Science Fiction Studies

#132 = Volume 44, Part 2 = July 2017

Francisco J. López Arias

The Spanish Civil War in Spanish Alternate History: Jesús Torbado’s En el día de hoylucinadas

When we talk about alternate history in Spanish literature, odds are that a great number of the works have one common premise: the victory of the Second Spanish Republic over the Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). By now, this scenario has become a commonplace akin to a Nazi victory or a Confederate victory in English-language alternate history. Fiction such as Fernando Vizcaíno Casas’s Los rojos ganaron la guerra [The Reds Won the War, 1989], Manuel Talens’s “Ucronía” [Uchronia, 1994], and Cesar Mallorquí’s “El coleccionista de sellos” [The Stamp Collector, 1996]—even mockumentaries such as ¡Viva La República! [Long Live The Republic!, 2008]—have taken the survival of the Second Spanish Republic as their starting point. It would be naïve, however, to assume that this has always been the case. In fact, it was not so until 1976.

On the 15th of October of that year, the Premio Planeta, one of the most renowned commercial prizes in Spanish literature and second only to the Nobel Prize in terms of monetary value, was awarded in Barcelona to Jesús Torbado. His winning novel was En el día de hoy [On This Day, 1976], a “true” alternate history, set during the first year and a half following the end of the Civil War.1 During this time the Second Spanish Republic must deal with the aftermath of its victory against Franco’s nationalists, achieved in no small part thanks to France’s sudden change of heart while the decisive Battle of the Ebro was under way. This leads to the French dismissal of the “Non-Intervention Agreement,” a historical pact signed by twenty-seven European countries in 1936. The success of Torbado’s novel was the first time that a work of alternate history received recognition from the Spanish literary establishment, paving the way for the genre’s rise in status within the country’s literary canon. More importantly, this novel and its Premio Planeta are clear manifestations of the zeitgeist in Spain at that time.

This essay will follow two main methodological paths. First, the tumultuous historical and political context at the time of the novel’s publishing will be contrasted against a close reading of the text to show how Torbado takes a clear stance in the national debate about which political system should be implemented in Spain after the end of Franco’s dictatorship (which had lasted from 1939 to 1975). Second, Torbado’s novel will be situated within the evolution of modern alternate history in Spain, showing how other established writers soon adopted this literary form without reservation, given that many prestigious publishing houses put their full weight behind the genre from the start.

A Troubled Time: Torbado in the Context of Post-Franco Spain. A thorough understanding of the circumstances surrounding the commercial launch of En el día de hoy needs to include the fact of Franco’s death on 20 November 1975, less than a year before Torbado was awarded the Premio Planeta. The Spanish political situation could not have been more tumultuous. After the failure of Prime Minister Carlos Arias Navarro’s pro-Franco administration, a battle took place in the higher echelons of the Spanish Government. The reform of Francoism into democracy or, as Torcuato Fernández Miranda, president of the Consejo del Reino [Council of the Kingdom] put it,2 “from the law to the law, going through the law” (qtd. in Prego),3 was embodied by Adolfo Suárez, who had been proclaimed Prime Minister of Spain in July 1976. With the subtle help of the new King, Juan Carlos I, Suárez and Miranda confronted the so-called “bunker,” hardline Francoists opposed to the implementation of democracy, led by José Antonio Girón and some other members of the Consejo del Reino. In addition, an illegal opposition that now felt safe enough to launch very public challenges to the cabinet—headed by the Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and the Communist Party (PCE), both still illegal—expressed, in increasingly more forceful terms, their wish for a total break with the regime to rebuild the state.

While the lion’s share of popular support was divided between the reformists and the opposition, events such as those at Montejurra4 and Atocha5 showed that the “bunker” still had a good deal of influence. At this point, these social and political tensions were, indeed, palpable. For instance, the cover of the left-leaning newspaper El País of 16 October 1976 reflected the state of disarray and instability of Spanish politics by featuring Torbado’s award; the Government’s refusal to accept the reactionary proposals of the Consejo Nacional del Movimiento [National Council of the Movement] regarding the Ley de Reforma Politica [Law for the Political Reform] (a bill that eventually led to the first free elections since the Republic in 1977 6); and there was a threat to outlaw the celebration of the first Spanish Congress since 1932 of the still-illegal Socialist Party. Even at the Premio Planeta ceremony honoring Torbado, there were incidents related to the political climate and the contents of the winning novel. Blanco y Negro [White and Black], the cultural magazine of the monarchist-leaning newspaper ABC, offered the following description in its 27 November 1976 issue:

