The power of the red pencil during franco’s regime
The Power of the Red Pencil during Franco’s Regime Censorship and discourse of drama Mónica Rodríguez-Castro
Kent State University, Institute of Applied Linguistics
Abstract: This paper discusses the socio-political and cultural contexts during
Franco’s dictatorial regime (1939-1975) in Spain. This period was
characterized by censorship and repression, examples of which are observed
in both literary and socio-cultural climates, with the Catholic Church ideology
predominantly overlapping with fascist values. Particularly in the case of
drama, the military authorities and ecclesiastic organizations were rigorously
controlling translations as well as theatrical performances. The popular genre
of drama has been chosen in this paper to showcase the multiple aspects of
censorship during this period. This genre had a significant impact since it was
widely used by the government as a means of communication to educate the
masses about their principles and ideology. Theater, therefore, became a
victim of repression and, since drama performances were consumed by a large
collectivity, it was considered a very valuable tool that the government could
use to teach social values and cultural conventions.
After discussing the socio-political background of drama during Franco’s
regime and gathering data from the censorship files, this article proceeds with
a microtextual analysis of The Complaisant Lover contrasting thematically-
related patterns between the source text and the translated text. The cultural
and political roles of the translator are also analyzed, and numerous textual
manipulations through the process of adaptation are traced as examples of
issues that the censorship board deemed objectionable. The censors’
assessment mostly reflected their personal ideology, and their authoritative
position allowed them to select specific pieces to be part of the literary
cannon. The adaptor of the Spanish translation of The Complaisant Lover,
1 All translations in this paper are mine
José M. Pemán implemented changes in accordance with the regime’s
conventions so that the censorship board would finally approve its publication
in 1969. This article studies the process of staging a play during a period of
ideological imposition and cultural restrictions. However, certain
contradictions can be observed in the adaptor’s textual manipulations, since
the play was able to reach the public with the inclusion of themes that were
deemed unacceptable by the censorship board.
Keywords: censorship, resistance, discourse, Franco, regime.
This paper explores the socio-political and cultural context of Franco’s regime (1939-
1975) in Spain as reflected in the handling of a foreign text by its adaptor and the
censorship authorities. This period was characterized by censorship and repression,
examples of which can be observed in both literary and socio-cultural climates. The
decades of the 1940’s and 1960’s merit special attention since they both marked the
beginning of a new era (Lafarga and Rodriguez 2004). This paper pays special attention
to translational specific issues arising from the study of censorship in those decades as an
operator that established a social set of values agreed upon by a dominant body over a
dominated ‘subbody’; in other words, the imposition of institutional censorship over
The popular genre of drama has been chosen to represent the struggle during this
period. This genre had a significant impact during the regime since it was a popular
medium and was used to address a broader audience. Theater has been the victim par
excellence of repression and it can be succinctly said in Cramsie’s terms that, since
drama was consumed by a large collectivity, it taught the audience, and reminded them of
the government’s codes of conduct (Cramsie 1984: 1-2). This means of communication,
therefore, was widely used by the government to educate the masses about their
principles and favorable ideology. By contrast, the Catholic Church would repeatedly
2 The beginning of a ‘New Spain’ with the Constitutional instauration of democracy 3 Drama was also censored during Felipe II (1597), Felipe IV, and also in the eighteenth century (Cramsie 1984)
control drama performances, since it was a powerful tool that could be used to ‘mislead
any soul’ or ‘corrupt the human (citizens) spirit’ (Cramsie 1984: 3).
After discussing the socio-political bakground of drama production during
Franco’s regime, this article will proceed with a microtextual analysis that will contrast
thematically-related patterns in both the source text (ST) and the target text (TT). By
drawing attention to this comparative study, this paper demonstrates the imposition of
institutional censorship on textual manipulations through the process of adaptation, and
the lack of consistency during the decision-making process. On the one hand, the
censors’ assessment clearly reflects the regime’s agenda and their authoritative position
allows them to establish literary patterns that will shape social conventions during this
period. As representatives of the government’s ideology, censors demanded revisions to
El amante complaciente before approving the publication of the work (1969). The
adaptor José María Pemán had to implement those changes required by the censorship
board in accordance with conventions. On the other hand, drama emerged as a new
creative form of resistance to the manipulative regime in the late 1950’s.
2 Literature review
This section provides the necessary political and social background to understand
the period during which The Complaisant Lover was published and translated into
2.1 Censorship under Franco
In 1939 the ending of the civil war ushered in the era of a ‘New Spain,’ which
was framed within a dictatorial regime run by General Francisco Franco. He was a
fervent believer that his nation would benefit more from acting independently, and his
centralized government controlled the production and distribution of goods. At this time
the economy was severely enfeebled, so Franco implemented a policy of economic self-
sufficiency that was aimed at avoiding imports and foreign investment. The year 1940 is
known as the ‘year of hunger,’ since harvests were scarce.
