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Goytisolo, Juan 1931–

Goytisolo is a Spanish novelist known for his works of ideological social comment. A child during the Spanish Civil War, he often reflects his experiences with a powerful, violent realism in works that are documentary in character. Considered part of the Spanish new wave, he has earned...

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Goytisolo, Juan 1931–

Goytisolo is a Spanish novelist known for his works of ideological social comment. A child during the Spanish Civil War, he often reflects his experiences with a powerful, violent realism in works that are documentary in character. Considered part of the Spanish new wave, he has earned the reputation of the best Spanish novelist of his generation. (See also CLC, Vol. 5.)

Mary E. Giles

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1133

Juegos de manos [The Young Assassins] … reveals a … consistent and coherent treatment of the theme [of the scapegoat figure].

The narrative of Juegos de manos is structured into five main parts, formalized as chapters; these in turn are subdivided into cinematographically presented episodes. Through each of these five parts the scapegoat motif gradually takes shape as the characters assume appropriate archetypal roles…. [The] scapegoat motif effectively clarifies the universality of the novel's specific vision of man….

The novel as a totality forcefully portrays the alienation and lack of purpose in a group of bourgeois Madrid youths….

Each member of the group dramatically particularizes the collective anguish and lack of commitment. (p. 1021)

The archetypal function of chapter one is to establish an analogy between the anguish and disorientation of these youths and their counterparts' two thousand years ago. As man at that time lived in moral and physical despair without positive commitments, so, too, do the young people in Goytisolo's novel blindly and anxiously look for a meaning to existence. Man now, as then, uncertainly awaits redemption.

The many fragments of conflict—youth against society, against one another, against their own fears and insecurities—which fleetingly appear in chapter one coalesce and solidify in the second part….

The scapegoat motif in this part unfolds in two ways. First the decision to have one person assassinate the politician on behalf of the group sets up the role of scapegoat. Second, Luis' actions and words about David suggest another main role, the betrayer. The chapter in its entirety, then, brings the action onto a more immediately personal level by defining roles and suggesting players: David, the scapegoat; Luis, the betrayer. (p. 1022)

[There is a] possibility of a third major role in the archetypal story, to be played by Agustín Mendoza…. Agustín appears in scenes from part three as a figure of real and potential evil in relation to David. His evil is real because his pernicious hold over David causes the once obedient, industrious youth to abandon his studies, reject his family, and foolishly accept Agustín's negative values. The potential of evil emerges from ominous contrasts between David and Agustín: Agustín is strong, David, weak; Agustín, the leader, David, the follower; Agustín is dark (archetypal symbol of evil), David is blonde (symbol of good). (p. 1023)

Although the fourth chapter is the briefest of the five, its exclusive concentration on David's conflict vis-à-vis his scapegoat role makes it crucial in the development of the motif. Its very brevity combined with the intensity of David's emotional crisis creates a sense of urgency which is esthetically apposite to this climatic moment in the narrative. In these pages David consciously (interior monologue) and subconsciously (stream of consciousness) recalls his childhood, adolescence, and futile student years in Madrid. As he reflects upon himself in relation to his friends and society in general, through three separate but inter-connected divisions of the chapter, his archetypal function is brilliantly clarified.

The chapter opens with a scene of David seated contemplatively in his room. He picks up the pistol to be used in the assassination and invoking a mental litany, tries to visualize himself a killer…. But seeing the Bible open on the table, he recognizes his cowardice…. These initial paragraphs underscore his hesitancy and fears.

The camera next focuses on David reading in a notebook some childhood reminiscences in which he depicts himself as a sick, lonely child…. (pp. 1023-24)

The use of stream of consciousness to present his psychological conflict in the third episode of the chapter is technically consummate. Through his subconscious runs a conversation in which he looks at the Bible and [questions] his grandmother…. The reference [in this passage] to the iniquity of the Egyptians and their children might be interpreted on a Judaic-Christian level as an allusion to man's original sin, in which case it would be reasonable to associate that concept with the idea of salvation through a redeemer. The conversation could then be seen as a means of anticipating the role which David will play later….