And what occurred was a pitched battle, where there were slaps delivered by [the host of the ceremony, Ángel María de] Lera’s son to a journalist covering the event. It all started because the journalist made some comments aloud, such as “you would not be here” when Lera asked: “what would have happened if the Republicans had won the civil war?” (“El ‘show’” 49)

Nonetheless, the desire for democracy was dominant in the population at large. Already in the latter half of the 1960s a shift in values was perceptible, and the Regime reluctantly reflected this in its laws. Even though the 1966 Ley de Prensa [Press Law] made voluntary the hitherto mandatory first stage of self-censorship (prior to publication), many publishing houses still submitted their editions to the censors due to fear of repression. The year 1976 would mark the definitive end of censorship and the birth of freedom of expression in Spain, even though legal recognition of this fact via the Ley de Libertad de Expresión [Law for the Freedom of Speech] did not come into being until 1977.

The ideological battle among the three political positions was fought on many turfs. And in a country where the average citizen had access to only two state-controlled television networks, literature’s power to disseminate new ideas could not be ignored. From many different standpoints, ranging from outright fascism to libertarianism, writers joined Jesús Torbado in taking advantage of the first breaths of an effectively full but still unofficial freedom of expression. Thus, also in 1976, Pere Pagès i Elies published (as Víctor Alba) 1936-1976, Historia de la II República Española [1936-1976: History of the Second Spanish Republic, 1976] and Fernando Díaz-Plaja published El desfile de la victoria [The Victory Parade, 1976]. Both pioneering works depict a Spain where the Second Republic was victorious and Franco nothing more than a footnote in history—instead of its predestined savior, as the regime liked to market him.

Nonetheless, the prompt appearance of alternate-history stories after the effective establishment of freedom of expression in Spain shows how authors and publishing houses were already aware not only of the existence of this subgenre but also of the possibilities that it opened artistically, commercially, ideologically, and politically. Censorship constituted one of the most important deterrents for the development of an autochthonous alternate-history subgenre, as well as for the translation of its foreign titles. According to Manuel L. Abellán, even though there was not an official list of rules or criteria, there were some common targets of Francoist censorship, which he summarizes in eight main points:

a) implicit or explicit references from the Roman Index7
b) criticism of the ideology or practices of the regime
c) breaches of public morality
d) opposition to the premises of the nationalist historiography
e) criticism of the civic order
f) support of non-authoritarian or Marxist ideologies
g) in principle, prohibition of any work by an author hostile to the regime. (110-12)

Point d) is crucial to understand the position of censorship towards alternate history. En el día de hoy, and the other novels that in 1976 made use of the premise of a Republican victory, refuted Francoist ideology and openly challenged the motto adorning the peseta coins of the dictatorship: “Francisco Franco, Caudillo of Spain by the Grace of God.” Francoist determinism is represented here by God. As Jose Ramón López García puts it, “the Civil War was unavoidable, necessary and a consequence of History, and Franco was that essential individual in History, according to the classical thesis [of the materialistic vision of History] set forth by Plekhanov” (666), ironically placing Franco and his nemesis, Karl Marx, in the same light. In its most superficial reading, any alternate history involving a Republican triumph would negate a staple of the cult of personality in Francoist Spain: Franco’s destiny as savior of the country and his predetermined victory in the Crusade against Spain’s enemies via the Civil War. The regime could not tolerate such an affront. Thus, as López García points out, even though there had previously been some scarce and isolated experimentation in this field, such as Nilo María Fabra’s “Cuatro siglos de buen gobierno” [Four Centuries of Good Government, 1883], Max Aub’s “La verdadera historia de la muerte de Francisco Franco” [The True Story of Francisco Franco’s Death, 1960, written during his exile], or Ramón Sierra’s Anales de la IV República Española [Annals of the IV Spanish Republic, 1967], we can consider 1976 the true start of the first wave of modern alternate history in the literature of Spain (654-55).

