Juan Goytisolo Goytisolo, Juan (Vol. 133) - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Juan Goytisolo 1931-

Spanish novelist, short story writer, essayist, autobiographer, and travel writer.

The following entry presents an overview of Goytisolo's career through 1999. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 5, 10, and 23.

Juan Goytisolo is a Spanish writer who has spent the majority of his career in exile due to his opposition to the regime of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. Despite his expatriation, Goytisolo is generally considered the best Spanish novelist of his generation. Primarily known as a practitioner of experimental fiction, Goytisolo usually eschews formal story lines and encompasses a variety of political and critical theories in his writings.

Biographical Information

Goytisolo was born in 1931, the son of a wealthy Spanish merchant. His mother died in 1938 when Mussolini's bombs fell on Barcelona. His mother's death began his family's disintegration, which continued throughout the Spanish Civil War and under Franco's dictatorship. Another defining experience of Goytisolo's youth was his grandfather's molestation of him. Goytisolo helped to create the Turin group of writers in Barcelona, but eventually became a victim of censorship. In 1956 he fled Franco's regime for Paris, where he began his career as a self-ostracized writer. He split his time between France and Morocco, which expanded his interest in other cultures. He later expressed this fascination by including multicultural themes and international sources in his work.

Major Works

Goytisolo's novel Reivindicación del Conde Don Julián (1970; Count Julian) is a story of exile. The protagonist is exiled from his homeland and lives in Tangier. He travels through a drug-induced fantasy in which his story merges with that of Count Julian, the legendary Spanish traitor. By linking his story to Count Julian's, the protagonist is able to obtain revenge on Spain, the country that cast him out, by destroying its literature, religion, cultural beliefs, myths, and language. In the semiautobiographical novel Paisajes después de la batalla (1982; Landscapes after the Battle), the residents of Le Sentier, an unfashionable quarter of Paris where Goytisolo resided, wake up one morning to find their walls covered with mysterious graffiti and all their street signs written in Arabic; their European city has suddenly been taken over by foreigners. The novel traces the city's past, present, and future as it emerges from the chaos. La cuarentena (1994; Quarantine) is a novel that combines first-, second-, and third-person narration to recount the story of a newly departed soul as it wanders the earth. The story is based on the Islamic belief that a soul wanders the earth for forty days in the interim between life and death. The main narrator is writing the novel at the same time it is being read; he moves between the real world and the dreamlike world of his departed friend as he explores issues of war, the human condition, and identity. In addition to his fiction, Goytisolo wrote a two-volume autobiography beginning with Coto vedado (1985; Forbidden Territory), which tells the story of his first 25 years, including his family's loss of wealth under Franco and his own difficult losses during childhood. Goytisolo followed Forbidden Territory with the second autobiographical volume, En los reinos de taifa (1986; Realms of Strife), which describes Goytisolo's life in exile, during which he lived in Paris and Marrakech. It is in this volume that Goytisolo discusses the years he lived as a heterosexual and his eventual acceptance of his homosexuality.

Critical Reception

Reviewers often point to the intertextuality of Goytisolo's writings. In discussing Goytisolo's narrative-lifting of divergent sources, Robert Kiely states, “This is not to say Mr. Goytisolo borrows because of a lack of imagination. It is his originality to borrow in such a way that his patchwork antihero, like his patchwork narrative and language, is presented as a provocation.” Goytisolo's use of the “Little Red Riding Hood” episode in Count Julian is frequently analyzed by critics; many noting the Freudian underpinnings of Goytisolo's reworking of the oft told story. Reviewers assert that Goytisolo's work opposes traditional language, history, and culture, preferring chaos instead. Tom Whalen asserts, “His works scream out against the language of oppression, wherever it is found.” Although most critics agree that Goytisolo rejects traditional literature and culture, they do note his appreciation for lesser known “sub-literature” of the past, which remains unrecognized by many readers. Amanda Hopkinson states, “Goytisolo works as a vast integrating literary force—but also as a great storyteller with an appreciation of those who have gone before.”

