Antonio Buero Vallejo, Spain's most distinguished playwright of the post-civil war period, served as a medic with the Republicans during the civil war. He was later imprisoned and remained imprisoned until 1945. He first came to public attention in 1949 when he won the Lope de Vega prize for History of a Staircase, a play often compared to Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller for its portrayal of everyday life. In this play and in others, Buero has renewed the moribund Spanish theater by crafting a new tragic vision to reflect Spain's changed circumstances. Though postwar censorship made overt criticism of Franco's dictatorship impossible, Buero's plays manage indirectly but effectively to protest Spain's repressive society. The Burning Darkness (1950) is set in a school for the blind, but the characters' physical blindness symbolizes the spiritual blindness of Spanish society. Critics have observed that several of Buero's play focus on some of Spain great creative artists in order to examine the role of the intellectual in a repressive society. Included are the painter Velazquez in Las Meninas (1961), the deaf painter Goya in The Sleep of Reason (1971), and the suicidal writer Mariano Jose de Larra in The Shot (1979). The Foundation (1974) is an interpretation of Buero's own prison experience. Though written in 1964, The Double History of Dr. Valmy, which deals with the use of torture as a political instrument, could not be performed in Spain until 1976, after the death of Franco. In 1986 Buero received Spain's most prestigious literary award, the Cervantes Prize. He was the first playwright so honored.