These three episodes in chapter four represent the victim's spiritual preparation before entering public life. For just as Jesus spent forty days in the desert preparing himself, so must David endure these moments confronting his own weaknesses and fortifying himself for his commitment. (p. 1024)

David's role as scapegoat is fairly consistent, although there are some questionable areas in the analogy between him and Christ. Clearly David resembles Christ insofar as he willingly and knowingly allows himself to be chosen the scapegoat for the group. The following details strengthen the fundamental similarity between David and Christ: preparation for public life which for Christ is his three year ministry and for David the assassination attempt; the failure of each to succeed in terms of his colleagues' standards (for Christ's followers, success would have been the establishment of a kingdom on earth, not just in heaven; for David's friends it would be the assassination completed); the spiritual fortification before each is killed; the actual "crucifixion."

David's motives for accepting the scapegoat role, however, do not parallel Christ's in that he is prompted less by altruistic concern for his fellow man than selfish desire to prove himself a hero…. A resuming difference between the two figures … is that in the one story love is demonstrated positively through the unerring example of the scapegoat, whereas in the other that value is to be inferred from the actions of a less than perfect propitiatory victim. (pp. 1026-27)

Christ, David, and Agustín are scapegoats who assume a collective responsibility and guilt and in so doing clarify a universal truth—that love is the value by which man can best authenticate his humanity. Christ and Agustín demonstrate this truth through the extreme examples of their own actions, Christ's example being consistently and thoroughly positive, that of Agustín, consistently and thoroughly negative. David occupies an intermediary position in which the negative example of his initial acceptance of hate combines with the positive example of first rejecting that value and then sacrificing himself. (p. 1028)

Neither evading nor capitulating to the harshness and cruelty of reality, [Goytisolo] universalizes and humanizes the specific world of these Spanish youths so that we feel intensely the need to re-examine our own values in relation to our fellow man while at the same time hoping that out of this revaluation will come a renewed commitment to self-respect, compassion, and the dignity of man. Analyzing the novel as a predominantly negative example of the archetypal motif of the scapegoat is one means of bringing this universality dramatically into focus. (p. 1029)

Mary E. Giles, "Juan Goytisolo's 'Juegos de Manos': An Archetypal Interpretation," in Hispania (© 1973 The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, Inc.), December, 1973, pp. 1021-29.

Reed Anderson

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1287

Señas de identidad [Marks of Identity] is the detailed and intimate, yet broad and panoramic exploration of a personal crisis. Álvaro Mendiola, the author and protagonist (or perhaps Unamuno's term "agonist" would be more appropriate) portrays his own experience as a member of a specific generation of young Spaniards who were born during the thirties, and for whom the Civil War is one of their childhood memories. He is the descendant of a tradition-bound family of industrialists and landowners whose values he despises…. The complex contradictions between these profound roots in a reactionary and dying social class, and Álvaro's conscious efforts to align himself sincerely and integrally with progressive social and political causes are what impell him toward the crisis of conscience that he attempts to explain and understand in this extensive self-examination. (p. 3)

Álvaro writes this complex autobiography as he looks back upon the experience of acute crisis he describes. He takes the reader with him through three August evenings and into the morning following his "breakdown". But the novel's real substance is the highly elaborated flashbacks that reveal all that has led up to Álvaro's most anguished hours of confusion and paralysis.

In order to examine his experience and judge whether it is or is not integral to forming an authentic notion of his own identitiy, Álvaro, as narrator, objectifies that experience as he writes. In a rather literal sense, he "goes out of his mind" so that he may see his experience more clearly. In narrative terms this objectification is achieved through the perspective adopted by the author: Álvaro Mendiola is actually looking back on not one, but several versions of himself. (p. 4)

[The] narrator is never, up until the final two pages of the novel, able to refer to himself using the pronoun "I" (yo). Instead, there are two main autobiographical subjects here: one is referred to as "you" (tú), and the other as "Álvaro," or simply "he" (él). It is as though the use of the "I" would assume an integration, a wholeness and unity of self that Álvaro is simply incapable of achieving as he looks at himself. The committed, definitive and integrated "I," therefore, has no place in his vocabulary as he examines his experience.