In many instances within Spain’s alternate history, Franco just plays the part of what Éric B. Henriet called a “clin d’œil” (41-44) or a “wink,” defined as “a situation, an element, a character that calls to mind the situation of the real world” (Singles 116).8 An example can be found in Xoan Ignacio Taibo’s Galician-language alternate-history short story “O leito” [The Bed, 1978], where, in an independent Galicia, Franco is mentioned in passing as a democratic admiral belonging to the Galician army (96). In many others, such as En el día de hoy, Franco is portrayed as a main or secondary character whose victory is denied by historical circumstances. One of Torbado’s theses is that the outcome of the war was irrelevant to the degree of suffering endured by the common people (165, 171, 187), which is indeed a determinist position but one grounded in social history. Erasing Franco as the victorious party during the process that first led to that suffering, however, and then leaving unclear whether he would come back to run the country after the Nazi invasion, does question the Francoist strand of historical determinism, which is principally based on the “Great Man Theory” of historical change. For the regime, its Generalissimo was always the chosen one, destined by God to fight and, most importantly, to win against “the Reds.” In a way, while both Francoism and Torbado’s response to it are deterministic approaches to history, a methodological transition can be appreciated, whose final result is to deny the idea of Franco’s influence in history’s predetermined nature. This evolution, although subtle and limited in scope, is similar to the one that took place in Germany when the Bielefeld School of historiography superseded the national political approach in the 1960s.

Taking a Closer Look: The Construction of Torbado’s Alternative. En el día de hoy is arguably the most successful representative of this first wave of alternate history in the Spanish language. Torbado’s novel provides a picture of Madrid, capital of the Republic, during the first year and a half after the conclusion of the Spanish conflict, starting with the victory parade held by the Republican forces and ending with the Nazi invasion of Spain six months after the Fall of France (1940) in the Second World War. This picture is painted by following the lives of five main characters. Four of them are successively put into the spotlight but then dwindle in importance, without wholly disappearing from the narrative. The three chapters that make up the book focus in turn on three protagonists, and each includes subchapters that show the points of view of the others,

The first chapter, dated April to September 1939, centers on the fascist antiques dealer and Jesuit undercover operative Aniceto Ortuño, setting the plot in motion. In the second part, set from October 1939 to April 1940, a fictionalized version of Ernest Hemingway, who did not have to leave Spain, and his photographer Alejo Rubio, become the central focus. Together, they show the reader the inner workings of some aspects of the Government and the mood of the Republican intelligentsia, but also relay the state of the lower and middle classes immediately after the war. Finally, the novel adopts a more moral approach with the Italian spy Dino Salvatore, the protagonist of the last chapter, from April to October 1940. Another main character, of course, is Franco himself; the exiled General is a constant presence, with his subchapters working as vignettes portraying the living conditions of the remnants of the defeated Nationalist military. Finally, there is Simplicia “Sim” Rubio, sister to Alejo and a former prostitute, who makes explicit the main ideological points and serves as the primary (although not exclusive) link among the main characters.

In the epilogue, Torbado claims to have constructed the narrative “from a neutral situation—which will probably satisfy neither Trojans nor Tyrians” (361). This amounts to a Pyrrhic victory for the Republic after France decides to denounce the “Non-Intervention Agreement” and let weapons for the Republican forces pass across its borders in the wake of the decisive Battle of the Ebro (14, 220-26). The reader finds a Spain ravaged by war, much of its population famished. The Government’s leadership by President Julián Besteiro and Prime Minister Indalecio Prieto, both socialists, is progressively undermined by the conflicts in Parliament and on the streets (338-41). This unrest is induced by the political aspirations of anarchists and communists of every denomination, and by external Italian sabotage, which culminates in the murder of the communist leader Dolores “La Pasionaria” Ibárruri at the hands of an anarchist revolutionary, deceived by Dino (269-71).

