Manuel Vázquez Montalbán


Text and selection of content: Francesc Salgado


A family trip

In Vázquez Montalban’s articles we rarely find references to his personal life, especially to summer trips from his childhood.

“L’any que va morir Manolete”, Avui, August 6, 1997, p. XXIV (especial Estiu)


The flight of Barcelona

In one way or another, whenever there was a public holiday many citizens left the city in search of rest–especially a sort of emerging middle class.

“Barcelona no está en casa los domingos”, El Español, August 7, 1960, p. 32-37

With Dalí in Cadaqués

As a reporter for Solidaridad Nacional, Vázquez Montalbán attends one of the regime’s propaganda events. He makes no attempt to hide the fact that it’s all a sham.

“Carnaval en Cadaqués”, Solidaridad Nacional, August 30, 1960, p. 7

Natalia Figueroa, a woman and a poet

The questions posed by the journalist (and poet) hide his fascination with the interviewee. Years later he would make this fascination visible by dedicating a story to the aristocrat and promising young poet. The false formality of an enamoured young man.

“Natalia Figueroa se presenta”, Solidaridad Nacional, September 30, 1960, p. 7

Goldsmith’s apprentice Juan Marsé

An interview with Juan Marsé (a lifelong friend and a man he would work with in multiple magazines in the 1970s) on the occasion of the publication of his first novel. Vázquez Montalbán would help to shape Marsé’s image as a neighbourhood man and literato, an identity he would carry with him all his life.

“Juan Marsé, el novel·lista encerrado con un solo juguete”, Solidaridad Nacional, December 2, 1960, p. 7


How to capture a tram

A series of chapters on the history of trams in Barcelona allow him to recall when the city was known as the “Rose of Fire”–the setting for a succession of revolutionary events.

“Historia del tranvía barcelonès”. Solidaridad Nacional, November 29, 1961, p. 7


A year and a half in prison

Both he and his wife, Anna Sallés, were arrested in May 1962 for protesting at the University of Barcelona. Vázquez Montalbán lost his job and was given a sentence of three years as a warning to activist youth. Nearly 20 years later, he referred to the 18 months he spent in prison in Lleida in an article.

“Los fuguistas”. Interviú, March 2, 1983, nº 355, p. 41


The Europe we want

After being released from prison, Vázquez Montalbán is unemployed and banned from the world of journalism. He works a series of jobs until he finally manages to find a position in the machine room of an ambitious weekly publication, Siglo 20, where he stands out thanks to his comments on international news.

“La nueva “Belle Époque”, Siglo 20, June 12, 1965, p. 22-26


Life in the post-war years

Finally, a convenient job in the weekly publication Triunfo at the end of the summer of 1969 changes his life as a journalist thanks to his historical chronicle of private life and popular culture under the Franco regime. Published in six chapters, the book “Crónica sentimental de España” (Sentimental Chronicle of Spain) would become a bit hit just a few months later.

“Los años cuarenta, Triunfo, September 13, 1969


The exile draws to a close

With a prudent discreetness, exiles return home to die. Vázquez Montalbán chose the story of the poet and diplomat Josep Carner to discuss exile in anti-Francoism’s most influential magazine.

“Carner y la metafísica nacional del exilio”, Triunfo, April 11, 1970, p. 31

Football referees

One day in June of 1970, Barça fans find out who Guruceta is and how he calls penalties. After that, ‘guruceta’ was no longer just a surname.

“Venció la raza”, Tele/eXpres, June 10, 1970, p.4

A new sexuality

Young foreigners begin to come to Spain each summer, bringing with them a new, carefree life of pleasure that flies in the face of customs marked by discreetness and national Catholicism.

“Amores con un extraño”, Tele/eXpres, September 1, 1970, p. 12


Carvalho makes an appearance

In the monthly newspaper Hogares Modernos –where he was practically the only writer– Vázquez Montalbán was able to try out some slightly disruptive stories about a detective named Jack who worked as a decorator and solved police cases.

“El asesinato de Verónica Marple. El caso del decorador ambiguo”, Hogares Modernos, February, 1971, p. 18-19

A neighbour, Maoist and model

In the section “La Capilla Sixtina” (The Sistine Chapel) he uses fiction to conceal his opinions, which he waters down and assigns to different characters. Nevertheless, some of these characters will be much more active that expected.

