/url] (10-10-2008).

Cisquella, G., Erviti, J.L. & Sorolla, J.A. (2002). La represión cultural en el franquismo: Diez años de censura de libros durante la ley de prensa. (1966-76). Barcelona: Anagrama.

Delibes, Miguel (1985). La censura de prensa en los años 40 y otros ensayos. Valladolid: Ámbito.

Díaz-Plaja, Fernando ed. (1971). La historia de España en sus documentos. Del desastre de 1898 al Príncipe Juan Carlos. Barcelona: Plaza y Janés.

Dunnett, Jane (2002). “Foreing literature in facist Italy: circulation and censorship”. TTR 15, 2: 97-124.

Fernández López, Marisa (2005). Children’s Literature in Franco’s Spain: The Effects of Censorship on Translations. Anuario de Investigación en Literatura Infantil y Juvenil 3: 39-51.

García González, José Enrique (2000). El traductor deja su huella: aproximación a la manipulación en las traducciones. ELIA 1: 149-158.

Gómez Castro, Cristina (2009). Traducción y censura de textos narrativos Inglés-Español en la España franquista y de transición: TRACEni (1970-1978). Unpublished PhD. León: Departamento de Filología Moderna, Universidad de León.

Gubern, Roman (1980). La Censura. Función política y ordenamiento jurídico bajo el franquismo. (1936-1975). Barcelona: Península.

Gutiérrez Lanza, Camino (2000). Traducción y censura de textos cinematográficos en la España de Franco: Doblaje y subtitulado inglés-español (1951-1975). León: Servicio de Publicaciones, Universidad de León.

Laviana, Juan Carlos (2006). El franquismo año a año. Lo que se contaba y ocultaba durante la dictadura. Vol. 22-29. Madrid: Unidad Editorial.

Lázaro, Alberto (2000). “Luchando contra marea: Virginia Woolf y la censura española”. Proceedings of the 24th International Conference of AEDEAN. Ed. A.M. Aparicio and S. Molina Plaza. Ciudad Real: Universidad de Castilla la Mancha: 1-6.

Lázaro, Alberto (2001). “James Joyce’s encounters with Spanish censorship, 1939-1966”. Joyce Studies Annual 12: 38-54.

Mangini, Shirley (1987). Rojos y rebeldes. La cultura de la disidencia durante el franquismo. Barcelona: Anthropos.

Marqués de Lozoya (1976). Historia de España. Tomo VI. Barcelona: Salvat.

Moret, Xavier (2002). Tiempo de editores. Historia de la edición en España, 1939-1975. Barcelona: Destino.

Neuschäfer, Hans-Jórg (1994). Adiós a la España eterna. La dialéctica de la censura. Novela, teatro y cine bajo el franquismo. Barcelona: Anthropos.

Ortega Sáez, Marta. In Press “The role and function of the translator in post-Civil War Spain: Juan G[onzález]. de Luaces”. Actas del III Congreso de la Asociación Ibérica de Estudios de Traducción e Interpretación (AIETI). Barcelona: Universidad de Pompeu Fabra. (In CD-ROM).

Oskam, J. (1991). Censura y prensa franquistas como tema de investigación. Revista de Estudios Extremeños, 47: 113-132. [url=http://www.geocities.com/athens/parthenon/4087/artcens.htm]http://www.geocities.com/athens/parthenon/4087/artcens.htm[/url] (10-10-2008).

Pascual Soler, N. & López-Peláez Casellas, J. 1998. Otras narrativas: una aproximación a la literatura popular anglo-norteamericana. Jaén: Servicio de Publicación de la Universidad de Jaén.

Pegenaute Rodríguez, Luis (1999). “Censoring translation and Translation as Censorship: Spain under Franco”; Daele V.J. ed. (1999). Translation and the (RE)Location of Meaning: Selected Papers of the CETRA Chair Seminars in Translation Studies, 1994-96. Lovaina: Universidad Católica de Lovaina: 83-96.

Rioja Barrocal, Marta (2008). Traducción Inglés-Español y Censura de textos narrativos en la España de Franco: TRACEni (1962-1969). Unpublished PhD. León: Departamento de Filología Moderna, Universidad de León.

Ruiz Bautista, Eduardo (2008). Tiempo de censura. La represión editorial durante el franquismo. TREA. Colección: Bilioteconomía Y Admón.. Cultural.