4The choice of analyzing Graham Greene’s The Complaisant Lover is based on a personal interest in the text and the author and due to the availability of the source and target texts as well as the censorship files.
Against this social background, Franco wanted to restore the economy by
establishing a new centralized system without foreign investment. He was strongly
determined to avoid any foreign influence, and it can be argued that “the nationalists
were more interested in purging, controlling, and unifying Spanish culture than in
promoting diversity, creativity or popular involvement.” (Perriam 2000: 4). Franco had
implemented an effective system for controlling cultural expression by imposing a Press
Law (1938), which imposed censorship on all forms of publishing and remained in effect
until 1966. “Censors could prohibit publication altogether or demand that offending
sections be removed or rewritten.” (Abellán 1980: 4). The year 1940 witnessed the
beginning of government totalitarianism and religious and civil repression, and it was
also known as the year of ‘zero translation’ (Rabadán 2000) due to the regulation of
political and cultural discourse, resulting in most translated works being banned by the
The most culturally influential institutions during this period were the Church
and the Falange, a political organization with a fascist ideology. Their moral and political
discourses were blended together in the common language of National Catholicism, with
the orthodoxy, morality and anti-materialism stressed by the church overlapping with the
Falangists’ patriotism and bourgeois ideals. After 1940, “signs of apertura or opening-up
in economic and cultural spheres became increasingly evident” (Perriam 2000: 13). The
main cultural change in the literary circles came with the publication of a new Press Law
(1966) as well as the appointment of Manuel Fraga Iribarne as Minister of Information.
During the 1960s, authors were acquiring rights of free expression, on the condition that
they did not damage the Spanish image of the National Movement. However, several
authors (e.g., Abellán, Cramsie) claim that there was no sign of relaxation of restrictions
on publishing and other forms of expression until 1966. A slight easing of restrictions can
be observed, but some journalists and writers freely expressed their opinions in an
attempt to create a more liberal discourse quickly, and the Office of Publications
censored those works because they did not comply with the publishing rules and censors’
5 Franco declared some principles that would reign during the regime. These Principles were known as the Principles of the National Movement. Franco’s dictatorship was strongly supported by the Catholic Church. When he was proclaimed Head of State, he offered privileges to the Church since he believed that it was an honor for the Spanish nation to adopt the principles of the Catholic Church as a faithful doctrine. (Cramsie 1984)
preferences (Cramsie 1984: 61). Nevertheless, during the 1960s opening-up, laws did not
guarantee the constitutional rights of a democratic Spain for everyone, just the rights of
followers of Franco’s regime (Cramsie 1984: 60). Therefore, the opening-up could not be
discerned in terms of freedom of expression, freedom of action, publications, or
translation, and all works needed to pass through the censors’ hands in order to be staged.
At the beginning of the 1970s authors started referring to the ‘traumatic,
anesthetic past’ (Cramsie 1984) of the theatre during the Franco regime, and rapid social
and cultural changes were emphasized together with new writing techniques that
represented a shift in both writing and translated discourses. Authors abandoned the
symbolic and allegoric camouflaging of their ideologies and began to publicly challenge
the system, its values and rules (Cramsie 1984: 62). Freedom of religion and expression
were granted during the 1970s, but freedom of expression was not guaranteed if it
publicly damaged the National Movement façade.
2.2 Censorship within the theater
During the Franco regime, the military authorities and the Catholic Church
controlled text production as well as theatrical performances. Drama was used as an
ideological tool, since it could address large audiences. The process of getting a play
staged was complex due to the many regulations imposed by ecclesiastic censorship.
According to Raquel Merino (2002: 126), “members of the pro-Franco political party, the
Falange, and the most fundamentalist members of the clergy became willing censors”.
However, it is interesting to note that the degree of censorship varied within this period
According to Perriam, the criteria for censorship were largely taken for granted.
He mentions that any ‘offence’ against the political institutions of the regime, the
Catholic Church, or “its teachings on dogma and morality were self-evidently
inadmissible” (2000: 5). However, the policies were not as rigorous towards the end of
the dictatorship, as was the case with The Complaisant Lover, and the change of minister
contributed to the publication and performance of this work in 1969.