“Mi confesión”, Triunfo, May 29, 1971, p. 12


The joy of discovering Paris

As a former prisoner, he needed plenty of contacts to get a passport. One of the first cities he visited was Paris, where he hoped to see what democracy was like in France. There, he set himself loose.

“París tal vez sea una fiesta”, Triunfo, February 5, 1972, p. 8-12

Gabriel Ferrater

Always focused on his true calling, poetry, Vázquez Montalbán expressed himself as though life had struck him a blow every time one of the poets he admired died–particularly when death came so early.

“En la muerte de Gabriel Ferrater”, Triunfo, May 13, 1972, p. 53

The graphic feminism of Núria Pompeia

Vázquez Montalbán writes the text for a series of drawings by the illustrator that denounce the domesticated existence women in Spain are subjected to: society forces them to marry and serve their husbands. In Andorra, these drawings would also be published in the book La Educación de Palmira (Palmira’s Education).

“La educación de Palmira”, Triunfo, entre desembre de 1970 i juliol de 1972

Against Richard Nixon

After the killings caused by American intervention in Vietnam, Nixon again won the elections. The journalist’s heart bursts open and his brain is flooded with indignation.

“Cheque en blanco” Tele/eXpres, November 8, 1972, p. 10


Chavela Vargas

An unusual homage to an artist who was both popular and politically involved. The journalist dedicates a poem to her where it almost seems as if he has been struck by a brief return to adolescence.


“Chavela Vargas”, Triunfo, July 17, 1973, p. 21

The coup in Chile

After months of rumours and stirrings in the ranks, a military officer comes to save the interests of the elites in the name of the fatherland. Chilean democracy falls after Augusto Pinochet stages a coup with the support of the United States. This marks the start of 25 years of dictatorship.

“El irritante Allende”, Tele/eXpres, September 12, 1973, p. 10


The death penalty

A few days before prisoners Puig Antich and Heinz Chez were to be executed using the garrote vil, Vázquez Montalbán wrote a text against capital punishment in hopes that the head of state, Francisco Franco, would heed pressure from Europe not to apply the death penalty.

“La pena de muerte”, Triunfo, January 26, 1974, p. 25

Portugal in our hearts

When Portugal’s peaceful Carnation Revolution brings an end to 40 years of dictatorship, it’s a breath of fresh air for democratic Spaniards. Some, like the journalist’s alter ego and his neighbour Encarna, find time to travel there and see an effective, democratic initiative firsthand.

“Con Encarna en Portugal”, Triunfo, May 25, 1974, p. 35

Fiction and satire

A liberal wave filled magazine covers with female bodies and, with a bit more elegance, imaginations ran wild. As presumptive authors and promoters of the satirical weekly Por Favor, Vázquez Montalbán and Juan Marsé were tried for this adult version of a children’s story.

“El Lobo Feroz y Caperucita roja”, Por Favor, April 29, 1974, p. 38-39


The death of Franco

When the dictator dies, a flood of targeted information fills Spain. It seeks to perpetrate a personality cult that was born shortly after the coup in 1936. Subject to serious restrictions, a satirical publication like Por Favor, did its best to subtly emphasize the cynicism of the message from the head of the government, Arias Navarro.

“Aunque la noticia”, Por Favor, December 1, 1975, p. 4


A new newspaper in Catalan

Aware of the significance of the first newspaper in Catalan since the Spanish Civil War, he writes about it in Triunfo. At the time, Catalonia initiated part of the political and civic changes that would take place in the rest of Spain.

“Avui, el referéndum de un país”, Triunfo, May 1, 1976, p. 17

Paying a visit to Josep Taradellas

Once it becomes known that Josep Taradellas is working discreetly with President Suárez to return to Catalonia, Vázquez Montalbán recalls a visit he had paid to the Taradella’s official residence-in-exile a year before.

“L’honorable Tarradellas”, Mundo Diario, October 2,1976, p. 3


Carvalho in the press

During a year and a half, Carvalho –little known, as he had only appeared in the first two novels– becomes the protagonist of a series of articles in Interviu, the most widely read weekly publication of the day. This would consolidate the character as the journalist’s alter ego.

“La tortilla de Biscuter”, Interviú, January 6,1977, p. 14

Criminal Francoism

Spain was shocked by the murder of five individuals in an office of labour lawyers in Madrid’s Atotcha neighbourhood. The protest, organized by the PCE party –which was still illegal– was a powerful call for coexistence.