Principal Works

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Duelo en el paraíso [translated by Christine Brooke-Rose as Children of Chaos] (novel) 1955

Fiestas [translated by Herbert Weinstock as Fiestas] (novel) 1958

Juegos de manos [translated by John Rust as The Young Assassins] (novel) 1959

Para vivir aqui (short stories) 1960

La isla [translated by Jose Yglesias as Island of Women] (novel) 1961

Fin de fiesta: tentativas de interpretación de una historia amorosa [translated by Yglesias as The Party's Over: Four Attempts to Define a Love Story] (short stories) 1962

Pueblo en marcha: Instantaneas de un viaje a Cuba (travel journal) 1963

Señas de identidad [translated by Gregory Rabassa as Marks of Identity] (novel) 1966

El furgón de cola (essays) 1967

Reivindicación del Conde Don Julián [translated by Helen R. Lane as Count Julian] (novel) 1970

Juan sin tierra [translated by Lane as Juan the Landless] (novel) 1975

Makbara [translated by Lane as Makbara] (novel) 1980

Crónicas sarracinas (travel journal) 1982

Paisajes después de la batalla [translated by Lane as Landscapes after the Battle] (novel) 1982

Coto vedado [translated by Peter Bush as Forbidden Territory: The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo] (autobiography) 1985

En los reinos de taifa [Realms of Strife: The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo, 1956-1982] (autobiography) 1986

Space in Motion (essays) 1987

La cuarentena [translated by Bush as Quarantine] (novel) 1994

The Marx Family Saga (novel) 1994

Claudia Schaefer-Rodríguez (essay date Fall 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Goytisolo Through the Looking Glass: Paisajes después de la batalla, Autobiography and Parody,” in Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, Vol. 19, No. 2, Fall, 1986, pp. 13-29.

[In the following essay, Schaefer-Rodríguez asserts that Goytisolo's Paisajes después de la batalla represents a parody of the autobiographical genre.]

With the memory of these brief moments, I could describe to you walks, breathless flights, pursuits, in countries of the world where I shall never go.

Jean Genet, The Thief's Journal

The Sufi's book does not consist of ink and letters: it is naught but a heart white as snow.

The Mathnawi of Jalal-ud-Din Rumi

… the pornographer has it in his power to become a terrorist of the imagination, a sexual guerrilla whose purpose is to overturn our most basic notions of these relations.

Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman

It seems to be fairly evident that the study of “autobiography” precipitates a variety of discussions as to what are or should be the “conventional” expectations of the genre. One only has to open, for example, Paul Jay's study entitled Being in the Text: Self-Representation from Wordsworth to Roland Barthes1 or the volume of essays on this subject collected by James Olney, Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical,2 to witness the differing points of view toward the writing, classification, and analysis of certain works. On the one hand, Paul Jay cites a quite traditional definition of what type of code or paradigm is to be expected: “an autobiography is a factual and more or less objective life-history of its author that includes details about personality and emotional, spiritual, and social development.”3 The elements to underline here are the “factual,” “objective,” and “historical” aspects of the life being recreated in the text. This perspective suggests the chronological study of past to present (the former time being fixed with the help of the current, and an emphasis on data or objective details; that is, a familiar self-portrait. On the other hand, following Paul de Man, the limits of autobiography may be opened to include, in his words, “any text in which the author declares himself the subject of his own understanding.”4 It is in this self-conscious sense that Juan Goytisolo's Paisajes después de la batalla (1982) may be considered to contribute to these discussions: as a parodic commentary on the cultural construct fixed in the first definition, and as a metafictional (self-referential) narrative foregrounding primarily, if not exclusively, the narrator's (and “text author's”5 awareness of himself in the process of telling the reader his own evolving story of self-generation. Paisajes is the attempt of the writer to free himself from the fixed forms of autobiographical discourse in order to obtain a liberation from the history (“life-history”) and society (“social development”) that produce (or recognize or demand) such discourse. In other words, Goytisolo's text seems to exemplify what Frank Kermode describes as the basic characteristic of the novel by definition; that is, “[the history of the novel is] the history of forms rejected or modified, [especially] by parody.6

