surinenglish

3 August 1966: The first novel is banned under Manuel Fraga's reformed Ley de Prensa

Isaac Montero, author of the banned novel, pictured in 1998.
Isaac Montero, author of the banned novel, pictured in 1998. / EFE
  • The 1966 law came into force when Fraga became Minister of Information and Tourism and began to slowly implement some changes to the restrictive Franco regime

"This novel, banned in 1966, is not a political novel. It is simply literature and nothing more," declared the writer Isaac Montero about his book, Alrededor de un día de abril (Around an April Day), after it was finally published in 1981.

The 1966 Ley de Prensa came into force in Spain after Manuel Fraga Iribarne - who later went on to found the first version of what is now known as the Partido Popular (People's Party) - became Minister of Information and Tourism and began to slowly implement some changes to the restrictive Franco regime. The new law was supposedly meant to put an end to the 30 years of stringent censorship that came from the 1938 Ley de Prensa and allowed the publication of novels and magazines and newspapers that did not belong to Franco's Movimiento Nacional. It was passed against the wishes of the then government secretary, Carrero Blanco, and with the indifference of Franco himself, as it allowed (albeit to an ambiguous degree) questioning or criticism of the regime.

In early 1966, shortly before the introduction of Fraga's law, award-winning short story writer Isaac Montero tried to publish his first novel, Alrededor de un día de abril. Initially, it was subject to ninety cuts and modifications under Franco's 1938 Ley de Prensa. However, later that year, encouraged by the new censorship reforms, Montero tried to self-publish the original version of his story, accompanied by a prologue explaining what had happened to the original text. As it transpired, Spain was not yet free from the grips of Franco's suppression. The works were seized during printing on 3 August and the Tribunal de Orden Público (Franco's Courts of Public Order) opened a legal process against the author which resulted in Montero being sentenced to six months in prison and given a fine of 10,000 pesetas, though neither were ever enforced. More novels and a number of newspapers were also seized under the control of the regime during this time, including El Norte de Castilla, ABC and Diario Madrid.

The 1966 Ley de Prensa held onto its rule until 1977, two years after the death of General Franco. The political system was gradually reformed as part of the 'Transición', and modern Spanish democracy took shape. Montero's novel was eventually allowed to be released in 1981, by the Barcelona publishing house Editoral Laia.

Censorship in Spain is now but a memory, though perhaps some repercussions still remain in effect: the pages of Montero's banned book, unlike his other critically revered works, are little known by the public and scarcely available to buy. In a speech after receiving a critics' award for his book Ladrón de Lunas in 1999, Montero said that his experience with Alrededor de un día de abril had "determined his career as a writer".