Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tom at the Bad Rash has a post up castigating us, rather politely I must admit:

If you read other English-language blogs from Catalonia, you might get the impression that the story of Catalan being banned under Franco was made up by Catalan nationalists. This is completely untrue. Certain bloggers seem to have a perverse interest in undermining the history of Catalan, Catalonia and the repression during the Franco years. Make no mistake: under Franco, hundreds of laws and judgments were passed which effectively outlawed the use of the Catalan language. At best, the blogs which promulgate this myth are disingenuous. I reckon that they're aiming for an audience-pleasing tone of contrariety, which is, after all, the natural tone for successful blogs. Doesn't make it true, though.

I've never said Catalan wasn't repressed under Franco, and I of course deplore the treatment of Catalan-speakers under the dictatorship. What I have said several times is that Catalan's status changed many times under Franco's regime, and it's simplistic to just say "Catalan was banned."

In 1939, official use of Catalan was prohibited, including its use in schools, the civil service and legal system, books, newspapers, and broadcasting. However, of course, unofficial use could not be and was not prohibited; people used the language they always had with their families and acquaintances. I've never heard of anyone being executed or even going to jail for speaking Catalan to his mom, his buddies, the shop foreman, or the guy at the grocery store. My wife confirms this. So it's not like there was some sort of Gestapo or Stalinist linguistic terror, unpleasant as the anti-Catalan laws were, and that is what at least some Catalan nationalists are claiming.

Gradually, some of the anti-Catalan laws were relaxed; I wish I had more solid facts on this, and I've been searching the Internet for at least an hour, so it looks like I need to check down at the public library tomorrow.

I do know:

Publication of books in Catalan resumed in 1940, and by the early 1950s many books were being printed in Catalan as the dictatorship began to relax its control. (Key events: Reconciliation with the United Nations, the United States, and the Vatican.) Several literary prizes for books in Catalan were established during the Fifties. By the early 1960s, music and theater was permitted in Catalan--for example, Els Setze Jutges. Lluís Llach released the famous protest song "L'Estaca" in 1968 and was not arrested or anything. In 1962, the Edicions 62 publishing house was founded, and around that time Francoist censorship became less strict. Spanish and Catalan writers were henceforth basically permitted to write what they wanted as long as they didn't criticize the Franco government; therefore, there is a lot of '60s sociology, economics, and especially history still available in Catalan. Sometime during this period Catalan was permitted again on radio and TV. Catalan was reintroduced into the schools in 1971.

So, actually, after about 1950, Catalan wasn't treated particularly differently from Breton in France, Welsh in the UK, or German in northern Italy, and got rather better treatment than, say, Hungarian in Romania or Czechoslovakia. Or German anywhere east of the Oder.

I hold no brief for dictators in general or Franco in particular. I do have a problem with the exaggeration of Francoist evil for political reasons, which I smell behind some of the more outrageous Catalan nationalist claims (Franco banned the sardana, anyone?).

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