The parody of the popularity and consumption of autobiography as an ordering of experiences for the reader, who must in turn cope with ordering his own life experience,7 is what one encounters in Goytisolo's text. In the change of orientation from biography to autobiography that Georges Gusdorf has called the turn “from public to private history,”8 the text of Paisajes concentrates on the psychological self, in particular this subjective self as a metaphor for the perception of external reality. The autobiographical mode, therefore, is a metaphor of the objective world: how the writer sees that world and himself in it. In the process, the reader is called on to supply the connections between the pieces, as shall be discussed later. As the writer asks himself toward the end of the novel, in a section called “A Ella” which refers to his “real” wife, “Su extrañamiento artificioso de la narración, correspondería de forma simbólica a un extrañamiento real de su propia vida?”9 The answer will be seen to be most likely the affirmative. There is a series of identifications in Paisajes established between the narrator/text author and the world exemplifying this: from “él” (and his “relativismo” or decentralization, see 168) to Sentier (a multi-layered cake) to the contemporary world. His voice describes “el complejo, prodigioso microcosmos celular, [en que] su barrio abrevia el caos universal … La porosidad y trasiego permanentes del vecindario han fragmentado su visión [de sí mismo, también], descentralizado sus sentimientos” (168, 170). There follows a disruption of assumptions and a shifting of perspectives to establish a “battleground” for the creation of a life/text and not the restraints of a recreation of the past.

Consequently, what form of “autobiography” is found in the narrative? Under the threat of imminent extinction (in 24 hours), the narrator surveys his inner “landscapes” and (like Scheherezade) tells his story in order not to disappear—albeit not to “unite,” but to “disperse” himself. He declares his literary model to be the following which describes both the motivation behind his writing as well as the form it will take and the goal it pursues in the model of

el derviche errante sufí. Un hombre que rehúye la vanidad, desprecia las reglas y formas exteriores de conveniencia … Sus cualidades son recatadas y ocultas y, para velarlas y volverlas aún más secretas, se refocila en la práctica de lo despreciable e indigno … Tras las máscaras y celajes de la escritura, la meta es el desdén … la alquimia anterior operada bajo el disfraz de una crónica burlona y sarcástica … una autobiografía deliberadamente grotesca (183–84).

This literary ideal both parodies the concept of a real personal confession (the reader is told repeatedly that it has been “deliberately” made absurd in its insistence on fantasies, abominations, vices, and imagination) and clarifies its existence as a piece of fiction with the disguises of “máscaras” and “disfraces.”

The paradox arises, however, when one reads of the desire to provoke the social reaction of “ostracismo y condena” (183), while at the same time it needs a public of readers to be able to be “disdained” by someone. Rather than the proposed isolation, it seems that this text reflects more closely what Baudelaire stated as his own aims: “When I have inspired universal disgust and horror, then I will have conquered solitude.”10 The culturally proscribed images making up the narrative (pedophilia, bestiality, etc.) are used consciously to create a text full of what might be called seductive horror, repelling and attracting at the same time as a result of its proscription. Here one is reminded of Jean Genet's self-affirmation in socially unacceptable and repellent activity. In The Thief's Journal, for instance, the narrator speaks of the positive subjective value of an abject life: “I wanted to affirm it in its exact sordidness, and the most sordid signs became for me signs of grandeur … It is by a long, long road that I choose to go back to primitive life. What I need first is condemnation by my race.”11

