A Spanish association has called for an investigation into the lingering legacy of censorship during Franco’s regime after it emerged that censored versions of books and movies were still circulating more than four decades after the dictator’s death.
Emilio Silva, president of the Spanish Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, sounded the alarm bell earlier this week after stumbling upon a different version of the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life on TV.
“All of a sudden I heard something that I had never heard before,” said Silva. “It was a scene that was not in the version I had seen 10 times before.”
He soon realized that the Spanish television channel where he had often watched the film still had a censored version in its catalog. Seven minutes shorter than the original, it omits several scenes that mention a housing co-op.
He wasn’t surprised. “During the Franco era, anything that looked like a cooperative was considered almost pro-communist,” he said.
But what shocked him was that the redacted version of Frank Capra’s film was still being offered in Spain, suggesting that Franco-era censorship was still very much present in the country. “Some 45 years after Franco’s death, no one – not even the Ministry of Culture – has said let’s see what was censored during the regime and we will fix it.”
During Franco’s 36 years in power, the scissors of the state were systematic and demanding, eliminating references to the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship, as well as sexually explicit material and any mention going against the values. strict Catholics promoted by the state. In Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway, the use of “lesbians” has been replaced with “good friends”, while references to birth control have been removed from Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin . Few works have been spared, with censors taking on everything from musicals to magazines.
This week, Silva’s organization called on Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s socialist prime minister, to ask the Culture Ministry to undertake an investigation to determine the extent of the censorship and, subsequently, to restore the versions. original censored works. The association’s request highlights a glaring void in Spain’s transition to democracy: while laws supporting censorship were repealed, there was no body responsible for stopping the dissemination of censored content .
Silva drew a parallel between the uninterrupted dissemination of these works, some of which distort people’s perception of the Civil War and its consequences, and his association’s long-standing effort to rid Spain of statues and other public symbols that glorify the regime. “You could say that James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway or Frank Capra are also victims of the dictatorship, because someone has censored their works and not a single democratic government in Spain has repaired this damage.”
Much of what is known about the censored works in circulation today comes from years of research by Jordi Cornellà-Detrell, Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at the University of Glasgow. “We are talking about one of the most enduring and invisible legacies of [Franco’s] diet, ”said Cornellà-Detrell.
He listed dozens of examples. Over 20 different Spanish editions of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, including an eBook, is based on a censored version that removes passages deemed to glorify Satan. In the case of George Orwell’s Burmese Days and Ian Fleming’s Thunderball, censored versions continue to be released even after new translations of both works. Over 90% of copies of William Faulkner’s Soldiers’ Pay on loan from Spanish public libraries are censored.
The scope of the censors is not limited to Spain. An Argentinian publisher published a censored edition of Soldiers’ Pay last year, hinting that works censored by the Franco regime are also on their way to Latin America.
Often, publishers are unaware that works are censored, Cornellà-Detrell said. “There is an ethical problem here because the words of these authors have been manipulated against their will, in most cases they do not even know what has been done to their work. “