Franco himself must escape to Portugal and start a new life in exile, first in Cuba and then in Rome. Nonetheless, the General is soon called to meet Hitler as part of the Führer’s preparations for World War II, although Torbado leaves intentionally unclear whether the Nazi war plan will be able to count on Franco as an asset for the conquest of Spain (253-57, 358). Franco’s officer corps is scattered among the Portuguese, German, and Italian armies, while his rank and file (as the reader learns through Franco’s trip in which he is disguised as a Red Cross ambassador) is mostly confined to concentration camps in French territory, suffering dismal conditions (299-301). The last we know of him is in Rome, where, after being chased by a drunk Falange member, Franco realizes that he has lost the respect of his former subordinates (324-25). As López García puts it, “Torbado metaphorically kills the figure of the dictator, now discredited and having lost all his power” (659). By the end of the novel, the Nazi war machine has already rolled into the north of the Iberian Peninsula, gaining its first important foothold through the subjugation of northern San Sebastián. With the Luftwaffe over Madrid’s skies, the Republican Government prepares to flee to London and join the other Allied governments in exile (358-59).

From this brief summary, it can be surmised that the counterfactual elements of this book are fairly straightforward. Its alternate timeline is too short to devise a reasonable shift in the global geopolitical scenario that could have avoided the allo-historical and yet very plausible German takeover of an ideologically antagonistic and strategically important country such as Spain—or even bypassed World War II altogether. Still, the scenario seems to follow conventional alternate history to the letter, as conceptualized by Kathleen Singles: “the point of divergence relies upon the principle of contingency, while the continuing variance from the normalized narrative of the real past—that is, the rest of the narrative—relies on the principle of necessity” (133).

In its opening pages, the book first makes clear its point of divergence from the official historical account and then goes on to lay out two basic premises for its political dimension. The first one deals with the idea that in the event of a Republican victory nothing would have changed for the lower and middle classes and, therefore, the degree of their suffering would not be altered by the new outcome. As a preamble to the story, the reader is presented with an almost verbatim version of Franco’s last war report, from whose opening words the novel takes its title, the only difference being the inversion of winners and losers (10). This shift could be interpreted as simply an eye-catching introduction to the plot, but it also reinforces the idea of the equivalence of both factions and the pointlessness of this counterfactual scenario, at least as seen from the vantage point of the lower and middle classes. If the Republic uses exactly the same wording as the Nationalists for its last war report, then it is logical to assume that little has changed from the first months of Francoism in terms of us versus them, repression and suffering. In fact, the reader later learns that the Republic still applies repressive measures to purge fascism, including an increase in the number of “checas” (116), thus likening this repression to the Francoist repression in our timeline.9 This equivalence of both systems is also perceived by the working class, a theme further developed through dialogue between characters. Hemingway’s trip to Medina del Campo contains the bluntest statement, among several examples (129, 142, 214, 229), coming from the mouth of a veteran of the Spanish colonial wars in North Africa and of the Civil War: “The ones who rule don’t want their power to be taken away, and the ones who don’t have power want to rule. So all of them push us, the ones who don’t understand what is going on, to murder each other.… They never lose” (164-65).

The second main idea is a corollary of the first one: given that the outcome of their triumphs is equal, adhering to any faction is pointless. Hence, it is also pointless to be resentful about the primacy, or lack thereof, of one of those factions; consequently, “Why should we worry about the past? … Let’s go, everything is over” (15). It is time to forget about the past and start a process of national reconciliation through the reform of the political system. This idea is explored via Simplicia’s love life, an allegory serving precisely the purpose of showing the road that must be taken to achieve this national rapprochement. Seen by the reader mostly through the eyes of her lovers, Simplicia, whose name roughly translates as “Simpleton,” represents the Spanish people.10 She is described as a beautiful thirty-year-old woman who, despite the miseries of war and thanks to her profession, manages to have access to commodities that are unavailable to other women of her social status (18).

She soon demonstrates that she is much more than a common prostitute, however; throughout the novel we are constantly reminded of her cleverness, resourcefulness, strong personality, sense of self-protection, and independence. Sim is not the only strong woman in the novel; we are introduced to many female secondary characters, both drawn from real life, such as Dolores “La Pasionaria” Ibárruri, as well as purely fictional, such as doña Rosa, madam and owner of the drinking den La Colmena. They also adopt unconventional gender roles compared to those dominant during early Francoism, whose main objectives regarding women were “the exclusion of women from jobs out of their homes, the ‘moralization’ of customs and the increase of natality” (Iglesias de Ussel and Flaquer 61). It should be noted that, probably in keeping with the supposed neutrality of his scenario, Torbado makes a point of ensuring that almost all of these women have come from backgrounds of either war or prostitution, so are not products of the progressive measures taken by the Republic. In truth, during the Civil War and immediately afterwards, many women had to resort to prostitution as a means of securing food, clothes, and shelter. Although the Republic did forbid prostitution in 1935 and the Nationalist side, dominated by a strong Catholic ideology, later banned it officially in 1956, both tolerated it during the war. This tolerance is portrayed through Simplicia and other secondary characters, but with Sim it acquires another ideological dimension. If we equate Simplicia to the Spanish people, then it is the Spanish people who also are prostituting themselves to obtain social and economic well-being and security, while those at the top of the State, regardless of their ideology, wield the true power.