The narrator of Paisajes seems to be interested in leaving no doubts about the unlimited “evil” of his (textual) identity, as in the section entitled “Tras las huellas de Charles Lutwidge Dodgson” when he extends to the grotesque his identification with the “Reverendo” and his “suspicious” activities: “[como si] no contento con escudriñarla [a la niña espiada] con sus ojos de sátiro, [él] fuera además ladrón de juguetes” (34). It is proposed that in Paisajes the narrator is in the process of self-reflexive analysis and criticism with a similar sense of presence as has been commented on in the poetry of Ovid who it has been said “gives the impression of composing poetry as if he were an impresario on a stage: his eye is on the effect which his words have on the audience.”12 This acute awareness of both self and audience in the creation of parody (self-parody as well) in the text-plus-commentary on its formation is used by the narrator to manipulate the reader, lead him on, entrap him in his own preconceived ideas at times, and tease with appearances that end with distrust, as in the following: “Cuidado, lector: el narrador no es fiable. Bajo una apariencia desgarrada de franqueza y honradez … no deja de engañarte un instante. Su estrategia defensiva, destinada a envolverte en una nube de tinta, multiplica las presuntas confesiones para ocultar lo esencial … Cada revelación sobre su vida es una invención derrotada” (177–78). In short, what Linda Hutcheon has clearly seen as an attempt in metafiction to “tantalize” the reader into the fictional world and being conscious of it (the “lo esencial” of the quote) is also considered to liberate his mind from traditional structures (and objective circumstances),13 although it be a “phantom liberty” within the text. The elements of autobiography, such as the storytelling voice, the details of reality, and the documents (the “trap” of the use of Lewis Carroll's letters and photographs shows these to belong to as fictional a persona of the real person as is the text now in the reader's hands),14 are criticized, the parody going beyond “comic imitation” in spite of Goytisolo's statement that Paisajes is his first essentially humorous novel,15 to commentary on the basic relationship between writer/book/reader and between book content/objective world.

The dependence of Paisajes on dialogues with itself (a second level to the metaphorical mode of autobiography), other texts, and cultural artifacts in general creates a foundation, from the beginning, for the questioning and dethroning of authorship and the authority of the textual voice as originator or creator as well as historical being outside the artistic creation. Michael Sprinker has shown the superseding of the concepts to be the “end of autobiography” as such, since “Autobiography and the concept of the author as sovereign subject over a discourse are products of the same episteme.16

What has happened to the author in Goytisolo's text? The acknowledgment page serves as a disclaimer from the start, establishing the “rules” of the text, and distancing as well as fragmenting the authorial voice, just as one supposes the writer himself perceives his distance—an epistemological split—from control of, understanding, and belonging to the real world. The author of the text identifies those who have participated (anonymously and “involuntarily”)17 in the composition of the book through their letters of sexual fantasy to his magazines; his presumed (taken for granted by the traditional reader, added as a separate voice here) “homonymous collaborator” who is the author of newspaper articles filled with, of course, “dudosas fantasías” [emphasis added]; and the endowment permitting the completion of the manuscript in the Kreuzberg section of Berlin. The judgment of “doubtfulness” on the part of the text author toward the ecological writings of “Juan Goytisolo” [the quotes are his] should be a red flag (a “garrapata en la oreja,” 178) for the reader, one that the narrator will wave again toward the end of the book when the separate identities of the “héroe” and narrator are put into question as is the possible establishment of an absolute univocal author for the text. The narrating voice asks itself: “será él o yo quien se expresa? Su vocación de amanuense le ha llevado a asumir la paternidad de la copia e, insidiosamente, confundirse con el autor … al final, ya no sabe si es el remoto individuo que usurpa su nombre o ese goytisola lo está creando a él” (181–82). The generating of the text is therefore an ongoing process in which no one member of the dialogue (author, narrator, character, reader, other texts) may be given nor assume singular responsibility. The amanuensis or scribe normally is considered a copyist of written signs, but the remark in Paisajes that he cunningly and deceitfully takes on the title of their creator is a commentary on and validation of this meta-text itself as a creation process composed of the interplay between old forms and new uses;18 the progenitor is removed, unknown, or unwilling to be identified as such given the proposal that all these voices as well as each act of reading create the text(s). The instigator of the “hecatombes” in this text is presented as disinterested in the effects as well as the product—this narrative—of his activity: he is presented as acting “con una indiferencia rayana a la perversidad” (16). In the end the “héroe/narrador” is totally disoriented and asks whether he is the author or is himself a creation of “that goytisolo,” the one we all know as a living individual. (This questioning may strongly remind the reader of Augusto Pérez's discussions with Unamuno in Niebla.) Going back to Paul de Man's definition of autobiography, we note that the writer here certainly has become the central subject of his own textual preoccupations.