The process of staging a play was lengthy (sometimes up to five years), since a
producer would have to request official permission. The censorship board would follow
established legislation and decide whether to approve or reject the request. For each work
that was banned, a censorship file was stored at the National Archives. These records
contain extremely useful information about the socio-cultural and political contexts and
provide evidence about official censorship. Based on an analysis of these files, it can be
concluded that some members of the censorship board carefully examined thematic
elements in plots related to sex, politics or religion, while others focused on formal
issues. This range of values among the members of the Censorship Board is described by
la diversidad de procedencia del personal censor significaba una mayor pluralidad en los juicios de valor. La divergencia de puntos de vista, la diferencia de mentalidad y de los postulados ideológicos propios de cada uno provocaba que el lápiz rojo incidiera en aspectos de muy distinta índole; entre los censores eclesiásticos y falangistas […] se observa una intolerancia mayor a las cuestiones morales, sexuales, a todo […] ataque directa o indirectamente a la doctrina católica y a las cuestiones políticas; mientras los autores y/o críticos teatrales del grupo de censores se mostraron a veces más magnánimos ante la ideología franquista, su lectura se centraba en mayor medida a la calidad, originalidad y coherencia de la pieza teatral. (2001: 358)
2.3 Censorship of The Complaisant Lover
During Lord Chamberlain’s office in Great Britain (1737–1968), The Complaisant Lover was censored in the source culture for its indecency during a period
of repression and homophobia. This can be observed in a postscript on censorship that is
All praise must be given to the Lord Chamberlain who has at last admitted that homosexuality is a theme which may be presented on the English stage. […] Readers of this play may have a little fun determining which solitary adjective and which passage of three lines the Lord Chamberlain and his officers have found too indecent. (Greene 1959: 77)
Nevertheless, the degree of manipulation mentioned in this postscript to the source
text cannot be likened to all the examples (see the microtextual analysis in the next
section) that demonstrate the extent to which the translation was manipulated into a new
ideological discourse during Franco’s regime. We will not discuss homosexuality in this
6 The diversity of the censors’ personal backgrounds means a broader plurality of value judgments. The diversity of standpoints, different mentalities and personal ideological arguments would mean that the red pencil will underline aspects of various thematic issues. […] Among the ecclesiastic and falangist censors, there was a higher intolerance of sexual, moral issues, all that could be considered to be a direct or indirect attack on the Catholic Church, or political questions. Whereas drama writers/critics would be more magnanimous towards Franco’s ideology, their reading would focus mainly on the quality, originality and cohesiveness of the drama.
2.4 Censorship of El amante complaciente
The procedure for obtaining permission to publish translated works was similar to
that for non-translated works. In this study, we will analyze the phenomenon of
institutional censorship by contrasting two key aspects—the censorship file and textual
manipulations, as evident from a microtextual analysis. This will help in explaining the
superiority of institutionalized censorship viewed as a creative form of power in
El amante complaciente, which has the record file number 299-62 (1962),
represents an interesting instance of textual manipulation. The petitioner mentioned in
this censorship file is the director Alberto González-Verge, who in 1962 requested
authorization to perform this work at the Alcazar Theatre in Madrid the following year.
Two reports show that this work was censored, and only one record shows that the work
was finally approved for performance (1969). In this case the plot, not the dialogue, was
deemed objectionable. In fact, Merino comments that “entre la documentación adicional
anexa a esta primera solicitud, nos encontramos una sinopsis argumental de la obra,
totalmente inusual, junto con la ausencia de propuestas de cambios textuales concretos”
Gumersindo Montes, the creator of the plot synopsis, was employed as a reader
for the Publications Department. He was a supporter of Falange and an activist in the
fight against Russian communism (De Isabel 2001: 357). His ideological principles can
be inferred from his comments on the file:
clásico triángulo -esposo, mujer, amante- en el que se respetan las apariencias primero para consumar el adulterio después con todo el cinismo, […] tan extraño, tan forzado, tan anormal […] no rige el menor principio moral. La obra sucia, perniciosa, intolerable, ofensiva. Ninguna justificación de orden literario. (De Isabel 2001: 357)
The second reader was Reverend Father Manuel Villares, who also rejected the
performance of this drama and added comments justifying his decision in the
observations section of the censorship file:
7 among the additional documentation attached to this first application we find a plot synopsis, totally unusual, together with a lack of concrete suggestions for textual changes. 8 classical triangle—husband, wife, lover— in which appearances are respected, first to consummate adultery, then with all cynicism, […] so strange, so unnatural, so abnormal […] no moral value to hold sway. We consider this work to be dirty, pernicious, intolerable, and offensive. No justification of literary value.
La comedia no solamente tiene pasajes muy crudos y atrevidos sino que es inmoral. […] Un matrimonio en el que el marido consiente que la mujer tenga un amante. Ella, por su parte, no quiere separarse de su marido […], pero tampoco quiere dejar al amante […] No entiendo el sentido de esta comedia ni la clave de humor […] No sé si el autor quiere hacer una sátira del concepto que tienen los ingleses del matrimonio, […] prefieren los amigos y los clubs a sus mujeres. [sic] (De Isabel 2001: 258–259)
In this case, the board member representing the Catholic Church rejected publication
on the grounds that it was a displeasing and immoral work.
