Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Goytisolo’s early novels, Juego de manos (1954; The Young Assassins, 1959), Duelo en el paraiso (1955; Children of Chaos, 1958), and Fiestas (1958; English translation, 1960), attacked the repression and psychological deprivation of Franco’s Spain in a conventional narrative style typical of social realism. The publication of Marks of Identity represents a significant shift in the development of Goytisolo’s fiction. His disillusionment with the possibilities of traditional fiction, and with the values and mores of Western society, becomes evident in the first novel of the Exile Trilogy and then more pronounced in Count Julian and Juan the Landless. His disenchantment with the repressive society created by the regime of Franco, his pessimism, and his experimentation with narrative form are not unique for his time. They are also evident in the work of other Spanish novelists of the postwar period, such as Carmen Laforet, Luis Martin-Santos, Juan Marse, and, most of all, Juan Benet. Goytisolo’s view of the corrupted, obscenely degenerate nature of Western society, however, is the most disturbing. It is a nihilistic vision that offers no hope for redemption within the boundaries of Western concepts of morality.

The novelist’s emphasis on the analysis of the role of language is one of the significant aspects of the trilogy, for it makes coherent the maze of obscene, perverted...

(The entire section is 449 words.)