When referring to either of these subjects (tú or él) of his autobiography, Álvaro is referring to aspects of himself which he sees as somehow distinct from one another, and distinct from the person who is described as suffering this crisis of identity. At the same time, whether the narrator uses "tú" or "Álvaro" as his subject implies in either case an attitude toward that subject or aspect of himself which he is describing in the past. "Tú" conveys a sense of intimacy and identity, while not necessarily implying affection. The implicit relationship with this "tú", in fact, may be one of intense love and hatred at the same time. In contrast to the more intimate "tú", "Álvaro" or "él" as subject, implies a more objectified view of that aspect of the narrator's personality in the past. A sense of estrangement, of personal distance and even a lack of recognition is introduced where the experience of "Álvaro" rather than "tú" is the narrative's subject. (pp. 5-6)

"Álvaro" seems most basically to be a witness, an observer, a person through whose eyes and consciousness we understand the historical and human context of the narrator's past experience. (p. 6)

In the biography of "Álvaro," subject of … flashbacks in the third person, we [see] an example of a "novela testimonial," the biography of a young bourgeoise intellectual that traces his abortive attempt to escape the moral chaos of his own social class (seen in his family and his friend, Sergio), and, as an intellectual, to involve himself in a committed way to a struggle for social justice. But this biography of "Álvaro" is actually an autobiography, and the Álvaro we have seen so far is also the "tú" we encounter so often in this narrative. (p. 9)

If "Álvaro" embodies the narrator's capacity to bear witness to and chronicle the events of his life and his circumstances, then "tú" represents his affective capacities; when using "tú" as his subject, the narrator is elaborating his past experience at a subjective and more intimate level. From this perspective, the narrator touches upon the most elemental and unchangeable aspects of his own character. (p. 10)

In isolation, the portions of the novel narrated in the second person singular have a distinctly negative tone. They relate the profoundest and most permanent aspects of the narrator's subjective experience. Beneath the surface of the testimonial of "Álvaro" runs the deeper current of an impassioned confession (tú). The two currents most often run counter to one another. There always seems to be an ironic distance between "Álvaro" and "tú." Emotions and hatred clash with ideals, intuitive impulses and needs contradict conscious moral convictions, deep-rooted personal rebellion clouds his ability to see objectively, and action finally becomes impossible for him.

Álvaro's lack of personal integration is the novel's very subject then. Its coherence as a narrative rests in the process through which the author analyzes his own emotional and intellectual experience, which grows out of and contributes to that same lack of integration. It is the process of self-analysis and the experience so minutely analyzed that is central here, and not the sort of synthesis or philosophical view of that experience that we might expect to find in a more traditional confessional autobiography. (pp. 15-16)

[In] the final pages of his chronicle, having declared himself a pariah, the living contradiction of all that the official order of Spain has come to stand for, Álvaro has enabled himself to finally use the first-person as subject, to refer to himself with the committed and now definitive "yo."

The voices which opened the novel condemning Álvaro after his exile in France return now to assert the permanent victory of their moral and social order, and to send him once again into exile…. The novel ends with an ambiguous and melancholy tone. Álvaro seems to have derived a new sense of personal identity out of his crisis. But his rebellion as he finally expresses it here, seems puerile, the product of a personal rage that will again fail to find expression through effective channels. If Álvaro cannot formulate and realize his rebellion in social terms, it will remain private, eccentric and hermetic, easily dismissed by those he would attack, and posing no real threat to the order he opposes so vehemently. This final problem finds no resolution in Señas de identidad.

The only link that continues to unite Álvaro with Spain is the beautiful language they have in common. He now sees that even the language has become enslaved to the self-sustaining interests of the established order and its mythology…. It is the language itself, then, and its inherent function as the transmitter of the ruling class' mythologies and values that perpetuate the hated order and determine the crippled consciousness of Spain—this language will become both the medium for and the object of Álvaro's attack as a writer in exile. In Señas de identidad, there is little indication of the direction Álvaro will take; but out of his new sense of personal identity as outcast and writer in fierce rebellion, Reivindicación del Conde Don Julián (Goytisolo's subsequent novel, 1970) is offered as the definitive annihilation of Álvaro's roots in the bourgeoise culture of Spain, and the most devastating of attacks on that culture, its values and its mythologies. (pp. 18-19)

Reed Anderson, "'Señas de identidad': Chronicle of Rebellion," in Journal of Spanish Studies: Twentieth Century (copyright © 1974 by the Journal of Spanish Studies: Twentieth Century), Spring, 1974, pp. 3-19.