An analysis of the censors’ findings indicates that any mention of adultery was
not approved by the Office of Publications in relation to this play. The same pattern was
followed by those board members with shared ideological principles that also represented
the regime’s key values. This clearly demonstrates who controlled the publication process
before works reached the target audience.
It is interesting to note a disagreement among the censors, not all of whom
concurred on the degree of ‘offense’. Bartolomé Mostaza, the well-known author of a
paper on Catholicism, confused the censorship board by saying that the play “describe la
amoral situación de un ménage à trois” , contextualized within “medio moral en los
matrimonios ingleses, donde los maridos parecen olvidar […] que sus mujeres son de
carne y hueso y las tratan como amigas; no como mujeres.” (De Isabel 2001: 358). He
therefore proposed authorizing the performance of this drama for an audience older than
eighteen years. However, the majority of censorship board members agreed that the work
should be banned. González subsequently appealed, arguing that “de la reconocida
tolerancia […] la obra ha merecido la más alta estimación en los países católicos donde
ha sido estrenada” (Rabadán 2000: 135). Despite this appeal, the board banned the play
In 1965, José María Pemán, a well-known theater producer, submitted an
adaptation of Gonzalez-Vergel’s text to the board, but the ban remained in effect, with
9 The comedy is not only very crude and harsh, but it is immoral indeed. A marriage is presented in which the husband is aware of his wife having a lover. She, for her part, does not want to be divorced from her husband […], but she does not want to leave her lover […] I do not really understand the meaning of this comedy nor the sense of humor […] I do not know if the author wants to satirize the concept that he has about English marriages, […] they prefer friends and clubs to their wives. 10 describes the immoral situation of a ménage à trois 11 the moral behavior of English marriages, in which husbands seem to forget […] that their wives are made of flesh and bone, and they treat them as friends but not like women. 12 the board is well-known for its tolerance […] and the work has succeeded in all Catholic countries where it has been performed
the vote being ten to three. Acknowledging, however, that there could be external
pressure to authorize this work, the General Director García Escudero was willing to
explain to the minister his personal reasons for rejecting the work, such as the
In 1968 Pemán made all the changes suggested by the censors and the work was
finally published in 1969. Graham Greene is listed as the author of the ST and Pemán as
author of the TT. A letter from the civil servant who signed the authorization stated that
“la versión de nuestro Ilustre autor” was authorized to be performed.
2.5 Censorship and adaptation
In this paper, it was decided to use the terms ‘adaptation’ and ‘adaptor,’ rather
than ‘translation’ and ‘translator’, because there are not many examples of interlinguistic
textual manipulation but numerous examples of intralinguistic equivalents, omissions, or
explicitations, as shown in the subsequent analysis. Here the “intralinguistic process of
accommodation to new audiences […], to the requirements of official censorship, or to
the needs of a specific theatre group, producer or director” (Merino 2002: 132) will be
explored based on topics that can be considered controversial on social, religious, or
3 Microtextual analysis
The main motivation for performing a microtextual analysis is to support the
arguments put forth with regard to the censorship files. Since the files do not indicate
those parts that were crossed out, analyzing both the ST and TT will provide an
overview of the major content manipulations in the TT. The analysis indicates that the
changes follow thematically-related patterns and are not related to originality, style or
cohesiveness. A clear pattern can be traced in the topics that censors did not approve.
Within the theater, recurrent topics which refer to sexual behavior or extramarital affairs,
specifically adultery, or values considered immoral by the Catholic Church were deemed
13 the version of our Distinguished author (file 238-65) (literal translation) 14 It is important to note that access to a previous Spanish version was not available. Hence, it was decided to analyze a source text in English and the available target text in Spanish and then use the censorship records to contrast the argument. Therefore, the use of the terms ST and TT has been loosely adopted.
objectionable. Some examples of the above-mentioned can be observed in the subsequent
Merino studied the theme of adultery observed in the following dialogue.
According to Merino, “the official position was that adultery could not exist in Spain, and
the fact that the playwright was a Roman Catholic or that the play had been successful
did not weigh much in its favor.” (2002: 135). The dialogue about adultery comes at the
end of the play when the husband and lover want to make a ‘sporting arrangement’ to
share the woman. It is interesting to note that this ending was not deleted but changes can
be clearly discerned. The dialogue was toned down, more ambiguous words were chosen,
and some metaphors—e.g., cake—were omitted.
ST (page 11) TT (page 20)
MARY: For a time. It needn’t be always if you MARY. –Por poco tiempo. No es necesario don’t like me.
decir “para siempre”. Si no llegas a quererme,
desistiremos. Pero hace falta la prueba.
CLIVE: Mary dear, you aren’t in love with me.
MARY: How do you know? […] You mean MARY: –¿Cómo lo sabes? Vamos: quieres you are not in love with me. I know that. It decir que no estás tú enamorado de mí. Ya lo doesn’t matter so much, does it? There’s sé. Eso no importa. Queda siempre el deseo y always lust.
