Juan Goytisolo

Start Free Trial

Claudia Schaefer-Rodríguez (essay date Fall 1986)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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...

(This entire section contains 8807 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

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 “realist” tendencies propounded earlier.21 To orient the readers of Paisajes now, and in order that in the future this identification with a text not happen again, the metafictional text withdraws from “combat” (the “batallas” of the title, perhaps) and at once from the realist mode. The question that follows ultimately is one of the necessity or function of literary criticism, too, given that in metafiction the distinction between the “literary” and the “critical” (of other texts, of the same text) is blurred.22Paisajes again answers the question suggesting the superfluousness of the categories of literary criticism in favor of multiple and varied readings of the text: “Por favor, nada de ‘experimentación,’ ‘sintagma verbal,’ ‘niveles de lectura,’ ‘propósito lúdico’” (193). Just read in any order you please, the narrator tells us, since the points of view in the text are constantly changing, creating new possibilities in the reader's eyes.23

Paisajes, then, is composed of a narrative whose process of composition is undertaken as if it were an act of self-revelation and self-creation: both text and the writer are coming into being in the present, generated by “a confrontation between the writer and his ideas.24 To live is to narrate, to speak, to tell a story, or, as we read at the end of the narrator's comments about his activity as well as his identity: “escribir escribirme … yo:el escritor/yo:lo escrito” (193). These “ideas” and acceptance of or resistance to them are formed into the character (“Reverendo,” “héroe,” “nuestro personaje,” “él,” “tú,” “yo”) and the narrator both of whom end up being alter egos or personas of each other, much as Lewis Carroll is for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson or “juan goytisolo” is for Juan Goytisolo. The “self” that is presented by the writer of this text is shown in the psychological “scenes” (“paisajes”) of this portrait25 to be open-ended, a process or series of transformations with gaps or lacunae that it itself cannot completely comprehend or explain. (Michael Sprinker cites the fact that “Vico, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche all contend that the self is constituted by a discourse that it never completely masters.”26 The oscillation from first to second to third person allows writing to create an emergent personage, not an “I” that has been previously created but changing angles of vision to be explored. Goytisolo himself has written elsewhere of the use of the first person as implying “la identificación del lector y narrador, la participación del que lee en los sentimientos y juicios del que cuenta … suprime la distancia entre el lector y el objeto, nos exige una especie de complicidad.”27 This would logically involve the reader in the composition and development of the text and is complemented by the use of a suggested complicity between reader and writer in the “nosotros” (“Nuestro protagonista,” “nuestro misántropo,” “nuestro excéntrico personaje,” “nuestro héroe”). He adds to this his view of the third person in the narrative as if the reader were looking at himself at a distance; it is the possibility of observation almost as a voyeur of the self projected into fantasied scenarios, also allowing us (the readers) to “contemplarnos con cierto despego”28 [emphasis added]. In the use of the participatory form (“yo”) Paisajes attempts to reveal the speaker's own explanations of and connections between thoughts. We are told how and why the text is created: “La idea me vino al contemplar …” (71) or “Mi ideal literario [es] …” (183); but at times the “yo” is the Reverendo (“He recibido un mensaje de Agnès!” [133]), other times it is the narrator, and it even signals a voice where the two are one and the same, just two parts of the same self consciousness.29 The appearances of the third-person self-contemplating form—“él,” “un hombre de aspecto hirsuto,” “el solitario,” “el solapado fisgón,” “el del impermeable”—is a counterpoint to the same psychological self, as we see on page 181, where we find one case of juxtaposition of both points of reference. But the real “encounters” of the pieces of consciousness in metacritical dialogue occur in the “tú” where the “yo” steps out to look at itself and examine what it finds: “Estás en Barbés … Dos jóvenes con túnicas africanas … distribuyen tarjetas a los viajeros, excluyendo tan solo a aquellos que, como tú, presentan un aspecto inconfundiblemente doméstico” (51–52), “Has recibido una convocatoria de la Prefectura de Policía: un impreso rectangular en el que figuran tu nombre y tus señas” (119). In order to understand this connection, the reader is given a parallel with the relationship between the Sufi master and dervish Chams Tabrizi and his faithful disciple Yalaluddin Rumi (alongside a second correspondence between the narrator/character and his wife). Of the master it is said that Yalaluddin Rumi “identified himself so intimately [with Tabrizi] that the very existence of his alter ego has been doubted.”30 Whether they both had a historical, objective existence or not, the important fact is their use in this text as the model for the character's relationship with his wife, who he tells us does not exist except as a figment of his creative imagination, “carece simplemente de cuerpo” (145), “es un personaje ficticio” (179) or, as the reader begins to suspect, with himself (having internalized the opinions he has her express about his leisure time, wanderings, etc.).

In both the Sufi example and in Paisajes there are two aspects of identities but “only one soul” (“una sola alma”) in which the narrator tells us that all aspects and voices of his identity will be gathered: “nos fundiremos … no seremos ya seres individuales” up to the miracle of the final moment when “sentados acá, en el mismo escondrijo, vivamos simultáneamente en el Irak y en Jorastán” (87). This is obviously not possible except in the artistic creation of the self in the text, including all narrative voices and grammatical persons, the husband-wife, the exhibitionist Reverendo, the newspaper editorialist, the perpetrator of the plague in Sentier, the inventor of sexual fantasies, and so on. All of these fragments are the writer/author/character commenting upon himself. Take for example Agnés who tells the Reverendo's part of the personality why she has been included—to send the photographs to the character's wife and thereby reveal his imagined scenes. “Me has inventado expresamente para ello” (137), she says to him almost as if she were his own doubts or codes of conduct to curb, restrain, or check his desires. She is also, however, a critic of his writing and extends her power over him to that level as well: “No sirves absolutamente para nada. Ni siquiera sabes componer tu novela” (138), she tells him. She is at once the created image of his fantasies and the imposing voice of control, order, and obedience.

Considering all of the aforementioned psychological complexities of the writer's intentions in this narrative, what can the exigencies be for the reader? Because we have seen that there is an emphasis on the process of writing, the same is true for reading by means of which an individual creates his own self/life in his reactions to the text (the other self) and therefore his confrontation with his own ideas and categories for looking at and dealing with this act of reading, not consuming the book but instead creating it as he builds the relationships between the parts of the text. The writer of Paisajes seems to be saying that the book is not meant to satisfy the readers but to challenge them. There is a certain amount of irony in the reader being strung along or seduced by the narrator into a trap that will undermine his attempts to read the text, along traditional lines at least. Nevertheless, the narrator offers this literal and figurative “exploding” of trust as a message of warning to those who approach the work of literature with what we shall call a literal or “naïve”31 expectation toward the act of reading.

The works of Yalaluddin Rumi once again yield a clue to this attitude, since access to a comprehension of their meaning demands a certain “initiation” into the code of rules by which they were composed. These works are “writings … which … seldom impart their real significance except to those who possess the key to the cipher, while the uninitiated will either understand them literally or not at all.”32 The already “initiated,” or those developing their dexterity, can find in Paisajes a good number of opportunities to grasp these guidelines for reading. The composer of the text speaks directly to the reader—manipulates the standardly accepted concept of reader, in essence—at every turn, parodying his supposed concerns and expectations. For the reader who seeks coherent, objective details of the lives of the characters, the narrator includes the sarcastic aside “—anota bien ese detalle biográfico, curioso lector!—” (46); for those wanting personal testimonials by the character's wife in this era of women's liberation there are these words: “El lector reclama el derecho de verla de una vez, de conocer su versión de los hechos …, de meter su coriosa nariz … !” (146); for readers exasperated by the character's wanderings in marginal eras and cultures, there is the comment that: “Desde hace años, para contrariedad y desespero de nuestros lectores, descarta cualquier visita a los distritos serenos y nobles” (165–66). Concerning any pretension to facile answers to references and identifications there is no doubt as to the task required of the reader: “—dejamos a ustedes la tarea de adivinar quién es—” (46); and as refers to the form of the totality of this text, the reader is told what he will have to do to sort out the pieces: “El sufrido lector de esta narración confusa y alambicada tiene perfecta razón en plantearse una serie de preguntas sobre sus silencios, ambigüedades y escamoteos y, según nos tememos, se las está planteando ya” (145), and “componer un libro abierto al conjunto de sus voces y experiencias, construido como un rompecabezas que sólo un lector paciente, con gustos de aventurero y etnólogo, sería capaz de armar” (188). Finally, there is the crushing blow only seventeen pages from the end: “Cuidado, lector: el narrador no es fiable” (177).

What would happen should a “naïve” reader try to maintain his categories of reliable narrator, objective references, chronologically ordered chapters, plot, etc. through to the end? Paisajes offers a parody of the seduced and entrapped reader left naked and humiliated at the feet of Agnés, just as the Reverendo is when he does not comply with the “rules” for fulfillment of his desires. It represents, it appears to suggest, a baring of the reader as a trusting fool, then Agnés and the narrator both open the trap door and leave. Instead of being lead innocently by the hand, the reader is being baited into taking the plunge into his own imagination in a world of language created by the writer and reader just as Lewis Carroll's Alice “presides in sleep over a magic creation [of personalities and worlds] which is also a self-creation.”33 The real question then becomes what occurs to this role when the reader goes beyond his and the author's dream/fictional worlds?34 Nina Auerbach analyzes the limiting parameters of Alice's reign of power and this argues persuasively, I feel, for a similar restraint of the reader: “At the last minute each [of the powerful women in Victorian literature] is prevented from extending her reign beyond the looking-glass into the reader's reality.”35 In Paisajes the reader is “prevented” from looking beyond the text by the narrator/character/author: he is continually told he is reading an artistic creation and only that, he is told that the narrator's voice is unreliable, and the writer of the story is blown up in the end leaving the last chapter to refer back only to a repetition of the beginning.

Paisajesis a palimpsest in its layers of meaning and shifting levels, one not quite completely erasing or covering the other but leaving vestiges that the reader-archeologist has the task of tracing. It is a palimpsest of writing in two senses: the use or suggestion of other texts in new contexts, and the self-reflective comments on its own coming-/writing-into-being. The immigrant quarter of Sentier is the model for this structure, the “palimpsesto urbano” being a spontaneous piecing together—supposedly improvised without a plan (56)—and mutation of lives, faces, and relationships (like the narrator's description of his life as being “Mi caza obsesiva y afán de coleccionista de aventuras y cuerpos,” (183). It is a puzzle to work out, just as the message in an unidentified language left under the door is for the narrator—the message to decipher is referred to as “el palimpsesto o negativo a medio revelar” (185)—who is challenged to make sense of it. The seemingly incomprehensible fragments of the text, what the narrator calls the “mal hilvanada y dispersa narración” (107), reflect the diffusion or dispersion of the psychological pieces of the writer which he seeks to leave thus, given that in this manner he finds identifications with numerous lives—in the urban ghettos of Brixton, the Bronx, or Kreuzberg. The “yo” tells itself that “desmembrado y hecho trizas como tu propio relato alcanzas al fin el don de la ubicuidad te dispersas de país en país de ciudad en ciudad de barrio en barrio” (192).

No possible search is proposed for a “harmonious union” of a single self, just as there is no signal for a single limiting reading of the text: as soon as the work is written, the voice present in it is removed from an actual, living body/voice by the public's appropriation of it in each reading, “immediately [effecting] … an erasure of that presence.”36 What the writer wishes to find in the “infinite combinations” of Paisajes is a liberation from the time and space of history that limit the gratification of his desires (Marcuse) in any lasting and enduring (timeless) way. As he is attracted by the Paris metro map for its possibilities of stimulating in his mind the opening of doors to “la utopía, la ficción y la fábula” (110), so he invents a book wherein he can “esparcir la materia narrada al azar de sorpresas e imponderables por toda la rosa de los vientos: textos-vilano a merced del aire vehículos de leve polinación” (192). Without the limitations of historical time, the self no longer feels pressured by its “tiranía” (192) or “rigor avaricioso” (97) thus becoming “free” to express the unending satisfaction of its desires.

Therefore, if we were to bring up the question of mimesis in relation to Paisajes as a text reflecting its own composition, it would have to be judged on its suggestion of a shift from objective (“naïve”) reality to inner processes and the text seen as a world in and of itself,37 the rules having been laid down in the acknowledgments. As Linda Hutcheon has remarked, the text must be judged: “not [as] anti-mimetic” but “[only] in terms of its own internal validity: ‘truth’ has no significance in art.”38 The reality of the text isn't meant to represent the unmediated real world “familiar” to the reader; the emphasis is on the “possible” or what “might happen”39 in the mental processes of the storyteller where fantasies are a truly integral part of his self-portrait. When, at the crucial moment of having to write his life's confession under pressure, the writer of Paisajes reminds himself that he should do the following: “Escribe cuanto sepas y, si no sabes nada, inventa. Recuérdalo: un buen relato ficticio vale por cien verdaderos si respeta mejor que ellos las leyes de la verosimilitud” (123), he is at the same time commenting on his perception of incomprehensible objective reality and explicitly defending the world of fiction (and metafiction) which Juan Goytisolo himself has defined as “those literary works that call for vision rather than recognition on the part of the reader.”40 The only conceivable correspondence to mimetic norms relates to the detail visual and pictorial elements in the descriptions of the fantasies, a certain “accuracy” of treatment in the recounting of mental adventures. But in this case I must agree with Bernardo González, who has seen this aspect of Goytisolo's work as again essentially parody: “One might envision parody … in Goytisolo's realistic treatment of ‘unreal’ subject matter.”41 The only faithful reproduction in Paisajes for the writer, consequently, has to be of the processes of the imagination: how to create in art a story that could quite naturally be told in life. The answer in part lies in the last segment entitled “El orden de los factores no altera el producto,” since psychological states—of writer and reader alike—can repeat, reverse, etc. in accordance with “rules” or “codes” not belonging to conscious objective activity.

What one encounters in Paisajes in regard to the relationships between the writer and the written (product), the public and the private, the body of the text and the human body, is the classic confrontation of Dr. Jekyll with Mr. Hyde.42 That is to say, his text is the discourse of the split that the writer feels between life in repressive society (the domination and paternalism of both capitalism and socialism) and the less readily admitted (“menos confesable” [35]) desires of internal life (sexual fantasies, pornography, literary fantasies); these may also be the “yo”/“él” as he passes from one aspect of himself to another. Because this text is fundamentally a confession by the writer, he as well as we are being permitted to confront his attempts to recover in the mental images of the character/narrator the private body with its veiled pleasures, exhibitionism, the liberation of libido, relegating the acceptable public appearance as neighbor, husband, client to the “real” world of limitations. As Marcuse has stated about the unconscious retaining the “pleasure principle” while faced with defeat in the real world, “Only one mode of thought-activity is ‘split-off’ from the new organization of the mental apparatus [engaged in productivity] and remains free from the rule of the reality principle: phantasy is ‘protected from cultural alterations’ and stays committed to the pleasure principle.”43 In the so-called “sicalíptica colección” (67) of the character are the images—written and imagined—of his hidden, secret body, covered up in clandestine diaries, clippings, letters; they are the functions done in the realm of the imagination only, not in public (“de puertas afuera” [23]).44

In this context, the function of pornography appears to be considered as an art-producing form of the imagination wherein an individual fills in fantasies with as much “interiority”45 as desired (recovering the real “power” of children, stifled by adult “monsters,” 59). Moreover, the pornographic imagination is also a literature consciously not realist in its mode of presentation since it reduces its characters to a few select functions. It depersonalizes machine-like activities of stereotypes with no past nor will to understand; it systematically repeats generic fantasies of what is forbidden: pleasure without responsibility, regressive desires toward Agnès/Alice without the proscriptions of society or chronological time; bestiality; the capricious inversion of female over male domination46 in spite of the male character's control and command over the conjuring up of images in these scenes.

The act of writing itself in Paisajes is based on and defined by a series of identifications that at the same time create the body of a text as well as comment on what is being written and how it relates to the writer. Writing appears as illegible, scribbled, unreadable messages or graffiti, lacking its communicative aspect to all but the original writer who describes himself as “un contumaz y emperdernido onanista,” receiving pleasure from his physical and psychological self (132) and at the same time bothering to carry on a written dialogue with various personas of himself. It alternately takes the form of aggression, toward the reader and writer alike (“El templo de las musas” equates, in parody, the liberating function of writing with a physically liberating function of the “we,” see 88 ff.); of offering an alternative reality; of challenging the reader to break a code or decipher a puzzle; of belonging to the sales market of commodities (like the formulas for success such as “el realismo mágico,” 179, which one supposes he rejects; see “Captives of our ‘Classics’”); of being nothing but lies to throw the reader off the track, creating a hiding place to take on a disguise. The written text is also seen as autonomous from its author—“Como si no fuera obra de él” (17)—and as a mode of survival, salvation, or possible escape from disappearance, extinction, death (the sense end of the road of the psychological self?). This self-preservation is like the function of tales from the Thousand and One Nights, or the preservation of the most fundamental aspects of contemporary culture: our dreams, fantasies, and inner desires. The category of literature is broadened by the narrator/character/author in Paisajes to include texts created by cut-outs, rearrangements, compilations, scribes, annotators, and parodies (all comments on and inner reactions to others). It also admits sensationalist journalism (23–24) and letters to pornographic magazines, both appealing to the true, pure objects of hidden pleasures and created by the inspiration of a “muse” (36).

The beginning is/of the end: the only way that the tension between the inner recondite sexual/literary self and the body as objective material seems to be able to be resolved47 in Paisajes is by apocalypse, a definitive breaking apart and dispersion into voices beyond history. The wish for finality and plenitude, a healing of some type in global and self-destruction, seeks to “find in a general catastrophe … the end of all desire, of every discourse and narration.”48 The idea of the apocalypse in this text is formed around several images—and levels—of imminent annihilation by both traditional and modern versions of the “Antichrist.” The end of the narrator, which is also the starting point of the text's self-commentary, the end of the experience of writing/reading as victim of the written message (a telegram, 191) is also a parody of terrorists' mail bombs written by a narrator who claims to be compiling a manual of urban terrorist tactics; it parallels the exploding of the narrator's reliability in the text: we are told “no es fiable,” after 177 pages. The “Reverendo” wreaks destruction on Sentier by his white mice; the Arabs in Paris invade and “destroy” the city through “plague,” “catastrophe,” “toma de poder” (11 ff). The terrorists give 24 hours notice before the apocalypse; the “wife” is destroyer of dream worlds as is Agnès. The “First World” is provoker of a “hecatombe” in its development of atomic bomb technology (called “un azar de la historia,” 127), creator of ecological disasters such as the greenhouse effect (“la helada irrevocabilidad del diluvio que se avecina,” 83), and object of the millenium whose essential characteristic is endless series of coups d'état (141).

The two levels, one caused in the text by the writer of the narrative and one projected onto the present49 that is viewed as inexorably leading to disaster via “la modernidad incontrolada” (82) are referred to as “el apocalípsis, tu apocalípsis” (129) by the writer who sees his own symptoms in the “outside.” Then what is the “revelation” of the apocalyptic moment in this instance? If the traditional sense of apocalypse carries with it the concept that in the crisis of the end of history one is judged and separated from the world, Paisajes can be understood as a work of personal crisis projected outward and effecting an ultimate separation: the “exilio interior” (168). The book's apocalypse ends the time and history which the writer feels have been pursuing him relentlessly, in favor of a timeless, “liberated” series of identities. This is the reason that the “battlefield” of the title is the text itself and the “scenes” are the psychological self-portraits after the judgment and separation from “standard” rules of authorship, narration, and so on. It appears that the narrator has decided that things cannot be resolved, that discrepancies will coexist, and that the demise of the “Super Cultures” as pretenders to the future—just as the demise of the author/narrator—is inevitable. Writing is only to be generated above and beyond (at the end of) history.

How does this structure answer the needs of the narrator/writer? It proves to him that his body's personal gratification has no place in the objective world, only in the aftermath of a “hecatombe” that creates the subjective atmosphere of expression and fulfillment. In addition, it breaks up once and for all the reader's counting on reliability and collusion with a narrator. For this writer, the apocalypse also leads to the promise of a future, ongoing, unlimited “bios” of the self; as long as the imagination exists, any number of voices concerned with themselves, and no longer limited by traditional mimetic considerations, can appear. And these voices, as Paul de Man stated in his definition of autobiography, are intimately concerned with themselves as the “subject of [their] own understanding.”


  1. Paul Jay, Being in the Text (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1984).

  2. James Olney, Autobiography (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980).

  3. Paul Jay, 15.

  4. Paul Jay, 17.

  5. The term is taken from Robert C. Spires, Beyond the Metafictional Mode: Directions in the Modern Spanish Novel (Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1984). See especially chapter 4 on Juan sin tierra.

  6. Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (London: Oxford UP, 1968), 129–30. Margaret A. Rose adds that “As a form of metafiction parody has also served to expand the corpus of fiction, contributing to progress in literary history, while also presenting critiques of the epistemological processes, structural problems, and social assumptions involved in the writing and reception of literary texts” (Parody/Meta-Fiction [London: Croom Helm, 1979], 13–14).

  7. James Olney, Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1981), vii.

  8. George Gusdorf, “Conditions and Limits of Autobiography,” in Olney, Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, 31 (trans. Olney).

  9. Juan Goytisolo, Paisajes después de la batalla (Barcelona: Montesinos, 1982), 182. All future references to this edition will appear in parentheses in the text.

  10. In Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography (New York: Harper, 1980), 33.

  11. Jean Genet, The Thief's Journal, trans. Bernard Frechtman (New York: Grove, 1973), 19, 31.

  12. Gordon Williams, The Nature of Roman Poetry (London: Oxford UP, 1983), 102.

  13. Linda Hutcheon, Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox (New York: Methuen, 1984), 33, 133. The “paradox” of the title reflects the paradoxes of what the reader is asked to do and the motivation behind it.

  14. The narrator of Paisajes clarifies the shifting identities of the work on page 178, calling this an “artilugio literario” or “dirty trick,” one supposes on the reader.

  15. See Julián Ríos, “The Apocalypse According to Juan Goytisolo,” in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, vol. IV, No. 2 (Summer 1984), 129.

  16. Michael Sprinker, “Fictions of the Self: The End of Autobiography,” in James Olney (ed.), Autobiography, p. 325.

  17. This statement should remind the reader of a similar one at the end of Reivindicación del conde don Julián (México: Joaquín Mortiz, 1973), although the “contributors” there are not anonymous but identified.

  18. Gerard Genette, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and others referred to this as “bricolage” in the 1960s and 1970s; Linda Hutcheon speaks of “littérature citationelle” (Narcissistic Narrative, 24) in her discussion of the generative qualities of metafictional parody.

  19. For a discussion of this subject in Juan sin tierra, see “La paradoja del cuerpo rescatado en Juan sin tierra de Juan Goytisolo: ¿rebelión erótica o revolución?” in my book Juan Goytisolo: del ‘realismo crítico’ a la utopía (Madrid: José Porraúa Turanzas, 1984). The narrator of Paisajes is clear on his own place in his vision of European society after the advent of the “New Left”: “Los revolucionarios de mayo han instaurado el modelo de sociedad de sus sueños … el futuro ha sido amansado y el idílico cuadro en que vives es el de una felicidad sin complejos … Un solo detalle superfluo: tu puñetera picha” (118–19).

  20. See Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston: Beacon, 1955), 41.

  21. As in other works such as Reivindicación, Juan sin tierra or Makbara, there are signals in the narrative of Paisajes to indicate the moments of disconnection between imagination and reality, and the reader is left with no doubts as to the proposed maintenance of this separation: “al volcar la lámpara de la mesilla contigua al sofá cama y hacerla caer estrepitosamente al suelo, devolverá de golpe a nuestro acongojado héroe a una inmisericorde y feroz realidad” (139).

  22. See Linda Hutcheon, Narcissistic Narrative, 15 ff.

  23. Writing about the Amores of Ovid, Gordon Williams calls this feature “chameleon-like” (The Nature of Roman Poetry, 112) in regard to the presentation of imagined erotic situations with Corinna; one could apply the same phrase to Alice/Agnès in Paisajes.

  24. Paul Jay, Being in the Text, 182.

  25. This fact may explain why the terrorist invasion imagined at the end of Paisajes is psychological, led by “la militante histérica, lacaniana y teñida que parecía la jefa [y] emitía dictámenes sicoanalíticos” (176).

  26. Michael Sprinker, “Fictions of the Self …,” 342.

  27. Juan Goytisolo, Problemas de la Novela (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1959), 11.

  28. Juan Goytisolo, Problemas de la Novela, 10.

  29. Harry Levin refers to the similar case of “Faustus and Mephostophilis [sic], [when] the second self becomes a projection of the ego, a daimon” (The Overreacher: A Study of Christopher Marlowe [Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1952]).

  30. Tales of Mystic Meaning, Being Selections from the Mathnawi of Jalal-ud Din Rumi, trans. R. A. Nicholson (London: Chapman and Hall, 1931), xvi.

  31. Linda Hutcheon discusses the “naïve realist who, like Don Quijote, believes that words in books refer directly to reality” (Narcissistic Narrative, 38).

  32. Tales of Mystic Meaning …, xxi-xxii. Here, one is reminded of the admonition to all at the end of Juan sin tierra (follow the rules or don't play the game).

  33. Nina Auerbach, Woman and the Demon: The Life of a Victorian Myth (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982), 41.