Rundle, Christopher (1999). “Publishing Translations in Mussolini’s Italy: A Case Study of Arnoldo Mondadori”. Textus. Rivista dell’Associazione Italiana di Anglistica, 12, 2: 427-442.

Rundle, Christopher (2000). “The Censorship of Translation in Fascist Italy”. The Translator. Studies in Intercultural Communication, 6, 1: 67-86.

Sanz Villanueva, Santos (1984). Historia de la literatura Española 6/2. Literatura actual. Barcelona: Ariel.

Sinova, Justino (1989). La censura de Prensa durante el franquismo (1936-1951). Madrid: Espasa Calpe.

Tamames, Ramón (1973). La República. La era de Franco. Madrid: Alfaguara Alianza.

Toury, Giedon (1995). Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Ámsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.

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Tymoczko, Maria (2002). “Connecting the Two Infinite Orders. Research Methods in Translation Studies”. Hermans T. ed. (2002). Crosscultural Transgressions. Research Models in Translation Studies II. Historical and Ideological Issues. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing:  9-25.

Laws and Regulations mentioned in this article

- Order 23 December 1936 (BOE 24-XII-36)

- Order 29 May 1937 (BOE 3-VI-37)

- Order 16 September 1937 (BOE 17-IX-37)

- Press Law 22 April 1938 (BOE 23-IV-38)

- Order 29 April 1938 (BOE 30-IV-38)

- Order 22 June 1938

- Circular 25 March 1944 (BOE 7-IV-44)

- Order 16 July 1945 (BOE 28-VII-45)

- Order 23 March 1946 (BOE 26-III-46)

- Decree 11 July 1957 (BOE 7-VIII-57)

- Order 21 July 1959 (BOE 11-VIII-59)

- Order 9 February 1963 (BOE 8-III-63: 3929-3930)

- Order 16 February 1963 (BOE 8-III-63: 3939)

- Order 6 February 1964 (BOE 25-02-64)

- Press Law 18 March 1966 (BOE 19-III-66)

- El Fuero del Trabajo, 9 March 1939 (BOE 15-II-39)

- La Ley Constitutiva de la Cortes, 17 July 1942 (BOE 19-VII-42)

- El Fuero de los Españoles, 17 July 1945 (BOE 18-VII-45)

- La Ley de Sucesión en la Jefatura del Estado, 26 July 1947 (BOE 27-VII-47)

- La Ley de Principios del Movimiento Nacional, 19 May 1958 (Decree 779/1967, 20 April 1967, BOE 21-IV-67)

- La Ley Orgánica del Estado (BOE 11-I-67).

- Ley de Libertad Religiosa, promulgated on 21 July 1967 (BOE 22-VII-67)


[url=#ref1][1][/url] See the TRACE Project websites: ([url=http://trace.unileon.es/]http://trace.unileon.es/[/url]) (Universidad de León) and ([url=http://www.ehu.es/trace/]http://www.ehu.es/trace/[/url]) (University of the Basque Country).

[url=#ref2][2][/url] Tymoczko (2002: 17) expressed her idea about the combination of both perspectives: “In my view the best work shows a convergence - working towards the macroscopic from the direction of the microscopic, or vice versa, so that one’s data from the macroscopic level are complemented and confirmed by data from the microscopic level”.

[url=#ref3][3][/url] The central article of this Law was number 3, which states that “las creencias religiosas no constituirán motivo de desigualdad de los españoles ante la ley / religious beliefs will not constitute reason for inequality of the Spaniards before the law” (BOE 22-VII-67).

[url=#ref4][4][/url] The editorial of the journal Arriba on 17-05-1941 stated that Spain should fight for ‘the unity of Europe’. This pan-European objective was a desire frequently manifested by Franco, who wanted Spain to be linked by bonds of friendship to other European countries and in this way to fight all together against the common enemies such as Russia or any other Communist country.

[url=#ref5][5][/url] Technocratism applies to the era of economic reforms promoted by the so-called ‘Technocrats’, appointed by Franco, who pushed for public investment in infrastructure development. The Technocrats were a new breed of economists, many of them members of the Opus Dei, who replaced the old Falangist guard which was prone to isolationism. The implementation of these policies took the form of development plans (planes de Desarrollo) and it was largely a success: Spain enjoyed the second highest growth rate in the world, just after Japan, and became the ninth largest economy in the world, just after Canada. Spain joined the industrialized world, leaving behind the poverty and endemic underdevelopment it had experienced since the loss of the Spanish Empire in the 19th century (Mangini 1987: 198).