ST (pages 71–74) TT (pages 70–73)
MARY: It’s like a sickness, […] If I have to MARY. –Es como una enfermedad, […] Si choose…
VICTOR: I won’t take away your cake, Mary.
VICTOR. –Lo sé. Te quedarías con él.
CLIVE: The interview had to come, hadn’t it?
CLIVE. – Bueno, esta entrevista tenía que
producirse tarde o temprano. ¿No le parece?
CLIVE: Then I’m walking out. You won’t be VICTOR. –No quiero el divorcio […] bothered with me any more.
CLIVE. –Entonces, me iré. No tendrá usted
VICTOR: If you walk out, I think she’ll walk que preocuparse de mí. 15 The Spanish translation does not correspond to the ST version. Literal translation: Clive, let’s go away together. CLIVE: Go away? Mary: Just for a short time. You do not have to say “forever”. If you do not get to love me, we will give up. But we need to try. 16What you are proposing to me is an immorality. Mary dear, you aren’t in love with me. 17 MARY: How do you know? Let’s see, you mean you are not in love with me. I know that. It doesn’t matter so much, does it? Desire always remains and it is enough just for the moment. 18 Literal translation: VICTOR: I don’t know how to make decisions. MARY: It’s like a sickness, […] If I have to choose… VICTOR: I know, you would stay with him. MARY: I don’t want to choose.
VICTOR.- Si hace eso, ella se irá con usted.
In the English version, the agreement is explicit, and it can be clearly observed that the
wife Mary is very active and wants to leave with her lover. The Spanish version has been
toned down so that the agreement is not explicit, and this triangle involves friend-like
behavior in which sexual attraction is not implied. Between the English lines we can read
Mary’s sexual appetite, but her desire for having her life sweetened is not implied in the
Spanish version, where Mary is more passive and it is clear that she just wants a sporadic
affair or an adventure. In fact, the word ‘lust’ has been toned down, and now she only
There is a noteworthy addition introduced into the TT when Clive, the lover, says
that Mary’s proposal to leave together is immoral. The adaptor’s visibility in the form of
this addition represents a reflection of the church’s ideology, demonstrating that “the
author denies himself his function as author in order to conform to the regime’s
restrictions and thus self-censors himself” (Billiani 2006: 12). Pemán’s interventionist
approach presents “not a product of the regime’s overt censorial impositions; it is rather
carried out in such a vast audience harmlessly.” (Billiani 2006: 12). The adaptor is
‘judging’ the moral values of the wife in accordance with being a good apostolic,
Catholic, and Roman servant as recognized by the Catholic Church. Ironically, Section
(6) of the 1947 law guaranteed freedom of religious expression for all Spanish citizens,
but the only official religion allowed was Catholicism, and other beliefs were being
prosecuted. Catholic principles had to be taught in public institutions, and religion was a
mandatory course at schools. Divorce was forbidden and adultery was illegal, since it did
not conform to the image of a good Christian servant of the regime (Cramsie 1984: 59).
The influence of religion, and the lack of religious freedom, could be observed in
all facets of life, not only in the army and the administration, but also at school, at
university, and even in marriages. It was thought that wives were expected to show true
faithfulness to their husband and family, and they were not allowed to have extramarital
sexual relations or thoughts that could lead to becoming a sinner.
19 CLIVE: The interview had to come sooner or later, hadn’t it? VICTOR: I don’t want a divorce […] CLIVE: Then I’m walking out. You won’t be bothered with me any more. VICTOR: If you walk out, I think she’ll walk out with you.
ST (page 17) TT (page 24)
I’ve told you over and over again—I’ve Te he repetido mil veces — ¡y hasta te lo promised you—we haven’t slept together he jurado! — que hace cinco años que for five years. But I have no sign to prove Víctor y yo vivimos como hermanos. it.
In this dialogue, a completely different meaning is conveyed in the two versions. In the
source text, the fact that there are no sexual relations in the marriage is obvious. In the
Spanish version, however, the sentence is toned down and the wife clearly states that
their marriage is based on ‘brotherhood’. There is an additional explanation where the
wife mentions that it is not possible to prove that her marriage has failed, she is unhappy
and the couple does not have sex any more. However, no ‘sleeping together’ is clearly
mentioned in the target version, since such behavior was not tolerated during this period.
In Pemán’s critique, included at the beginning of the Spanish version, he clearly
states that the wife’s behavior represents that of a cultivated and educated woman who
has destroyed her family and that this attitude is representative only of London society.
He adds that British people do not take themselves seriously (1969: 10). This is Pemán’s
justification for changing her behavior so that it could be understood by Spanish
audiences, who were more familiar with the Catholic concept of life.