  34. It is evident in Paisajes that the writer sees the imagined worlds as both an escape from and a revenge on “reality.” He writes of Tejero and his “bandits” as a coming to life of the monstrosities invented by Goya, a real historical event from which only he (the writer) is saved (by his mental life in another realm): “Caprichos y desastres de Goya cobrarán súbita y brutal realidad. Unico farallón indemne en el mar de barbarie, chulería y desdén: el bunker-refugio de la Rue Poissoniére” (104).

  35. Nina Auerbach, Woman and the Demon, 36.

  36. Francis Barker, The Tremulous Private Body: Essays on Subjection (London and New York: Methuen, 1984), 107. Michael Sprinker sees this phenomenon as “a pervasive and unsettling feature in modern culture, the gradual metamorphosis of an individual with a distinct, personal identity into a sign, a cipher, an image no longer clearly and positively identifiable as ‘this one person’” (322).

  37. In spite of this declared separation, the text does exist in the world and even if the writer chooses not to acknowledge this fact, it is incumbent on the readers to remember it.

  38. Linda Hutcheon, Narcissistic Narrative, 25, 19.

  39. The terms are from Aristotle, “Poetic Truth and Historical Truth,” in Classical Literary Criticism: Aristotle, Horace, Longinus, trans. T. S. Dorsch (Great Britain: Penguin, 1983), 43–44.

  40. Juan Goytisolo, “Captives of our ‘Classics,’” in The New York Times Book Review, May 26, 1985, 24. He is referring to his own works here.

  41. Bernardo A. González, “Mimesis and Narrative Discourse: Juan Goytisolo's Search for Immediacy,” in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. IV, No. 2 (Summer 1984), 86.

  42. It is noteworthy that Goytisolo has written of the division between the two aspects or personas of himself—novelist/literary theorist—in the same terms: see “Novela, crítica y creación,” Revista Iberoamericana, 116–17 (julio—dic. 1981), 29.

  43. Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization, 14.

  44. I hasten to add, though, that Peter Gay finds a relationship between the mere biological urges of sexual desire and their orientation into certain directions via environmental stimuli: “The sexual fantasies that prompt amorous researches or accompany masturbation elaborate or, far more often, distort provocative scenes one has witnessed, noises one has heard, stories one has read” [emphasis added]. (The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud, Vol. I: Education of the Senses [New York: Oxford UP, 1984]. 328).

  45. Murray S. Davis, SMUT: Erotic Reality/Obscene Ideology (Chicago: U Chicago, 1983), 137.

  46. Angela Carter underlines the fact that this unequal relation need not necessarily be the male gender over female gender but the male role as “tyrannous” and the female as “martyrised, no matter what the official genders of the … beings are” (The Sadeian Woman, 24).

  47. Lacan sees this “aggressivity” toward the fragmented body in the repetition of “punishment” that comes with pleasure: here, it is repeated in the humiliations with Agnès, in the prostration of the self before the object of unfulfilled desire (see Francis Barker, The Tremulous Private Body, 89).

  48. Francis Barker, The Tremulous Private Body, 111.

  49. Frank Kermode believes that in modern times “we project our existential anxieties on to history” (The Sense of an Ending, 97).


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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.”

David K. Herzberger (essay date Spring 1987)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 Structuralists.1 During this period Goytisolo's theoretical essays and metafictional ponderings on the nature of his narrative are informed by some of the most important principles of Formalist theory: emphasis on the linguistic material, on the “literariness” of verbal art; on intertextuality and the evolution of literature as a change of literary forms; on the distinction between non-literary language, whose aim is communication and whose being is transparent, and literary language, rooted in the concept of self-referentiality and opacity. Goytisolo's theory essentially eschews the artistic norms of postwar neorealism, with their focus on the outward circulation of social reality, and seeks instead to direct attention to the inward flow of literary discourse. He proposes, for example, that the novelist engage in “una búsqueda del lenguaje: de pasar la atención de la realidad exterior, de centrar la atención en la representatividad [y] poner la atención en el signo, es decir, en el sistema lingüístico.”2 Furthermore, he insists upon the “autonomía del objeto literario: estructura verbal con sus propias relaciones internas, lenguaje percibido en sí mismo y no como intercesor transparente de un mundo ajeno, exterior.”3 These and a host of like assertions reveal how Goytisolo devises a narrative strategy in which language is both point of departure and destination, and how within this scheme the centripetal energies of the word invest literary discourse with a superior autonomy.4 For Goytisolo, as for the formalists, the language of literature has value as pure being, beyond all that it mediates and effects.

Goytisolo published Señas de identidad in 1966, a time when his novelistic theory was not yet fully defined. Nonetheless, he had already digested much of the formalist doctrine that would shape his later works, and the essential components of his new literary vision were firmly in place. Hence Señas has been accurately described as a transitional novel: it departs from the postwar tradition of social realism and points to the author's more radical experimentation to follow. Beyond its historical importance in Goytisolo's evolution as a writer, however, Señas has been recognized as a complex work of fiction capable of yielding richly diversified meanings when scrutinized at close range. Critics have credited it with destroying the myths of Spanish culture, with providing a link between Spain and the new novel of Latin America, with creating a new language for Spanish narrative, and with annihilating the sterile traditions of the past and postulating a new novel on the ashes of the old. Most critical thought on the novel tends to converge, however, at the level of language. For example, in his essay on Señas published in 1969 Carlos Fuentes asserts that “Goytisolo emprende la más urgente tarea de la novela española: destruir un lenguaje viejo, crear uno nuevo, y hacer de la novela el vehículo de esta operacíon.”5 Similarly, Juan Carlos Curutchet affirms that Goytisolo writes in a way “que al sublevarse contra los recursos del lenguaje tradicional, está simultáneamente pugnando por reinventarlo y devolver a la conciencia su poder reordenador de la realidad.”6 In much broader terms, Manuel Durán has discussed the problematic nature of Goytisolo's literary language and has traced its forceful evolution in Señas and La reivindicación del conde don Julián.7

A number of other critics have linked the innovative literary language of Señas to a self-referential language that defines not only Goytisolo's experimental narrative, but the so-called new novel in Spain as a whole. Robert Spires, for example, has argued that the recent novel is shaped by a “lenguaje autorreferencial” that culminates in Juan sin tierra,8 while Janet Díaz has observed that language “may become an end in itself” in the contemporary Spanish novel.9 From a somewhat different perspective, Michael Ugarte, drawing upon structuralist and post-structuralist theory, has shown how the intertextual dynamics of contemporary fiction focus attention on the literary text (words) and its relation to other texts.10 While I would not dispute the notion that language has helped to forge the new complexity of recent Spanish fiction, I would like to examine, from a modified formalist point of view, some of the problems suggested by the postulation of a new or self-referential language, and show particularly how these ideas inhere in Señas. A formalist approach is particularly useful in this instance, not because Goytisolo has pointed the way for us through his interviews and essays, not because he has declared, “I have been influenced by formalist poetics,” but because such a posture enables us to focus on certain aspects of a literary work that have to do with its aesthetic architecture and artistic materials.

The concept of self-referentiality in literature, as well as the centripetal energies of language that accompany it, is rooted in the dichotomy formulated by the Russian Formalists and Prague Structuralists between poetic language and non-poetic language (and, by extension, the language of any literary work versus the ordinary speech of everyday communication). This distinction can be found in the Russian Formalist writings as early as 1916, and in the Prague School treatises published before World War II. In the Prague School Theses of 1929, for example, the poetic/non-poetic dichotomy is explicit: “In its social role, language must be specified according to its relation to extra-linguistic reality. It has either a communicative function, that is, it is directed toward the signified, or a poetic function, that is, it is directed toward the sign itself.”11 Likewise, Roman Jakobson, in his essay “Word and Language,” posits the poetic and non-poetic function of language as polar opposites—the referential function directs language towards non-linguistic contexts, while the poetic function directs the message towards itself.12 More recently, Tzvetan Todorov has suggested a similar distinction: “la littérature, nous le savons, existe précisément en tant qu'effort de dire ce que le langage ordinaire ne dit pas et ne peut pas dire … C'est seulement à partir de cette différence d'avec le language courant que la littérature peut se constituer et subsister.”13 And with ringing derision Roland Barthes denounces the inuring familiarity of everyday discourse in favor of the more vital language of literature: “[In the language of the People] all magical or poetical activity disappears, the party's over, no more games with words: an end to metaphors, reign of the stereotypes imposed by petit bourgeoise culture.”14

From the early 1960s Goytisolo clearly echoes these ideas in his theory and seeks to exploit the preeminence of literary language as he goes about the construction of Señas. Yet the question remains, how do these principles function in the novel, if indeed they function at all? Is it in fact the dichotomy between literary and non-literary language that impels the innovative course of Señas and enables it to stand apart from social realism, as Goytisolo proposes?15 Or does some other literary principle on the level of theme or structure shape the novel? In order to explore these and similar questions, we must identify those elements of the discourse that constitute its new literariness and scrutinize the way in which they enable us to rediscover the referential system that the novel appropriates and transforms.

Goytisolo begins Señas with the nosotros form of narration, without punctuation, as the official voice of the Spanish government and press:

Instalado en París cómodamente instalado en París con más años de permanencia en Francia que en España con más costumbres francesas que españolas incluso en el ya clásico amancebamiento con la hija de una notoria personalidad del exilio residente habitual en la Ville Lumière y visitante episódico de su patria a fin de dar un testimonio parisiense de la vida española susceptible de épater le bourgeois conocedor experto de la amplia geografía europea tradicionalmente hostil a nuestros valores sin que falte en el programa de sus viajes la consabida imposición de manos del santón barbudo de la ex-paradisíaca isla antillana transformada hoy por obra y gracia de los rojos semirrojos e idiotas útiles en callado y lúgubre campo de concentración flotante … 16

That is to say, the novel opens with a kind of language that might easily be identified as non-literary. In numerous other instances as well, Goytisolo specifically inserts everyday, non-poetic language into his narrative. To identify only a few examples: fragments of conversations at a bar; the language of a pompous lawyer; the vapid commentary of an academic lecture; police surveillance reports; conversations in French, Spanish, and Catalan among a variety of characters; brief biographical sketches of Spanish immigrants. All of these “styles” of language have at least one thing in common—they are what Russian Formalists would categorize as non-poetic discourse, whose principal function, we must remember, is not to call attention to their linguistic essence, but rather is to communicate. However, by the very fact that this non-literary language appears in a literary context, does it somehow become literary discourse through a sort of poetic alchemy? Does language surrender its role in service of communication and abruptly refer primarily to itself? There is no simple answer to these questions, of course, but we might say that it both does and it does not.

Within the structural pattern of the novel these styles become part of a bi-modal sequential process: first, contextualization and recontextualization through constant and varied juxtapositions; second, the emergence not of a communication/self-referential dichotomy, but of what Paul Ricoeur has aptly termed a split reference.17 That is to say, in order for us to attend to the complexity of meanings of the literary text, we must be willing to suspend the reference proper of a descriptive word or phrase, which in turn creates “the negative condition for the emergence of a more radical way of looking at things.”18 The stereoscopic vision that finally obtains both abolishes and preserves the literal sense of the discourse. For example, we recognize the pompous language of the lawyer (98–104) or the wearisome conversations at Madame Berger's cafe (chapter five) because we have some familiarity with the context in real life from which each is engendered (i.e., the words are impressed with meanings derived from common experience). However, Goytisolo recontextualizes this style of language—he takes it out of its normal context—so that our perceptions of it become de-automatized. The lawyer's pronouncements are framed by cemetery scenes from Professor Ayuso's burial in which epitaphs from tombstones are offered in Spanish, Catalan, German, and English (97–98; 104–107). Hence we are compelled to see anew the vacuous commentary of the lawyer, since its immediate literary context suggests death and futility on the one hand, and the authentic spirit of political rebellion on the other (Professor Ayuso). The discourse now opens up to us certain aspects of political dissidence that had previously remained concealed (in this instance, the narrative becomes an instrument of demythification). The language is by no means “new” here, but rather transformed into a parody of itself. It is language reflecting back on itself not by turning away from what it was in the world, but rather by gaining a polysemism through its contact with other contexts and styles of language within the literary discourse.

A similar type of transformation occurs with the first-person plural language of the Press/Regime. It takes on literary meaning and becomes defamiliarized because of a structurally motivated split reference. In the first place, it directs us within the text of the novel not to reality itself, but to a linguistic conception of reality as it is formulated by the official press. It refers to a language that both creates a world and is in the world that it creates. This world (Spanish society), of course, is one based upon automatized perceptions that seek to preclude or annul conflicting perspectives. The language of the Spanish press as it is represented in Señas is aimed at creating what Victor Shklovsky, in another context, terms an “algebraic method of thought.”19 The words become fixed and static in the same way as the reality to which they refer. Language and meaning do not part company here, as Orwell feared. Instead, the decay of language is signaled by the overbearance of meaning that portrays the world as solidly incontrovertible. It is logocentrism with a tragic twist: outlines are blurred and details covered up.

Within Señas Goytisolo first proposes that we accept this language for what it is, and then reject it for what it does. Since the world invented and propagated by the press is formulary and reductive, its purpose is to obliterate perceptions that are spontaneous and complex. For Goytisolo language functions as an instrument of the writer's refusal to accept life as it is. Hence his attack against Spanish reality begins by laying bare the automatized language that controls and shapes that reality. He appropriates the language of the press and places it in a literary context that first exposes, and then contradicts, its intention. He suppresses punctuation so as to invest official language with a monotonous drone, and then frames it in a larger context with the diverse and creative use of metaphor, with the subjective and intimate meditations of the protagonist, and with a variety of devices that serve to undermine a single, rigid view of the world. Since ambiguity, rather than specificity, forms the basis of verbal art as Goytisolo seeks to practice it, his recontextualization of the newspaper language—as well as of conversations, lectures, etc.—serves to guide our perceptions in two directions: towards the word and towards the world. Both are crucial to the innovative nature of Goytisolo's writing. The former, because it makes us aware of the potency of language and the diversity of linguistic possibilities; the latter, because our renewed perceptions help us to rediscover the world. Or as Paul Ricoeur proposes: “[our renewed perception] reveals, unconceals, the deep structures [not only of language], but of the reality to which we are related as mortals who are born into this world and who dwell in it for a while” (151). Hence as we observe at close range the language of Franco's culture, we see as well the way in which that culture can be redefined by a subversion of its linguistic intent.

The conjunction of literary and nonliterary discourse functions in a like manner in the final part of the novel. For example, the fragment at the beginning of chapter eight is narrated in the “tú” form, without punctuation, as Alvaro peers at Barcelona through the telescope on Montjuich. What he sees, of course, is a physical landscape transformed dramatically by the demands of industrial society for growth and development: “nuevos tanques de petróleo tinglados modernos depósitos de hulla las obras de construcción de un silo gigante la grúa del tramo de prolongación de la escollera una lancha rápida americana … edificios leganñosos jardines cipreses restos de chabolas buldozers brigadas de obreros el parque las torres vetustas del estadio inútil el envejecido palacio de la Exposición barracas en ruina nuevas chozas farolas plateadas avenidas el campo las afueras más humo más chimeneas más fábricas” (399). The images that appear before his eye trigger a painful process during which Alvaro first assimilates and then withdraws from what stands before him. As occurs frequently in the novel, the embedded social criticism moves to the fore here as the images amass and unite to reveal the destruction of Alvaro's culture.

Equally important, however, is the metamorphosis of the linguistic landscape. Over the next several pages, juxtaposed to Alvaro's view of the city, instructions are introduced in several languages on how to use the telescope, and fragments of conversations of French, Italian, and English tourists are inserted. In addition, there appears in the midst of these two sections a lengthy segment from a tourist pamphlet (written in four languages, but reproduced in the narrative in Spanish) describing Barcelona and its history (400–02). The straightforward use of nonliterary language in these instances is more complex than it seems at first glance. While in normal usage the phrases are limited to a single linguistic level (instructions, information, etc.), the literary meaning they gain here depends upon their immediate context and the relation they bear to Goytisolo's portrayal of linguistic norms as a whole. The instructions on page 399 and the conversations from pages 402 and 403, both presented in several languages, are linked directly to the transformation of the physical landscape that Alvaro observes only a few pages earlier. Goytisolo in effect disengages this language from the world of speech and injects it with new meaning within the context of his discourse. The words of the tourists are not merely innocuous snatches of overheard conversations, but rather objects that inhere in the structure of physical and cultural violation that Goytisolo has set out to portray. They are matter to be scorned in the same way as the buildings that have strangled the city and effaced its identity. Similarly, because it is framed by these segments, the tourist pamphlet shows how the Spanish language, in alliance with the foreign invasion, is used to abridge culture and rid it of its complexity and richness. Hence the sterility of official language, already established in the portrayal of the press, tells us less about Barcelona—as it is intended to do—than about the reductivist efficiency and mythifying power of words when co-opted to serve the aims of the government.

Another example of how Goytisolo removes language from its customary context and places it in unexpected configurations has to do with the program from the fiesta at Yeste. The introduction of the program into the narrative (126–27) would at first glance seem to be inspired by the most ardent imitative zeal. It is reproduced, word for word, line for line, as it might logically appear in extra-literary reality. The program announces four days of activities, all part of the official celebration of the town of Yeste, which culminates in a typical running of the bulls and a “grandiosa novillada, cuyos pormenores se anunciarán en programas especiales” (127). In order to forge literary meaning out of this document, to compel us to see how it functions more than merely to publicize a cultural tradition, Goytisolo distorts the apparent linguistic intent and transforms it into a structural device identified with oppression and death.

Twenty pages after it is reproduced in its entirety, fragments of the program reappear in the narrative (148–49). This time, however, they are interpolated into Alvaro's stream of consciousness as he recalls his interrogation by the police following the bullfight announced in the program. These two references to the program frame the most violent and dehumanizing segment of the novel, in which the slaughter of rebellious workers at Yeste in 1936 is paralleled by the killing of a bull at the fiesta in 1958. The link between the two acts of violence is explicit, and the social message clear.20 Yet what Goytisolo has achieved through the introduction of a fiesta, with the subsequent massacre of its participants, compels us to see the announcement of the celebration in new light. The program is an official document, sponsored by the town government, in the same way that the events leading to the massacre represent the official actions of the government. The activities of the fiesta are announced on the program for certain hours of the day, just as the confrontation between the laborers and police is related with temporal precision. The program heralds the grandiosa novillada, but without details—in effect, the details are provided by the tragic death. But of the bull, or of the workers? In fact, the two become indistinguishable.

The identification of the program language with the interrogation of Alvaro further complicates the role of the program on two important levels. First, the linking of the government document with the police creates another level of meaning. As an official publication, the program is implicitly tied to censorship and oppression. Hence its intended message is perversely undermined. The announcement of the fiesta activities, already linked to death and violence, is now contextualized with the political control that has come to be identified with all official language (e.g., the press, the “diario de vigilancia”) represented in Señas. From the standpoint of aesthetics, the alternating segments of program and police language create a special form of textual defamiliarization. Their appearance within the narrative hinders the act of reading. The reader must pay closer attention to the text, thus both the difficulty of his task and the duration of his perception are increased. The juxtaposition of the two sets of words not only interrupts the flow of the narrative and compels us to focus on the words as words (i.e., they are foregrounded, in formalist terms), but also calls attention to deep and multiple meanings associated with them. Goytisolo in effect liberates the program language from the delimiting authority of form and injects it with new life amid the folds of political repression. Thus what at first seems to serve chiefly as a device to trigger Alvaro's involuntary memory, is integrated into the narrative and acquires literary value through the multiple meanings that come to be identified with it. Again, the referent is split: towards the world and the typical fiesta that it suggests, towards the text and the violent repression to which it is intimately linked—and ultimately to the commingling of both.

In addition to the fact that Goytisolo has told us extra-textually that Señas is a transitional work, and that it represents a profound break with certain novelistic precepts associated with social realism, there is also explicit evidence within the text of Goytisolo's rejection of recent literary tradition. Although he assails with malicious humor the Spanish novelist Fernández, who visits Paris and shows himself to be an illiterate fool (306–10), a more subtle attack on literary tradition occurs earlier in the novel. In the midst of a segment in which the narrative focuses on the empty rhetoric of Spanish exiles in Paris, the narrator alludes to a magazine founded by the group (though never published) and relates the materials listed in the table of contents. Among other things, the issue was to have included “algún ensayo amazacotado … en defensa del realismo, una mesa redonda (y plúmbea) acerca del compromiso de los escritores …” (257). He then offers a sample of “committed poetry” (258) written by an opponent of the Franco regime. What is important to understand here is that, ironically, the poem should not be viewed by the reader as a work of literature; its language is not to be seen as poetic. But how are we to reach this conclusion? If the language of the press can be transformed into literature, surely the language of poetry must be literary by its very nature. Again in this instance what becomes crucial is the contextualization of the poem. It is placed amid the empty rhetoric of dissent mouthed by the exiles in Madame Berger's cafe—a contrived rhetoric of fustian pretension which, as Goytisolo shows, has futilely sought to bring about social and political change in Spain. The interpolation of the poem at this point underscores the likeness between the two types of rhetoric—of the poem and the exiles—rather than affirm their difference. It thereby denigrates the explicit literary intent of the poem and reveals the vacuity of its literary and social substance.

The poem also hints at Goytisolo's scorn for the tradition of social realism as a whole. Its so-called committed stance has not only failed to inspire social change, but it has also engendered a simplistic literary language that is not at all literary. Its mechanical patterns of expression are denotative and sterile (as are those of the Franco regime) rather than ambiguous and complex. And by contextualizing it within the rhetoric of sterility fashioned by the exiles, Goytisolo degrades its poetic pretense and underscores its literary existence as either barren or stillborn. The insertion of the poem also suggests Goytisolo's view of the nature of literary evolution. In order to bring about change, a writer must vitiate the linguistic presuppositions of the prevailing literary norms as they grow insipid and stale. Only then can there exist a dynamic literary dialectic capable of reshaping our perceptions both of the world and of literature itself. The language of social realism, in contrast, is shown here to sound without resonance. It is devoid of literary value and serves only to reinforce the status quo. It must therefore be held up to ridicule and to parody; it must be destroyed and refashioned in a new mold.21 At the same time, however, it must be pointed out that, despite its apparent insipidness, the poem does not affirm an inherent disparity between literary and non-literary language. On the contrary, the entire episode shows how a single instance of language can function in one way or the other, defined always by the possibilities offered by its textual setting.

Throughout his theoretical writings and metafictional commentary of the past two decades Goytisolo has scrutinized the way in which language functions within the literary process. To a large extent he draws upon the formalist principle that opposes literary to non-literary language as he articulates the norms that have shaped his fiction since the publication of Señas. As a transitional work Señas has been judged to affirm the major tenets of Goytisolo's new literary vision: insistence upon the self-directed energy of narrative discourse and renunciation of the aesthetic traditions of social realism. Yet what Señas comes to tell us about language is something quite different than the author posits in his theory. Rather than “un lenguaje autorreferencial,” with its implied hermeticism that closes off the world, Goytisolo affirms in Señas what Ricoeur terms the “productive and projective” function of fiction. It produces a unique world that lives only in the individual work, and also projects this world into our own so that we may perceive “deeply rooted potentialities of reality … that are absent from the actualities with which we deal in everyday life” (153). Hence 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. Indeed, Goytisolo's novels since Señas can be understood fully only if we reject his theoretical intent of creating an autotelic text and focus instead on split referentiality and the roots of the text's polysemism. To approach Señas from a perspective that fails to take this into account, and to insist upon a self-directed/referential dichotomy within its discourse, is to miss the aesthetic and social substance of the entire enterprise.


  1. Goytisolo acknowledges in an interview with Julio Ortega that, “La convergencia de Benveniste y el formalismo y estructuralismo … ha influído … en el camino de ruptura que inicié con Señas.” (Revista de Occidente, 45 [1974], 16–28)

  2. Juan Goytisolo, “Declaración de la mesa redonda celebrada en la Universidad de Wisconsin-Parkside” (Norte, 406 [1972], 91–96).

  3. Juan Goytisolo, Juan sin tierra (Barcelona, 1975), 312.

  4. For a detailed examination of Goytisolo's narrative theory see my “Toward the Word/World Conflict: The Evolution of Juan Goytisolo's Novelistic Theory,” in Perspectivas de la novela (Madrid & Chapel Hill, 1979), 103–113.

  5. Carlos Fuentes, “Juan Goytisolo: La lengua común” in La nueva novela hispanoamericana (Mexico, 1969), 78–84.

  6. Juan Carlos Curutchet, “Juan Goytisolo y la destrucción de la España sagrada” (Revista de la Universidad de México, 1 [1969], 9–14).

  7. Manuel Durán, “El lenguaje de Juan Goytisolo” (Cuadernos Americanos, 11–12 [1970], 167–79). Christian Meerts also addresses the problem when she claims that for Goytisolo, “Au commencement était la parole. En effet … le vrai problème d'Alvaro et finalement le seul auquel l'oeuvre renvoie, c'est celui du langage,” in Technique et Vision dans Señas de identidad de J. Goytisolo (Frankfurt, 1972), 53.

  8. Robert Spires, “El nuevo lenguaje en la nueva novela” (Insula 396–97 [1979], 6–7).

  9. Janet Diaz, “Origins, Aesthetics, and the ‘nueva novela española’” (Hispania 59 [1976], 109–117).

  10. Michael Ugarte, Trilogy of Treason: An Intertextual Study of Juan Goytisolo (Columbia & London, 1982).

  11. Cited in Mary Louise Pratt, Towards a Speech Act Theory of Literary Discourse (Bloomington, 1977), 8.

  12. Discussed in Paul Ricoeur, “The Metaphorical Process as Cognition, Imagination, and Feeling,” in On Metaphor, ed. Sheldon Sacks (Chicago, 1979), 141–57.