The cultural aspects of the modern world used in Paisajes as points of departure for the narrator's psychological meanderings, commentaries, and criticisms are varied and all-inclusive; that is to say, they do not omit either the right or the left, politically speaking, nor do they exclude “high” culture nor “popular” culture. The results of both camps of the “First World,” socialism and capitalism, end up here as exaggerated mockeries and failures alien to the imaginings of the character whose guerrilla training manual pits one side against the other, then circulates propaganda for both (173). The projects proposed by the student protest of May 1968 in Paris—now seen, one expects, as implemented by the socialist government in France, Mitterand presiding at the time this novel is written—are presented sarcastically as hollow, fantasy utopias where “real” liberation has not been achieved (for the “Reverendo,” at least). The “Llamamiento a la opinión” letter calling for the vindication of the rights of those whose sexual expressions fit into none of the organized progressive or radical causes parallels quite interestingly the desires of the “fallen angel” in Makbara. Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin are all parodied in the language of tourist attractions as future “ruinas ideológicas” (153) whose value, if any, has disappeared with them. Stalin, Trujillo, and Pol Pot are implicitly compared to Bela Lugosi, Frankenstein, and Dracula, whose artistic images of horror are infinitely less powerful in their effect, although imaginatively more seductive, than reality (note the comparative judgment on the two spheres). The meetings of the “left,” their supposed language and procedures, are parodied in “Teologismo dialéctico,” a title that itself comments on what is taken to be an inflexible, dogmatic point of view whose twentieth-century revolutions, says the text, have all wiped out the possibility of the “única revolución victoriosa” (43), presented since Juan sin tierra as that of the body.19 In one instance, we read sarcastic passages about the necessity of having the “mérito personal o pedigrí ideológico … [la] sensibilidad literaria” (150) to participate in meetings run like exclusive clubs, and the absurdly theatrical sighs and sobs of these fellow-traveler “vedettes y notables” (152) juxtaposed to the tank-surrounded Polish miners (groups fighting against the Eastern European governments); in another a cigarette becomes the object of ridicule in a linguistic parody of views on production: “la mujer chupa pausadamente un cigarrillo que, a diferencia de los producidos por las multinacionales yanquis diseminadoras de cánceres, ha sido elaborado por un pueblo sano y sencillo, que ignora los estragos de la enfermedad” (45).

Other targets of the text include the social theories of Herbert Marcuse. The discourse of his explanation of the repression of the pleasure principle into cultural institutions such as monogamy,20 are changed in Paisajes by the narrator to the existence of “una relación exclusivamente monocanina” (38) versus the expression of free love—toward all dogs. Marcuse is later parodied, in addition, in the provocation of a revolution by the characters of Disneyland (100–102) whose strategies of infiltration, propagandizing, and control of mass psychology, then division into “donaldistas,” “dumbistas,” or followers of Fritz the Cat and Bambi leave no doubt as to the negative treatment of the original text, especially when we read the warning to the reader: “Interpreten correctamente a Marcuse” (100) [emphasis added].

The consumer culture of capitalism and its recognizable sales propaganda, commercials, and market tactics are used here also to comment on their daily acceptance and the absurdity of this system. When the white mice overrun the district (in the “hero's” mind, at least) some young Third World entrepreneurs, eager to please tourists, string them like beads; still others roast them on skewers like shish kabab, cruelly parodying the “exoticism” sought by travelers in the markets of poor nations such as in “Calcuta” (163). In another case, the arms race and the prospects of nuclear war are seen in commercialized terms as if the situation were excellent for the promotion of household commodities: “El nuevo despliegue de misiles de largo alcance por las dos superpotencias rivales y las perspectivas cada vez más claras de una inminente guerra nuclear plantean la dura necesidad de discurrir soluciones radicales, destinadas a garantizar para usted y su familia un máximo de confort y seguridad” (129). In all of these cases it is the language of the system that is parodied, a commentary on the persuasive use of words to convince.

