Barcelona is recorded as a grimy, pinched city full of the smell of drains and casual cruelty.'
The epic of the Spanish Civil War is known worldwide; more present in the collective memory of Barcelona, though, is the long posguerra or post-war period, which lasted nearly two decades after 1939. The Barcelona of these years is best recorded in the novels of Juan Marsé, a grimy, pinched city full of the smell of drains and casual cruelty, in which any high idealistic expectations had given way to a fatalistic concern for getting by from one day to the next.
Barcelona was impoverished, and would not regain its standard of living of 1936 until the mid-1950s; food and electricity were rationed. Nevertheless, migrants in flight from the still more brutal poverty of the south flowed into the city, occupying precarious shanty towns around Montjuïc and other areas in the outskirts.
Reconstruction of the nearly 2,000 buildings destroyed by bombing was slow, for the regime built little during its first few years in power other than monumental showpieces and the vulgarly ornate basilica on top of Tibidabo, completed to expiate Barcelona's 'sinful' role during the war.
Some underground political movements were able to operate. Anarchist urban guerrillas such as the Sabaté brothers attempted to carry on armed resistance, and March 1951 saw the last gasp of the pre-war labour movement in a general tram strike, the only major strike during the harshest years of the regime. It was fiercely repressed, but also achieved some of its goals. Clandestine Catalanist groups undertook small acts of resistance and rebellion - underground publications, secret theatre performances.
Some Catalan high culture was tolerated: the poet Salvador Espriu promoted a certain resurgence of Catalan literature, and the young Antoni Tàpies held his first solo exhibition in 1949.