The Exile Trilogy

by Juan Goytisolo

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Marks of Identity, 1966

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 323

Álvaro Mendiola

Álvaro Mendiola (AHL-vah-roh mehn-dee-OH-lah), a heavy-drinking, thirty-two-year-old photographer and maker of documentary films, loosely based on the author. After a voluntary exile of ten years in France, he returns to Spain to reconstruct his past, which is bound up inextricably with contemporary Spanish history. His conflict in this journey is his conflict with Spain—he can feel his full identity only in Spain, where he was born and reared, but he cannot live there, tolerating a Fascist regime and a narrow-minded, self-righteous culture. From his childhood home, he revisits his life. He was a pious child who grew into a spiritually indifferent adult, the son of a fading hidalgo family with a now-dissolved colonial estate in Cuba. He matures slowly, goes to school, and becomes associated loosely with political radicalism. More a poet than an activist, he is depressed and alienated by totalitarian culture and eventually leaves Spain to live and work in France. There, he meets Dolores, who becomes his lover. In 1958, he releases a documentary on emigration from Spain, which is impounded by the Spanish Civil Guard, on the ground that it is “anti-Spanish.” Around this time, he experiences a fainting spell on a Paris street, the first indication of a heart condition that threatens his life and eventually prompts his return to Spain.

Antonio Ramírez Trueba

Antonio Ramírez Trueba (rah-MEE-rehs trew-EH-bah), a school friend of Álvaro, a Marxist law student who is arrested for having Communist sympathies and is imprisoned, then later kept under extended house arrest in his hometown. He functions as an alter ego to Álvaro.


Dolores, Álvaro’s lover, the daughter of émigrés living in Mexico. She meets Álvaro in Paris at a boardinghouse, where Álvaro, who is eavesdropping, learns that she is behind on her rent. He pays her rent, she finds out, and after an initial misunderstanding, they become lovers. She cares for him during his convalescence in Barcelona.

Count Julian, 1970

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 286

Count Julián

Count Julián (hew-lee-AHN), also called Ulbán, Ulyan, and Urbano, a famous traitor and ally of the Moors, a figure from history. The author appropriates Julián’s legendary persona and projects into it his intense hatred for Spain. Julián, in the novel, is an émigré living in Tangier, whence he launches an imaginary counter-reconquista, leading the Muslims back across the Straits of Gibraltar and into Spain. He stalks the boy Alvarito (the embodiment of Spain’s ideal), rapes and murders him, disgraces him, makes a slave of him, blackmails him, causes him to commit suicide, and merges with him. Julián becomes more and more present as the werewolf-like alter ego of the author, as he wanders Tangier’s streets and passes from image to image.

Don Álvaro Peranzules

Don Álvaro Peranzules (peh-rahn-SEW-lehs), also called Seneca (SEH-neh-kah), a metaphorical figure representing Spain. He is a great poet and a propagandist for the Christian Gentleman, the intellectual and social straitjacket of Spanish culture. He is alternately a celebrated statesman and a skid-row Tangier pimp, plastically taking on all the qualities Julián despises as emblematic of Spain.


Alvarito (ahl-vah-REE-toh), a beautiful, aesthetic boy who undergoes the perfect pious, upright, and narrow Spanish upbringing. He corresponds to the narrator as a child. He aspires to sainthood and is a metaphorical figure for the hopes and ideals of Spanish culture. He will be seduced and destroyed by Julián, raped, murdered, driven to suicide, and enslaved. He is also the image of Julián as a child, his own innocent faith ravaged by the society that instilled it. He will merge with Julián at the end of a protracted psychic struggle.

Juan the Landless, 1975

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 125

The narrator

The narrator, a voice speaking in space. The author has exiled himself from Fascist Spain and has exiled himself from the standards of European narrative, eschewing plot, character, and unities of time and place. The sourceless voice of this novel retains nothing of its own, except the driving force of the author’s own outrage and his vital need for freedom. Juan the Landless is, for that reason, a characterless character, having divorced himself from all the contouring conditions that a point of origin, a culture, and a homeland impose. He moves further into the Muslim world of Morocco and closes his trilogy with a gradual shift from Spanish (here translated), with increasingly poor spelling, into transliterated Arabic, and then into Arabic characters.


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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 66

Fuentes, Carlos. Preface to Count Julian, 1974.

Schwartz, Kessel. “Juan Goytisolo’s Non-fiction Views on La Espana sagrada,” in Revista de estudios hispanicos. XVI (October, 1982), pp. 323-332.

Spires, Robert C. “From Neorealism and the New Novel to the Self-referential Novel: Juan Goytisolo’s Juan sin tierra,” in Anales de la Narrativa Espanola Contemporanea. V (1980), pp. 73-82.

Ugarte, Michael. Trilogy of Treason: An Intertextual Study of Juan Goytisolo, 1982.

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Critical Essays