A crucial element in the intertextual basis of Paisajes resides in its citational use of other literary texts, including Goytisolo's own, most often to portray another facet of the character's psychological puzzle. For example, Borges's story title “El jardín de los senderos que se bifurcan” is the referential point for “En el París de los trayectos que se bifurcan” referring to the map of the Paris metro and its infinite possibilities of evasion through stimulating mental images; Calderón's play lends “Su vida es sueño” to a section on the repudiation of the identity of the character's wife as real and his own doubtful individuality in regard to the author. Moreover, the reader finds at least two passages of self-analytical commentary that take the shape of references to presumed author Goytisolo's other texts: one a novel, one a book on literary theory. In the first passage (117) the narrator/Reverendo follows his desires to pursue little girls to the “panteón del deseo”—the National Library—and exhorts the mummified scholars there to wake up and seek life outside their books and manuscripts. At this point he indicates that this does not imply the necessity of going to the lengths of “cierto oscuro y maligno escritor en una modesta biblioteca de Tánger” (Alvaro Mendiola of Reivindicación del conde don Julián), giving that image a life beyond Reivindicación and tying it up with the ideas in this text. The description that follows is another piece of the fantasy of the text author, perhaps most understood in terms of its intimate connection to the insect incident in Reivindicación since both are creations of the writer's imagination and do not objectively take place. The second mention of another text belonging to the writer of Paisajes is a scene in which loudspeakers expound on the “ruins” of socialist ideology for the benefit of visiting tourists. Among the manifestos read to the crowd is one containing a defense of the “uso de la literatura y el arte como arma o instrumento de combate” (154–55) and the outline of a theory of “realism” in literature. The reaction by the narrator is one of familiarity yet surprise since he says “[yo] descubro, con asombro y perplejidad primero, bochorno y consternación después, que su padre soy yo” (155). This time his own early writings (Problemas de la novela, for example) return to haunt him as author (creator, progenitor, “father”)—a “mistake” it appears that he is unwilling to be caught in again. The current text is a shifting set of ideas and voices that no longer reflects...

(The entire section is 8807 words.)

David K. Herzberger (essay date Spring 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Language and Referentiality in Señas de identidad,” in Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispáicos, Vol. XI, No. 3, Spring, 1987, pp. 611-21.

[In the following essay, Herzberger analyzes how language functions in Goytisolo's Señas de identidad.He argues that “Goytisolo's literary language is not ‘new,’ as many have contended, only the contexts into which it is placed and the dynamic bi-polar movement that results.”]

Juan Goytisolo's fiction of the past decade and a half, as Goytisolo himself has often reminded us, is shaped to a large degree by his readings of the Russian Formalists and the Prague School and French...

(The entire section is 5119 words.)

Lucille V. Braun (essay date 7 May 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The ‘Intertextualization’ of Unamuno and Juan Goytisolo's Reivindicación del Conde don Julián,” in Hispanofila, Vol. 30, May 7, 1987, pp. 39-56.

[In the following essay, Braun discusses Goytisolo's parodic use of quotations from Unamuno in his Reivindicación del Conde Don Julián.]

Count Julian was the legendary traitor who opened the doors of Spain to the Arab invaders because of the rape of his daughter by Rodrigo, the last of the Spanish Visigothic kings. Goytisolo's novel [Reivindicación del Conde Don Julián] presents a modern-day version of Julian, resident in Tangiers, who in a schizophrenic, oneiric discourse1 plots...

(The entire section is 7982 words.)

Claudia Schaefer-Rodríguez (essay date Fall 1987)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Travel as a Rejection of History in the Works of Juan Goytisolo,” in Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos; Vol. XII, No. 1, Fall, 1987, pp. 159-68.

[In the following essay, Schaefer-Rodríguez analyzes the role of travel in Goytisolo's work. She asserts that “the importance of Campos de Níjar … resides in the fact that it contains the seed of a consumption of the intrinsic beauty and inherent value in the surroundings of the ‘primitive,’ ‘uncontrolled,’ ‘natural,’ and ‘exotic’ attained by means of a real or imagined geographical mobility which will reappear over and over again as the basis for Goytisolo's subsequent texts.”]


(The entire section is 4495 words.)

