George Sand, a censored writer

George Sand (1804-1876) is the pseudonym of Aurore Dupin, a famous French writer whose life and work were involved in numerous controversies. Sand, of aristocratic descent on her father’s side, grew up with her grandmother in a castle in Nohant, in the county of Berry, in central France.

She was married at eighteen to the Baron de Dudevant, but after eight years they separated and moved to Paris, where she settled with her son in a modest Bonne’s Chamber (room with sloping ceilings intended for service personnel of bourgeois families). It was there that, thanks to his talent, his perseverance and his contacts, he managed to make a name for himself in French letters that has lasted until today.

Free and censored woman

Caricature of George Sand in pants, 1848.
Axagore / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

George Sand was a free spirit who questioned norms and who dressed as a man in masculine contexts. He was related to writers such as Honoré de Balzac and Gustave Flaubert, the painter Eugène Delacroix or the composer Franz Liszt. An independent and liberated woman, she was the lover of, among others, Alfred de Musset, Prosper Merimée and Frédéric Chopin. She embodied a model of emancipated women: she was critical of marriage and the traditional family, she had anticlerical ideas and was sympathetic to socialism.

Because of his unconventional life choice, George Sand’s work was included in the Index of Forbidden Books from the Vatican in 1863, thirteen years before her death, when she was still active as a writer. The Index it had the objective of preserving Catholic orthodoxy and collected above all titles of religious treatises. However, in the 19th century it was considered that the narrative could be pernicious and that it posed a threat to the Catholic model of life, so they entered the Index numerous novels, including many works by George Sand.

In life, Sand became a public figure, vilified by many quarters, but with a large mass of readers and admirers. He bequeathed us more than seventy novels, plays, short stories, and magazine articles. More than twenty-five thousand letters in his own handwriting have also been preserved, presenting an interesting portrait of his time.

Sand in Spain

The interest in the work of this writer in Spain was immediate. Four years after her literary debut in France, she had already translated her first novel into Spanish, leoni leone. Before the Civil War, around fifty of his works were already circulating.

Cover of the Spanish edition of _Leoni Leone_ in 1888.
Spanish edition of leoni leone in 1888. Translation by Eugenio de Ochoa.
Wikimedia Commons

During the Franco regime, the author’s reception was highly conditioned by the scandals she was involved in during her lifetime and by the Catholic Church’s resounding rejection of her figure and her legacy. Sand represented everything that the strict morality of National Catholicism condemned.

At that time, any text that wanted to be published had to be presented and reviewed without exception by Francoist “readers”. They decided whether to authorize the publication of the book as it was, whether to carry out redactions and modifications, or whether to refuse and prohibit publication.

The censors automatically dismissed many of Sand’s works because they had been included in the Index in the 19th century, indicating that moral criteria had not evolved in a hundred years. Thus, requests for Indiana Y Her and him and, probably anticipating the refusal, authorization was not even requested to translate the most anticlerical or socialist-tinged texts.

Your stay Majorca

Sand’s most successful novel in Spain has been A winter in Mallorca, republished more than forty times in eight different translations. In it he recounts his stay on the island between 1838 and 1839 together with his children, Maurice and Solange, and his partner, Frédéric Chopin.

A handwritten page of the work _A winter in Mallorca_.
Facsimile of the work A winter in Majorque (A winter in Majorca) by George Sand.
Wikimedia Commons

The author highlights the beauty of the area, but shows her dissatisfaction with the lack of hygiene, the poor state of the roads and the inhospitable treatment she receives from the locals.

Although the fact of presenting an unflattering vision of Spain earned him some setbacks with censorship, it managed to be published ten times during Franco’s time. One of the files that authorized the publication in 1958 stated the following “Everything is dirty, poor, sad, depressing (…). It is not a book precisely for tourism”. Paradoxically, however, George Sand’s stay in the Cartuja de Valldemosa is today a tourist attraction and Sand’s books are sold in shops in souvenirs.

Evolution of censorship

It must be said that, in the case of this writer, a relaxation of censorship is perceived throughout the Francoist period. The last reports denying the publication or importation of Sand’s works date back to 1952. From 1959, all were resolved favorably. The rejection was fundamentally based on the Vatican condemnation, but the latest edition of the Index it had been published in 1948 and was definitively abolished in 1966.

This period coincides with the relaxation of moral criteria after the Second Vatican Council which, among other issues, separated sexual relations from reproduction. The new Press Law of 1966, known as the Fraga Law, was also promulgated, which, at least apparently, was more permissive.

George Sand had been punished for her less than exemplary life (rather than for literary transgressions), but, in the new context, the pressures to mold a single pattern of women through literary censorship had ceased to have any effect.

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