  13. Tzvetan Todorov, Introduction a la Littérature Fantastique (Paris, 1970), 27.

  14. Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text, trans. Richard Miller (New York, 1975), 38.

  15. In her perceptive essay, “The Poetic Language Fallacy” (in Towards a Speech Act Theory of Literary Discourse, 3–37), Mary Louise Pratt shows that the opposition between poetic and non-poetic language has, in fact, never been proven; that it was assumed to exist by the Russian Formalists, but that such key Formalist concepts as “palpableness of form, estrangement, foregrounding, and the laying bare of devices” have never been shown not to exist outside of literature. In short, she suggests that there are no data from extra-literary discourse to support the dichotomy. I do not propose in any way to resolve this conflict here, but some of the issues suggested by the debate are relevant to the question of innovative and self-referential language in Señas.

  16. Juan Goytisolo, Señas de identidad, 2nd ed. (Mexico, 1969), 9. Future references to Señas are to this edition and noted in the text.

  17. Paul Ricoeur, “The Metaphysical Process,” 151.

  18. Ricoeur, 152.

  19. Victor Shklovsky, “Art as Technique,” in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, eds. Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis (Lincoln, Neb., 1965), 11.

  20. For a discussion of this section and its socio-historical implications, see Linda Gould Levine, Juan Goytisolo: La destrucción creadora (Mexico, 1976), 60–63.

  21. Jean Tena addresses this issue from a somewhat different perspective. In her essay “De l'historique à l'imaginaire: L'exil et la quête dans Señas de identidad,” she affirms that Goytisolo breaks with the language of the past, but she is more concerned with the intertextual consequences of this break: “Mais l'essentiel est sans doute la rupture qui mène d'un language encore traditionnel mais finalement rejeté, à une forme presque lyrique, résolûment polysémique … C'est encore l'utilisation d'une écriture qui peut s'appuyer non plus uniquement sur la réalité, mais aussi sur une écriture antérieure par le biais de l'intertextualité” (Imprévue, 2 [1980], 97–119).

Principal Works

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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

Lucille V. Braun (essay date 7 May 1987)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 a new invasion to destroy the religious-military caste that emerged from the Reconquest, drove out the Moslems and the Jews, and has imposed its values ever since. The cristiano viejo has typically scorned intellectual pursuits, thought to be the province of the Jew, and attempted to suppress sensuality, considered an Arabic vice.2 In the twentieth century a Millán Astray can still cry “Abajo la inteligencia,” as he did in Unamuno's presence, and don Miguel himself can display an evident distrust of sexuality.3 Goytisolo would correct these pernicious notions: “Perseguir al sexo es perseguir la inteligencia en la medida en que la auténtica libertad intelectual implica necesariamente la libertad sexual, y viceversa.”4 He can easily do so in a novel that makes no pretense of reality and flaunts its arbitrariness. Thus a penitent in a Holy Week procession throws down his cross and, revealing his true identity as Julian, begins the undulating motions of a calypso dancer.5 Isabel la Católica, now a nun, caught up in a mystical-masturbatory frenzy, alternates gyrations to rock-and-roll music with self-flagellation and is eventually violated by Julian (pp. 163–65). The narrator is also free to imagine a vast engineering operation to change the face of Castile—the objective correlative of the rigid Spanish mentality. “[A]bajo, montes calcáreos, sierras escuetas y adustas, Meseta infecta!” (p. 147). The hated landscape will be replaced by fertile fields like those of the Low Countries.

For Goytisolo, Spanish literature—with a few magnificent exceptions like La Celestina or the essays of Larra—is a repository of the ideals and attitudes of traditional Spain. Its distortions must be revealed, lest they continue shaping the minds of the nation. The narrator of RCDJ realizes a symbolic destruction of his heritage by collecting dead insects and squashing them between pages of Spanish masterpieces during his visits to a library. (Goytisolo considers that this episode is not unlike the famous scrutiny of the books in Don Quixote.6) The novelist himself accomplishes a different sort of defilement by inserting phrases and verses from the so-called classics into his own text. They appear without quotation marks and may or may not be introduced by a lead-in that will help identify them. In any case, the new text invariably asserts its mastery over the borrowed items and they are never the same in a different context. The dialogue of Goytisolo's text with his sources and the changes, often parodic, that the appropriated material undergoes in new surroundings are the essence of the intertextual process.7 To a large degree, each quotation we recognize is one more crushed insect that makes it unlikely that we can ever return to the original without being aware of the blot.

Another of Goytisolo's views is that language itself is contaminated by the ruling ideology and that, in turn, the formulas and clichés of a language serve to perpetuate attitudes. When questioned by Julio Ortega about his remark that “en España incluso los choferes de taxi hablan como Unamuno,” Goytisolo replied:

Durante siglos, todo español se ha visto obligado a pensar o cuanto menos a hablar y escribir conforme a ciertas fórmulas y estereotipos, y la consecuencia de dicho sistema … se traduce en un entorpecimiento de las facultades mentales y un miedo continuo a ejercerlas … Pues los esquemas mentales, elipsis y clisés son comunes al señor rector y al chófer de taxi …: ambos emplean, a distintos niveles, claro está, un mismo idioma codificado por varios siglos de estática social y monolitismo ideológico.8

Consequently in RCDJ we find not only frequent quotations from Unamuno, to mock his style, but also on Goytisolo's part an effort to write a totally different type of Spanish, to achieve, like Góngora, a “palabra sin historia, orden verbal autónomo, engañoso delirio … palabra liberada de secular servidumbre” (p. 125).

The “Advertencia” at the end of RCDJ lists some 50 authors who participated either posthumously or involuntarily in the creation of the work. Approximately 40 items, ranging from long sentences to snippets, can be attributed to Unamuno, who surpasses all the others in the number of separate citations. For answers as to why Unamuno, of the many possible targets of irony, achieves such prominence, we may turn to Goytisolo's essays and literary criticism. He is open to attack, first of all, as a member of the Generation of 1898. Writing from the perspective of the mid-sixties, Goytisolo emphasizes that, as a consequence of the Civil War, the influence of this generation has been artificially maintained, long past the point at which it should have declined: “[D]etenida en la problemática del Modernismo y del Noventa y Ocho nuestra vida cultural vegeta en el culto baldío y anacrónico de sus dioses, semidioses y santos.” Shortly after the war, to invoke '98 was to react against “la barbarie oficial” by restoring continuity with the intellectual currents of the pre-war period. However, as the years passed, “descubrimos, atónitos, el juego de prestidigitación de algunos de los ‘continuadores’: su obra de continuidad con lo pasado se había transformado imperceptiblemente en ruptura con lo por venir. Les pedíamos un puente para salvar el vacío y nos habían edificado una muralla.” Furthermore, this continuing devotion is fueled by the self-interest of many writers and critics: “Quien más, quien menos dispone de un cadáver glorioso y lo maneja como una arma defensiva.”9

By 1972–73 Goytisolo shifts his attack from questions of literary politics to what the writers of '98 stand for:

Yo diría … que las numerosas parodias insertas en el texto del discurso juliano se dirigen menos a los clásicos que a la perspectiva de los mismos a través del prisma mezquino y reductor del 98. Era, entre otras cosas, un modo de protestar contra un curioso fenómeno de apropiación que en el caso de Unamuno, respecto a Cervantes, lleva la deformación a límites increíbles … Aun en el caso de autores por quienes tengo escasa admiración, como Lope, el blanco de la burla … apunta no tanto a ellos como a su utilización interesada y reaccionaria por parte de Unamuno, Ganivet o Azorín.10

As much as Goytisolo parodies the style of an Azorín or the ideological stance of a Ganivet, he does not criticize the authors personally. Only Unamuno (and Ortega11) seem to inspire actual aversion. Goytisolo's dislike of Unamuno, the man, comes through clearly in the following comment: “El lector unamuniano experimenta a menudo la penosa sensación de asistir a un espectáculo de feria en el que el protagonista se demora a sabiendas en un laberinto de espejos que le aleja paulatinamente de la salida.”12 Equally scathing is the remark: “ … en Unamuno, la pobreza deviene un valor ético, una virtud: … el misero paisaje de Castilla será el espejo en que, morbosamente, contemplará su propia alma, algo así como una emanación de su religiosidad personal.”13

The Unamuno transposed to the pages of RCDJ is not the Unamuno most of us first think of—the Unamuno deeply tormented by a need for personal immortality, the Unamuno of works like Del sentimiento trágico de la vida and Niebla. Nearly all the quotations come either from En torno al casticismo or two collections of travel essays, Por tierras de Portugal y de España (1911) and Andanzas y visiones españolas (1922). Both of the latter volumes contain several articles in which Unamuno celebrates “el sentimiento de la montaña,” the exultation experienced by the climber who feels he makes contact on the peaks with his innermost self and with truths that lie beyond time.14 [In RCDJ these experiences are subtly degraded by being classified as “apoteosis cimeras” and “estupefacciones alpinas” (p. 192).] The second Unamuno who passes from the essays to RCDJ is the Unamuno who believes the harsh landscape of his country reflects the unchanging Spanish soul.15 These volumes are full of descriptions such as “aquella austera, noble, huesuda y solemne Castilla” (I, 232) or “ese espíritu severo, desnudo y fuerte habla en las piedras de El Escorial” (I, 375). A third Unamuno appears in the guise of a traveler who scorns the conveniences demanded by other Europeans. On pp. 139–40, Goytisolo combines bits from several articles in a reference to “enemigos viscerales del Baedeker y el sleeping-car, de la almohada y el baño: del ferrocarril, del waterclóset, del teléfono” (I, 282, 285, 353–54). However, this attitude is merely an offshoot of a massive repudiation of the economic, political and scientific advances of the modern world. On p. 140 Goytisolo picks up Unamuno's “debo confesar que siento un invencible recelo platónico hacia las democracias” (I, 301) in the line “de un entrañable recelo platónico frente a la idea de la democracia” and on p. 144 he places Unamuno's famous “¡que inventen ellos!” (VII, 288) side by side with Millán Astray's “¡Abajo la inteligencia!” Although the two men were antagonists during Unamuno's last official appearance as rector of Salamanca, Goytisolo's technique underscores the similarity of their views: “Abajo la inteligencia, que inventen ellos, lejos de nosotros la peligrosa novedad de discurrir!”

The simplest use of quotations from Unamuno occurs in montages that bring together typical descriptions of Castile or the attitudes characteristic of the Generation of 1898. Usually one or two other authors are given almost equal billing.16 In the passage I will use as an illustration, pp. 110–12 of RCDJ, some readers will recognize parts of the chapter “La casta histórica—Castilla” in En torno al casticismo, but there is also one item each from “En Aguilar de Campóo” and “Ciudad, campo, paisajes y recuerdos.” Unamuno's companions are García Morente in Idea de la hispanidad17 and Azorín, represented by the essay “Castilla” from El paisaje de España visto por los españoles.18 The borrowings are often verbatim and show only minor modifications: position of adjectives, slight condensation, an insignificant substitution. I have underlined phrases that are identical in the source and RCDJ and used brackets to indicate both a variant in the source and the author/page references. However, a device that twists the meaning dramatically is the insertion of a new subject—the carpeto19—as the thinker of these thoughts. And certainly don Miguel, who so feared the loss of personal identity, would be appalled at the ease with which the fragments coalesce, a process facilitated by the use of the colon as the main sign of punctuation. The text reads:

la aceptación estoica del destino histórico es [pues] el primer rasgo saliente de la actitud hispánica ante la vida [G. M., 22]: el carpeto concibe la Historia [de España] como un lento proceso de autodepuración [propia depuración], como un continuo ejercicio ascético de perfeccionamiento [encaminado a perfeccionar] [G. M., 24]: en el fondo del alma ibera hay [Hay en el fondo del alma del caballero] un residuo indestructible de estoicismo [—Séneca era español—] que, hermanado intimamente con el cristianismo, ha enseñado a los hombres de la Meseta [de España] a sufrir y a aguantar [G. M., 69]: ha hecho de ellos una casta de complexión seca, dura y sarmentosa, una casta de hombres sobrios, [producto de una larga selección por las heladas de crudísimos inviernos y una serie de penurias periódicas, hechos] adaptados a la inclemencia del cielo y a la pobreza del clima [de la vida] [U., I, 811]: hasta el paisaje, este entrañable paisaje nuestro, parece empapado de efluvios éticos [U., I, 363] senequistas como observaron agudamente los maestros del 98 y lo plasmaron en inmortales páginas de estilo sedeño, sentencioso, reposado, con una especie de grave ternura que se diría que le sale de los tuétanos

Castilla, Castilla!: minutos de serenidad inefable [,] en que la Historia se conjuga [conjunta] con la radiante Naturaleza [!]: a lo lejos se destacan las torres de la catedral : [;] una campana suena : [;] torna el silencio [A., 55]

ante nosotros, átomos de [en la] eternidad, se abren, arcanos e insondables, los tiempos venideros [A., 55]

el camino se extiende, inacabable, ante la llanura [mirada]: [;] todo es llano, uniforme [A., 58]

pueblos que proclaman su santa alegría de vivir fuera de la Historia [U., I, 489]: soportales, una tiendecilla con mantas en la puerta, un mesón, un viejo palacio con un escudo de piedra, las celosías de un convento de monjas [A., 59]

concierto de badajos, como una sinfonía en el páramo : pinares estáticos al borde del sendero : alguna procesión monótona y grave de pardas encinas [U., I, 808]: unos pocos álamos [,] que, [ ] en la soledad infinita adquieren una vida profunda e intensa [intensa y profunda] [U., I, 808]

estribaciones de huesosas y descarnadas peñas erizadas de riscos : [;] colinas [recortadas que ponen al desnudo las capas del terreno resquebrajado de sed,] cubiertas [cuando más] de pobres hierbas, donde sólo levantan cabeza el cardo rudo y la retama desnuda [y olorosa] [U., I, 809]

campo infinito en que, sin perderse, se achica el hombre, y en que siente en medio de la sequía de los campos sequedades del alma! [.] [U., I, 809]

Note how the quotations from Unamuno pile up toward the end of the section. One reason is to vary the rhythm, now slower and heavier after the staccato phrases from Azorín. Another reason, I suspect, is that Goytisolo, fully conscious of the vividness of Unamuno's style, as well as of the hint of excess in it, knows lines from this author provide a strong conclusion.

Indeed, throughout RCDJ, Goytisolo skillfully calculates the placement of textual elements. Limiting our examples to those that involve Unamuno, we find on p. 159 a case of parallelistic construction. Two successive paragraphs begin with comparable phrases—“por las callejas … hallarás” and “por el macizo portón entrarás”—continue with descriptions in the style of Azorín,20 and conclude with words from Unamuno. The first phrase, “alegría de vivir fuera de la Historia” (I, 489) constitutes an internal repeat, for it was also used in the long collage just analyzed. The second is “en el cogollo de su [del] corazón rocoso” (I, 489). The attentive reader may not always know whose words he is reading, but he will perceive the shift in style, especially in the second paragraph. This practice is not unlike the use of lines from Góngora to introduce three consecutive apartados in Part I.21

Another time, Goytisolo takes one of Unamuno's more effusive statements about the spiritual qualities of the landscape—“Oscuros pensamientos de eternidad parecen brotar de la tierra” (I, 481, “En Yuste”)—and places it in the midst of a passage written in the colorless prose of military field orders:

el área designada, el Área H, se extiende desde las pendientes noroccidentales del Moncayo hacia el Guadarrama, Gredos y la sierra Cabrera : comprende zonas de páramo cubierto de berruecos, llanuras áridas, ríos concisos y sobrios : las campanas tañen el Ángelus y oscuros pensamientos de eternidad parecen brotar de la tierra : para los equipos de fumigación y de tala los puntos de aterrizaje serán marcados por balizas de color azul : en el centro de esta área se montará una emisora de Radio Decca para el envío de helicópteros suplementarios (p. 143).

Both discourses are highly codified, but as a result of their clash, Unamuno's rhetoric seems both exaggerated and anachronistic, as anachronistic as Santiago on his white horse, who provides the larger framework in which this section appears. The text of RCDJ has no lead-in to facilitate the identification of Unamuno's remark. However, I do not believe it is mere coincidence that Goytisolo uses it again on p. 139 of España y los españoles with proper credit to don Miguel. The full effect depends on recognition!

Unamuno also makes several anonymous contributions to the characterization of Figurón—an all-encompassing, protean figure who eventually comes to include all the masculine identities in the novel. Early in RCDJ, before Figurón undergoes his many transformations, he appears to be only a bothersome lawyer, member of the Spanish colony in Tangiers, who continually extols the traditions of the mother country. His muletilla—efluvios éticos—is a creation of Unamuno. Normally a reader of Unamuno would barely notice the phrase if he encountered it in context in “Ciudad, campo, paisajes y recuerdos”: “Pues no es lo mismo para aquel que encuentra en el campo un Evangelio y absorbe en la montaña tanto más que efluvios estéticos, efluvios éticos” (I, 363). But out of context the phrase is revealed in all its infelicity. On p. 82 of RCDJ, Goytisolo gleefully seizes the opportunity to defile these spiritual emanations. Figurón, alias don Álvaro, suddenly picks something up from the ground and obliges the narrator to inhale the aroma of the droppings of an authentic capra hispánica while intoning: “efluvios éticos! … esencias metafisicas! : Gredos, Gredos!” Thus the first time Goytisolo uses the phrase it is hopelessly degraded. It will reappear over and over. On p. 111, we find “hasta el paisaje, este entrañable paisaje nuestro, parece empapado de efluvios éticos senequistas como observaron agudamente los maestros del 98. …” Here the undermining is less obvious and depends on the excess implied by empapado and the abuse of alliteration (e and p) that makes the sentence singularly ugly. There are other mentions on pp. 119 and 146. Then, as don Álvaro is dying (p. 180), he calls out: “efluvios éticos, paisajes metafísicos, a mí, a mí!” Lastly, Goytisolo employs a variation on p. 151 when he describes the flatulence caused by eating garbanzos as “dulces efluvios sedantes,” a phrase found in the singular in Unamuno's poem “El Cristo de Cabrera” (VI, 194).

Most authors who “contribute” to the text of RCDJ supply only their words. Unamuno, however, also appears as a personality fragment of the many-sided Figurón in the Seneca section. He is never named anywhere in the text, although the clues in the following description are obvious:

tras la mesa de un rectoral despacho cubierta de papeles y libros y un austero crucifijo Kierkegaardiano que abre los brazos junto a la lámpara de cabecera y proyecta su sombra inmensa en el tapiz : severo y enjuto mientras despliega gravemente la muleta y realiza una serie inigualable de manoletinas y pases de pecho que provocan el sobrecogedor deliquio, el arrobo seráfico de la hispana multitud : acogiendo las delirantes aclamaciones con un rictus estereotipado y llevándose la mano, esa personalísima mano suya que parece pintada por El Greco, al sitio del corazón, ah, me duele España! (pp. 116–17).

The reader easily makes the association with the Rector of the University of Salamanca, recognizes his famous remark, “Me duele España,” and may well know he was strongly influenced by Kierkegaard. Yet the very phrase “crucifijo Kierkegaardiano” can give us pause, for it is none too clear who is really on the cross, Christ or Unamuno-Kierkegaard in his metaphysical anguish. Next, the figure, in an apparently incongruous activity, performs a series of bullfighter's passes. The irony here cuts many ways, anticipating the satire of Ortega y Gasset (pp. 199–201), who attempted a philosophical analysis of bullfighting and who in the novel is another dimension of Séneca-Figurón. It also leads back to Unamuno with the damaging suggestion that all his rhetoric of anguish was merely fancy capework. The reaction of the public to this display is discredited by hyperbole, since the terms deliquio and arrobo are closely linked to the extremes of ecstasy experienced by the mystics in the moment of union with God.

The Unamuno personality then submerges for two pages. I will not comment on the Séneca Jr.-Séneca Sr. dialogue that follows, for this parody of the conversation between General Moscardó and his son during the siege of the Alcázar has been ably studied by Levine and others.22 It might be noted, however, that the short paragraph that introduces this passage—which one might dismiss as mere authorial commentary that damns with excessive praise—consists largely of quotations from García Morente's Idea de la hispanidad (ft. 17). On p. 57 of that work he speaks of “Caballerosidad y cristiandad en fusión perfecta e identificación radical” and on p. 67 he writes “alzar la voz y encumbrarse a formas superiores de la elocuencia y de la retórica.” The other intervening page, 118, also contains long quotations from García Morente (pp. 59 and 72) plus references to “una prudente terapéutica de sangrías y purgas” derived from Ganivet. Here the Séneca-Figurón entity takes on attributes of Franco. [I have digressed to point out the lines from García Morente because thus far all critics have limited the borrowings from this source to the decalogue of the perfecto caballero cristiano on p. 158. They are much more extensive.]

The Unamuno dimension reemerges when “Séneca” ascends to Gredos “a respirar los éticos efluvios.” The description of the locale comes from Unamuno's essay “De vuelta de la cumbre”: “He estado hace pocos días en los altos de la sierra de Gredos, espinazo de Castilla; he acampado dos noches a dos mil quinientos metros de altura, sobre la tierra y bajo el cielo; he trepado al montón de piedras que sustenta al risco de Almanzor; he descansado al pie de un ventisquero contemplando el imponente espectáculo del anfiteatro que ciñe la laguna grande de Gredos” (I, 350). Goytisolo's text reads: “allí, en el espinazo de Castilla, a dos mil metros de altura sobre la Meseta, trepan al montón de piedras que sustenta el risco Almanzor y contemplan el imponente espectáculo del anfiteatro que ciñe la laguna grande de Gredos” (p. 119). Two short phrases “cimas de silencio y de paz y de olvido” (I, 350) and “el eco la repetía dos veces entre las soledades” (I, 351) appear almost unchanged in the Goytisolo text.

Apart from outright quotations, Goytisolo clearly has in mind the general content of the article cited and also “El silencio de la cima.” In the latter, Unamuno recounts how he climbed the Peña de Francia with a group of French friends: “¡Qué sabrosas conversaciones con ellos, allá arriba, en el seno del silencio, tendidos sobre la cumbre!” (I, 355). Later the friends recite Leconte de Lisle's poem to the condor, while Unamuno recalls Obermann (I, 358). Goytisolo adapts the situation to his purpose by having the climbers recite archetypical Spanish works: “el ‘Infante Arnaldos’ y el ‘Romance de Blanca Niña’, sonetos de Lope de Vega y autos sacramentales de Calderón.” And who are the climbers? In the novel's play of shifting identities suddenly they are ex-combatants from Franco's army reminiscing about their exploits in a mountain skirmish. Did not José Antonio, as well as Unamuno, seek the eternal truths of the nation among the peaks when he declared: “Nuestra España estaba entre los riscos y los vericuetos”? Is not much Falangist rhetoric infused with a specious spirituality not too different from Unamuno's? Goytisolo has little taste for the distinctions others might draw and takes pleasure in jumbling them indiscriminately. First he throws in a little idealistic rhetoric a la Falange (“ … la risueña, luminosa época de su bizarra y aguerrida juventud … la empresa Universal de salvación”) only to reveal the brutal reality underlying it when the men begin to speak: “te acuerdas?'/ qué gente!'/ viva el Tercio!'/ entonces, el tío cabrón / sí, tras el mogote / y yo con la ametralladora / los jodimos / ja ja! / los hicimos polvo / como moscas / tac, tac, tac, tac! / ah, qué tiempos aquellos!” (pp. 119–20). [Slashes added to indicate short lines in RCDJ.]

Goytisolo's text then veers off in a new direction as “henchida el alma de aliento de eternidad, de jugo permanente de la Historia, vuestro Séneca regresa a la ciudad y sus cuidados, al tráfago urbano, al mundanal ruido transfigurado como los Beatles después de su retiro espiritual en la India.” Note how the column of very short phrases that concludes the earlier section is followed by a pompous line from Unamuno, “henchida el [mi] alma de aliento de eternidad, de jugo permanente de la Historia” (I, 276, “Ávila de los caballeros”). The juxtaposition and change of rhythms is very deliberate, with the result that Unamuno's remark seems overblown, his exultation of dubious quality. His spiritual experience, already shadowed by the coarseness of the veterans' language, is further subverted by the adjective transfigurado and the comparison with pop singers! I also find in “al tráfago urbano, al mundanal ruido,” along with the allusion to Fray Luis de León, a possible link to Unamuno's advice: “Vives acaso, lector mío, en un tráfago mundano, entre negocios o entre diversiones. Escápate cuando puedas a la cumbre …” (I, 353). The same paragraph in RCDJ contains one final bit from Unamuno, the description “mucilaginosa y desvertebrada,” a reworking of “mucilaginosa, invertebrada” (I, 362). This example can teach us two lessons, first that there is always a strong possibility that a striking formulation may be a cryptic quotation and, second, that one must take great care in making attributions.

The preceding discussion illustrates one way the intertextual process functions in RCDJ. Sufficient clues are given so that the author may be identified and the general outlines of the passage in Goytisolo's text are those of a recognizable scene, article or series of related articles. Many short quotations will be taken almost word for word from the source text(s). In other words, unlike the pastiche and montage, the units involved are much larger. Larra, Cervantes, Perrault, among others, are dealt with in this manner. The authors themselves, depending on their place in Goytisolo's personal canon, may be ignored or satirized, like Unamuno and Ortega, while their texts, recognizable yet different, fuse with Goytisolo's discourse.

