WACO, TX – For youth in nearly every culture, the adolescent years are full of self-doubt and social anxiety even under the best of circumstances. In post-civil war Spain, however, coming of age under the boot heel of Generalissimo Francisco Franco's fascist dictatorship heaped many additional stresses on Spanish youth during the 1940s and 50s. The regime closely scrutinized all literature and publications; any that could be interpreted as critical of Franco could send writers and their families to prison or put them before a firing squad.
In his newly released book, Coming of Age in Franco's Spain, Baylor professor of Spanish, Dr. Michael Thomas, surveys six novels by five young and highly regarded Spanish authors of the period. Their works reveal not only a trove of insight into life under Franco, but a sophisticated and at times dangerously defiant attitude toward the fascists. It surprised Thomas to find this stealthy undercurrent of resistance to be a common element in similar works of that time, but he was just as surprised to find that scholars hadn't picked up on the theme previously.
"When I started teaching from the six novels that I draw from in this book, I began seeing this pattern evolving that I hadn't ever noticed before. I thought, 'Why hasn't anybody linked this all together?' It was blazingly obvious to me once I saw it," Thomas said. "Apparently nobody else had picked up on it either, so I thought this would make a good book project."
Thomas says Franco's enforcers were relentless in their pursuit of anti-fascist materials of any kind, but he believes these particular authors' novels got past the censors in large part because the subject matter simply wasn't taken seriously.
"These novels were about ten-year-olds, eleven-year-olds — some up to sixteen years old — in transition toward becoming adults. The censors may have thought, 'What do children's stories have to say about anything?'" Thomas said. "But what each of them actually shows is a young person who is faced with pressure to conform to this fascist worldview, to become little fascist clones…. Instead of doing that, they reach a point, a sort of a moment of truth, in which they take a stand and say, 'No, this is wrong,' and they speak out — not so directly against Franco himself, of course. Still, it was a very courageous thing for a kid to go up against a current that strong, and they did."
Coming of Age in Franco's Spain is published by Peter Lang International Academic Publishers and is available at Amazon.com.
About Dr. Michael Thomas
Michael D. Thomas received his PhD at the University of Kansas. He has taught at the University of Houston and is currently professor of Spanish and director, Division of Spanish and Portuguese, Baylor [University, Waco, Texas]. Thomas has done post-doctoral study at Dartmouth, Yale, and the Sorbonne. In 1990, he was named a "Piper Professor" by the Piper Foundation, San Antonio, Texas. In 2001, he published a textbook, ¡De Viva Voz! with McGraw-Hill. He has published extensively on Spanish post-civil war authors, and in addition on Lorca's theater, the Cantar de mio Cid, Don Quijote de la Mancha, Pepita Jiménez, and San Manuel Bueno, Mártir. His scholarship has appeared in Symposium, Hispania, Romance Quarterly, La corónica, Cauce, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, Anales de la literatura española contemporánea, and others.