In the novel, Simplicia’s three suitors represent the three different political options contending for primacy in the Spain of 1976: Aniceto stands for continuity, Dino stands for reform, and Ramón for a total break. These three try to court her, just as the same three groups were trying to gain the favor of the Spanish people for the establishment of the future state. At the start of the novel, we meet Aniceto and Sim on their way to the victory parade. They seem to be in a romantic relationship, but the reader soon learns that it is a shaky partnership, a quid pro quo in which Aniceto is with her for appearances’ sake and for company, whereas Sim hopes to secure a safe and comfortable life (15-17). Deep inside, she still hopes that her ex-husband Ramón, the father of her dead child—who has gone to fight the war on the anarchists’ side and is believed to be long dead (86)—will find her and take her back. As a result, Sim often goes in and out of Aniceto’s life without any explanation. During a time when Sim is involved in Aniceto’s life, Dino goes to their home to procure money for his espionage missions. One conversation is enough for Dino to become infatuated, but Sim is not ready to commit to him yet (235-58). At this point, Ramón, who up until now had been nothing more than an idea in Sim’s mind, reemerges as a real character. We find him living in diverse working-class slums in Barcelona, spending his days claiming that his luck is going to change very soon (241). And indeed it does, but for the worse. Dino manages to deceive Ramón into conducting a terrorist attack against “La Pasionaria” during a political rally, resulting in her death. Unable to escape, Ramón is arrested and jailed. Surprised to learn that her husband is still alive after learning in the news of his involvement in this crime, Sim hurries to visit him in prison. She soon realizes, however, that she no longer loves Ramón, that her idealization of him and her unconscious investment in the memory of her dead child, not true love, were the true source of her feelings (331-32).

Meanwhile, Dino begins to harbor feelings of regret about his role in the covert operations aimed at disrupting Spain to make it an easier target for the spread of fascism, thus prolonging the suffering of the Spaniards. He finally realizes that “you cannot play with the life and freedom of another, not even when someone higher than ourselves ... orders us to do it” (308). This leads Dino to question “for what reason … he himself had to take part in other people’s madness” (303) and by extension his whole fascist ideology, eventually dismissing it entirely and embracing democracy. He runs to Aniceto’s shop to persuade him to disavow his work in support of fascism, but the only reply he receives is staunch opposition (305-11). A few hours later, Dino finds Sim in the most fashionable bar in Madrid, working again as a prostitute. They strike up a conversation, but this time Sim finds herself seduced by the reformed fascist, and the story ends with them disappearing together into the darkness of the night (332-34).

In this case, the analogy is very straightforward. Aniceto represents the Francoist state, which attracts the Spanish people with its sense of security (in fact, the maintenance of peace was one of the main selling points of late Francoism), even though they have never been truly comfortable with its being in power. He is characterized as having the “face of a bishop” (121), referencing the symbiotic relationship between the Catholic church and the Francoist state, especially before the Second Vatican Council (Martín de Santa Olalla 127). Although he takes offense at being called a fascist (14), Aniceto is constantly looking for guidance in the exiled Nationalist propaganda apparatus (78, 201), just as the regime denied its fascist ideology and insisted on calling itself an “organic democracy.” The on-again, off-again relationship between Aniceto and Sim stands for the variable degrees of support for the regime among Spaniards, depending on the faction with which they align and the geopolitical situation of the moment.