There is a second ascent to the peaks in RCDJ and it provides a good example of how the spiraling text of the novel, although it seems to repeat, is never the same. The entire apartado (pp. 186–92) follows the wanderings of “un paradigmático ejemplar de capra hispánica,” soon to be joined by his “complementario mentor el carpeto.” Their climb to Arenas de San Pedro is clearly of Unamunian inspiration and is appropriately introduced by a cluster of cryptic quotations, although this time one finds several close equivalents along with word-for-word borrowings. This portion of Goytisolo's text reads:

… orilla de un mar petrificado, ancho y ajeno como el mundo : Meseta, llanura horizontal, áspera y recia Castilla! : paisaje cenobítico de coloración austera : amplio, severo, grave, reposado : solemnes encinares henchidos de silencio, rocas enhiestas, desnudas : aliento de eternidad, sed del espíritu, ardor seco del alma ibera! : sustraída del febril panorama urbano, la capra hispánica respira de quietud y alivio : el límpido aire serrano ensancha sus oprimidos pulmones : conciencia agraria, descansada vida fuera del mundanal ruido! : apacible, mansueta busca las madroñeras agrestes, las jaras perfumadas y humildes : sus pasos la conducen, por senderos y trochas, a las primeras estribaciones del monte : allí, encaramada en un pintoresco mogote, pace la fresca hierba menuda, bebe del agua purísima de un arroyo (pp. 188–89).

In order, the comparable phrases of Unamuno are: “mar petrificado” (I, 809); “paraje de encantadora soledad y de austero y cenobítico recogimiento” (I, 340, “El sentimiento de la fortaleza”); “amplio, severo, grave” (I, 337); “solemnes encinares, henchidos de reposo” (I, 329, “Trujillo”), with reposo apparently going over to the preceding phrase; “aliento de eternidad” (I, 276, “Ávila de los caballeros”); “sintiendo cómo va ensanchándose y entrenándose el pulmón” (I, 283, “Excursión”); “Corre el Tajo por su abrupta hoz, que unas veces se cierra en riscosa cañada y otras se abre en apacibles vegas. Entre aquellos peñascos crecen las madroñeras que nos brindan su salvaje fruto, y las jaras que perfuman el ambiente” (I, 330, “Trujillo”); “allí encima, encaramado entre tormos y riscos” (I, 330). Further on, Goytisolo's “alturas de silencio y libertad” is also from “Trujillo” (I, 329). The case for the less obvious parallels is strengthened, I believe, by the fact that other exact quotations originate in the same article.

What I find most interesting in terms of literary strategy, however, is that, in the midst of so many indirect allusions to Unamuno, there occurs the complete suppression of the Unamuno personality and all the related personae (Seneca, Franco, etc.) leaving us with only the emblematic capra and carpeto. This reduction to a paradigm (a concept that is repeated on p. 192 with a reference to the “nocivo y semioviente paradigma”) is in itself a symbolic annihilation of the individual(s). Several critics, including José Ortega, Levine and Ramos,23 have pointed out that an article by ERO, “Capras hispánicas,” n.d., included in the Goytisolo Archive at Boston University, was the source for the following lines in RCDJ:

en la ermita de Arenas de San Pedro, donde los monjes dan la sopa boba a los viandantes, se restaura [la capra] en compañía de su complementario mentor el carpeto : juntos emprenden, tras venturosa siesta, la dura y dificil ascensión : de peña en peña, de berrueco en berrueco : cuesta arriba, por entrañables paisajes de aire teresiano, hasta las perennes alturas de silencio y libertad : romances en Gredos, entre los pastores y las maritornes! : serena música de cascadas, quebradas fragosas, ansias atávicas de inmortalidad! (p. 189)

In addition to the evident links between the newspaper article and RCDJ, one notes in the former a strong desire to place itself in the Unamuno tradition:

Me gustaría estar en Arenas y caminar hasta el cenobio de San Pedro, donde hace años todavía se daba la sopa boba a los caminantes. Es de suponer que la capra hispánica se haya acercado al convento, donde seguramente los frailes la habrán obsequiado con piensos calientes. Baja en la estación el río con aguas cristalinas y por las laderas montañosas suena una música de cascadas. Estos paisajes, de aire teresiano, fueron gozados por Unamuno, quien, en un hotel parisiense, frente a la plaza de la Estrella, tuvo la ocurrencia de decir que al panorama urbano le faltaba algo, y ese algo era Gredos. Unamuno escribió sobre Gredos páginas emotivas … pero no espigué en sus trabajos—o por lo menos no lo recuerdo—ninguna alusión a la capra hispánica.

What we have, in short, is an article that sounds like Unamuno, an article written by someone who had Unamuno very much in mind and which, when incorporated in RCDJ, is indistinguishable from authentic passages by Unamuno. It is easy to say that Goytisolo considers don Miguel's influence both pervasive and pernicious and something to be attacked whenever it occurs. Yet a more subtle subversion is underway. Goytisolo, by giving the imitation equal status with the original and by mixing both in his own version, seriously undercuts the authority of Unamuno's texts, for they are scarcely discernible from the rewrites. With the addition of the third element (the imitation), Goytisolo has further refined a process that, in the opinion of André Topia, is essential to intertextuality:

… un travail en retour de la nouvelle version sur la version originelle qu'elle contamine et met en perspective. D'où une instabilité grandissante de la notion d'original/originel : les discours se mettent à parcourir le texte sans qu'on puisse véritablement distinguer l'original de sa version plus ou moins détournée. La composante parodique est injectée dans la texture de l'écrit de telle manière que le lecteur se trouve confronté à des variations qu'il est tenté de prendre pour la norme, laquelle est inévitablement subvertie par cette hésitation, cette indécidabilité entre les instances. Le texte—qu'on hésite alors à appeler original, ou parodie, ou citation—devient un lieu où l'auteur se contente de faire jouer des discours les uns contre les autres, en les détournant toujours légèrement.24

The capra and the carpeto will not be permitted to descend after seeking spiritual renewal on the heights of Gredos. The ending of this episode thus differs from the earlier one. They are to be destroyed by the fighters of a harka, under the command of Count Julian, that is waiting in a Parador de Turismo. (Again a bit of irony, for Goytisolo has indicated many times that traditional Spain will never be the same after the waves of tourism in the 60s and 70s.25 As his own way of destroying the pair, Goytisolo takes a jump back in time and links them with another “constant” in Spanish history, the faccioso, who from his mountain retreats preyed on the nineteenth-century traveler. This identification is one of the pleasures reserved to the reader of RCDJ who knows his textual sources, for although Larra's pseudonym is mentioned, one only gets back to the title of his article, “La planta nueva, o El faccioso” by recognizing fragments of Fígaro's mock scientific description incorporated into this one: “terrenos … de maravillosa fecundidad”; “puntos donde basta dar una patada en el suelo y, en un volver la cabeza …”; “dotado de sinrazón”; “piernas, brazos y sus correspondientes manojos de dedos” (189–90). At the end of the section, Goytisolo makes Larra's antídoto—“haciendo ahumadas de pólvora”—part of his overall plan of extermination.26

Thus with a variety of techniques Goytisolo degrades the “sentimiento de la montaña,” so closely identified with Unamuno, and gives him what would surely have been unwanted companions—José Antonio, the ex-combatants and the faccioso. A final irony awaits, for in the publicity for a new housing development, idly read by the narrator as he buries himself in a newspaper to avoid talking to Figurón, there is a bastardized version of Unamuno's cherished experiences:

les gusta respirar a pulmón lleno el aire puro, saludable de los bosques? les gusta detenerse a la orilla del silencioso arroyuelo que corre hacia las vastas llanuras y escuchar el zumbido de las abejas? … les gusta contemplar detenidamente el fondo cristalino de los lagos montañeses? les gusta mecer su espíritu con el ritmo gracioso del riachuelo parlanchín? les gusta escalar los altos picados y allí, en la cima de las rocas que se yerguen entre nubes, explayar en una canción alegre la felicidad de su alma? : GUADARRAMA : INVERSIÓN SEGURA : GRANDES FACILIDADES DE PAGO (pp. 56–57).

The final concern of this study will be two quotations that link with the fundamental conception of RCDJ. What was originally a description of Ávila becomes part of the physical and mental constitution of don Álvaro Peranzules. Unamuno writes: “Ciudad, como el alma castellana, dermato-esquelética, crustácea, con la osamenta—coraza—por de fuera, y dentro la carne, ósea también a las veces” (I, 498). The observation appears in altered form on p. 116—“… Alvarito se fabrica cuidadosamente una figura impermeable y hermética : de estructura dermato-esquelética, articulada como una coraza”—and nearly complete on p. 140, “de alma dermato-esquelética, crustácea, con la osamenta por de fuera y, dentro, la carne, ósea también.” The word coraza radiates out toward medieval armor and the caballero cristiano theme whereas crustácea points toward the insect-arthropod motif via the common element of chitin.

Among the important scenes featuring insects are the episode when the protagonist crushes insects between the pages of Spanish classics and the destruction of a grasshopper by a scorpion that traumatizes young Alvarito when he is forced to watch a classroom demonstration. Here the notion of underlying cruelty is introduced, not only in the attack by the scorpion on his prey, but also in the sadistic bent of the teacher who stages the experiment. This priest, an early incarnation of Figurón, is obviously representative of the ruling caste and thus is fittingly described by a line from M. Machado's poem on Felipe II. Don Álvaro, in his final metamorphosis, is like a giant arthropod or the closest human equivalent, a knight in armor nearly immobilized by his accoutrements: “el volumen de sus rasgos es netamente superior al normal y el rigor de la coraza acentúa su apariencia crustácea, de hombre de principios firmes y sólida fe de carbonero …” (p. 174). (Again echoes of Unamuno in his celebrated illustration of the simple man who has never doubted his faith.) Don Álvaro continues expanding to the point of collapse and his destruction is in part geological: “la costra granítica se desprende, la violenta erosión se acelera : la masa rocosa se disgrega, se desmenuza, se desconcha” (p. 179). This sort of disintegration is appropriate, for it is the granitic landscape of Castile that has formed his soul.

The second quotation provides something of a surprise, for usually the process of intertextuality turns the borrowing ironically against its original author. There is, however, a significant phrase that the unwary might attribute to the narrative voice and that indeed reflects its views, but which unexpectedly comes from Unamuno: “… veíamos a la Patria rezumando pus y sangraza por entre agrietadas costras de cicatrices” (I, 489). Goytisolo repeats it on p. 34, “patria rezumando pus y grandeza por entre agrietadas costras de cicatrices” and also on p. 175. Note, however, the shift from the original sangraza to grandeza to emphasize the rot that accompanies Spanish glory. In this statement Unamuno anticipates the negative view of Spanish history and tradition that informs RCDJ, Goytisolo does not actually quote the paragraph that precedes the one in which we find this quotation but he surely read it:

Casi toda la tradición tradicionalista de España, la de los falsos cronicones es superchería; superchería bajo un mítico Santiago—embuste de Compostela—en cuyo día se esperó este año … ¡Otra superchería! Porque se nos quiere hacer vivir de mentiras, señor, de mentiras. Y a lo mejor—que es lo peor—cree en ellas alguien, señor, las cree …, ¡el muy frívolo! Y esto no tiene remedio … (I, 489).

Herman Meyer has written: “In the case of cryptic quotation we are dealing less with simple concealment than with an outright game of hide-and-seek. The point of the game is to discover the quotation, for only by being discovered can it achieve its specific effect.”27 Clearly I have been enticed to join the game that Goytisolo proposes and this article presents my findings about Unamuno's role. The decision to focus on a single author, as Orringer did with Góngora, is due to the realization that anyone who tries to study the entire range of intertextuality in this novel will inevitably fall short, given the vast amount of material to be checked and the time constraints under which we work. We must go back to the original works, for even though the Goytisolo Archive can be very helpful, it is not definitive. And only when the identifications have been made can we really study the dialogue between texts. I suspect that eventually RCDJ will be read in a heavily annotated edition, although, regrettably, that will deprive future readers of the game of discovery.28


  1. Goytisolo stated in an interview with Claude Couffon: “Le livre n'est pas une critique moral ni un roman à thèse, mais une agression aliénée, onirique, schizophrénique.” “Don Julián ou la destruction des mythes,” Le Monde, 12 Sept. 1970.

  2. Juan Goytisolo, España y los españoles (Barcelona: Lumen, 1979), pp. 29–33 and 51–54. Goytisolo clearly follows Américo Castro's interpretation of Spanish history.

  3. In the Couffon interview, Goytisolo declared that “La haine pour le sexe de la plupart de nos écrivains, de Quevedo à Unamuno, a quelque chose de pathologique.” He elaborated on this view in Libertad, libertad, libertad (Barcelona: Anagrama, 1978), p. 95: “… la aversión al goce sexual, fuera de los cánones estrictamente procreativos, del común de nuestras autoridades literarias, desde Unamuno a Menéndez Pidal, debería ser estudiada con seriedad si queremos comprender las características represivas del pensamiento reaccionario peninsular: encastillados en una presunta superioridad intelectual o moral, dichos escritores fulminan contra el desorden de los instintos, la concupiscencia y el libertinaje.”

  4. Goytisolo, España, p. 53.

  5. Juan Goytisolo, Reivindicación del Conde don Julián (Mexico: Mortiz, 1970), pp. 182–85. All further references to this work are indicated in the text by the appropriate page number in parentheses.

  6. J. G. says in Julio Ortega, “Entrevista con Juan Goytisolo,” Revista de Occidente, No. 133 (1974), p. 19, “el episodio de las moscas ejerce, toutes proportions gardées, una función similar a la del examen de la biblioteca de Don Quijote por el cura y el barbero: la de introducir la discusión literaria en el cuerpo mismo de la novela.”

  7. André Topia declares in “Contrepoints joyciens,” Poétique, No. 27 (1976), p. 353: “ … la problématique intertextuelle pourra être envisagée de deux manières différentes. On peut s'attacher d'abord au rapport entre le corpus originel du texte emprunté et la version de ce même texte emprunté telle qu'elle apparaît une fois remodelée au sein d'un nouveau contexte (l'écho n'est pas répétition, la réutilisation n'est pas restitution.) Ou bien on pourra privilégier le rapport entre le texte-support et le fragment réutilisé au sein du nouvel ensemble formé par leur coexistence, en prenant pour hypothèse que cette coexistence est plus qu'une simple juxtaposition, que l'assemblement des deux textes engendre inévitablement une configuration textuelle nouvelle, qualitativement différente de la simple addition de deux unités.”

  8. Julio Ortega, “Entrevistas a Juan Goytisolo,” in Juan Goytisolo, Disidencias (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1977), pp. 293–94.

  9. Juan Goytisolo, El furgón de cola (Paris: Ruedo lbérico, 1967), pp. 80–81.

  10. Goytisolo, Disidencias, p. 313.

  11. In RCDJ Goytisolo often alludes indirectly to '98 as “un puñado de hombres ilustres” (p. 138) or “ese puñado de taumaturgos” (p. 140). His roster is somewhat elastic and includes Azorín, Benavente, the two Machados, Juan Ramón, Ortega and Menéndez Pidal, but—in the novel—not Baroja.

  12. Juan Goytisolo, “Presentación crítica” in J. M. Blanco White, Obra inglesa (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1974), p. 15.

  13. Goytisolo, España, p. 33.

  14. (I, 339). As here, all parenthetical references in the text are to Obras completas de Miguel de Unamuno, ed. Manuel García Blanco (Madrid: Escelicer, 1966–71) and include the volume number and page.

  15. In the chapter “Unamuno y el paisaje de Castilla,” España, pp. 128–41, Goytisolo develops the idea that “Unamuno y, en menor grado, Azorín valoraban el paisaje en función de los ideales estéticorreligiosos de la vieja casta militar de Castilla” (p. 140).

  16. In the very similar collage on pp. 140–42 fewer items from Unamuno appear. One notes the following: “dulce correr de los días iguales [¡Oh, qué dulce el correr días iguales;] : repetición, sustancia de la dicha : [ … ] costumbre santa [santa costumbre]” from the poem “Las estradas de Albia” (VI, 502); “donde la gea domina a la flora y [a] la fauna” (I, 498), “procesión monótona y grave de pardas encinas, de verde severo y perenne” (I, 808), and perhaps the adjective inmoble (I, 360, VI, 503). To be sure, several of the short phrases such as “cerros pelados” and “rebaños trashumantes” can be found in his essays, but they are so typical of '98 as to be unattributable. Collaborating with Unamuno are A. Machado with lines from poems Nos. CXIII, CXXVI and CLVI and Azorín, again on the basis of Paisaje. The passages are “suenan … Angelus,” p. 66, “es mediodía … brillan,” p. 62, “chopos enhiestos [enhiestos chopos],” p. 55 and “pasos ingrávidos [sonoros] en una calleja [callejuela],” p. 55. Two repeats from pp. 110–12 are also present: “el camino … mirada” and “celosías … monjas.” Unexpectedly, since Valle Inclán is not mentioned in the “Advertencia,” there is a quotation from Flor de santidad, probably by way of Azorín who cites it on p. 33 of Paisaje: “da [daba] al yermo y riscoso paisaje entonaciones anacoréticas.” In a later section, p. 162, Goytisolo employs Valle's “campanas de aldea, piadosas, madrugadoras, sencillas”, also quoted on p. 33 of Paisaje.

  17. Manuel García Morente, Idea de la hispanidad (Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 1961).

  18. El paisaje de España visto por los españoles, 6th ed., Colección Austral, No. 164 (Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 1961).

  19. In Formalist Elements in the Novels of Juan Goytisolo (Potomac, Md.: Porrúa, 1979), p. 136, Genaro J. Pérez gives a good definition: “The term carpeto refers to the people and contains as well the geographical reference to the Sistema Carpetovetónico Central. Both the term and its significance derive from Cela's El gallego y su cuadrilla y otros apuntes carpetovetónicos. He goes on to quote the explanation of carpetovetónico given by Alonso Zamora Vicente: “Las personas ilustradas que lo usaban en la conversación, aludían siempre a la sequedad … de la Castilla abrasada y polvorienta: se encerraba siempre, de una u otra forma, una idea de brutalidad.” Camilo José Cela (Madrid: Gredos, 1962), p. 144.

  20. The source is Juan Carlos Villacorta's “Castilla y Azorín,” an article found in the Goytisolo Archive. For the text see José Ortega, Juan Goytisolo: Alienación y agresión en Señas de identidad y Reivindicación del Conde don Julián (New York: Torres, 1972), p. 148.

  21. See Nelson R. Orringer, “El Góngora rebelde del Don Julián de Goytisolo,” Inti, No. 2 (1975), pp. 18–30.

  22. Linda Gould Levine, Juan Goytisolo: La destrucción creadora (Mexico: Mortiz), pp. 162–64.

  23. Levine, p. 154 as well as José Ortega, Alienación, pp. 148–49 and Alicia Ramos, “Unidad formal y análisis crítico en Reivindicación del Conde don Julián,” Diss. Northwestern 1980, p. 281. All three works are important for the study of intertextuality in Goytisolo. Also of interest, especially the opening chapter on “Juan Goytisolo's Theoretical Milieu,” is Michael Ugarte's Trilogy of Treason: An Intertextual Study of Juan Goytisolo (Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 1982).

  24. Topia, p. 352.

  25. He writes, for example, in Furgón, p. 177: “[S]u presencia transforma el país y, si España no es aún Europa, para bien y para mal ha dejado de ser España.”

  26. Mariano José de Larra, Artículos completos (Madrid: Aguilar, 1944), pp. 967, 969 and 971.

  27. Herman Meyer, The Poetics of Quotation in the European Novel (Stuttgart, 1961; rpt. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1968), p. 7.

  28. Not mentioned elsewhere in this article are the following items from Unamuno: p. 34 “del [el] espíritu unido [se siente atraído] por las [sus] raíces a lo eterno de la casta” (I, 370); “monoteístico paisaje [paisaje monoteístico]” (I, 809); “extensas y peladas soledades” (I, 810). On p. 38 “la llanura inacabable donde verdea el trigo y [o] amarillea el rastrojo” (I, 808) and on p. 162 “tierra [,] serena y reposada” (I, 370) and “grave sueño de piedra” (I, 499). P. 175 contains “páramos trágicos [páramo trágico]” (I, 485). There are also similarities between the description of the statue of the Virgin on p. 108 and Unamuno's description of the Christ of Santa Clara: “un maniquí de madera articulado, vestido con un manto azul y oro … : en sus brazos, el Hijo, un muñeco de pelo rubio natural peinado a lo Shirley Temple, empuña una espada de juguete el rostro de la Muñeca es, a la vez, grueso y demacrado : espesos grumos de almagre fingen regueros de sangre …” Unamuno wrote: “ … parece ser más bien un maniquí de madera articulado, recubierto de piel y pintado. Con pelo natural y grumos de almazarrón, en el que fingen cuajerones de sangre” (I, 485).

Claudia Schaefer-Rodríguez (essay date Fall 1987)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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.”]

In the case of post-Civil War Spain, the passport, rather than being a document impeding free and unrestricted passage across changing national boundaries imposed on European travelers in the period between the two world wars, represented both an acceptance of economic necessity and an opportunity for social mobility. When emigration restrictions were lifted by the Franco government in the 1950s, unemployed and under-employed workers spilled across the border into the rest of Europe in search of temporary or permanent solutions to their economic problems, a movement corresponding to internal rural migration in the developing industrial cities. Then, with the progress of the proclaimed “economic miracle”1 of capitalism in the 1960s, the movement became two-way: as the young went abroad seeking consumer goods from a broader market, to see movies banned in Spain, to buy books unavailable at home, at the same time tourists began to invade the Costa del Sol and the marketing of the sun and sand, the developing of the picturesque, the “unexplored,” and the “untouched” for the masses, commenced.

When Juan Goytisolo traveled from Spain to Paris in the 1950s2 he saw his geographical mobility as a substitute for the physical restrictions and intellectual decay he wanted to “leave behind.” He has the character Alvaro Mendiola express that same feeling of absolute (apocalyptic) freedom from the “orden promiscuo y huero del que habías intentado escapar”3 which he had only dreamed of until then. Mendiola's recollections of the early 1950s are summarized in the form of an atlas: “abrir el libro de geografía y pasar las páginas era, entonces, una evasión, una fuga, un sueño, el vuelo libre y espacioso de algún faquir sobre la codiciada alfombra mágica. En los años de guerra y postguerra el proyecto parecía utópico y trasladarse a cualquiera de los países … equivalía a tropezar con dificultades y obstáculos … solicitaciones denegadas, visados remotos, largas e inútiles colas ante funcionarios pétreos con rostro de inquisidores (SI, 316–17). With each succeeding reference to this atlas a personal geography will be evoked, facilitating an increasing withdrawal from concrete, real contexts to a subjective flux of time (the changing verb tenses ultimately leading to Makbara) and place (in Reivindicación del conde don Julián the character Alvaro removes himself and the narrative from both Spain and Tangier when he establishes the text “fuera del devenir histórico;” the “magic carpet” of the narrator in Juan sin tierra).4

Comparing himself to José María Blanco White, self-exiled in England in the early nineteenth century, Goytisolo looked forward to an equal “independencia de juicio y libertad de criterio”5 incomprehensible and inaccessible, in his opinion, to those continuing to reside within the borders of Spain. With this “special perspective” Goytisolo decided to journey back to the poverty-stricken provinces of southeastern Spain to give witness and documentation to the points of origin of the victims of urban development and European emigration he was seeing daily in France. His passport permitted his entrance and allowed him to go “de un sitio a otro sin ser esclavo en ninguno, y mirar las cosas desde fuera, como un espectador ajeno al drama.”6 The literary result was Campos de Níjar (1960), seen by some as embodying an incipient “critical realism”7 given its declared testimonial intention. Upon closer examination, however, this text appears rather to be oriented toward just what the narrator flatly affirms as his status early on: “tenía diez días libres y me he tomado unas vacaciones” (to which one of the unemployed, vacationless campesinos replies incredulously “—Si viviera en Cataluña es que no me asomaría yo por Almería, vamos, ni que me mataran”).8 What is the attraction of the particular region for which the narrator claims to have had affection without ever having been there (CN, 9)? To relieve his own social angst—among solitary individuals, unchangeable conditions, dead-ended aspirations all summarized later on in Señas de identidad—perpetuated even in France,9 he seeks out the rudimentary simplicity (elsewhere called poverty) of rural life undisturbed by massive tourism where he can “feel alive” again in the face of the aggression of an invading consumer society. (Nine years later, Goytisolo writes of this same phenomenon and describes it as a necessary escape for Europeans, himself included, who go to “darse un baño de humanidad en el desierto de Marruecos” [EE, 141] when Spain no longer affords such a haven.) In the bus terminal in Almería the narrator of Campos de Níjar describes the fair-like atmosphere which he contrasts with the developing cities: “Después del invierno gris del Norte, me sentía bien en medio de aquel bullicio.”10 Almería is a compensatory image to which his allegiance is temporary (thus his abrupt departure in the end), dictated merely by personal desire and available mobility: he is always “de visita,” always the “extranjero,” as is the narrator of Pueblo en marcha in Cuba (1969).

What gives these (and future) adventures meaning and value is the capacity to measure them against what he is escaping from—tourism, industrialization, mass media, class conflicts—as a permanent and unaltered point of comparison not implying change but rather one from which he has the liberty to distance himself at will (all the while needing and able to assure himself that nothing is different: “buscando ansiosamente una certidumbre … verificación cotidiana y necesaria” [RCJ, 14]). The importance of Campos de Níjar, therefore, 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. Rather than this movement away from the frontiers of Spain leading to any other objective, it eventually appears as an end in itself—“nomadismo, pastereo, errancia”—11 posing no threat to real social conditions but paradoxically relying on them to continue existing.