V. S. Pritchett

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 723

[The subject of exile] was established in "Marks of Identity" and "Count Julian;" now "Juan the Landless" … completes a trilogy…. [Goytisolo's] novels are a sustained skirl of love-hatred for the country he derisively calls "Sunnyspain" of the travel brochures, or "the foul Stepmother." He has the traditional Catalan contempt for the central power of Castilian government and culture, its stagnant bureaucracy, monkish fanaticism, and cruelty—the lifeless formality and obedience to custom which put a lasting puritan gooseflesh on the famous Spanish stoics and saints and on the spontaneous sexual life of the natural man…. Savage digs at the Castilian classics are among the farcical passages of "Count Julian."… The book was less a novel than a kind of anti-psalm—a chanted autobiography and a work of offensive travel…. There was an exhilarating scorn in that book. In "Juan the Landless," exhilaration turns to pain in the raw.

It is notoriously difficult to know how to sustain the force of a trilogy in its final volume. A scream will turn into a sob unless one can transpose it into thunderous orchestration, all drums going hard. To end not with a bang but a whimper may have suited the twenties, but it is useless now. There are alternatives: one of them is to give one's personal noise a wider geographical and historical territory. Goytisolo plays the dangerous game of solving his problems by enlarging them—as H. G. Wells did—to make them sound global. The danger is that generalized hate becomes vague and loses the force of the specific, and it must be said that in Goytisolo's final volume rhetorical generalities have weakened the force of his destructive fantasy and wit. To offset this, he, like other modern satirists with a revolutionary turn, has fallen back on obscenity. Here his masters are the homosexual Genet and the fashionable Marquis de Sade—sex and the scatological have their anarchic uses. Politically, the exile turns to Beckett for the clochard, the outcast and pariah, and finds a sort of anti-hero in T. E. Lawrence, whose sexual aberrations were a private revolt in the desert. Here Goytisolo is a neo-romantic celebrating the nonchalant freedom of the vagrant Arab sodomite. There are also references to Swift's obsession with excrement and gross sexuality….

"Juan the Landless" is really a book about the exile's imagination. (p. 146)

Although Goytisolo is rubbing our noses in his disgusts, he is also lashing himself, for the journeys and scenes he makes so physically vivid may not have occurred…. [The] joke is that he is imagining it all in his bleak North African room and is really writing about the imagination peculiar to exile; the exile's only capital, his only luggage, is his language. For the artist, language is "the splendid prerogative of our disguise": language dictates his "protean ever shifting voices," as it certainly did in another of Goytisolo's masters, James Joyce. His North African room is, intellectually, in the Boulevard Saint-Germain….

I trust [Goytisolo] in the streets of Fez, in all his ferocious caricatures, and in his satire on brochures, travelogues, and corrupt historical films. I trust his laughing phrases: "the double row of sphinxes pierced like sieves by the cameras of sightseeing tours," and "baritone sightseeing guides … recite names, dates, limp spaghetti-like bits of serpentine erudition." I admire his "protean voice" when he is sardonic. But when he is evoking T. E. Lawrence and I see "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" on his table I know the tortured prose of that work will infect him. I prefer Goytisolo's tricks. I admire his ingenuity as an original narrator who addresses himself as "You," as if "You" were a kaleidoscope he is shaking, or were the half-mocking yet self-entranced audience of his schizophrenia…. [At the trilogy's end] Goytisolo returns to the pain of his remark that an exile's only luggage is his language. The pain is real, and he has made it real to us…. But when we find him ending his trilogy with a tormented avant-garde manifesto about the staleness of the realistic novel, the fraud of character drawing, the autonomy of the literary subject as a verbal structure, his incantation falls as flat as a lecture. (p. 149)

V. S. Pritchett, "An Exile's Luggage" (© by V. S. Pritchett; reprinted by permission of Harold Matson Co., Inc.), in The New Yorker, March 20, 1978, pp. 146, 149.

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