[url=#ref6][6][/url] The list of guidelines the censors were supposed to follow in the case of public entertainment (cinema and theatre) was made explicit in the ‘Order 16 February 1963’ (BOE 8-III-63). This law forbade “the justification of divorce, suicide, adultery, revenge, prostitution, abortion, the use of contraceptive devices, illicit sexual relations, homosexuality, alcoholism, drug addiction, criminal behaviour, etc. They also forbade anything against family and marriage as an institution and against religion and everything contrary to good manners and taste such as obscene passages, coarse language, etc”.

[url=#ref7][7][/url] Señas de identidad (Juan Goytisolo), Últimas tardes con Teresa (Juan Marsé), Cinco horas con Mario (Miguel Delibes), or Volverás a Región (1968) and Una meditación (1970) by Juan Benet.

[url=#ref8][8][/url] In relation to the main contents of the popular novel, Moret (2002: 96) states that: “The subjects of the popular novel were those of adventure, action, exotics, love [...], always with a ‘maniqueo’ exposition of the good and bad characters and always, as it was demanded by the rigid moral of the time, with the final triumph of the good. The Black, Western, Adventures and Military genres are present and often repeated in a novel that is characterised by a direct language, which normally uses the same schemes with slight variations”.

[url=#ref9][9][/url] Order 16 February 1963 (BOE 8-III-63: 3939) about censorship norms on theatre according to the ‘Junta de Censura’. Order 6 February 1964 (BOE 25-02-64).

[url=#ref10][10][/url] Order 9 February 1963 (BOE 8-III-63: 3929-3930) on the censorship norms concerning cinema.

[url=#ref11][11][/url] According to Abellán (1978a: 33; 1978d: 13), censors during the Franco period belonged to the three social classes which mainly supported the State: politicians, religious and military men. One outstanding example was the famous Spanish writer Camilo José Cela, a censor during the fourties, from 1943 to 1944, in the section Information and Censorship (Información y Censura). His main purpose was to make a living. He was protected by Juan Aparicio, director of the journal El Español and National Press Main Supervisor. Cela was quite benevolent and left censorship in 1945, when Juan Aparicio left his post.

[url=#ref12][12][/url] The original article runs as follows: “La libertad de expresión y el derecho a la difusión de informaciones, reconocidos en el artículo primero, no tendrán más limitaciones que las impuestas por las leyes. Son limitaciones: el respeto a la verdad y a la moral; el acatamiento a la ley de Principios del Movimiento Nacional y demás Leyes Fundamentales; las exigencias de la defensa nacional, de la seguridad del Estado y del mantenimiento del orden público interior y la paz exterior; el debido respeto a las Instituciones y a las personas en la crítica de la acción política y administrativa; la independencia de los tribunales y la salvaguardia de la intimidad y del honor personal y familiar (Press Law, 1966. Art. 2 BOE 19-III-66)”.

[url=#ref13][13][/url] Original quotation: “so pena de ser considerados cómplices de los delitos en los que la obra publicada podía todavía incurrir” (Abellán 1982: 173). 

[url=#ref14][14][/url] Original quotation: “corresponde a los esfuerzos del escritor plasmados en las supresiones y modificaciones negociadas, aceptadas por censura y propuestas por el propio autor con vistas a salvar su manuscrito o texto” (Abellán 1982a: 174-176).

[url=#ref15][15][/url] Original quotation: “Todo intelectual perteneciente a un país con censura es, por definición, un intelectual castrado (sólo se salvan, y muy a la larga, los genios.) Por supuesto, el país paga también muy caro esta coacción. Poco a poco va quedándose en la cola, rezagado. [...] Para que la palabra tenga significado ha de tratarse de libertad “total”. Un escritor ha de poder criticar al Jefe de Estado, al Ejército y todo lo que estime oportuno. Ahora bien, la existencia de la censura me ha forzado, como a la mayoría de mis colegas a dejar de escribir muchas cosas que en un terreno de libertad habría escrito. Ahí esta la raíz de lo que antes llamé castración” (in Beneyto 1977: 191-92).

©inTRAlinea & Marta Rioja Barrocal (2010).
"English-Spanish Translations and Censorship in Spain 1962-1969", inTRAlinea Vol. 12.

This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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