The first step for the narrator of Campos de Níjar is the identification of what is perceived as the timeless elements present in the people, natural phenomena, and man-made constructs of pre-tourist provincial Spain. He emphasizes the essential, elemental “nobility” and “dignity” inherent in the rural population, in spite of “la barba de dos días y los vestidos miserables y desgarrados” (CN, 33) of which he takes (brief) note. The more inaccessible the places (the countryside of Almería and Albacete, the desert of Morocco), the better they fulfill the subjective requirements of being “ignorados aún por los turistas” (SI, 108) and “un ambiente de gran inexperiencia social” (EE, 170); that is: naive, innocent, and full of vitality (EE, 169) for the individual seeking refuge from capitalist development. Against the cold industrial image of factories, smokestacks, automobiles, and air pollution of Europe and North America, the sun is presented as an element of nature, stripped of its exploitation to promote tourism. It is the “undeveloped” sun of the “Third World” countries described in correlative terms of being “subdesarrollados o en trance de desarrollo,” possessing “mano de obra abundante e industrialización escasa” but most of all “enardecidos por el sol” (RCJ, 29, 48, 48). This is what first strikes Goytisolo about the towns of the southern Spanish provinces: their “African-ness” not only in architecture but in the “inevitable,” repeatable image of wandering children, poverty, stray dogs, dust, and harsh sun as what he will assume to be an attractive alternative to and antithesis of modern capitalist socio-economic order. The continued quest to evoke and reproduce this paradisiacal place takes him across all borders and national boundaries, alighting especially in the marketplaces which he believes “parody” (note the end of Makbara in the plaza Xemaá-El-Fná) consumer society, guided by the preconceived ideal found therein: “En cualquier lugar—independientemente de grados y latitudes—recorrer el mercado significa para mí una fiesta.”12 From Almería to Marrakesh to Cuba, the vision of the plaza or zoco is a kaleidoscope of objects, sounds, aromas, and above all accessible human bodies. These are not organized social beings but physical presences brought together in endless combinations of relations in a “neutral space” (M, 204) which offers the wandering observer the essential quality of being “caótico, delirante;” an antidote to the neat, clean pre-packaged production and consumption in the industrialized nations. These supposed escapes from “technology and progress” seek out the plazas of Third World peoples as a priori expressions of permanent, ahistorical exoticism, without ever considering that their cultural expressions arise from concrete, material living conditions (“underdevelopment,” imperialism, poverty, etc.).

Within the openness and “license” (M, 204) of these markets (which belie the association of their name with sales and tourist bargains) lies for the narrator a parenthesis in the social structure based on a liberation of the body from social and historical constraints: censorship and restrictions cease to exist in an atmosphere of irresponsible, unlimited, and “unproductive” relationships “untainted” by any inhibiting roles or models. From Señas de identidad to Makbara there is an increasingly exalted eroticism implicit in geographical freedom. What apparently cannot be experienced “at home” is to be found “on the road” (be it actual or imagined), particularly, as Paul Fussell summarizes, the idea of “making love in novel environments … one of the headiest experiences travel promises.”13 Thus it is that in Señas de identidad the atlas which Alvaro consults serves him not as a series of maps having objective historical identity but as fixed images of his personal memories corresponding to an “historial amoroso” (SI, 317): “Montecarlo, Suiza, Venecia, Hamburgo, Holanda … (el encuentro con Europa yuxtapuesto a la mutua revelación de vuestros cuerpos, la fallida inserción en el mundo de la civilización industrial urbana a los altibajos e incidencias de vuestra desmesurada pasión” (SI, 317). If Europe offers the narrator the first stage of this geographical-sexual mobility, North Africa plainly signifies his discovery of the ultimate manifestation and expression of physical freedom. Throwing off the “civilized” high-heeled shoes and feeling the desert sand on bare feet (M, 94) is but the beginning of the removal of the last barrier to the asocial body: restrictive clothing. Instead, in Makbara the virtues of the djellabah—the “tejido alcahuete que adhiere y permite vislumbrar la topografía” (M, 216)—are extolled, oriented obviously toward the objective of sexual enjoyment interpreted by the narrator as the core of this society: “lenguaje de caderas, telegrafía de gestos, semierecciones festivas: incitaciones visuales y acústicas al tanteo y exploración, al ejercicio de la caza furtiva, al magreo de la mano inconexa” (M, 216). The original idea of social mobility has now been stretched to the point of social anonymity in the combination of geographical wandering and a freeing of the human body from social commitment by turning it into only a sensual object available indiscriminately to any and all physical stimuli.

Consequently, the target of Goytisolo's scorn is mass tourism, whose “egalitarain”14 group travels result from the media publicity (brochures, movies, television, magazines) of capitalism and the increased accessibility of “vacations” to different economic classes. Travel in the sense of individual fulfillment by searching for “the excitement of the unpredictable,”15 a modern utopian dream reminiscent of bygone eras of exploration and imperial colonization, is seen as threatened by the static, ahistorical, recognizable, isolated, reproducible, and repeatable images of consumable tour places. (This is actually quite ironic given the fact that the Middle East becomes just such a reusable image for the narrator in Juan sin tierra since he no longer even needs to return to it physically but rather just recreate over and over the same personal vision of the geographical places; he does not encounter—or seem to want to—the change or movement connected with real-life situations.) Since, by the decade of the 1970s, even for the Spanish, “foreign travel was no longer a monopoly of the rich or the young,16 Goytisolo's characters and narrators appear particularly conscious of this invasion of planned activity (a “deadly sin” of North American capitalism in Makbara) into the realm of chance and the unexpected naturally connected with free travel or “lo aleatorio” as Alvaro Mendiola often remarks.

In Campos de Níjar Goytisolo refers with contempt to the French who have come to “des pays pauvres” (Almería—N, 63) in their Peugeot as “turistas” and he comments on the wealthy who, from their yachts, never “adventure beyond”17 certain points to see the “real life” of the region as he does. This attitude becomes more intense and specific in its reaction in Makbara. The calculated isolation of the tour groups (“protegidos, insonorizados,” guided in their “manso … rebaño” [M, 121 and 67]) and their simultaneous irrational attraction to the “exotic” panoramas (the enjoyable “spectacle” [M, 70]) of the Middle East become the object of attention in a subjective inversion of affairs by the narrator. As the embodiment of the “anti-tourist,” Goytisolo's narrators will define themselves as being the rejection or negation of the tourist whose identity is derived from spending, consumption of sights, souvenirs, photographs, and so on. They will only approach the tourists, as is seen with the extra-terrestrial Mrs. Putiphar and the “marcianos” from the United States in Reivindicación del conde don Julián, “con simultánea (y opuesta) voluntad de exotismo.”18 From the first step (Campos de Nijar) of merely differentiating between those who travel in luxurious automobiles and those who take the rural bus or hitchhike (enumerating in detail the road descriptions, route numbers, and local scenery to prove an intimate acquaintance with the area in question—see, for example, 17, 23) there is a rapid polarization of the two elements to try and “provoke horror” in these tourists who, in spite of the narrator's desires, do not disappear from the panorama. (In Señas de identidad Mendiola wishes the plazas of Venice emptied of tours in order to appreciate an innate beauty otherwise hidden by these consumers—see 358.) The “meteco” in Makbara is the proposed ideal figure whose presence in European society functions as the opposite of the well-dressed tourist: “intrusión peturbadora,” “brutal desafio,” “mensaje de horror” (M, 13).

A felt necessity to preserve the self-declared independence of these narrators leads them to try, at least temporarily, to give the appearance of being absorbed into the surrounding society by means of adopting its speech (for Goytisolo, Arab dialects and colloquial speech), clothing, activities, and geographical areas. All this is possible, of course, since the Arab countries seem to be permanently fertile ground open to the whim of such individuals who are not really interested in understanding these cultures but whose motives characteristically are, in these texts at least, “self-protection and vanity,”19 and the need to maintain a certain superiority to the tourist and distance from him. To this end, Goytisolo's characters will “go native” by donning the free-flowing djellabah of North Africa—“holgada envoltura del cuerpo árabe” (M, 208)—which they feel allows the maximum liberation of bodily expression (particularly sexual, as in Juan sin tierra, 149) and concurrently offers a masking of identification with the European or American tourists. With the change in clothing comes a change in social identity: “concepción del vestuario como simbolo, referencia, disfraz … mudar de ropas para mudar de piel: ser, por espacio de horas, nabab, peregrino, rey” (M, 209). In addition, they shun the stereotyped tourist spots and brochure descriptions in favor of frequenting instead local hotels, restaurants, and “forgotten” locations (the tomb of Ibn Turmeda is of particular subjective interest in Juan sin tierra) of a personally significant itinerary: the “cuppos di sacco y callejones angostos” (SI, 360), “hoteluchos” (SI, 340), “escueto nido de amor, el modesto fonduq de Marrakech” (M, 63), the distant “ángulo del pretil” (SI, 410) in Venice, but above all the cafés and zocos. Wandering from place to place, drinking mint tea, and refusing to speak (especially in their own language) to the intruders from “civilized” lands (the Spaniard with “bigotillo alfonsino, gabardina, gafas: quijada borbónica” [RCJ, 56]), there is an express rejection of the guidebook versions of these places in an attempt to question their authority versus the individual's account. For Xemaá-El-Fná in Marrakesh, the “Guide Bleu,” “Fodor,” “Nagel, Baedeker, Pol” are all cited as inadequate and to be distrusted because they make this plaza approachable on a collective level and do not permit it to remain an essentially ungraspable mystery inaccessible and unfathomable—“todas las guías mienten / no hay por dónde cogerla” (M, 203)—except for subjectively felt interpretations of the individuals coming together in that space in what is for Goytisolo temporary, irresponsible groupings which by nature oppose the planned and organized aspects of tourism. Stemming from this point of view comes the possible selection, therefore, of (imagined if not actual) public copulation with the syphilitic beggars in the market as the focal point for a complete absorption into the Oriental culture, “una entrega total, sin reservas” (JT, 63) at least according to the narrator's terms. (The narrator is actually absorbed into his own immutable image of the place, not into real society.)

The logical extreme of this attitude leads Goytisolo's narrators not merely to rely on their personal interpretations and the subjective values of geographical places visited to counteract the “tourist spots,” but to create their own version of places keeping history and reality constantly in retreat as they become the realms of others (Americans, Europeans, tourists, consumers, and the like), and not themselves. They are permitted the ultimate luxury and liberty of substituting isolated individual interpretations in place of historical (changing, adapting, and progressing) societies with real geographies. By Makbara, then, travel has become no longer real but imaginary (one step removed from objective life), likened to the self-preservation of the episodes of the Thousand and One Nights which Jean Franco has described as “the paradigm of the power of story-telling to stave off death”20 (death as the culmination of a life process through and in history; death as objective reality constantly “out there” waiting to overpower the narrator in Reivindicación del conde don Julián if he fails to come up with “one more story” to stay the executioner's guillotine). The narration itself, in “warding off” life outside the text, is seen as removed from social existence as well as being a vehicle for withdrawing individuals from immediate contact with the present physical, historical world, thereby creating a “circle of vacancy,” a “barrier of unreality”21 between that realm and the listeners or readers of travels and adventures transported to other, alternative times and places. The reader does not discover, nor do the narrators seem to comprehend, how human social and economic activities have evolved to this present time. Historical processes as the activity of men are not considered and the individual's participation in them is therefore nonexistent; there is no exchange between subjective and objective elements of historical development.22 Nature, “primitive culture,” and imaginary tales are all “spectacles”23 for the delight of the traveler.

Such alternative pretensions—to be different from all those of the middle classes who take vacations or can now “afford a holiday” from routine working conditions—stand out noticeably in an age dominated by mass tourism, international trade, and consumption of what Paul Fussell has called the “pseudo-places”24 of such tourism. But by coming up with their own repeatable images of “natural” places juxtaposed to the industrialized cities of Spain, France, and the United States, Goytisolo's characters create their own series of stereotyped appearances (“instinctive” Arabs, veiled women, mustached storytellers, hypersexual soldiers, aging prostitutes) and geographies (the slums of Barcelona, Venice, Pittsburgh, Tangiers, and Marrakesh; sand dunes of the desert; sewers; marketplaces; run-down hotels) which can be conjured up and counted on at any time. It is in this aspect of familiarity and permanence that the scenes in Goytisolo's works ironically correspond to the recognizability of tourist sites: the narrators are guaranteed certain types of adventures within these contexts which are deemed to be otherwise impossible. Best of all, for those who feel constrained by the “programming” and “bureaucracy” of objective social realities, no passport is needed for such geographical mobility. The continued attempts to “return to paradise” by Goytisolo's characters25 permit the endurance, for this author, of alternative (subjective, fictional) versions of social reality into which he may venture and be absorbed, and therein find personal (physical and artistic) “freedom” and mobility above and beyond the “negative space” of contemporary society.26 Goytisolo's texts, therefore, seek refuge in the excitation or stimulation (see the prefatory note to Paisajes) of self-created and sustained images of wandering and travel to the realms of natural and “uncivilized” worlds, as well as to pre-adult erotic fantasy “wonderland” worlds of Lewis Carroll's female objects of desire, voluntarily imposing “banishment” from objective participation in the “pestifero muladar de la Historia.”27


  1. Raymond Carr and Jean Pablo Fusi discuss these issues in From Dictatorship to Democracy (London, 1979), 55.

  2. Goytisolo's own “Cronología” written, as he says, “por el propio autor en tercera persona” in G. Sobejano et al., Juan Goytisolo (Madrid, 1975), 5, establishes the years 1953 for his first trip to Paris, 1955 for the second, 1956 (September) for his “installing himself” in that city, see 15–17.

  3. Juan Goytisolo, Señas de identidad (México, 1966), 11. Hereafter cited in the text as SI.

  4. Juan Goytisolo, Reivindicación del conde don Julián (México, 1970), 26. Hereafter cited as RCJ. In Juan sin tierra (Barcelona, 1975), the narrator states: “someterás la geografía a los imperativos y exigencias de tu pasión,” 82. Hereafter cited as JT.

  5. Juan Goytisolo, España y los españoles (Barcelona, 1969), 99. Hereafter cited as EE.

  6. Juan Goytisolo, Campos de Níjar (Barcelona, 1960), 57. Hereafter cited as CN.

  7. See Carlos Blanco Aguinaga, Julio Rodríguez Puértolas, Iris Zavala, eds., Historia social de la literatura española (en lengua castellana) (Madrid, 1979), III, 202. The definition which Georg Lukács gives to “realism”—“a writer's critical understanding of the world he lives in” (Realism in our Time (Literature and the Class Struggle), trans. John and Necke Mander [New York, 1964], 76, my emphasis)—perhaps signals best the element lacking in Campos de Níjar, a narrative leading to no praxis but only to a disarticulated emotional response to an “uncomfortable” situation and a vague feeling of “guilt” (57) for so facile a forgetting of what is really occurring around him while he eats and drinks “local delicacies.”

  8. CN, 32. In Señas de identidad Alvaro Mendiola represents his own travel to the south as “inspired” by the poverty of Barcelona's shanty towns (381).

  9. Alvaro Mendiola later concludes that in “la nueva y helada religión industrial de los europeos … que contemplaras en el valle del Ruhr durante tus viajes … Bajo una apariencia engañosa de confort las condiciones de vida eran duras, los sentimentos tendían a desaparecer, las relaciones humanas se mercantilizaban. Tu rebeldía tampoco cabía allá,” SI, 342–343.

  10. CN, 10. One must take note of the similarity between this reaction and the feeling of “liberation” in the Oriental zoco underscored from Reivindicación del conde don Julián onward (especially the “fauna circense” in JT, 106).

  11. Juan Goytisolo, Makbara (Barcelona, 1980), 67. Hereafter cited as M.

  12. Goytisolo, Pueblo en marcha, 27. Goytisolo refers to this as his “utopia” in M, 204.

  13. Paul Fussell, Abroad (British Literary Traveling Between the Wars) (Oxford, 1980), 113.

  14. Fussell, 38. Fussell defines tourism as, in essence, “the industrialization of travel” (71). See also 38–44 for a discussion of the terms “exploration,” “travel,” and “tourism.” Carr and Fusi have written of the broadened class considerations underlying the development of tourism and note the reaction of those engaged in profiting from it: “José Meliá, who has made a fortune out of the hotel business, pleads not for more tourists but for better tourists who can pay high prices,” 58. This seems to amount to an “exclusivizing” of popular mass tourism.

  15. Fussell, 39.

  16. Carr and Fusi, 97.

  17. Ibid., 88. It is with irony, then, that the reader encounters Alvaro Mendiola telling of his own similar experiences—“os habéis demorado varios días en el centro de Francia siguiendo uno de los itinerarios gastronómicos recomendados por la Guía Michelin” (SI, 389)—while at the same time he is repulsed by the “grupos compactos,” ibid., 357, filling the grand canal of Venice with masses of picture-taking tourists.

  18. RCJ, 46. While in Juan sin tierra the narrator (with Ebeh) sarcastically comments on the tourists' desires to assuage the syphilitic's situation with coins, in Reivindicación Mendiola also relies on economic means to silence the annoying beggars and in Reivindicación and Makbara the snake charmer and halaiquí, respectively, are seen as deserving of monetary compensation (the “justiciero homenaje, RCJ, 65) from the foreign visitors.

  19. Fussell, 47.

  20. Jean Franco, “The Utopia of a Tired Man: Jorge Luis Borges,” Social Text, II, No. 1 (Fall 1981), 70.

  21. Paul Zweig, The Adventurer: The Fate of Adventure in the Western World (Princeton, 1974), 85. Zweig appropriately enough uses the storytellers of the marketplace of Djemá-el-Fná in Marrakesh as his example of this phenomenon, (84); it is the same one Goytisolo employs to structure Makbara.

  22. This speaks to the contrary of Georg Lukács' fundamental premise of “the realization of individual consciousness through the concrete, historical situation,” Realism in our Time, 8. See also Geoge Novack, Understanding History (New York, 1972), especially 5–11 and 29, on the collective process of history in which Goytisolo's narrators are never placed; they instead state their opposition to participating (see RCJ, JT, and particularly M).

  23. Néstor García Canclini, Las culturas populares en el capitalismo (México, 1982), 16.

  24. Fussell, 43–45.

  25. Paisajes después de la batalla (Barcelona, 1982) contains his dream of the utopia of the “Third World” within urban, technological settings such as the immigrant sectors of El Sentier in Paris and Kreuzberg in Berlin which, says the autobiographical narrator, “estimulan … sus dotes creadoras” (165). For that reason, he goes on, “descarta cualquier visita a los distritos serenos y nobles … con el falacioso pretexto de que le dan asma y si se ve en el aprieto de hacerla, se provee de antemano de todo lo necesario—pasaporte, divisas, certificado internacional de vacuna—como si fuese a un safari congoleño o a una expedición cientifica a Groenlandia” (166).

  26. Zweig, 210. These ideas correspond to the terms Zweig uses to describe the “rebel” or “criminal” trespasser of Nietzsche who “challenges the claustrophobic ideals of the modern world” (211) to seek “the wilderness, a certain freer and more perilous nature and form of existence” (from Twilight of the Idols, cited in Zweig, 211). For Goytisolo, the mental and fictional images of mobility fulfill this desire.

  27. Goytisolo, Paisajes, 81.

Antonio Sobejano-Morán (essay date 1988)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 harsh criticism and demolition of the entire Spanish society. The narrator-protagonist of Reivindicación, through an imaginary odyssey that lasts one day, attacks and destroys the literature, religion, cultural beliefs, myths, and language of Spain, both past and present. In Recuento, on the other hand, Luis Goytisolo exposes and parodies the post-civil war social classes and traditional institutions, such as the army and the Catholic Church. The purpose of this analysis is to prove how the ambiguity that permeates these two novels has its counterpart in the naming process, which undermines the tradition of one-dimensional main characters.

There is no doubt in the reader's mind that there is a connection between the arbitrariness of the sign1 and the naming process in literature. A proper name, functioning as a signifier, would have as referent the psychological characterization and the specific role played by the character in the novel, the signified. The use of a proper name characterizes, defines and categorizes, linking the signifier to our conception of the character. According to Derrida,

The proper name in the colloquial sense, in the sense of consciousness, is only a designation of appurtenance and a linguistico-social classification … The great game of denunciation and the great exhibition of the “proper” does not consist in revealing proper names, but in tearing the veil hiding a classification and an appurtenance.2

Reivindicación and Recuento are works of metafiction in which proper names can be, as Patricia Waugh points out,

placed in an overtly metaphorical or adjectival relationship with the thing they name … In metafiction such names remind us that, in all fiction, names can describe as they refer, that what is referred to has been created anyway through a “naming process.”3

In these two novels, by using different names for the same character, the intrinsic relationship between the name and its referent is temporarily erased. The implied reader runs the risk of losing himself in the already interwoven complexity of the structure and the literary discourse, and in this way he becomes more involved in the creative process of the novel.

In Reivindicación, Juan Goytisolo substitutes a proper name or a noun with different literary, mythological, fictitious or historical names that capture the essence of the character or the common noun. However, he is still classifying and the referent not only remains intact but also is enriched with connotations and meanings of the new name. Count Julián, the main character, is a legendary figure blamed for the loss of Spain to the Moors in the eighth century and is considered a traitor in Spanish history. There are several hypotheses as to his real identity and origin. According to some historians he was the vassal of an Arab general in the city of Ceuta, to others he was either a Visigoth dignitary or a Berber chief of Christian faith.4 The first epigraph of the novel mentions the confusion concerning his real name: Ulyan, Urbano, Ulbán, or Bulian. This ambiguity is reflected in the structure, the language, the narrative planes and the anecdote of the novel.

The narrator-protagonist, a literary transposition of the author himself, is in exile in Tangier, Morocco, and in his imagination revives Count Julián to take revenge and invade Spain. This mythical process requires the creation of an alter-ego—himself as a child—who represents his past and needs to be destroyed in order to gain personal and psychological liberation. The division of the narrator-protagonist and the subsequent confrontation between Julián, the executioner, the present, and Alvarito, the victim, the past, make possible the internal dynamics of the novel. A conflict ensues when two bodies or entities are set against each other, acting, in this case, within the narrator's mind. The emergence of human conflicts, according to Kurt Singer,

implies a conscious awareness of alternatives not only in man's dealings with the outer world and with his fellow men but also within his own self. He is not only capable of playing off one force against another but of turning himself against himself, and thus exhibiting a new polarity.5

In Reivindicación the narrator-protagonist lacks a name, for he is an abstraction who is trying to reject his past—Spain—and find identification in his present—the Arab world. At one level, this dichotomy takes form in the names of the streets of Tangier, where he combines Spanish and Arab names: Hach Maohamed Torres, Cristianos, Ben Raisul, Fuente Nueva, M'Rini, Calle del Arco, Riad-el-Sultán, and so forth. On the other level it is shown in the fantastic creation of two antagonistic characters who stand for the conflicting forces that operate in the narrator's subconscious.

The novel splits into four clearly defined chapters. In the first the reader is a witness of the narrator's birth: “Unido tú a la otra orilla como el feto al útero sangriento de la madre, el cordón umbilical entre los dos como una larga y ondulante serpentina.”6 [“(The sea) links you to the other shore, as the fetus is tied to the mother's blood-engorged womb, the umbilical cord between them coiling like a long sinuous strip of serpentin.” (p. 4)] Then the narrator wanders through the streets of Tangier with an Arab boy who serves as a guide. His company reminds him of his past childhood in Spain. However, from the beginning this child, Alvarito, is doomed, bound to be victimized by Julián, who embodies the spirit of revenge of the narrator. The child metamorphoses into Caperucito, “Little Red Riding Hood,” a bird or an insect to be devoured by Julián, who becomes the big bad wolf, a snake, a flesh-eating plant or a contemporary James Bond who passively witnesses the fall of Alvarito. The first chapter is like an embryo that presents the Leitmotifs that will be echoed throughout the novel by using a mirror technique that reflects the previous Leitmotifs within a system of modifications to open a new dimension. At the end of this chapter the implied reader is aware of the narrator's duality, expressed in mythological terms: “el laberinto está en ti: que tú eres el laberinto: minotauro voraz, mártir comestible: juntamente verdugo y vìctima” (p. 52) [“the labyrinth lies within [you]: that you are the labyrinth: the famished minotaur, the edible martyr: at one the executioner and the victim” (p. 40)]. And the geographical description of Tangier as an “urbano laberinto” (p. 89), “urban labyrinth,” takes the name of Julián in one of his exceptions, Urbano, to point at the same confusion and intricacy that characterizes both of them, one being a reflection of the other. The narrator designates the vagina as Hercules' cave and describes it also in mythological terms. By foregrounding Greek mythology to metaphorically compare parts of the body or actions of the characters, the narrator is raising his narrative world to a mythical level, as well as being a “symbolic re-enactment of the particular event with some idiosyncratic attributes added by the narrator-protagonist.”7 Perhaps the most prolific display of Greek mythology takes place in the excursion of American tourists to Hercules' cave, where the anatomic description of the vagina merges with several classical myths: the myth of Orpheus, whose trip to Hades or the underworld places the narrative world on an imaginary level; the same is true with the lagoon of the Styx, Tisiphone, Phlegethon, and Rhadamanthus. The myth of Theseus, whose killing of the bull—a symbol of Spain—corresponds with the Arab invasion of the peninsula favored by Julián, also appears. On other occasions the narrator will turn to the myth of Sisyphus or Charon to refer to the repetitious and frustrated beginning of the fantastic invasion of Spain, or to the myth of Prometheus, which alludes to the creation of man and perpetual suffering. This myth also relates to the division of the narrator into Julián and Alvarito. The excursion to Hercules' cave links the myth of the cave to the tourist and capitalist invasion of Spain, and above all to the annihilation of the chastity myth, whose defense and praise is portrayed in the novel by Corín Tellado, a famous contemporary writer of love magazines, and Celestina, the well-known character of the fifteenth-century tragicomedy, both of them concerned with women's virginity. The myth of the cave is very relevant to the unveiling of the inner motivations of the narrator's creativity since it encompasses some of the most important Leitmotifs of the novel.