“Camaradas”, Triunfo, February 5, 1977, p. 10

The PSUC and PCE become legal

On Holy Saturday, 1977, the PCE is legalized. This is one of the few reconciliatory decisions that are directly connected to the Spanish Civil War. There’s an outcry from the regime’s most Francoist sectors to revive a beast from the Civil War, but Adolfo Suárez needs Europe to validate Spain’s new democracy. Vázquez Montalbán dives headlong into these events in Por Favor.

“Cómo se legalizó lo que se legalizó”, Por Favor, April 18, 1977, p. 4


Living against Franco

Bit by bit, as the formal changes that lead to democracy take place, feelings of dissatisfaction also spread: life hasn’t changed all that much. What’s going on? A certain disillusion is palpable throughout the country despite Spain’s internal propaganda and international prestige.

“Contra Franco vivíamos major”, La Calle, May 2, 1978, p. 14-15


The army conspires

With ceaseless extremist violence, the Atocha massacre, the bomb planted in the offices of El Papus and the impunity of far-right gangs, Sixto Cámara deduces that a coup is possible.

“El golpe que no cesa”, La Calle, October 2,1979, p. 11


The last tourist

In a supposed crisis of national tourism, it’s important to determine what type of tourists we need, and how many. This is a debate that has been going on for forty years.

“Adiós, turista, adiós”, Interviú, July 31, 1980, p. 32


The coup d’etat

Two weeks after an attempted coup in February of 1981, Vázquez Montalbán wonders if, as everyone suspected, the assault failed due to the arrest of some of the individuals involved, or if it truly succeeded in having a significant impact on Spanish politics.

“El golpe, ¿ha fracasado?”, La Calle, March 10, 1981, p. 20


Everyday machismo

Vázquez addresses the aggressive, repulsive custom of men who remark loudly on women’s appearance as though anyone was interested in their opinion. Carvalho, now back in the press, responds.

“¡Tia buena! ¡tía buena! ¡tía buena!” Interviú, Octiber 6, 1982, 43


TV3’s debut

Vázquez Montalbán welcomes the first day of emissions on TV3. He remarks on the quality of the product and the omnipresence of the president of the Government of Catalonia, Jordi Pujol, as the electoral campaign is in full swing.

“Menàge a trois”, El País, January 18, 1984



Sometimes it’s important to remember that besides being free with no fear of repercussions, torturers are still employed by the police. This is noted in an investigation Amnesty International conducted across Europe, where each country is a child of its past.

“Tortura”, El País, July 19, 1984


Sport as a vice

An intelligent, playful article on trends in urban sport that, of course, has a dark side tied to the author’s own circumstances.

“Footing”, El País, Marcj 11, 1984


Against NATO

Spain is drawing nearer to a schizophrenic referendum that isn’t about leaving NATO, as the socialists had promised, but about whether to remain in it. An intense debate is going on in the press; it includes a whole series of professional NATO advocates who seem to have appeared out of thin air.

“Subliminal”, El País, January 30, 1986.

New consumption

As a gastronome and chef, for some time Vázquez Montalbán has observed changes in the international commerce that affects our customs and refrigerators.

“De todo”, El País, October 30, 1986.



Homosexual couples begin to make themselves visible, giving rise to a debate on their right to marry. Vázquez Montalbán offers them his support while also warning that this institution generally worsens couples’ relationships.

“Matrimonios”, El País, September 7, 1987, p. 40


Who will free Barcelona?

During the commemoration of the end of the Spanish Civil War in Barcelona, some individuals still refer to it as “the liberation of the city”, as though the movement that started the war hadn’t been a coup, and as if the word “liberation” wasn’t a manipulation of the past.

“La liberación de la ciudad”, El País, January 28, 1989

Lucid, simple humour

No one could express more ideas in so few words. Making smallness a subtle criticism of the senselessness of our lives couldn’t be any simpler.

“Gila o la encarnación de la memòria” El País, September 16, 1989, p. 22

The Berlin Wall

A first-hand evaluation just a few days after the world was left speechless by the disappearance of one of the Cold War’s most well-known symbols. It’s worth reviewing these initial reactions in view of the changes that have taken place in the international scene in the last 30 years.

“El muro de Berlín”, Interviú, November 20, 1989, p. 161-162


“Life is serious”

One day, suddenly, Vázquez Montalbán has to deal with the death of numerous princes of poetry. All these deaths are premature and hard to face.