On the other hand, Ramón, long gone and yet longed for, represents the opposition heralding the total break with the regime. He is characterized as an idealist who does not hesitate to leave everything behind to fight for his worldview, although “he was as likely to say that we were all brothers as he was to say that bombs should be planted in every road and on every property” (83), a statement akin to the ideological range shown by the leftist National Front in charge of the Government during the final days of the Republic. He was thought to have died in the war when a tunnel collapsed on him (84), just as the opposition to Franco was thought to be dead after the war ended. His reappearance mirrors the public reappearance of the leftist underground parties after a long hiatus in open political activity, and his attack on “La Pasionaria” and subsequent capture reiterate the internal conflicts among the left-wing forces in Spain during the twentieth century. Ramón and Sim’s love child, killed by pneumonia, a viral disease, symbolizes the Republican state that died due to the rebellion of internal fascist elements. Both characters are portrayed in a negative light: Aniceto is boring and two-faced while Ramón is naïve and ignorant, signaling the negative feelings of the author towards the political ideologies they personify.

In contrast, Salvatori, despite his political affiliations at the beginning of the novel, is depicted in a positive light: sexy, witty, intelligent, resourceful, well-connected, and politically savvy. His moral development in voluntarily dismantling his personal politics after a period of violent internal conflict mirrors that of Italy during World War II, when the Mussolinean state voluntarily dismantled itself in 1943. The final argument between Aniceto and Dino marks the irreversible point of separation for the previously cooperating strains of fascism. Sim’s attitude towards the Italian spy is a clear indicator of Torbado’s preference for the reformist solution. When Salvatori spouts a clearly fascist ideology, Sim dismisses him; yet when he becomes repentant and accepts democracy as the superior system, Sim embraces his love. The transfer of the positive traits of the character to the reformist solution and the allegory of the Spanish people supporting a path of reform towards democracy as the best option of the three available constitute the political dimension of this novel in particular and of alternate history as a whole, a genre that “explores the past less for its own sake than to utilize it instrumentally to comment upon the state of the contemporary world” (Rosenberg 10).

Behind and Beyond Torbado: More Alternate History. Along with its potential to be commercially lucrative, the power of alternate history as a political tool, especially in such a charged context, explains the surge of counterfactual works at the dawn of the Spanish transition to democracy. In the specific case of Torbado’s book, Rafael Barral, Planeta’s literary director between 1973 and 1995, claims that “the publishing house provided a detailed script to Jesús Torbado, so that, by following it, he would write the novel En el día de hoy” (Ayén 48). This claim, together with the factors that surround it, leads one to postulate the existence of a top-down birth of the first big wave of Spanish-language alternate history, fueled by the surrounding political circumstances and induced by the big publishing houses such as Argos Vergara (where Diaz-Plaja published El desfile de la Victoria) and, especially, Planeta, which would also publish Victor Alba’s 1936-1976, Historia de la II República Española and Fernando Vizcaíno Casas’s ...Y al tercer año, resucitó [… And on the Third Year, He Rose Again, 1978]. These publishing houses would use already established writers, who would lend their reputations to alternate history by means of association, giving the genre a reputation maintained over time by new works, some from the pens of widely successful commercial authors such as Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (“50 años después de la derrota aliada” [50 Years After the Allied Defeat, 1994]) or highbrow literary authors such as Manuel Talens and his “Ucronía” (1994).

The writers of alternate history hailing from science fiction who produced works in the 1990s and the 2000s, already liberated from the political pressures of the Spanish Transition after the definitive establishment of democracy in Spain, and free to disregard external ideological constraints, found themselves able fully to pursue the implications of the Spanish Civil War, as César Mallorquí’s “El coleccionista de sellos” [The Stamp Collector, 1996] demonstrates. This was also true of other points of historical divergence, such as Alexander’s failure to die poisoned in Babylonia in the case of Javier Negrete’s Alejandro Magno y las águilas de Roma [Alexander the Great and the Eagles of Rome, 2007] or the victory of Spain over the United States in their war of 1898, explored by Juan A. García Bilbao and Javier Sánchez Reyes in their “Fuego sobre San Juan” [Fire over San Juan, 1999]. Thanks to previous experimentation in the field, these writers achieved greater recognition than their counterparts in other literary markets such as the American one, where the inception of the subgenre was from the bottom up, starting from the niche spaces within science fiction and climbing to the popular mainstream position that it seems to have achieved today (Schneider-Mayerson 65).