In chapters two and three, Julián visits a coffee house where Tariq, an acquaintance, invites him to smoke kiff. Due to its effect, Julián recreates in his imagination the destructive odyssey of Spain. The experience takes the form of a journey through the literary and historical myths that have shaped the idiosyncrasy of Spain: The Cid, Trajano, Teodosio, Guzmán el Bueno, Isabel the Catholic, Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Lorca, the Generation of '98, and especially Seneca, who represents the natural and human stoicism that originated the moral and religious spirit of Spain.8 Seneca, as Mrs. Putifar, the American tourist who dies bitten by a snake and revives, metamorphoses into Figurón, Ubicuo, Alvaro Peranzules—famous count of Leon—, Manolete—famous Spanish bullfighter—, or as first philosopher of Spain and fifth of Germany, parodying the power of Charles I, and Alvarito, whose mother is Isabel the Catholic, the latter and Saint Teresa fusing together with a stripper. The Cid, the Spanish hero who overcame the Arabs in several battles, becomes the traitor Julián. In their metamorphic transformation these figures lose their mythical value and the representative nature of the Spanish spirit. The symbolic destruction of the Spanish cultural past occurs when the narrator goes to the library of Tangier and crushes some insects among the pages of well-known Spanish writers, “alcanzando el primer volumen de la pila y depositando entre sus páginas una hormiga y seis moscas … cerrando de golpe, zas!, y aplastándolas” (p. 37) [“reaching for the first volume in the pile and depositing an ant and six flies inside it … suddenly closing the volume and crushing these seven insects” (p. 26)]. The opening lines of the novel already reveal the narrator's wrath and rejection towards an unnamed country: “tierra ingrata, entre todas espuria y mezquina, jamás volveré a ti” (p. 11) [“harsh homeland, the falsest, most miserable imaginable, I shall never return to you” (p. 3)]. His hatred and repulsion are evident in the use of negative epithets referring to Spain: “Atlántida” [“Atlantis”], “Madrastra inmunda” [“foul stepmother”], “funesta Península” [“dreary Peninsula”].

The fourth chapter deals with the invasion of Spain and the consummation of the narrator's revenge. The context of the death of Alvarito occurs as a literary transposition of the Little Red Riding Hood story, in which Alvarito becomes the victim of Julián. But Alvarito's death cannot come without suffering and, after being subdued and tortured by Julián, he commits suicide. The sadist motif occupies a great part of the narrative space in the novel and is preluded in the beginning of the novel in the quotation from the Marquis de Sade: “I should like to discover a crime the effect of which would be actively felt forever.” The same motif is suggested in mentioning Les Chants de Maldoror by Lautreamont, where Mervyn, the adolescent, is killed by Maldoror, his merciless persecutor. Alvarito's death is a redeeming self-destruction without which the protagonist would not gain his personal liberation. However, the narrator and the reader realize that this fictitious liberation is a product of the imagination of the former who will undertake the same odyssey the next day.

The final attack is against the Catholic Church, the most sacred Spanish bastion. The Arab hordes invade the temple and desecrate the images of the Virgin Mary and her Son. The very naming process—the wooden mannequin or the Doll for the Virgin and the Boy Doll for her Son—serves the purpose of mocking them and reducing them to mere entities deprived of any religious implications. When the Virgin and Son are pulled down by the Arabs, the narrator describes their screams as howls, equating them with dogs.

Santiago, Saint James, is the patron saint of Spain to whom legend attributes apparitions which helped the Christian army in the Reconquest of Spain over the Arabs. He is a significant figure in the naming process in Reivindicación as well as in Recuento. Santiago's role is not exactly the same in both novels. In Recuento he is not the defender of Spain against the Arab aggression, as occurs in Reivindicación, but the punisher of the civil war Republicans who fought against their Catholic and traditional brothers. Raúl, the narrator-antagonist and dissident of Recuento, in his struggle against the traditional values of the nationalists, falls victim to Santiago and his “white horse.” His criticism is not directed at Catholic dogmas, as in the previous novel, but instead is substantiated against the ecclesiastic institution for its political power and privileged position during the Franco regime. Palazón, the priest in the religious high school, watches over all the children's conduct, and his domineering and repressive attitude is shown in the name itself: Palazón means “bunch of sticks.” Raúl, who is also a victim of Palazón, is the son of Jorge and Eulalia, whose names have strong religious implications. Saint Jorge is the patron saint of Catalonia and Saint Eulalia is a well-known martyr. Their names indicate Raúl's upbringing in a conservative and Catholic environment that can be traced back to his ancestry. His great-grandfather Jaime fought with general Prim in the African campaign. There is a possibility that Ferrer, one of Cabrera's lieutenants who fought in the Carlist faction, might be one of his ancestors. His other great-grandfather married María Ignacia Gaminde, of Basque origin and noble lineage. His grandfather Raúl returned to Barcelona soon before the loss of Cuba and invested large sums of money in a farm and stocks. Raúl rebels at an early age against those conservative values and chooses political militancy in the outcast communist party. Raúl's rebellion, however, is not only political but also literary and tries to consolidate a narrative theory already envisaged by Juan Goytisolo, Juan Benet, and Luis Martín Santos, among others. Adolfo Cuadras is the writer, within the fictitious world, of a novel that follows the principles of the behavioristic novel of the '50s. Raúl's rejection of a narrative whose main objective is the mere transcription of the external reality is shown through direct statements, and by means of the naming process—Cuadras meaning “stables.”

Before starting to write his novel, Luis Goytisolo already knew the names of his characters and explained that the use of several names for one single character was due to their depersonalization. On one occasion he stated that:

Every character had its name (several in many cases), as this is an essential working element in a work, such as “Antagonía,” which puts so little emphasis on the characterization of those characters.9

The characters that revolve around Raúl are types, sometimes described in archetypical terms, and lack any psychological characterization. Those with names belong to the Catalan bourgeoisie that sympathizes with Castile and has betrayed the interests of Catalonia to benefit itself. Their names point to some remarkable achievement or their role in the novel. Florencio Rivas' name, who is the representation of the successful industrial contractors, comes from florecer, “to flourish.” His wife, whose name is Dulce, “Sweet,” has a lover called Amadeo, whose origin is from amar, “to love.” Due to the sudden death of Florencio his economic empire is in trouble, but Amadeo asks his lawyer Primera Espada—“First Sword”—for help. He shows his ability when he restores the trust of Florencio's creditors and prevents the economic collapse of the company.

The proletariat hardly appears in Recuento. Its disappearance from the narrative context demonstrates its limited influence in the political scheme of the Francoist period. Those who represent the urban proletariat on many occasions do not have a name that classifies them. Instead they are named with epithets that depersonalize them, reducing their identity to an abstraction: “the non-Catalan employee,” “the Navarrese,” “the willful worker,” “the Mary,” Florencio's prostitute lover. Their names have negative connotations given by the definite article. Another way to depersonalize these characters is through the use of alias or nicknames for the same character: Aurora is Nefertiti, Manolo Moragas is MM, Mariconcha is Maricoña, Federico is Esteva, Adolfo is Lucas, Fortuny is Ferrán, Escala is Salvador Puig, alias Z or Mister H, Raúl is Lalo as a child, Pipo when he is intimate with his girlfriend Nuria, Daniel or Luis in his political militancy, and Pipa to the police. The names and alias that Luis Goytisolo so frequently uses correspond to the protean nature of his characters. At the same time, they are separated from their real identity, which is safeguarded from society and from the reader.

In Reivindicación, the use of names such as Julián, Little Red Riding Hood, James Bond, etc. erases any pursuit of individual characterization and identifies the characters' actions with those already mythical, legendary or fictitious. In Recuento, those with given names belong to the upper classes, whereas those of the lower classes are deprived of a proper name, and consequently their identity blurs through the naming process. There is no doubt that the use of different names creates certain textual ambiguities that distort the implied reader's gestalt-forming, stimulating him to form expectations within a coherent interpretation. This, of course, is a deliberate technique undertaken by the author with the intention of involving the reader in the construction of the text, as Iser points out:

The vital process of consistency-building is used to make the reader himself produce discrepancies, and as he becomes aware of both the discrepancies and the processes that have produced them, so he becomes more and more entangled in the text.10

In the novels that I have analyzed, there is a clear attempt to undermine the traditional unidimensionality and individualization of the characters through the naming process, so the reader is led astray in his consistency-building of the characters' characterization. In Reivindicación, the use of names negates individual characterization, whereas in Recuento, name-giving blurs the identity of the characters.


  1. Terry Eagleton states that “each sign in the system has meaning only by virtue of its difference from the others,” Literary Theory: An Introduction (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984), p. 97.

  2. Jacques Derrida, “The Battle of Proper Names,” Of Grammatology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976), p. 111.

  3. Patricia Waugh, Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self—Conscious Fiction (NY: Methuen, 1984), pp. 93–94.

  4. Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Historia de España, Vol. IV (Madrid: Espasa Calpe, S. A., 1957), p. 12.

  5. Kurt Singer, The Idea of Conflict (Australia: Melbourne UP, 1949), p. 16.

  6. Juan Goytisolo, Reivindicación del Conde don Julián (Mexico D. F.: Ed. Joaquín Mortiz, S. A., 1970); translations are from Helen R. Lane, Count Julian (NY: Viking, 1974).

  7. Genaro J. Pérez, Formalist Elements in the Novels of Juan Goytisolo (Madrid: José Porrúa Turanzas, S. A., 1979), p. 161.

  8. Angel Ganivet, Idearium Español: Obras Completas, Vol. I (Madrid: Ed. Aguilar, S. A., 1951), pp. 153–154.

  9. Luis Goytisolo, “Gestación de Antagonía,” El Cosmos de Antagonía (Barcelona: Ed. Anagrama, 1984), p. 14.

  10. Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Æsthetic Response (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1980), p. 130.

Abigail Lee Six (essay date April 1988)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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’ in Reivindicación del conde don Julián produces a radically unconventional, psychoanalytical version of the tale.1 This article seeks to analyse it in the light of research by folklorists, psychologists, and social historians, with the aim of providing a new reading which, it will be argued, conveys in microcosm an important element of the author's fiction since Señas de identidad, namely, a preference for chaos over order.

The use of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in the text of Reivindicación may be studied on two levels. First, there is the way in which Goytisolo chooses to retell the story: which details he omits and which he emphasizes, which aspects of classic fairy tale he lifts verbatim and which he bypasses or alters. These considerations raise psychological and socio-historical questions which link this level with the second: the effect of the insertion of his version of the tale on the rest of Reivindicación and indeed the other novels of the trilogy of which it forms part. In this article, which confines itself to a psychological focus and to the text of Reivindicación only, we shall base our analysis on the fullest account of the tale given by the author. This appears at the beginning of the fourth and final section of the novel, but there are allusions to Little Red Riding Hood scattered throughout the text, which provide a prefigurative hint at the significance of the story for Goytisolo, later to be elaborated by him.2 On reading the fullest account of the tale, its most potent influence is exerted on what comes immediately afterwards, namely, the closing passages of the book. These deal principally with the progressive destruction of the protagonist's child self by the adult that he is destined to become, the two being depicted as separate characters. However, in addition to this most obvious effect, the pattern of repetitions and echoes which Goytisolo has built into the whole of Reivindicación links the account to earlier passages in the book, as well as parts of Goytisolo's other novels, and the episode may thus alter and enrich their interpretation too.

The classic European fairy stories, of which ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is one of the best known, have been recognized by psychologists of both the Freudian and Jungian schools, by anthropologists, sociologists, and historians, quite apart from the folklore specialists, as something far more important, far weightier than charming little yarns for the entertainment of small children. As Mircea Eliade puts it, in Myth and Reality: ‘Though in the West the tale has long since become a literature of diversion (for children and peasants) or of escape (for city dwellers), it still presents the structure of an infinitely serious and responsible adventure’.3

The publication in 1697 of Perrault's Histoires ou contes du temps passé started the trend which has converted these formerly powerful—often harrowing—narratives into the quaint prettily-worded nursery tales, or even the prettily-drawn Disney films, of modern times.4 Clearly, Perrault's purpose in altering and distorting folktales was more than a Disney-style prettification process, though he must surely have felt that some of the lurid details in the original versions could not be included if his collection was to be suitable for refined French ladies and children. However, in addition to censoring the most gruesome elements of the stories, more importantly, Perrault refashioned the traditional narratives so that they would be morally instructive for the children who were to constitute his main readership.5 The Brothers Grimm did much the same; although they claimed to have simply recorded extant folktales, scholars have shown that their selectivity and adaptations were designed to comply with the moral standards of their time and environment.6

‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is one of the most overt examples of this refashioning, as the following summary of its versions will seek to demonstrate. First, the salient points of the narrative will be discussed, as they differ from non-literary folklore to Perrault and to the Grimms. Next, the psychological implications of the different versions will be assessed, in the context of how they reflect on the characters in the story. Then we shall turn to Goytisolo's treatment and in the light of these background observations, we may examine how he makes the story paradigmatic for the psychological aspect of Reivindicación.

Taking the events of the tale in the order in which they occur, the first step is that Red Riding Hood's mother sends her to her grandmother's house. This is to be found in the folkloric versions as well as in both Perrault and the Grimms. Logically, this is the raison d'être of the whole story and yet it is depicted almost as a mere premise. In folklore and in Perrault, Red Riding Hood's mother is little more than a device to set the story moving. In the Grimms, she has a little more character as she warns her daughter to stay on the path through the forest and to conduct herself in a ladylike fashion. Thus, it is only in the Grimms' version that the child comes to grief through disobedience. The next step in the narrative is common to all three versions: the meeting with the wolf in the forest. The exchange which takes place differs in its details, but shares the basic feature that Red Riding Hood tells him where she is going. The wolf arrives before her, devours the defenceless grandmother and, disguised as her, waits for Red Riding Hood. When she reaches the house and encounters the wolf again, sexual innuendo is scarcely concealed in the folkloric and Perrault versions, for she complies with the wolf's request to join him in bed. In Grimms, however, she remains fully clothed and no suggestion of this kind is made. At this point, the three stories diverge significantly. In the folkloric version, the eponymous protagonist escapes by pretending that she needs to go outside to relieve herself; the wolf tries to keep her captive by tying a thread around her ankle, but she outwits him by undoing it once outside, tying it instead around a nearby plum-tree and running home to safety.7 In Perrault, the wolf devours her and so the story ends. The author then appends a moral in verse form which underlines the exemplary message. This states that Le Petit Chaperon Rouge has suffered the consequences of her naïveté in trusting the wolf, who, as the rhyme makes abundantly clear, stands for cunning male seducers.8 In Grimms, she is also devoured, but a passing huntsman rescues both her and the grandmother by cutting open the wolf's belly as he sleeps. They fill him with stones and sew him up again, so that when he awakes, he topples over and dies. It would seem that the Grimms took this ending from ‘The Goat and the Seven Kids’, which ends almost identically.9

The fidelity of Perrault's unhappy ending to a folkloric version is a source of controversy among scholars, owing to the long-standing popularity of Perrault's tales in rural communities. Indeed, many apparently traditional accounts have been recorded from countryfolk as ending with child and grandmother both eaten by the wolf, just like his dénouement, but this need not necessarily prove that Perrault was faithful to some traditional version, although this must of course remain a possibility. It could just as well be that they are post-Perrault distortions. Marc Soriano, for example, is of the opinion that both the unhappy ending and the one where the heroine escapes are rooted in genuine French folklore, both acting as warning tales for children, with the latter version as a toned-down one, for the sake of those who might be too terrorized by the fatal dénouement.10

Since ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ lacks lengthy descriptive passages in all three versions, the characters of the mother, the child, and the wolf must be inferred from the way in which they behave. The mother's failure to warn her daughter about the dangers of the forest in Perrault does not, as one might logically expect, cause her to be depicted as a wicked character; any guilt to be apportioned to her is left only implicit in the text. Rather than fixing attention on her, Perrault seems to be at pains to stress that she is out of the picture, as it were, that it is the child's own responsibility to look after herself. From the traditional tale of an ingenious and courageous girl, Perrault has turned the story into a cautionary tale about the perils of naïveté, stressing that ‘la pauvre enfant … ne savait pas qu'il est dangereux de s'arrêter à écouter un Loup’ when she meets him in the forest. In the same vein, he draws attention to her ingenuousness when she climbs into bed with him, saying with tongue clearly in cheek that ‘elle fut bien étonnée de voir comment sa Mère-grand était faite en son déshabillé’.11 The transition from ingenious to ingenuous in the traditional and Perrault versions is not one which the Grimms were content to leave as it stood; they made the protagonist of the tale a culpably disobedient child, a character who learns the hard way that tedious rules made by those in authority are really for one's own good. Furthermore, maternal attempts at protection are supported, in Grimms, by the strongly paternal character of the rescuing huntsman.

The shift from the sharp-witted and plucky heroine of the traditional story, to the hopelessly naïve protagonist of Perrault, to the naughty child of the Grimms, is not just interesting for its own sake, but has an important effect on the female status of Little Red Riding Hood. In the traditional version, the girl would seem to resemble the male heroes of classic fairy tales more than other female protagonists. Jack Zipes characterizes the former as follows: ‘Brains are better to have than brawn … The heroes … all have remarkable minds, courage, and deft manners.’12 Like so many male heroes, she uses her sharp wits to defeat a creature much stronger than herself. She needs no one to rescue her; indeed, her behaviour evokes in us just the same sort of admiration that we feel towards the Valiant Little Tailor or Hop o'My Thumb, for example.13 Perrault is the first to describe her as pretty: ‘une petite fille de Village, la plus jolie qu'on eût su voir’,14 thus endowing her with one of the essential traits of fairytale heroines. However, the masculine epithet by which she is known—Le Petit Chaperon Rouge—if not meant to imply masculinity, is at least suggestive of a lack of pronounced femininity. Sexual ambivalence is deeply rooted in the story itself: the male wolf is disguised as a woman—the grandmother—when Red Riding Hood is ‘devoured’ by him; he is also lying passively in bed when she enters the house and later she joins him in bed, rather than the more standard converse pattern. Moreover, in the Grimms' version the two female characters, Red Riding Hood and the grandmother, are ‘reborn’ from the male wolf's belly, ‘delivered’ by the male huntsman, not a midwife. It is also noticeable in this respect of Red Riding Hood's non-conformity to the feminine stereotype of the classic fairy tales that none of the different endings depicts a happy marriage (unlike ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, to name but a few stories with a female protagonist). Even in the Grimms' version of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ with its happy ending, the male rescuer remains a fatherly figure, rather than the typical handsome prince, whom the heroine could then marry. In this paternal role, the child's sex is tacitly devalued, for fathers have sons as well as daughters, whereas the handsome prince can only be matched with a female character.

In summary, it may be asserted that, although Red Riding Hood loses her essentially virile self-reliance and bravery in both Perrault and Grimms, vestiges of a certain interchangeability of gender are not eradicated, either from the depiction of the protagonist herself, or from the wolf ‘in female clothing’. The seducer disguised as a woman recalls this animal's association with the devil, who may also appear as temptress, dating back to the Fall of Man and reappearing, notably in the Revelation of Saint John the Divine.15 There is more to the wolf's demonic connection than this, however. In the Papal Bull Summis Desideratus Affectibus of 1484 and the Malleus Maleficarum of 1486, the Church declared wolves, along with witches, to be Satan's deputies on earth.16 This is vestigially discernible in the Grimms' version, where the huntsman calls the wolf an ‘old sinner’. The traditional version, where the wolf is explicitly a werewolf, illuminates the ancestry of the anthropomorphic, talking, reasoning wolf of Perrault and Grimms; and in the former, as we have seen, the rhymed moral shows that the wolf does not stand for fierce animals but for human brutes.

Before turning to Goytisolo's treatment of the tale, one final aspect should be considered: the temporal dimension. Bruno Bettelheim, in his Freudian analysis of fairy tales, sees in them a way of helping children to grow up into well-balanced adults, with id, ego, and superego in their proper places. He uses ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to show how such a story teaches a child via his or her unconscious how to mature healthily: ‘Since the three little pigs represent stages in the development of man, the disappearance of the first two pigs is not traumatic; the child understands subconsciously that we have to shed earlier forms of existence if we wish to move on to higher ones’.17 He postulates that the three little pigs are really one and the same pig, as it matures; perhaps the same point could be made about the three generations of females in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. The protagonist's budding sexuality—perhaps linked to the timing of the grandmother's present of an alluring garment—destines her to motherhood. This role will in its turn give way to decrepitude and isolation, so that, like her grandmother, she will end by being reliant on the charity of the young and helpless in the face of brutality and cunning (the wolf's trick of pretending to be her granddaughter in order to gain entry to her house).

This suggestion of the successive stages of life portrayed in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ leads us on to the interpretation of the tale in terms of initiation ritual, convincingly argued most notably by Saintyves and Eliade.18 It is traditional worldwide in communities where these rituals take place, that the elders assume the responsibility of initiatory instruction to the adolescent novices of the same sex. The grandmother as the one who makes Red Riding Hood the garment which gives her a new name, the location of the grandmother's house in or beyond a wilderness, lend credibility to such a theory, with ritual garments, new names, and the requirement to leave the confines of the community to receive initiatory instruction being extremely common features of initiation rites, not only in extant primitive societies, but also in the records of ancient European traditions. Separation from the mother is usually a prerequisite of all adolescent initiations and a ritual death, often in the form of being swallowed by some type of symbolic monster-god, followed by rebirth as an adult, are also widespread, if not universal motifs.19


Having briefly surveyed the folkloric and literary antecedents, we may now turn to Goytisolo's use of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. In an interview, he stated that the version which he was told as a child was ‘el que acaba mal’.20 From this one might assume that it was a translation of Perrault which was in circulation in Spain during the 1930s. This, indeed, is taken for granted by Linda Gould Levine when she refers to ‘“la nueva versión sicoanalítica” de la fábula de Perrault’.21 However, an examination of 1930s editions of ‘Caperucita Roja’ shows that, even when Perrault is named as the author on the title-page, the versions published were not faithful translations, but adaptations of the story, with elements from Grimms too.22 Perrault may not, therefore, be taken as the sole source of Goytisolo's version and echoes of the German account need not be regarded as merely coincidental or fortuitous.

As far as the plot is concerned, the first choice which Goytisolo makes is whether, like Grimms, to have the mother warn Red Riding Hood to stay on the path in the forest, or whether, like Perrault, to have the child set off in unsuspecting naïveté. He opts for Perrault's model here, stressing Caperucito Rojo's innocence; the ‘tierno infante’ is of ‘carácter tierno’ and ‘virtud acendrada’ (206), so that there is no hint of the naughty disobedience of the Grimms protagonist.

The next important stage of the story as it is told by Perrault, the Grimms, and all known traditional versions, is the encounter with the wolf in the forest. Goytisolo omits this altogether. His protagonist's walk through the forest is occupied instead by reciting prayers for souls in purgatory and limbo, and performing good works: he rescues a nettle from the path, straightens a withering flower and chastizes two copulating flies: ‘un kilómetro y pico de trayecto bien aprovechado en suma’ (208). When this Red Riding Hood reaches the cottage, the grandmother is already dead and the wolf in bed disguised as her. The account then proceeds on the same lines as Perrault; Red Riding Hood joins the wolf, played by Julián, in bed and the traditional exchange matches Perrault's exactly, until the last line, where instead of teeth, we find ‘bicha’ and correspondingly, the reply is not ‘—C'est pour te manger’, but ‘es para penetrarte mejor’ (209).23 Thus, Goytisolo makes explicit in the narrative what Perrault implies by the moral; he dispenses with the symbolism of ‘devouring’ signifying sex, stripping the story of its concern with bienséances and in this sense, returning to the bald style of the folkloric version.

