In 1962, Agustín Gómez-Arcos, a young dramatist, still new to the Madrid theater scene, won his first Premio Nacional Lope de Vega for the historical drama Diálogos de la herejía. Yet almost immediately, the prize was swept from his hands in a wave of controversy, annulled in a blatant gesture of censorship that signified the Franco Regime's official response to his unorthodox choice of thematic material, and consequently banned the play from the stages of Spain's state-supported teatros nacionales. Set amid the sacrificial flames of the Spanish Inquisition, Diálogos de la herejía portrays the turmoil and hysteria that rock a sixteenth-century Extremaduran village when its inhabitants are seduced by a bizarre outbreak of Illuminism (in this case, feigned mysticism), embodied in the characterizations of a lustful religious pilgrim and two devoutly sensuous nuns. In 1964, Gómez Arcos finally saw a censored version of his play premier to conflicting reviews at Madrid's Teatro Reina Victoria. Also that year, the censored text appeared in Primer Acto with a series of articles addressing the play's audacious subject matter and its polemical production I reception. The debate aroused by Gómez-Arcos's heretical dialogues did not represent an isolated episode in his career; rather, the struggle for freedom of expression is an issue that has unceasingly prevailed as a central theme in both his literature and his life. Indeed, the controversy surrounding Diálogos de la herejía was merely a prelude to a series of combative encounters with Francoist censorship that eventually prompted his voluntary exile from Spain in 1966 - first to London, and then to Paris - along with his subsequent linguistic-generic shifts from Spanish to French and from theater to narrative. In 1980, after having acquired in France not only freedom of expression but also several literary accolades for his work as a novelist, Gómez-Arcos returned to the original text of Diálogos de la herejía and redrafted a new uncensored version. The analysis that follows is based on my reading of this more recent (as yet, unpublished) text.

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Copyright © 1994 Gestos. This article first appeared in Gestos 9, no. 18 (November 1994): 61-80.

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