Antonio Sobejano-Morán (essay date 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Ambiguity and Destruction Through the Naming Process in Reivindicación del Conde don Julián and Recuento, in Literary Onomastics Studies, Vol. XV, 1988, pp. 31-7.

[In the following essay, Sobejano-Morán discusses the naming process in Juan Goytisolo's Reivindicación del Conde Don Julián, and in Luis Goytisolo's Recuento. He concludes, “In Reivindicación, the use of names negates individual characterization, whereas in Recuento, name-giving blurs the identity of the characters.”]

The main objective of Reivindicación del Conde don Julián by Juan Goytisolo and Recuento by Luis Goytisolo is the...

(The entire section is 3338 words.)

Abigail Lee Six (essay date April 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “La paradigmática historia de Caperucita y el lobo feroz: Juan Goytisolo's use of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in Reivindicación del conde don Julián,” in Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Vol. LXV, No. 2, April, 1988, pp. 141-51.

[Six teaches at Queen Mary College, London, and is the author of Juan Goytisolo: The Case for Chaos. In the following essay, Six traces the development of the “Little Red Riding Hood” story and asserts that Goytisolo's version of the tale in Reivindicación del Conde Don Julián exhibits the author's “preference for chaos over order.”]

Juan Goytisolo's re-working of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’...

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Tom Whalen (review date Summer 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Landscapes after the Battle, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer, 1988, p. 318.

[In the following review, Whalen lauds Goytisolo's Landscapes after the Battle.]

“Please, no talk about ‘experimentation,’ ‘verbal syntagma,’ ‘levels of interpretation,’ ‘ludic intention.’” Fine with me. And why anyone would want to apply that kind of discourse to Goytisolo I have no idea. His works scream out against the language of oppression, wherever it's found. Landscapes after the Battle isn't a terrorist attack of a novel like Count Julian, but in its own way it's equally subversive. Rather than the...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Abigail Lee Six (essay date April 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sterne's Legacy to Juan Goytisolo: A Shandyian Reading of Juan sin tierra,” in Modern Language Review, Vol. 84, No. 2, April, 1989, pp. 351-57.

[In the following essay, Six delineates the features common to Goytisolo's Juan sin tierra and Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy focusing on sexuality and space versus time.]

Las nociones teóricas del creador de ficciones, por vagas y poco meditadas que sean, suelen ser tomadas por los estudiosos como punto de referencia al que enfrentan los textos, y los comentarios de aquél sobre éstos reciben un trato distinguido y preferencial, fundado en la creencia ingenua de ser el...

(The entire section is 4304 words.)

Paul Jordan (essay date October 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Goytisolo's Juan sin tierra: A Dialogue in the Spanish Tradition,” in Modern Language Review, Vol. 84, No. 4, October, 1989, pp. 846-59.

[In the following essay, Jordan analyzes chapter six of Juan sin tierra to show how Goytisolo's relationship with the tradition of Spanish literature moves from alienation to assimilation.]

In his study of Juan Goytisolo's ‘exile’ trilogy Michael Ugarte carries out a detailed analysis of the novelist's concepts, and use, of intertextuality. He points out that while the author is certainly conversant with modern textual theories, he does not practise them in a pure sense, but exploits them, together with...

(The entire section is 8367 words.)

Brad Epps (essay date March 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Politics of Ventriloquism: Cava, Revolution and Sexual Discourse in Conde Julián,” in Modern Language Notes, Vol. 107, No. 2, March, 1992, pp. 274-97.

[In the following essay, Epps provides a reading of Goytisolo's Reivindicación del Conde don Julián “that will attempt to reveal at least some of the more troubling points at which Goytisolo's de(con)structive activity unwittingly betrays itself as faithful to the established tradition, in particular the tradition of women's oppression.”]

If metaphor can be misconstrued,
history can also lead to misconstrual
when it obliterates acts of resistance or rebellion


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Susan E. Clark (review date Fall 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of La cuarentena, in Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 12, No. 3, Fall, 1992, pp. 176-77.

[In the following review, Clark praises Goytisolo's La cuarentena as an “exceptional tale.”]