Turning from Goytisolo's treatment of the plot to what this implies about the characters, we note that he follows Perrault as far as the mother's unsuspecting nature is concerned. The mother of Julián's child self in the passages following the Caperucito Rojo account is reminiscent of the French model, for she too is simply unaware of the dangers besetting her child: ‘la piadosa madre sigue sin darse cuenta’ (226). However, the role accorded to the mother is more important in Goytisolo than in Perrault, and this becomes apparent in the passages following the narration of the tale itself. Not only is she the unwitting cause of her child's death (as in Perrault), but she is also the torturer of the protagonist's child self, in effect at least. As he comes closer and closer to becoming his adult self, it is the fear of upsetting his mother which haunts him, not fear of Julián. On the contrary, he is fascinated by the latter and cannot resist returning again and again, but he does so reluctantly because he is racked with agonizing guilt. The child is ‘irresistiblemente atraído’ and ‘no puede ni quiere apartar de ti [the adult self] la vista’ (218 and 219 respectively; my italics). Then, after this first encounter, ‘jura y perjura no volver’, not because he has not enjoyed it, but because he is now ‘sin atreverse a mirar de frente el rostro puro y lenitivo de la madre’ (221). When the adult starts blackmailing the child, it is at the mother's expense and when the child is finally driven to suicide, it is because the adult wants the child's mother to come herself, or else, ‘si no la traes, iré a verla yo y le contaré cuanto has hecho’ (229). In other words, what should be a natural relationship, as the child undergoes the transition to adulthood, is a harrowing nightmare, all because of the guilt towards the mother for the loss of childhood innocence. The guilt arising from the betrayal of the mother is also associated with the betrayal of the patria or motherland; thus, the theme of the novel as a whole is represented in microcosm by this image which originates in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.24

In short, then, Caperucito's mother would seem to be largely based on Perrault, but the consequences of this depiction are exploited and extended imaginatively, thus fusing the character from the fairy tale with the thematic and symbolic structure of Reivindicación. The depiction of the eponymous protagonist of the tale diverges much more radically from literary antecedents. The most immediately obvious change that Goytisolo makes is surely the depiction of Red Riding Hood as a boy instead of a girl. Yet, perhaps this is not such a drastic alteration as it might at first appear. As we have seen, there is much sexual ambiguity in both the details of the story—the wolf's female disguise, for example—and its overall presentation of the heroine, perhaps as a vestigial reminder of its roots in the tough, down-to-earth folkloric version. Goytisolo rejects the specifically feminine additions to Red Riding Hood, principally by means of three devices. Firstly, he questions the convention that a protagonist's beauty is only important if the personage is feminine; thus Caperucito is emphatically described as ‘el [niño] más hermoso que la mente humana pueda imaginar’ (205). Secondly, he casts doubt on the supposition inherent in all the literary antecedents, that a child's initial sexual curiosity is directed at a member of the opposite sex; Caperucito is fascinated simultaneously by his own adulthood—for Julián is what he is to become—and by a homosexual relationship, for Julián is depicted as an autonomous character, separate from himself. This may be linked to the Freudian approach, discussed above, that like ‘The Three Little Pigs’, the grandmother represents on an unconscious level what Red Riding Hood is destined to become. Thus, by getting into bed with who she thinks is her grandmother, the child may be expressing a curiosity about her own future self. Furthermore, as in Goytisolo's treatment, the character of the wolf-grandmother is portrayed as separate and, ostensibly at least, of the same sex as the protagonist. Thirdly, and on the linguistic level, Goytisolo rejects the translation of the masculine French epithet—‘Le Petit Chaperon Rouge’—into the feminine Spanish ‘Caperucita Roja’, changing it to ‘Caperucito Rojo’. The feminization of the name in Spanish might, of course, be attributed to the fact that the word for hood—caperuza—happens to be feminine in Spanish and masculine in French. Nevertheless, the masculine ‘Cendrillon’ is needlessly feminized to ‘Cenicienta’ in Spanish, so it is perhaps a deliberate policy of Spanish translators, more than a mere accident of gender, that female characters must have female names. If this is so, Goytisolo refuses to comply.

In addition to the sex-change of Little Red Riding Hood, which, as we have seen, is not such a radical metamorphosis as it might at first seem, but rather makes explicit the undercurrent of sexual ambiguity in the tale, Goytisolo selects some details of the plot and omits others, refashioning the character of the protagonist in this way too. The omission of the encounter with the wolf in the forest acquits Caperucito of the charge of foolish naïveté for having trusted the wolf enough to tell him where she was going. Whilst the Grimms' Red Riding Hood is both disobedient and naïve, and Perrault's unwarned protagonist is at least the latter, Goytisolo's Caperucito is wholly guiltless, which is to say that he is in no way responsible for what ensues. Hence, Perrault's warning moral not to trust even the nicest-seeming wolves is no longer applicable. In sum, the didactic element of the story has been removed: the events have become inexorable and unwarranted.

This serves a dual purpose: in the immediate context of the fourth section of Reivindicación, it leads into the inexorable course of events which will bring about the protagonist's child self being supplanted by his adult self. In a wider context of themes in Goytisolo's novels from Señas de identidad to Paisajes después de la batalla, we could assert that the general pattern is one of order being undermined while chaos is being reinforced. Most of the classic fairy tales are structured in a perfectly ordered fashion, with good characters clearly delineated as such and rewarded by riches and/or a happy marriage, while bad characters are equally clearly defined as villains and punished by death or some other suitable horror. Goytisolo acknowledges that it is this essentially just order which makes fairy tales important psychologically: ‘un mundo limpio y perfecto, nítido como una demostración algebraica’ and ‘reino ideal donde la astucia obtiene la recompensa y la fuerza bruta el castigo, utopía de un dios equitativo de designios profundos y honrados’.25 This order within fairy tales is so important because, as Goytisolo depicts it, real life is utterly chaotic, illogical, unjust; the second quotation above continues: ‘antídoto necesario de la vida pobre y descalza, el hambre insatisfecha, la realidad inicua’. He overturns the traditional concept that the cosmos is perfectly ordered, typified by Fray Luis de León in ‘Noche serena’:

el gran concierto
de aquestos resplandores eternales,
su movimiento cierto,
sus pasos desiguales,
y en proporción concorde tan iguales.(26)

Goytisolo prefers to see the cosmos as chaos: ‘la caótica y delirante geometría de los astros’.27

The fairy-tale world provides a much-needed escape from this chaos—the ‘antídoto necesario’—but when Goytisolo comes to use a fairy tale as a metaphor for, rather than an escape from, an aspect of real life—the transition from child to adult—he chooses one which is striking for its departure from the typical orderly reward and punishment structure, given that he takes Perrault's ending of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. After all, even if Perrault's heroine is guilty to some degree for being gullible, the grandmother has done nothing whatsoever to deserve her fate and the wicked wolf is unpunished. Goytisolo heightens the injustice—that is to say, lack of order—in the tale, by omitting the encounter in the forest; he renders it completely chaotic and thus provides one more illustration of the ubiquitous implication of the novels from Señas de identidad onwards, that the world is essentially governed not by some natural order, but by natural chaos.

Thus far, parallels with and divergences from Perrault's version have been established in Goytisolo's treatment of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. Now let us consider the influence exercised by the German story. In the first passage of the fourth section of Reivindicación, where the actual parody of the fairy tale is to be found, we have remarked that the mother gives the child no warning to keep to the path in the forest, just like the Perrault version. However, in the subsequent passages, dealing with the child self's destruction by the adult self, we find that mothers in general, if not the child self's own mother specifically, do warn their children off the ‘wolf’ of the adult self: ‘apúrate niña dicen las madres’ as they pass his abode; ‘no le miréis: dicen que con sus ojos hipnotiza’ (216).

Zipes characterizes the Grimms' version, in contrast with Perrault, as ‘fundamentally a justification of law and order and against individual autonomy and imagination … Salvation comes only in the form of a male patriarch who patrols the woods and controls the unruly forces of nature—both inner and outer … Erotic play and seduction appear to capture the imagination of the French, whereas the Germans are more concerned with law and order.’28 If Zipes is correct in his theory that it is the Grimms who emphasize the rule of law and the control of inner and outer unruly nature, then it is against their version that Goytisolo is striking back in his treatment of the theme of inner and outer temptation. The child self is ‘acosado de … demonios e íncubos’ (215). On the level of the narrative as it is told, we may see the adult as the external demon and the child's fascination with him as the internal incubus driving him towards evil. However, at the same time, we know that the apparently external character of the adult is really the child's own future self. In other words, on the more abstract level, the adult—the child's potential—is within himself. Thus, Goytisolo undermines the concept of an evil outer force in the world by showing it to be fundamentally and ultimately illusory. As for the supposedly evil nature of the internal force which drives the child into becoming the lupine Julián, the whole book, as its title establishes, is dedicated to its defence.

The concept of the path as the way to avoid the dangers of the wild forest, which is found in Grimms (there is no mention of a path in Perrault), is ironically subverted in Reivindicación, for here the path leads to the adult self's door, so that when the child succumbs, ‘seguirá la pasadera de tablas’ to the ‘umbral de tu choza’ (219). Goytisolo thus emphasizes that it is not the child's naughty departure from the ‘right way’ which leads him into the wolf's clutches, but his natural direction.

Finally, there is an echo of Grimms in the location of the adult's hut. In Perrault, the grandmother lives in a village on the other side of the forest, whereas in Grimms, she lives in the middle of it, isolated from society. It might be argued that the adult self is the counterpart of the wolf and not of the grandmother in Goytisolo's re-working, and therefore, that the grandmother's house in conventional versions should not be compared with the wolf's in Reivindicación. However, the fact remains that the conventional Little Red Riding Hood meets her fate in the grandmother's house. As the place where she is devoured, therefore, they are parallel. Now, the adult self's abode is located in the middle of the no-man's-land of a building-site: ‘grúas, apisonadoras, maquinaria que enmohecen bajo raídas fundas de lona: y junto a las pailas de alquitrán y sacos de cemento, tu choza’ (215–16). The nightmarish implications of such isolation are exploited by the adult tormentor: ‘chilla, chilla, le dices, que aquí nadie te oye’ (220). When the reader remembers that this torment is only being depicted as external, but is really the internal trauma of reaching adulthood, he perceives the significance of Goytisolo's use of the Grimms' version in this detail, for it vividly portrays the psychological isolation of the child in his anguish.

Having discussed the relationship of Goytisolo's treatment of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ with its antecedents, we may now consider the Freudian and initiatory interpretation of the story. As we have seen, Bettelheim interprets ‘The Three Little Pigs’ as a spatial representation of temporal development. In the light of this, it is perhaps of interest to note that far from being a modern literary gimmick, Goytisolo's depiction of the child and adult selves as spatially, rather than temporally distinct entities follows in respected folkloric tradition. Although he uses two, instead of three characters, the essence of the image remains intact; it is as if the first two pigs had been amalgamated to form a single symbol, but in both cases, the more immature nature is destroyed in order to make way for the adult persona.

Yet, although the three generations of women in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ are reminiscent of ‘The Three Little Pigs’, the concept of immaturity yielding to adulthood is absent or reversed in the former story. In Perrault, both old and young are indiscriminately killed and in Grimms, they are both equally indiscriminately saved, whereas in the traditional version, the idea is reversed, for it is the old grandmother who dies and the young girl who survives. This is the antique initiatory pattern, whereby the new generation must take over from the old. Goytisolo ingeniously succeeds in fusing the symbolism typified by ‘The Three Little Pigs’ and its converse, as exemplified by the traditional version of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, for Alvarito is at once destroyed in his immature form and permitted to become an adult through his metamorphosis into Julián following the initiatory instruction in carnal knowledge.

However, in Perrault's version of the story, which of course Goytisolo follows in the ending, the initiation is not completed. There is the separation from the mother, the isolation from the community intended to be with an elder of the same sex, and the death, or return to chaos, through being swallowed by the wolf; but the rebirth as an adult and the return to the community in this new role never take place. This is perhaps one of the reasons for which Goytisolo selects ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ from the extensive range of fairy tales, many others of which also have an initiatory structure, but a completed one. ‘Hop o'My Thumb’ (Perrault's ‘Le Petit Poucet’), for example, also has an initiatory theme, but here it is carried through to a happy ending with the protagonist's safe return home and new-found riches. Goytisolo does in fact allude to this story too, but only to its beginning, that is to say, to the state of separation from the mother.29

The truncated initiation rite of Perrault's ‘Le Petit Chaperon Rouge’ is particularly suited to Goytisolo's needs, for the return to the community of the initiated adolescent is conspicuous by its absence throughout the novels from Señas de identidad onwards. In Juan sin tierra, it is explained thus: ‘el exilio te ha convertido en un ser distinto, que nada tiene que ver con el que conocieron: su ley ya no es tu ley’.30 This would seem to go to the heart of the issue; initiation rites are, after all, a statement of acceptance of the social framework into which one has been born. To participate in an initiation ritual, even though this may begin by being severed from one's community, is to affirm one's desire to return and be accepted by its members. The lapse into chaos in the belly of the beast, or some other symbolic representation of this, must, by definition, be temporary, for it only exists as the prerequisite of rebirth into order, the order of adulthood.

Now, Goytisolo's protagonists want to break away from their native society permanently; they do not want to be accepted back into the Spanish bourgeois community to become an ‘enmedallado paquidermo’.31 Moreover, their ideal society is represented by the concept of chaos, so to find themselves in a chaotic environment is not a mercifully short-lived ordeal, but the realization of their ideal. On this level, Perrault's ending of ‘Le Petit Chaperon Rouge’ is indeed paradigmatic, for the eponymous heroine never goes back home. In fact, on the symbolic level, the dénouement is a happy one, as far as the mentality of Goytisolo's protagonists are concerned, for the child manages to cut herself off from ordered society and to be engulfed by chaos, the symbol of freedom and fecundity in the novels from the trilogy onwards.

In the murder of the child by his own adult self in Reivindicación, the same drama is enacted. The child breaks away from his home life and his community's values and then, instead of returning as a socially conforming adult—as in the trajectory of the three little pigs, according to Bettelheim—he is initiated into quite another type of adulthood, namely, that of the wolf: the socially inadmissible, dreaded, rejected symbol of evil.

Putting together Perrault and Grimms, the chain of associations appears thus: from Perrault, we see that the wolf is in some sense also a man, and from Grimms, that he is identified with sin. In other words, the figure of the demoniacal werewolf lurks beneath the quaint talking animal of the nursery tale. The symbolic thread is circular: the wolf/werewolf is a symbol of the devil; chaos is the principle of the devil's domain, Hell; going into the belly of a beast symbolizes the descent into Hell or primordial chaos; Goytisolo's protagonists are apologists for chaos. It follows, therefore, that ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is indeed paradigmatic for them, laden as it is with the components of chaos. On the symbolic level, there is the wolf himself and the fact of being swallowed by an animal. On the broad surface level of the narrative, the just order is flouted with the villain emerging victorious and the heroine defeated. On the analytical level, there is a host of detail which accumulates to produce the undermining of the order principle of differentiation, with boundaries blurred between humans and animals, between male and female. The paradigmatic value of ‘Caperucita y el lobo feroz’, although exploited by Goytisolo in a multitude of different ways, as we have sought to show, is surely in its enactment of a victory of chaos over order.


  1. ‘La paradigmática historia de Caperucita y el lobo feroz’, Juan Goytisolo, Reivindicación del conde don Julián, Biblioteca Breve, second edition (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1982), 95. Page references given in the text of the article relate to this edition.

  2. The first allusion appears in the first section of Reivindicación, on p. 13. See also p. 95, for example. On p. 104, in the priest's sermon, one of the images which he uses for vice—‘lobos sanguinarios’—is perhaps prefigurative. Linda Gould Levine analyses the precise effects of these early references to ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ in Juan Goytisolo: la destrucción creadora, Confrontaciones: Los Críticos (Mexico City: Joaquín Mortiz, 1976), 212–15, 221, 228, 230–31. I have nothing to add to her impressive analysis of Goytisolo's intertextual structuring of prefigurative allusions to the fourth section of the novel.

  3. Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality (London: Allen and Unwin, 1964), 201. The adventure to which Eliade is referring in the quotation is the symbolic quest; this is connected with his theory of initiatory symbolism in fairy tales, which will be discussed presently. For examples of other interpretations, see: Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (London: Thames and Hudson, 1976) (Freudian). Marie Louise von Franz, Interpretation of Fairytales: An Introduction to the Psychology of Fairytales (Zurich: Spring Publications, 1975) (Jungian). Frank Zipes, Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization (London: Heinemann, 1983) (Socio-historical). All these different approaches shed light on the huge range of potential meanings of fairy tales, but for the purposes of this article we shall find Bettelheim and Zipes particularly useful.

  4. For a discussion of the distortion of the classic fairy tales by Disney, see Frank Zipes, Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk or Fairy Tales (London: Heinemann, 1979), 114 ff.

  5. ‘Les contes de Perrault se caractérisent … par une certaine rationalisation du merveilleux, avec une méfiance et une ironie à l'égard de tout ce que … relève des superstitions païennes, et par une superposition manifeste, au niveau de l'écriture, du moraliste, … mais aussi par des omissions … de motifs “crus”, scatologiques ou païens propres aux contes populaires et faisant insulte aux “bienséances”.’ Lilyane Mourey, Introduction aux contes de Grimm et de Perrault: histoire, structure, mise en texte (Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1978), 29.

  6. See Frank Zipes, The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood: Versions of the Tale in Sociocultural Context (London: Heinemann, 1983), 14–19.

  7. Reproduced in Mélusine: recueil de mythologie, littérature populaire, traditions et usages, ed. H. Gaidoz and E. Rolland (Paris: Librairie Historique des Provinces, 1886–87), III, columns 428–29.

  8. On voit ici que de jeunes enfants,
    Surtout de jeunes filles
    Belles, bien faites, et gentilles,
    Font très mal d'écouter toute sorte de gens,
    Et que ce n'est pas chose étrange,
    S'il en est tant que le loup mange.
    Je dis le loup, car tous les loups
    Ne sont pas de la même sorte;
    Il en est d'une humeur accorte,
    Sans bruit, sans fiel et sans courroux,
    Qui *privés, complaisants et doux
    Suivent les jeunes Demoiselles
    Jusque dans les maisons, jusque dans les *ruelles;
    Mais hélas! qui ne sait que ces Loups doucereux,
    De tous les Loups sont les plus dangereux.

    * privé = fàmiliar

    * ruelle = ‘Se dit des alcôves et des lieux parés où les dames reçoivent leurs visites’ [Furetière].

    ‘Le Petit Chaperon Rouge’, in Perrault, Contes, ed. Gilbert Rouger (Paris: Garnier, 1967), 109–15 (115).

  9. The story of ‘The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids’ ends with the mother goat rescuing six of her seven children from the belly of a wolf, alive. The wolf's belly is filled with stones and sewn up again while he is still asleep; when he awakes he goes to a well to drink, but the weight of the stones makes him fall in and drown. For the full story, see The Complete Grimms' Fairy Tales (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975), 39–42.

  10. Marc Soriano, ‘Le Petit Chaperon Rouge’, in La Nouvelle Revue Française, CXC (1968), 429–43, at 433–34. For a discussion of the genre of warning tales for children, see: John Widdowson, ‘The Witch as a Frightening and Threatening Figure’, in The Witch Figure: Folklore Essays by a Group of Scholars in England Honouring the 75th Birthday of Katharine M. Briggs, ed. Venetia Newall (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973), 200–20. Although many different traditional versions exist, for the sake of brevity, references in this article to ‘the traditional version’ will denote the one summarized on p. 142. Regarding the long-standing popularity of Perrault and the availability of his stories even in far-flung rural communities, see Lilyane Mourey, 16–17.

  11. Perrault, 113 and 115, respectively.

  12. Zipes, Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion, 26.

  13. The Little Tailor convinces the King and everyone else that he is of superhuman strength: sharp-witted and nimble, he outwits one giant, induces another two to kill each other and makes it look as though he did away with them himself, captures a fierce unicorn and savage boar, for which he wins the hand of the King's daughter and half of the kingdom. Finally, he frightens away the King's servants, who have been ordered to take him captive (because his true identity of a mere tailor has been revealed), so keeping his princess and kingdom ever after. (‘The Valiant Little Tailor’, in Complete Grimms’, 112–20.) In Perrault's ‘Le Petit Poucet’, the eponymous hero uses his sharp wits to save himself and his brothers from a cannibalistic ogre and then tricks the ogre's wife into giving him all her husband's riches. (Contes, 187–98).

  14. Contes, 113.

  15. ‘In Talmud myth, Lilith, the former wife of Adam, became a serpent and gave Eve forbidden knowledge. In ecclesiastical art and architecture this myth was frequently superimposed on the Christian myth, and the serpent ( … ) was often given a woman's face.’ Beryl Rowland, Animals with Human Faces: A Guide to Animal Symbolism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1974), 144. See also Revelation 17:2–6.

  16. Cited in Zipes, Trials and Tribulations …, 48.

  17. Bettelheim, 44.

  18. P. Saintyves, Les Contes de Perrault et les récits parallèles: leurs origines (coutumes primitives et liturgies populaires) (Paris: Librairie Critique, 1923). Mircea Eliade, Birth and Rebirth: The Religious Meanings of Initiation in Human Culture, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: Harper and Bros, 1958), 126.

  19. Eliade, Birth and Rebirth, xiii, 4, 36–37.

  20. Goytisolo said this when I interviewed him in August 1985 in Paris (unpublished).

  21. Gould Levine, 213.

  22. A few examples (texts may be consulted in the Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid): La Caperucita Roja: narración infantil seguida de otros cuentos para niños, Biblioteca Escolar Recreativa, 5 (Madrid: Saturnino Calleja Fernández, undated, probably about 1910). A comparatively faithful version of Grimms’. La Caperucita Encarnada (Paris: Laplace Sánchez, [1875]). Perrault ending, but Grimms-style warning by mother which Caperucita disobeys. Caperucita Roja: cuento de Perrault. Cuentos en Colores, 2 (Barcelona: Ramon Sopena, [1930]). Not a direct translation, but follows Perrault in plot. Incidentally, the illustrations in this edition depict Caperucita as a coquettish adolescent, not an innocent child.

  23. Perrault: ‘Ma mère-grand, que vous avez de grands bras!—C'est pour mieux t'embrasser, ma fille.—Ma mère-grand, que vous avez de grandes jambes!—C'est pour mieux courir, mon enfant.—Ma mère-grand, que vous avez de grandes oreilles!—C'est pour mieux écouter, mon enfant.—Ma mère-grand, que vous avez de grands yeux!—C'est pour mieux voir, mon enfant.—Ma mère-grand, que vous avez de grandes dents!—C'est pour te manger’; Contes, 115.

    Goytisolo: ‘abuelita, qué brazos tan grandes tienes! / es para abrazarte mejor, rey mío / abuelita, qué piernas tan grandes tienes! / es para correr mejor, rey mío / abuelita, qué grandes tienes las orejas! / es para oírte mejor, cielo mío / abuelita, qué grandes son tus ojos! / es para verte mejor, corazón mío / abuelita, qué bicha tan grande tienes! / es para penetrarte mejor, so imbécil!’ (209).

  24. Gould Levine makes clear this connection between Caperucito's mother and the patria in her comments on the manifestations of Isabel la Católica throughout Reivindicación. She states that Isabel represents ‘los valores de la España oficial’ (which are destined to be betrayed by the protagonist) and adds that ‘la figura de este símbolo hispánico aparece tres veces en la novela: como madre de Séneca-don Álvaro-“Tonelete” en la segunda parte, como hija de don Álvaro-caballero cristiano en la tercera, y como madre del niño al final de la obra, tres identidades totalmente intercambiables’; La destrucción creadora, 193.

  25. Juan Goytisolo, Makbara (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1983), 48 and 220, respectively.

  26. ‘Noche serena’, lines 41–45, in Fray Luis de León, Poesías: poesías originales, traducción de las églogas de Virgilio, traducción de los cantares de Salomón, ed. Ángel Custodio Vega (Barcelona: Planeta, 1980), 30.

  27. Juan Goytisolo, Juan sin tierra (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1982), 42.

  28. Zipes, Trials and Tribulations …, 18 and 24.

  29. See, for example, Reivindicación, 52, and Juan sin tierra, 131. The story of ‘Le Petit Poucet’ begins with the parents abandoning their seven sons in the forest because they can no longer afford to feed them. Poucet guides his brothers home by following a trail of pebbles that he had laid on the way out. The parents succeed in their plan the second time, however, for Poucet uses crumbs instead of pebbles and the birds have eaten the trail when he looks for it (Contes, 183–98 [187–91]). Goytisolo's allusions to the story are limited to this first part of it and the symbolism of trying to retrace one's steps home.

  30. Juan sin tierra, 63.

  31. Juan sin tierra, 124.

Tom Whalen (review date Summer 1988)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 headlong rush of consciousness that we find in many of his earlier novels, this time we have a “clumsy patchwork of a narrative” narrated by a writer who, like Goytisolo, lives in Le Sentier in Paris. “Our hero,” who is called, variously, “the monster,” “the protagonist,” “the polytypical memoirist and chronicler of Le Sentier,” and “anti-hero,” occupies himself with “maniacal, obsessive, almost canine nosing about the streets of Le Sentier; odd, unpredictable attendance at meetings and consultations of hermit-saints; perusal of scarcely recommendable reading matter, copying of newspaper clippings, epistolary fantasies, indiscreet eavesdropping on his wife's telephone conversations.” The “epistolary fantasies” primarily involve his fascination with pedophilia and the photographs by Lewis Carroll (here called simply “the Reverend”) of prepubescent girls. Other fantasies involve his pamphleteering and terrorist acts “concerning the genocide of the Oteka people, exterminated by Tartar hordes, with the connivance of the Celestial Empire and other Asiatic powers.” And, of course, there is the attack on the established language of the country, a “Hecatomb” Goytisolo calls it, “replacing the familiar script of the signs and posters of his neighborhood with alien and incomprehensible characters.” “[T]his confused and complicated narrative” is composed of seventy-eight titled sections (“Following the Trail of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson,” “Misanthrope,” “Neither Stalin nor Trujillo nor Pol Pot: Bela Lugosi,” “The City of the Dead”) written in a language that can be arch, low, essayistic, forthright, slippery, and heavily ironic. The “deliberate universality” Goytisolo talked about in his recent essay “Captives of Our ‘Classics’” is found here in “the pluriracial osmosis of Le Sentier” and in his refusal to write a “Spanish” novel or to imitate other writers. Yes, Genet is here (two of his novels have been slipped in with the children's books in the library) and Lewis Carroll is here as well (like Alice, one of the little girls denies the fantasy: “Invent something else if you can. I for my part have all I can stand of this.”), but Goytisolo's books are, finally, unlike anyone else's. “I claim the inalienable right … to be different: the possibility of giving total expression, in the full light of day, to my deepest, most intimate feelings and affections, however much this may shock petty minds and scandalize timid spirits. …” That's reason enough for us to read Goytisolo.