During Franco’s regime, the Church wanted to ‘educate’ the masses by teaching
them new moral and religious values. Expressions were not only pruned or toned down,
but ‘strong’ or ‘dirty’ words were completely omitted in this adaptation. Those words
would usually not be heard coming from a woman, since it was considered to be socially
ST (page 10) TT (page 19)
MARY: Sometimes I think I’d marry MARY. – […] A veces pienso que me anyone who wanted to get away. Not casaría con cualquiera que deseara salir de necessarily marry either. I’m such a bitch.
aquí. O me iría con él sin necesidad de casarme. Soy tan despreciable.
20 Literal translation: I’ve told you over and over again—I’ve promised you—that Victor and I have lived like brothers for five years. Nothing . nothing at all. I am not happy. But I cannot prove it, as you may well understand. 21 Literal translation: Sometimes I think I’d marry anyone who wanted to get away. Not necessarily marry either. I am so despicable.
ST (page 44) TT (page 48)
MARY: And go off with that little bitch MARY. –¿Y te irás con esa niñita del from the bank.
The strategy adopted by the adaptor in this dialogue involved softening words and using
diminutive forms. In the ST, a strong epithet (bitch) is used by Mary about herself,
whereas in Spanish she uses a smooth elegant adjective (despicable). In the second
example a strong word with sexual connotations was used in English, whereas in Spanish
niñita (little girl) connotes purity and virginity. Curiously, an antonymous equivalent has
been used by the adaptor as an adaptation strategy.
Pemán’s ideology is clearly encapsulated at the end of the play in the section
dedicated to reflecting on his approach to the adaptation of Greene’s work:
El amor es una cosa de dos. […] ciertas precisiones sobre el concepto católico de la vida y del teatro […] realista de humanismo cristiano. (Pemán 1969: 8)
This approach is reflected in sentences that were changed in order to comply with official
and thematic conventions of the period. For example, women’s lack of freedom and
inability to express themselves was a characteristic of this period. Moreover, it can also
be argued that husbands were allowed to physically mistreat their wives if they were not
submissive, or if they disagreed and showed resistance to their husband’s preferences.
Civil Law during the Franco regime promoted not only asymmetrical rights within a
marriage, but also women’s total subordination to their partners.
ST (page 44) TT (page 48)
CLIVE: Leave your husband and marry CLIVE. – Demuéstramelo. Deja a tu your lover. […] I cannot go on like this, marido y cásate conmigo. […] Yo no Mary. […] You have to choose.
puedo seguir así. […] Tienes que elegir.
MARY: You’re so free, […] You do not MARY. – You’re so free, Tú no tienes que have to choose. […] I’m married, Clive. elegir. […] Estoy casada, Clive, Y tú no. You are a foreigner. Even when I sleep Tú eres un extraño… Sí… ¡No me mires with you, you are a foreigner. [sic]
así!. Un extraño de todos los momentos.
Es en ese misterio donde está la ilusión.
22 Literal translation: and will you go with that little girl from the bank?
23 Love is a matter of two. […] several statements about the Catholic concept of life and theatre […] Greene has approached […] a realist intention of the Christian Humanism.
CLIVE. –A mí me ilusionaría más que nos
MARY: You don’t want that sort of MARY. –Lo crees aparentemente… Pero marriage and I don’t. […] You want to be en el fondo no lo deseas. Ni yo tampoco. a lover with a license, that’s all. [sic]
[…] You want to be a lover with a license,
ST (page 59) TT (page 61)
MARY. – […] Victor… ¡Enfádate!. ¡Di
Victor, please, Victor. Be angry. I’m an algo!. Te he engañado. ¡Insúltame! unfaithful wife. Victor. You have to ¡Pégame! ¡Haz algo! […] Yo no puedo. divorce me. Please do something, Victor. I can’t.
The expression ‘lover with a license’ is deleted in the Spanish version, and the
wife repeatedly mentions that she is a married woman, even though she is not acting as
such. This possibly represents “a way as to enable public dissemination […] without
instilling doubts about the regime’s integrity and its hold on the nation’s moral
standards.” (Billiani 2006: 15). In fact, a sexual tone can be inferred in the ST, whereas in
Spanish the reader enjoys a romantic description or a romance filled with illusion and
adventure, but sex is not part of the relationship.