Alternate history in Spain still has a long way to go. Publications within the genre are not as common as in English, and there is not a well-developed specialized fandom to which releases of new works can be targeted. Instead, alternate history is presented to the general public, fully relying on the prestige and the commercial potential that it has traditionally possessed. This has also been spurred by the influx of many English-language alternate-history works entering the Spanish cultural scene both in literature and other media as well as by the success of television shows such as El Ministerio del Tiempo [The Ministry of Time, 2015-]. The genre is, once again, attracting the interest of Spanish audiences. This situation happens to coincide with two major milestones: 2016 marked the eightieth anniversary of the start of the Civil War, and 2017 marks the fortieth anniversary of the re-establishment of democracy in Spain. After such a long time, both the war and Francoism remain controversial issues that periodically reappear in the news, invariably igniting national political debate. The intersection can be easily seen, and the context is certainly ripe for another wave of alternate history. Only the future will tell if it will become a reality.


1. “En el día de hoy” is the beginning of the brief announcement of victory by General Franco over the Republican forces. Franco’s last war report reads: “On this day, with the Red Army captive and disarmed, the Nationalist troops have reached their final military objectives. The war is ended” (qtd. and trans. Bowen and Álvarez, 111). Also, as noted by Hellekson, in the novel this refers to a day “that shows the repercussion of changed events years or centuries after the event has occurred; usually, the characters are unaware they live in the wrong history” (33). Even though in En el día de hoy the story takes place only months after the point of divergence from the official account of history, this definition still applies.

2. The Council of the Kingdom was a legal body that advised Franco and, later, his designated heir, King Juan Carlos I, on decisions within their jurisdiction. One of its mandates was to offer the Head of State the names of three candidates for the position of Prime Minister. Under Franco, this was just a formality, but once he died the control of the Council became decisive for the outcome of the Transition. It was abolished in the Constitution of 1978.

3. Unless stated otherwise, all translations from Spanish are mine.

4. Montejurra is the traditional location of the Carlist Party’s annual tribute to their dead combatants in the Civil War. During the Transition, the Carlist movement was divided between the traditionalists, close to the “bunker,” and the left-wing Carlists. In 1976, members of the traditionalist faction opened fire against some left-leaning Carlists, leaving two dead and many injured.

5. The dates 23-29 January 1977 are known in Spain as the Tragic Week. The “bunker” tried to stop the transition to democracy by creating a mass panic that would force the Army to carry out a coup d’état. The climax was reached on 24 January, when members of the Apostolic Anticommunist Alliance (La Triple A) assaulted an office in Atocha, Madrid, and killed five labor lawyers linked to the Communist Party, injuring another four.

6. The National Council of the Movement was a sort of consultative upper house whose origins lay in the deliberative assembly governing the Spanish Traditionalist Phalanx of the Committees of the National Syndicalist Offensive (FET de las JONS), the sole legal party of Francoism.

7. Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the Catholic Church’s list of forbidden books.

8. Note the distinction between Spanish alternate history that is that written in any language spoken in Spain and Spanish-language alternate history.

9. During the Civil War, the Republic established some internment facilities —checas—that were used to interrogate, detain, torture, and execute fascist detainees extrajudicially. They were named after the VCheKa, the first incarnation of the Soviet state security agency which later would evolve into the NKVD.

10. “España,” the Spanish word for Spain, is a feminine noun in the Spanish language. Since the times of the Roman Republic, the national personification of Hispania is a woman and, as regards contemporary Spain, almost every government since 1868 has used this personification for political purposes.

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

Alba, Victor. 1936–1976. Historia de la II República Española. Barcelona: Planeta, 1976.

Aub, Max. La verdadera historia de la muerte de Francisco Franco. 1960. Segorbe: Fundación Max Aub, 2001.

Ayén, Xavi. “‘Suárez escribía sus memorias’, revela el editor Rafael Borrás.” La Vanguardia (18 Jun. 2005): 48.

Bowen, Wayne H., and José E. Álvarez. A Military History of Modern Spain: From the Napoleonic Era to the International War on Terror. Westport, CT: Praeger International, 2007.

Díaz-Plaja, Fernando. El desfile de la Victoria. Barcelona: Argos, 1976.

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