Goytisolo, Juan (Vol. 5)

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2221

Goytisolo, Juan 1931–

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Goytisolo, a prolific and talented Spanish novelist, was born in Catalonia and has lived in exile in France since 1957.

Although he has lived in exile for most of the past two decades, Juan Goytisolo, at the age of 43, is generally considered to be the foremost novelist of contemporary Spain. Within his own country all of Goytisolo's work—six novels, two books of essays—is on the swollen blacklist of "outlawed writers," mainly, of course, because the author is an intransigently outspoken enemy of the France regime. (p. 15)

[Like] that Irish exile James Joyce, with whom he is often, perhaps extravagantly, compared by European critics, Goytisolo has become more and more passionately obsessed with his despised and beloved country the longer he lives beyond its suffocating reach. His new novel, Count Julian …, is a violent, irresolvable quarrel between the severed halves of a Spanish exile's nature, one part exultantly free of a world that "compels us, against our wills, to be spokesmen for something," the other inescapably bewitched by a man's unbreakable ties to his homeland.

The word "novel," it should be pointed out, is simply a label of convenience for Count Julian. The book is really an anti-epic, a brutally untraditional meditation—now apoplectically enraged, now cruelly and deceptively playful—on the barren wastes of Spanish history and the putrescent stench of 20th-century Spanish "progress." That Goytisolo faces the defiling realities with totally agonized despair, disbelieving in the possibility of change, he makes appallingly clear by casting the entire work in the form of a single sentence, which uses many types of punctuation but never the period. Count Julian is literally a drama of vicious continuity that has no end. (pp. 15-16)

The standard device of modernism is the wrenching of conventional forms out of their placid, familiar alignments, in order to explode the desiccated habits of inherited response; to offend and mock and jeer as a majestically subversive means of eliciting new ways of seeing, hearing, thinking, feeling. But because Goytisolo limits the scope of his assault so narrowly to abuses of the word, he finally defeats himself. When his own language becomes a vehicle of incomprehensibility, Goytisolo seems as much the victim of the word as he is the enemy of its abuse. (p. 16)

Pearl K. Bell, "Exile's Revenge," in The New Leader (© 1974 by the American Labor Conference on International Affairs, Inc.), June 10, 1974, pp. 15-16.

Juan Goytisolo,… an exile from Franco Spain since 1957, has written a tortured, labyrinthine novel [Count Julian] that leaves a ragged scar across the land from Port Bou to Algeciras, from La Corunna to Almeria. He rapes the language and castrates the culture. In a sado-masochistic rage he seeks to purge and purify—to shake Spanish stoicism to its very foundations with a massive dose of corruption.

To this end Goytisolo has constructed an elaborate psychosexual metaphor in which Count Julian urges that the Moorish conquest be repeated.

Nothing escapes the fury of Count Julian. History, tradition, ritual and that which goes by the name of progress are all lacerated. Seneca, the great Stoical philosopher who opened his veins in the most futile of all gestures, symbolizes what Goytisolo obviously regards as the absurdity of Spanish nobility, the poverty of Spanish philosophy.

But the very end of the book provides an insight into the true relationship between Count Julian and Spain across the straits. "tomorrow," he says, "will be another day, the invasion will begin all over again"

There is no period at the end of that sentence—the last in the book. What could possibly be more stoical than that? …

Count Julian is an effort to revise the Spanish language and bring the Spanish novel into...

(The entire section contains 2221 words.)

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Goytisolo, Juan (Vol. 23)