In the second dialogue above, a strong manipulative strategy emphasizes
behaviors that were common during those times in Spanish culture. In the ST the woman
is asking for a divorce and she admits that she is unfaithful. In the Spanish version, she
never requests a divorce, since divorce was not allowed during this period. Therefore,
once again the adaptor’s manipulative technique reflects Spanish conventions of social
The concept of preserving a traditional family was another principle taught at
schools in line with the principles of the Catholic Church. During the Franco regime, the
Church played a crucial role in controlling the family and marriage. A woman who had
an extramarital affair would be a sinner in the eyes of the Church, and if her marriage
24 Literal translation: CLIVE: Show it to me. Leave your husband and marry your lover. […] I cannot go on like this, Mary. […] You have to choose. MARY: And if I won’t choose. CLIVE: I’ll leave you. […] CLIVE: Perhaps. MARY: You do not have to choose. […] I’m married, Clive. You are not. You are a foreigner. Yes… Do not look at me like that! You are a foreigner all the time. It is in that mystery where the illusion resides. CLIVE: I would be more excited if we get married. MARY: Apparently you believe so… but you do not want that in depth. You don’t want that sort of marriage and I don’t. 25 Literal translation: Victor, get angry. Tell me something. I cheated on you. Insult me. Beat me up. Do something! I can’t.
failed she would be accused of breaking up the family. Such women were also regarded
as deserving of punishment, since they were not respectful of the sacrament of marriage.
By the same token, such mothers were not teaching ‘good Christian’ principles to their
children, whose education was primarily controlled by the values of the Catholic Church.
ST (page 74) TT (page 72)
CLIVE: What makes you think she’d be CLIVE: Es la mejor solución para todos. happier with the two of us?
VICTOR: The four of us. There’s Robin and VICTOR: Para usted y para mí, tal vez.
Sally. She told me herself she doesn’t want to Pero no para Robin y para Sally. Ella me
CLIVE: She wants to have her cake and eat CLIVE: She wants to have her cake and eat
As mentioned below, Pemán implemented several textual changes concerning
family values in accordance with the regime’s conventions (as expressed by the censors),
with the result that the censorship board finally approved publication in 1969. In this
case, the censorship record clearly specifies that the family relationship in this dialogue is
not common in Spanish families, and this explains why the metaphor about cake is
completely omitted from the target version. In this case, the husband is showing his
superiority, and he represents the power of a patriarchal society in the TT. Interestingly
enough, he does not focus on his wife’s affair, but is mostly concerned about his son’s
future and, ironically, his wife’s happiness. The adaptor has implemented a strategy to
circumvent the censors. No omission is observed concerning the theme of adultery, and it
is interesting to see that the husband and lover are focused on her happiness in a period in
which women’s feelings were not worth mentioning. This demonstrates that the drama
presents a new literary perspective. Since the censors did not delete that particular
sentence, as they did in other numerous examples, the audience enjoyed the opportunity
of seeing how women’s freedom to choose and their right to express themselves was
changing in the Spanish society and the asymmetry of power was disappearing. Hence it
can be deduced that the adaptor was able to be creative and El amante complaciente
26 Literal translation: CLIVE: [sharing Mary] this is the best solution for all of us? Don’t you understand? VICTOR: For you and I, maybe. There’s Robin and Sally. She told me herself she doesn’t want to choose. CLIVE: She wants to have her cake and eat it. VICTOR: That’s exactly what she said.
resisted the intolerant regime and became a part of the literary cannon. The men are
concerned about the woman’s happiness, and priority is given to the fact that she has the
It is therefore important to note that this is an exceptional case, since under the
Catholic Church these values were regarded as inappropriate and illicit behavior. This
section presents a clear example of an ‘immoral’ relationship; ambiguities are
purposefully left in the discourse that Pemán manipulated in many dialogues, but this
became a common practice among writers who began to develop new creative writing
styles in the late 1950s. This can be interpreted as a form of resistance that became
generally useful to overcome censorship, and also as a new theatrical strategy which
shared numerous similarities with the Theater of the Absurd and which would later be
known as Protest Theater, with dramaturges such as Federico García Lorca and Ramón
María del Valle Inclán being representative of the first rebel theater in twentieth-century
Indeed, ambiguity dominates this dialogue in Spanish and the uncertainty remains
obvious to the reader, since it is not clear whether both men agree to share the woman
because they think that will be better for the children. The interpretation of the scene in
the ST is completely different from what the reader understands after reading the TT
version. In the ST, the husband accepts his failure, while in the TT he resigns himself to
sharing his wife for the sake of a happy future within the family.
One of the censorship board readers and the scholar Raquel Merino have
suggested the possibility of a ménage à trois: “The plot of the play, a ménage à trois,
despite its English setting, was difficult for censors to accept.” (Merino 2001: 135). It is
not clear, however, whether Merino is referring to the ST or TT. In my view, this type of
relationship exists in the ST, but not in the TT. According to the Merriam-Webster
Dictionary, a ménage à trois can be defined as “an arrangement in which three persons
(as a married pair and the lover of one of the pair) share sexual relations especially while
living together”. In both the ST and TT, the two men make an arrangement to share the
woman but, in Spanish, it is not possible to infer that Mary and Clive slept together; since
there is no evidence of them having sexual relations.