An intriguing, postmodern novel, Juan Goytisolo's La cuarentena will prove absorbing both to readers already familiar with his characteristically intertextual works as well as to new readers interested in discovering this parapatetic Spanish writer.

The novel recounts, in a mixture of first-, second-, and third-person narration, the forty days in which, according to Islamic tradition, the soul wanders between death and...

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Penny Kagaroff (review date 11 November 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Virtues of the Solitary Bird, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 239, No. 52, November 11, 1992, p. 48.

[In the following review, Kagaroff describes Goytisolo's The Virtues of the Solitary Bird as “the story of the independent thinker throughout history, flushed out by those fearful of ‘contaminating ideas.’”]

The solitary bird of Spanish writer Goytisolo's novel [The Virtues of the Solitary Bird,] is a figure of many identities, all belonging to individuals in some way dispossessed. In a feminine guise, the solitary bird suffers from a disease that leaves her not only “emaciated, covered with buboes,” but persecuted,...

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Amanda Hopkinson (review date 20 November 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Thinking Otherwise,” in New Statesman and Society, Vol. 5, No. 229, November 20, 1992, pp. 39-40.

[In the following review, Hopkinson praises Goytisolo's “impressively catholic selections” from his collection of essays, Saracen Chronicles, but complains that the author has overlooked women and Christian sources.]

“A preponderance of great writers have lived outside their own countries and I believe that this has many advantages. In the first place, it allows you to see your own country with both intimacy and distance. Then you also come to view your own culture through the perspective of others. And, thirdly, living abroad allows you to forget...

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Kirkus Reviews (review date 1 March 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Kirkus Reviews (review date 1 March 1994)

SOURCE: A review of Quarantine, in Kirkus Reviews, Vol. LXII, No. 5, March 1, 1994, p. 234.

[In the following review, the critic concludes that Goytisolo's “Quarantine is an intriguing multilayered novel, but one at times more powerful in concept than in execution.”]

Spanish experimental novelist Goytisolo (Landscapes After the Battle, 1987, etc.), the author of a two-volume memoir (Realms of Strife, 1990, and Forbidden Territory, 1988), explores the 40-day journey that souls, according to Islam, take from the moment of death to their final resting place and...

(The entire section is 331 words.)

Jeremy S. Squires (essay date April 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “(De)mystification in Juan Goytisolo's Early Novels, from Juegos de Manos to La Resaca,” in Modern Language Review, Vol. 91, No. 2, April, 1996, pp. 393-405.

[In the following essay, Squires traces Goytisolo's evolution through his first five novels, specifically his relationship to myth.]

Critical interest in Juan Goytisolo has focused most intently on his period of ideological realism, beginning with Señàs de identidad (1966) and characterized by a zeal for aggressive demythification, in which the task of demythifying Spain goes hand in hand with that of demythifying the part of the author that remains a prey to myth.1...

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Abigail Lee Six (review date 9 August 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Alienation Effects,” in New Statesman, August 9, 1996, pp. 47-8.

[Six teaches at Queen Mary College, London, and is the author of Juan Goytisolo: The Case for Chaos. In the following review, she praises Goytisolo's The Marx Family Saga for remaining humorous while making “serious literary and socio-political points.”]

Juan Goytisolo is a startlingly original writer, unjustly obscure in this country. Born in Barcelona in 1931, he recorded his childhood in Spain during the civil war and early Franco years, and a later life spent between Paris and Morocco, in his fascinating two-volume autobiography, Forbidden Ground and Realms of...

(The entire section is 786 words.)

David Vilaseca (essay date April 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Juan Goytisolo's Queer (Be)Hindsight: Homosexuality, Epistemology, and the ‘Extimacy’ of the Subject in Coto Vedado and En Los Reinos de Taifa,” in Modern Language Review, Vol. 94, No. 2, April, 1999, pp. 426-37.

[In the following essay, Vilaseca describes Goytisolo's transformation as exhibited in his two-volume autobiography Coto vedado and En los reinos de taifaand how such a transformation has personal, political, and literary implications.]

Everything is played out in retro and a tergo. (Jacques Derrida)1

‘In classic...

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