“Jóvenes príncipes”, El País, January 9, 1990, p. 27


The AIDS outbreak

In just a few months, the outbreak of an epidemic was transformed into a means of humiliating and discriminating against certain communities. Only the passage of time has replaced the limits of this disease, now a chronic pathology, to exclusively physiological effects.

“Sida”, El País, November 30, 1991, p. 22


Post-Olympic hangover

All things come to an end. Even the “best Olympics ever” It’s time to take a deep breath and look ahead.

“La resaca”, El País, October 12, 1992, p. 22


Berlusconi makes his appearance in politics

For a member of the new rich to find a place in politics thanks to the populist power of his own TV station is dangerous enough. However, at certain times, Berlusconi’s power becomes unbearable.

“Algo más que un partido”, El País, May 16, 1994, p. 12

Diego Armando Maradona

It looks like the end of the road. Maradona, who now plays for Naples, is banned from the World Cup in the US due to consumption of five banned substances. Nevertheless, Vázquez Montalbán sees Maradona as nothing more than a victim of himself and his businesses.

“Diego Armando Maradona”, Avui, July 2, 1994 p. 17

The Catalan oasis

It’s hard for an audience of Catalan nationalists to accept that we probably also have the most common social defects; after all, we’re made of the same flawed materials as the rest of our species.

“L’oasi català”, Avui, September 17, 1994 p. 17

The state and GAL

We’ve always known that the state can shelter a criminal organization. For it to give these criminals permanent roles is a whole other level.

“L’estat delinqüent”, Avui, November 12, 1994, “Diàleg” p. C2


Socialist restlessness

When reviewing the service of a socialist during his fourteen years as the president of Spain, nobody could be more precise: González legitimized the Spanish transition to democracy, permitted GAL and governed as a centrist. A wasted opportunity.

“Felipe González”, Avui, June 22, 1996, p. 20


Lady Di

In response to the worldwide commotion caused by the death of the most popular princess on the planet as she was pursued by a handful of paparazzi, Vázquez Montalbán asks the reader whether there’s any culpability hidden in the everyday yearning for gossip any of us might feel. Without much hope, we should add.

“La premsa del cor” Avui, September 6, 1997, p. 15

A guy named “Carvalho”

On his detective’s 25th birthday, the author reviews the cracks his character uses to slip through his fingers. After all, he’s never turned a criminal over to the police or the courts.

“Carvalho y yo: ¿Quién es el asesino”, El País, Babelia, February 22, 1997, p 24


The Lewinsky aroma

Few women were subjected to such universal harassment before the rise of the smartphone. It’s a good example of patriarchy in the late 20th century thanks to the involvement of the king of the West, Bill Clinton.

“Monica Lewinsky”, Avui, September 5, 1998, p. 15


The rise of xenophobia

A severe warning on how xenophobia and racism can spread across Europe. These ideas are now promoted by a far right that has found new followers among poor whites.

“Zoologia”, Avui, February 19, 2000 p. 17


Guardiola is leaving

All of a sudden, we hear the surprise. Barça’s most charismatic player announces that he’ll be playing in Italy next season, now that he still has a few years left in his career. Without delving into the reasons, Vázquez Montalbán suggests that the club will have to start from scratch.

“El nou Barça”, Avui, April 14, 2001 p. 15

The new September 11th

With the huge social impact of images of planes full of people crashing into New York’s Twin Towers, Vázquez Montalbán describes the horror of being forced to die like Japanese pilots were in World War II.

“Els kamikazes”, Avui, September 15, 2001 p. 27

Montserrat Roig

The journalist celebrates the fact that his friend and former co-worker at Triunfo is still remembered with affection ten years after her premature death. He lauds her capacity to live according to her beliefs and to have changed a small part of recent history in her immediate surroundings–a huge achievement.

“Montserrat Roig”, Avui,November 24, 2001 p. 21


The Euro is among us

Vázquez Montalbán remarks on the arrival of the Euro. He notes that despite the symbolic value of this new European currency, it’s far from uniting the social policies and national consciousness of the different countries involved.

“El euro y las armas” Interviú, January 7, 2001, p. 106


A weakened democracy

It’s the war on “terrorism” (and not, as it may seem, the Iraq War) that serves as a proper label for the many shadowy operations and trumped-up claims used to criminalize dissident minorities that aren’t always violent. An official war that is undeclared and, therefore, permanent. Invisible.

“El terrorisme”, Avui, March 22, 2003, p. 38