After the Spanish Civil War the Spanish literature scene was bare. There had been a clear break with the tradition of the 1930s.
Under the dictatorship of General Franco all the cultural innovations that had been achieved in the 30s were prohibited, and no change was seen until the 50s.
In 1942 Camilio José Cela's “La Familia de Pascual Duarte” appeared. It is an existential novel in which the author presents the life of Pascual Duarte in an autobiographical form. It is a tragic novel as the protagonist is doomed to a tragic end. It includes some aspects of the picaresque tradition, since the protagonist relays his life from the cradle until death, and also some aspects of the discovered manuscript tradition.
Carmen Laforet´s “Nada” is written in this same tone and unites some of the work of Debiles such as “Las Ratas”. These books paint a picture of Spain torn apart by war, and of people fighting to survive for an unclear future.
In the 50s Spain opened itself up to other countries. It entered the United Nations in exchange for the establishment of North-American bases on Spanish territory. Migration occurred from the country to the city. There was a huge upheaval and many struggled to adapt to urban life. Social realism appeared in books such as “La Colmena” (The Hive) by Cela, in which he describes life in a post-war Spanish city. In this period many new artists appeared as the intellectual scene was consolidated, including: Ana Mª Matute, Ignacio Aldecoa, Jesús Fdez. Santos, Juan Goytisolo, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, Carmen Martín Gaite and Juan García Hortelano.
These authors used simple narrative techniques and a critical attitude took priority over the formal structure of the book. “La Colmena” in particular was the outline of a masterpiece, but it remained unfinished, which was the way it was published.
The critical works of Antonio Buero Vallejo stand out in this era. He dedicated himself to theatrical representations of the social reality of the era, such as “Historias de una Escalera” (Story of a Stairway) and “Las Meninas” (The Maids of Honor).
There also existed a parallel literature written by those authors in exile, for example, Max Aub, Ramón J. Sénder and Francisco Ayala. They dedicated themselves to composing novels based on their memories of Spain, such as Sénder´s “Réquiem por un campesino español” (Requiem for a Spanish Peasant) and his biography “Crónica de Alba”. In this book he describes his own life from childhood, as the protagonist José Garcés is the author Ramón José Sénder Garcés himself. He narrates his own history from the moment leading up to the Spanish war to his imprisonment in a concentration camp. He uses a testimonial technique in order to mix realism with fiction. The author speaks to José Garcés in a concentration camp, which is where he tells him his story. The author thus distances himself from history by introducing fictional aspects.