Finally, it is crucial to note that a common technique that would please the
censors is reflected in the self-justification at the beginning of the TT. Pemán indicated
that the subject of adultery in the TT is presented as common behavior in “English
marriages” of people of “loose morality, who were not Catholic” (Greene 1969: 9). This
distancing strategy would help persuade the censor to approve the publication. Eventually
Pemán would argue that those changes were needed “para acercarlos al espectador
español” […] “debe saber que este documental de la sociedad puritana de Londres.”
(Pemán 1969: 8–10). One of the censors added that British like to share their women with
lovers, and that this is reproachable in the eyes of the Catholic Church.
Nevertheless, these examples of manipulations demonstrate how the censorship
board did not have rigorous criteria for rejecting works. In this study, it can be seen that
several changes were required by the censors due to thematic preferences, but it is also
noticeable that the committee was not consistent when suggesting adaptations to the work
(e.g. style). It is interesting to notice the adaptor’s efforts to ‘tease’ the board and hence
achieve the goal of publishing this work. This can be interpreted as a form of compliance
with censorship and possible resistance against institutional censorship.
After analyzing the comments from the censors and comparing them with the
microtextual analysis, it can be concluded that in the case of El amante complaciente the
censors did not pay much attention to the originality and quality of the text. Hence it was
for thematic reasons and its potential to cause controversy that the board was so
categorical about not authorizing this work.
The question of copyright infringements also arises as being intrinsically
associated to the issue of authorship during Franco’s censorship. Pemán was not the
translator of El amante complaciente, and he mentions that he cannot speak English
(Greene 1969: Autocrítica). This topic requires further research, so this was not discussed
This study shows issues with regards to the adaptation of drama during Franco’s
regime, as manifested by the analysis of El amante complaciente. During this period,
27 To bring them closer to the Spanish audience 28 Should know that this comedy is framed within the puritan London society
drama adaptation was used as a political tool and as a means of shaping public discourse.
The censorship files from this period provide ample evidence of institutionalized
censorship and help in the identification of common themes that were subject to
censorship. It is important to note that the censors did not focus on linguistic, stylistic or
formal issues when examining El amante complaciente; instead their main goal lay in
controlling thematic preferences and the overall argument of the plot.
Based on the microtextual analysis presented in this paper, it can be concluded
that the censors did not suggest minor textual changes but numerous omissions and
explicitations that enormously transformed this intralinguistic process into recreating the
text for a Spanish target audience. An intensive process of adaptation resulted in the
creation of a new literary form and style that allowed the adaptor to go beyond external
impositions, revealing his ingenuity and originality and overcoming institutional
censorship so that this work could be staged and become a core part of the literary canon.
New literary patterns were developed by writers to challenge the shaping of social
conventions promoted by the regime. Furthermore, this process of creative writing might
have contributed to the creation of a new theatrical movement in Spain during the
twentieth century, and this will be a further topic of research.
It is clear from this analysis that the adaptor manipulated the text so as to make
this piece a publishable work. The Office of Publications required compliance with the
regime’s censorship conventions. Specifically, negative images of the Catholic Church’s
values could not be presented publicly; instead, the exemplary behavior of ‘good
Christians’ needed to be prioritized and taught in theatrical performances. Because the
Church was omnipresent in all aspects of Spanish life, the censors would suggest
numerous changes to translated works so that topics such as sex, adultery, illicit
relationships and criticisms of religion would never be taught in public institutions and so
that moral principles exclusively representative of the National Movement would strictly
It is worth mentioning that even though the lack of freedom in Spain was obvious
at the social and cultural levels, a contradiction is apparent in adaptors’ manipulations,
since themes that the regime would not agree with, did reach the public. Numerous
examples of institutionalized censorship are discussed in this paper, but there are also
traces of a discourse of resistance and new controversial themes that censors did not
deem objectionable (e.g. husband mentioning his wife’s intentions of abandoning the
family). This study has explored the possibility of analyzing the publication process in
times of ideological imposition and cultural restrictions. In conclusion, I would like to
summarize the situation of the translational discourse during periods of censorship by
La obra traducida y la original tienen, potencialmente, las mismas
posibilidades de ser editadas, leídas, representadas, adaptadas y
manipuladas. […] La diferencia reside en la lengua […] y en el contexto
I would like to thank Dr. Judy Wakabayashi at Kent State University for mentoring me
during the process of completing this work.
29 The translated work and the original have, potentially, the same possibilities of being edited, read, performed, adapted and manipulated. […] The difference resides in the language […] and the cultural context in which they appear.
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Mónica Rodríguez-Castro is currently a PhD student at Kent State University (Ohio). She
graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a M.A. in Translation
Studies, and she pursued her B.A. on Translation and Interpreting at Universidade de
Vigo (Spain). She is currently teaching at Kent State University, and working on her
research. She is interested in Localization processes, Inter/cross-cultural studies,
Translation and Pedagogy, Histories of Translation and Empirical Studies in Translation.
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