Abigail Lee Six (essay date April 1989)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 creador el albacea testamentario de los mismos. … Esta creencia resulta desde luego injustificable.1

This point is one with which most critics would agree nowadays, but whilst this article will not be based on the novelist's ‘nociones teóricas’, it would seem relevant to point out, by way of introduction, that Goytisolo has repeatedly expressed admiration for Sterne's Tristram Shandy in published interviews and articles, calling it on one occasion ‘una de las obras más significativas de la literatura universal’.2 Furthermore, in a discussion of Juan sin tierra he comments that it is particularly in this third novel of the Mendiola trilogy that ‘la relación intertextual no se limita a la literatura y a los autores de nuestra lengua, y se extiende a otros idiomas y universos culturales’.3 So it would not seem far-fetched to consider Juan sin tierra in relation to Tristram Shandy; indeed, when anyone who is acquainted with the latter reads Goytisolo's novel he could hardly fail to be struck by certain very obvious echoes of Sterne's masterpiece, such as the narrator's frequent references to and descriptions of the room in which he is writing, and more generally, the many devices employed to draw the reader's attention to the process and problems of creating the text.

Once these patent similarities have alerted one to a relationship between Tristram Shandy and Juan sin tierra, further points of contact which might otherwise have passed unnoticed become apparent too, ranging from what may be coincidences of comparatively minor significance, such as the humorous description of the narrator's own conception and birth, to more fundamental features common to the two works, notably the utilization of learned sources for parodic purposes, the central importance accorded to the language and theme of sexuality, and the fluid interchange of temporality and spatiality.

Like Sterne, Goytisolo ‘conducts an intellectual excavation, but the fragments he rescues no longer have any residue of belief’.4 Where Sterne alluded with mock seriousness to outdated ideas such as the medieval notion of radical moisture, or the ancient belief that animal life could be created spontaneously from the sun-warmed mud of the Nile,5 Goytisolo draws, for example, on St Bernard of Clairvaux's expositions on the fragrant odour of sanctity and the religious apologetics for the carnage of the Inquisition,6 amongst other theological material no longer taken literally or which is wholly outdated. Both writers exploit such sources in their own original ways, so that their respective texts are radically different in form and tone from the works on which they are based.7 What D. W. Jefferson observes on the subject of Sterne's dialogue with Locke would apply just as well to Goytisolo and Lukács: ‘Sterne, unlike most eighteenth-century writers who were influenced by Locke, exploited his ideas freely as opportunities for wit, playing with them in a manner quite unlike that of their original begetter.’8 Furthermore, both Sterne and Goytisolo go beyond poking fun at serious ideas, both outdated and contemporary, and also pay homage to intentionally humorous works, showing themselves to be intelligent and well read in this domain too. Thus, in both Tristram Shandy and Juan sin tierra,Don Quixote is loudly echoed, notably by Sterne in the persons of Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim, and in Juan sin tierra in the parallel of Cardenio and Dorotea with Goytisolo's narrator's encounter with Vosk disguised as a peasant-girl (pp. 243–58).9

A more detailed analysis of how and where Goytisolo's exploitation of learned and literary sources diverges from and converges with Sterne's would no doubt be an interesting enterprise which would repay further investigation. This article will, however, limit itself to a discussion of sexuality and space-versus-time in the two novels. These will be linked to the idea of the narrator's and the reader's control and grasp of the discourse, in order to show how Goytisolo has adapted and transferred some of Sterne's techniques. Finally, there will be a consideration of the attitude adopted in each text to the concept of an unruly narrative, a narrative which is out of control.

In his study of Tristram Shandy, Max Byrd analyses what he terms the sexualization of language in the work. This, he observes, is ‘so infectious … that after a time no word at all seems innocent’.10 Shandy exploits this in order to poke fun at the reader:

I define a nose as follows—entreating only beforehand, and beseeching my readers, both male and female … for the love of God and their own souls, to guard against the temptations and suggestions of the devil, and suffer him by no art or wile to put any other ideas into their minds, than what I put into my definition. For by the word Nose, … I declare, by that word I mean a Nose, and nothing more, or less. (p. 225)

Goytisolo also sexualizes his language, to borrow Byrd's expression, when, for example, the narrator is musing about St Simeon Stylite, suggesting that the phallic column could provide sexual ecstasy rather than virtuous ascetism: ‘La penitencia se transformará en bienaventurado jardín de delicias: ermitaño, no: sibarita’ (p. 118). At the same time as the saintly ideal is attacked here, doubt is cast on the word penitencia itself, by means of the ambiguity inherent in the definite article: ‘La penitencia se transformará’ refers simultaneously to St Simeon's penance and to penance in general. Thus the word's meaning wavers along with the saint's image, assuming connotations of masochistic sexual pleasure and thereby subverting its hitherto untarnished value as a term reserved for pious contexts.

Removing words from one semantic area and placing them in an erotic context which imbues them with unexpected sexuality is used perhaps to even more striking effect in the description of the Parejita Reproductora's failed attempt to consummate their union. Although penitencia is not one of the many words and images with both a religious and an erotic meaning, such as ecstasy or possession, it remains true that, on the whole, the language of mysticism bears a close resemblance to that of sexual experience. Therefore, in the St Simeon passage the shift from one range of meaning to the other is minor linguistically, yet enormous conceptually. In the episode of the Parejita Reproductora, however, the unsentimental nomenclature of grammatical terminology takes on salacious overtones:

A medida que el presente de indicativo se encalla y la esperanza del futuro se aleja, la amatoria conjugación pasará a los melancólicos tiempos condicionales y deslizará tristemente al pretérito imperfecto de subjuntivo

si yo hubiera                                                            tú habrías
si tú hubieses                                                            yo habría …

la voz pasiva y los modos compuestos no caben en el nupcial paradigma … : en vano repetirán gerundios e imperativos: irregular, quizás defectivo, el verbo no se alzará. (pp. 72–73)11

The technique is double-edged: on the one hand, the cold dry register of grammatical analysis indicates the clinical, passionless nature of the Parejita's relationship, but on the other, words like conjugación are sexualized, demonstrating that no area of language is immune to Goytisolo's potent injections of eroticism.

Nevertheless, there is an important difference between Sterne's use of sexualized language and Goytisolo's, for in this area there is no mockery aimed directly at the latter's reader: St Simeon and the Parejita Reproductora are the targets, not us. Whereas Shandy bombards the reader with double entendres, puns, and tantalizing dashes and asterisks, leaving us feeling mocked and excluded, for reading now too much, now too little, into the discourse, Álvaro's overt treatment of matters sexual leaves us with no margin for doubt, fear of misunderstanding, or over-interpretation.

Yet, as anyone who has read Juan sin tierra would surely agree, this is far from true of the novel as a whole, for in other areas the narrator positively and openly exults in muddling the reader: ‘Extraviarás al futuro lector en los meandros y trampas de tu escritura’ (pp. 135–36). Moreover, this deliberate intention to unsettle the reader, explicitly stated in Goytisolo's novel, also describes what is left implicit in Sterne, for the effect of Shandy's use of sexual innuendo is equally to ‘captar al intruso ingenuo, seducirlo, embaucarlo, envolverle en las mallas de una elusiva construcción verbal, aturdirle del todo, forzarle a volver sobre sus pasos y, menos seguro ya de su discurso y la certeza de sus orientaciones, soltarle otra vez al mundo, enseñarle a dudar’ (p. 136).

One of the most effective methods employed to this end arises from the treatment of spatiality and temporality.12 Space on the written page merges with space on the map, and the time of writing is juxtaposed with the chronology of history and the narrator's own past. The opening of the fourth section of the novel demonstrates these correspondences:

De la vasta latitud del espacio a la no menos vasta latitud del tiempo: del mapamundi escolar al viejo manual de historia: repuesto apenas de la onírica razzia por el orbe fantasmal agareno y presto ya, sin otro auxilio que el papel y la pluma, a una nueva, imprevisible incursión por la cuarta dimensión einsteiniana: enclaustrado como siempre, en la minúscula habitación: sin abandonar el ámbito de tu propia escritura. (p. 163)

This starts clearly; we have just been reading about a journey through the Islamic world and now, the narrator announces, he is going to turn to a trip through history: ‘De la vasta latitud del espacio a la no menos vasta latitud del tiempo.’ Then the complexities begin to accumulate as, with the next phrase, attention is drawn to the fact that both the geographical and the proposed historical travels are in fact voyages through Álvaro's old school-books, an atlas and a history textbook. Thus his own past, his schooldays, intrudes upon both the spatial journey across the map and the time-travel through Spanish history, though of course this last has a spatial element too, for it is also a journey across the pages of book. Next, the time of writing and reading are overlaid: writing and reading, because the past participle repuesto could be attributed to the narrator, but equally to the reader, who is also gasping for breath after being swept across the Islamic world on a magic carpet, hustled through teeming marketplaces, and bundled into trains or carriages drawn by galloping horses. The same openness of application to writer and to reader is also exploited with the later imprevisible. Finally, the time taken in writing and in reading the text is joined to the place of writing: the paper and the room. In these few lines, therefore, spatiality is represented by the map, by the page of text, and by the writer's study; temporality appears in the guise of the history book, the narrator's own boyhood, and the time it takes to write and to read and, en passant, the mention of Einstein reminds us that the passage of time is not the comfortable constant of Natural Law that it once seemed.

This deliberate entangling of different spaces and times can be compared with Sterne's famous passage in the seventh volume of Tristram Shandy. Writing in the Garonne region of France, Tristram describes his recent journey through Auxerre. This has reminded him of an earlier visit to the town in the company of his father and Uncle Toby. By this point in the narrative he has also begun to recount his subsequent arrival at Lyons:

—Now this is the most puzzled skein of all—for in this last chapter … I have been getting forwards in two journeys together and with the same dash of the pen—for I have got entirely out of Auxerre in this journey which I am writing now, and I am got half way out of Auxerre in that which I shall write hereafter. … I have brought myself into such a situation, as no traveller ever stood before me; for I am this moment walking across the market-place of Auxerre with my father and my uncle Toby … —and I am this moment also entering Lyons … —and I am moreover this moment … upon the banks of the Garonne, … where I now sit rhapsodizing all these affairs.

—Let me collect myself, and pursue my journey. (p. 492)

Here the time of writing is identified by the place of writing; he does not say, ‘here I am, three weeks (or three months) later, writing this’, but by informing the reader of his spatial whereabouts, he fixes the later time by place. Similarly, the mention of Lyons indicates a time between Auxerre and the Garonne, since we know he has been journeying south; the two Auxerres are distinguished not by using temporal markers (the first and second times he was there) but by where in Auxerre he has reached in his two accounts—‘entirely out of Auxerre’ and ‘half way out of Auxerre’. In short, space is employed as a metaphor for time. The action of writing the text is also metaphorically represented by the spatial image of travel, when Tristram refers to himself as a traveller in the context of the point he has reached in his narrative. Time is emphatically frozen, through the repetition of ‘this moment’, even though the key to the muddle is precisely the passage of time. Finally, the spatial metaphor for the process of writing the text is decisively sealed by the last sentence, which is set apart in a paragraph of its own: ‘Let me collect myself, and pursue my journey.’

Although these techniques of interchanging spaces and times are, as I have shown, a point of contact between Tristram Shandy and Juan sin tierra, there is an important difference resting on the matter of confusion and doubt in each narrative. Tristram seems bewildered by the spatio-temporal complexities of his own text and the task he has set himself in writing it. Often, as the Auxerre quotations showed, he articulates his concern and apparent lack of control. Yet the reader has little if any difficulty in understanding and following the innumerable spatial and temporal fits and starts. Indeed, Tristram seems aware that the reader will be able to see clearly in what is a blur of teeming anecdotes within his own mind, and even appeals for help:

In this clear climate of fantasy and perspiration, where every idea, sensible and insensible, gets vent … if thou comest not and takest me by the hand—

What a work it is likely to turn out! (p. 515)

This device of a narrator seemingly unable to handle space and time and a reader who nevertheless can grasp their complexities is counterbalanced by the diametrically-opposed state of affairs which was observed in matters sexual. Here, Tristram seems to be in possession of a wealth of information, gleefully in complete control, but the reader often feels unequal to his task of decoding the text. In the context of the novel's relationship with Juan sin tierra, I would argue that more important than the specific areas in which reader feels inferior to writer and vice versa is the ebb and flow of understanding itself, and the perfect balance between reader's and writer's control over the discourse: as Tristram gains control, we seem to lose it; then we gain the upper hand as he goes under.

In Goytisolo's text the same effect is produced for the reader, but the terms are reversed. Álvaro's discourse is also imbued with sex and centrally concerned with the question of spatiality versus temporality. But here the erotic component is abundantly clear and explicit, whereas the interplay of space with time is utilized as a key element to confuse the reader, to ‘enseñarle a dudar’ (p. 136). Again, as in Tristram Shandy, the effect is one of ebb and flow, even if the tides are, as it were, reversed: we experience a flood of comprehension when the discourse treats the sexual theme, only to be left helpless on the shore as the words retreat, where space and time are at issue, into an inaccessible ‘enigmática, liberadora proliferación de signos’ (p. 269).

However, the balance of control which alternated between writer and reader in Sterne's novel does not fluctuate in Goytisolo's. From the point of view of mood this is surely indicative of a significant divergence, for whilst Tristram frequently claimed to be at a loss, Álvaro takes pleasure in asserting his omnipotence over the text, whether he chooses to use his power to muddle the reader over the space/time question, or to bombard him with sexually-explicit description, or, for that matter, to bamboozle him with learned references, to browbeat him with jesuitical argumentation, or to use a host of other devices. So, whilst the reader of Goytisolo undergoes an ebb-and-flow experience similar to that of the reader of Tristram Shandy, he has no compensatory authorial confusion. Consequently, the reader of Juan sin tierra feels more victimized by the text, more inferior to the omnipotent, omniscient narrator, never able to rise above him in the way that Sterne allows his reader to rise above Tristram at regular intervals. One subsection of Juan sin tierra ends: ‘Dueño y señor de cosas y palabras, harto de Turquía y los turcos, en este día inaugural del verano de 1973, 1351 según el calendario de Hégira, los aniquilarás a todos de golpe, dejarás de escribir’ (p. 115). Not only is this a defiant affirmation of omnipotence, illustrated by the blank remainder of the page facing the reader, it is also a statement of superiority: the narrator is, he reminds us, ‘dueño y señor’ of the text, and he also shows off his learning as if to emphasize further the reader's inferiority to him; he knows the Turkish date, which we are unlikely to do. It should also be noted that the nature of the narrator's superior knowledge happens to involve the passage and recording of time; once again he forces the reader to doubt his own grasp of temporality, while simultaneously establishing authorial control of time in the text.

This self-assured, confident attitude of the narrator of Juan sin tierra towards his discourse (‘eres el rey de tu propio mundo’, he proclaims at one point [p. 63]) contrasts sharply with Tristram's comical impotence and insecurity. Shandy claims, for example, not to be able to control the length of his narrative:

Is it not a shame to make two chapters of what passed in going down one pair of stairs? for we are got no further yet than to the first landing, and there are fifteen more steps down to the bottom; and for aught I know [note the denial of omniscience here], as my father and my uncle Toby are in a talking humour, there may be as many chapters as steps;—let that be as it will, Sir [and here comes the claim of impotence, following up the plea of ignorance], I can no more help it than my destiny. (p. 282)

However, the contrast is more than an interesting incidental divergence. It is symptomatic of what I would argue is the greatest gulf between the two texts, texts which, thematically and linguistically, have so much in common, as this article has endeavoured to demonstrate via the representative examples of the sexualization of language and the overlaying of spaces and times. While, as one Sterne critic puts it, ‘Tristram Shandy is largely about the imperfections, the radical instability of words …, the difficulties of [verbal] communication’,13Juan sin tierra boldly posits ‘poderes omnímodos de la escritura!’ (p. 128). Both narrators see the act of creating text as a battle with language, in Goytisolo's words, ‘descubriendo con candoroso asombro, el margen que separa el objeto del signo’ and ‘la obligada ambigüedad del lenguaje’ (p. 120), and although both seem to find the struggle exhilarating for the most part, the outcome of the respective combats of Tristram and Álvaro appears to be different, for Sterne's narrator admits defeat—‘What little knowledge is got by mere words!’, he laments (p. 595)—whereas Goytisolo's claims victory: ‘Todo es posible en la página’ (p. 110).

In addition, both narrators take pleasure in rejecting the tight control of ‘una escueta descripción linear’ (p. 97), or, to use Shandy's agricultural analogy, neither will plant ‘his cabbages one by one, in straight lines’ (p. 515). Both acknowledge that an ordered narrative is not to be held up as the ideal: ‘Now consider, Sir, what nonsense it is, either in fighting or writing …’, Tristram warns, again forging a link between literary creativity and combat, ‘to act by plan’ (p. 549). However, both appear, in their apologetics for disorder, to be making a virtue of necessity, ‘conmutando desvío rebelde en poder inventivo’ (p. 120). Yet the reader would indeed be simple-minded if he did not appreciate the irony of this pose, for the texts of both Sterne and Goytisolo stand as sparkling demonstrations of the fact that a chaotic text, with its moments of frustration for the reader, with its breakneck pace which seems to be hurtling us around indiscriminately within the narrator's mind, is not the admission of defeat and catalogue of narrative problems that its words superficially proclaim, but on the contrary, a testimony to the literary fertility, freedom, and originality that disorder permits.

When Shandy complains of ‘what little knowledge’ may be ‘got by mere words’, he ironically indicates his own achievement in having successfully and indeed dazzlingly conveyed this very fact. Goytisolo's ‘poderes omnímodos de la escritura’ is perhaps divergent from Sterne's position only in its straightforward, unironical mode. Sterne's narrator pretends to be unable to control the spatio-temporal movement of his text, when in fact he is giving a death-defying performance, rather like a clowning acrobat who deliberately wobbles on the tightrope in order to display his skill in finding his balance again and also to remind the audience of the difficulty of his feat. Goytisolo's Álvaro, to continue the analogy, prefers the polish of the serious performer; he chooses not to prove his agility through buffoonery. But although this divergence dramatically affects our feelings towards Tristram and Álvaro respectively, and gives Juan sin tierra an overall mood devoid of the sheer fun which bubbles out of Tristram Shandy (though that is not to say, of course, that Goytisolo's is a humourless work), the text conducts an intriguing dialogue with Sterne's in its continuation of the battle with language and in the new route which it takes on the same journey of exploration to the limits of verbal transparency and opacity and to that paradoxical point where they meet.


  1. Juan Goytisolo, ‘Novela, crítica y creación’, Revista Iberoamericana, 47 (1981), 23–31 (p. 26).

  2. José A. Hernández, ‘Juan Goytisolo—1975’, MLN, 91 (1976), 337–55 (p. 345). Other relevant statements by Goytisolo include: ‘En realidad la experiencia técnica considerada como fin último tiene un interés relativo y no es tan reciente como algunos creen. En Tristram Shandy, por ejemplo, encontramos cantidad de trucos y estratagemas del “nouveau roman”’ (Emir Rodríguez Monegal, El arte de narrar: Diálogos, Colección Prisma [Caracas, 1968], p. 185); ‘El ejemplo del Quijote—cuya brillante descendencia europea incluye nombres de la talla de Fielding, Diderot, Sterne, Dickens, Gogol, Flaubert, etcétera—no cundió en su patria’ (‘San Juan de la Cruz’, Quimera, 73 [January 1988], 43–44 [p. 43]); ‘Toda obra literaria importante lleva su propia teoría incorporada, contiene sus propias claves. El Quijote es un ejemplo claro, y Tristram Shandy’ (interview with Miguel Riera, Quimera, 73 [January 1988], 36–40 [p. 39]).

  3. Julio Ortega, ‘Entrevista con Juan Goytisolo’, in Juan Goytisolo, edited by Gonzalo Sobejano and others (Madrid, 1975), pp. 121–36 (p. 124).

  4. Peter Conrad, Shandyism: The Character of Romantic Irony (Oxford, 1978), p. 28.

  5. Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, edited by Graham Petrie, Penguin Classics (London, 1985), pp. 111, 625 n. (radical moisture); pp. 361, 642 n. (Nile). Further page references to Tristram Shandy are to this edition.

  6. Juan Goytisolo, Juan sin tierra, Biblioteca Breve, third edition (Barcelona, 1982). See pp. 23, 203–04 for examples of the exploitation of St Bernard and pp. 179–82 for the Inquisition. Further page references to Juan sin tierra are to this edition.

  7. Lodwick Hartley discusses this point with relation to Locke and Sterne in Laurence Sterne in the Twentieth Century: An Essay and a Bibliography of Sternean Studies 1900–1965 (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1966), pp. 73–74. This discussion is included in an extract reprinted in Tristram Shandy: An Authoritative Text, The Author on the Novel, Criticism, edited by Howard Anderson, Norton Critical Editions (New York and London, 1980), pp. 495–501 (p. 500).

  8. D. W. Jefferson, ‘Tristram Shandy and the Tradition of Learned Wit’, in the Anderson edition of Tristram Shandy, pp. 502–21 (p. 517).

  9. In the Miguel Riera interview Goytisolo notes: ‘Mis obras conectan con textos medievales o clásicos. … En Juan sin tierra hay muchos elementos de la novela cervantina’ (p. 37).

  10. Max Byrd, Tristram Shandy, Unwin Critical Library (London, 1985), p. 43.

  11. This particular manifestation of the sexualization of language is also linked to the learned wit question, as the use of grammatical terms in obscene puns dates back to Lucilius Gaïus (c. 180 b.c.-102 b.c.) (see Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, translated by Willard R. Trask [London and Henley, 1979], p. 414).

  12. This is not the only method; others include pronouns without deixis, omission of the opening question mark, or past and present participles of verbs without subject or auxiliary.

  13. Valerie Grosvenor Myer, Laurence Sterne: Riddles and Mysteries, Critical Studies (London and Totowa, New Jersey, 1984), p. 8.

Paul Jordan (essay date October 1989)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 use of fictional alter egos in order to achieve a personal goal: that of establishing the author's identity.1

Although Ugarte observes a number of currents in the trilogy, three principal concerns may be summarized. In Señas de identidad there is an attempt to construct a new identity from different sources and a rejection of contemporary, ‘official’ Spanish texts. Reivindicación del Conde don Julián consists of the destruction of a mythical Spain through the subversion of its most revered texts, by the use of the dissident writings of Góngora and Américo Castro in particular. Castro's importance lies in his emphasis on the Arab contribution to Spanish culture; Góngora is admired as a subjectivist and for the baroque quality of his work. Juan sin tierra explores the writing process, using mainly non-Spanish intertexts, and attempts to subvert the Castilian language. Essentially, what is perceived is a process of liberation from Spain as an ideological entity, and this might be expected in the light of Goytisolo's own attitudes and actions. In many respects Ugarte's analysis is convincing, although it does not account for all the aspects of Juan sin tierra and in particular for Chapter 6, which receives little attention.

Yet there is a contradiction in Ugarte's argument: he traces an evolution in the trilogy, from a search for the author's identity in relation to different Spanish texts to an exploration of the author's function, largely independent of them; but the argument depends on the interpretation of selected remarks made by the author and does not take into account other important aspects of Juan sin tierra. On pages 119 and 120 Ugarte argues that ‘the changing nature of intertextuality is apparent in the diminishing importance that he attaches to the Spanish literary tradition’, and also that ‘the book's title itself testifies to Goytisolo's wish to traverse the Pyrenees’.

The first statement takes as its justification Goytisolo's own observation that other languages and cultures are alluded to in the novel.2 While Goytisolo's intertextuality is extended to include non-Hispanic sources, the novelist specifically alludes to the importance of Rojas, Cervantes, Luis de León, and Góngora, and in the same interview draws a clear parallel between himself and earlier Spanish writers:

Todos los caminos de la vanguardia de hoy abocan fatalmente a una especie de suicidio ejemplar, a un harakiri de las posibilidades expresivas. En este aspecto, vivimos una época literaria bastante parecida a la que conocieron escritores españoles de la primera mitad del siglo XVII, como Quevedo y, sobre todo, Góngora.

(Juan Goytisolo, p. 128)

Although it may be true that Spanish literature occupies less space than in the previous novel, it is the dominant element of Chapter 6 of Juan sin tierra. This section, the culmination of the trilogy, includes numerous references to identifiable texts, particularly those of the Golden Age, and a substantial part is based on Don Quijote. The chapter is a crystallization of the contradictions of the whole trilogy; it analyses the novelist's personal development, his views on current literary issues, and his assessment of Spanish literature. But, most crucially, the argument is conducted from within the Spanish tradition.

Ugarte's assertion (p. 119) that the words ‘Juan sin tierra’ express the author's sense of cultural exile is based on a simple parallel between the title of Goytisolo's novel and the collection of poems Jean sans terre by Ivan Goll. (In the preface to the Spanish edition Goll describes Jean as ‘un personaje legendario que representa el hombre moderno y el poeta de hoy que no tiene raíces en ningún país’.)3

An alternative view is that Goytisolo's writing progresses from alienation from Spanish text, through a stage of struggle in which he tries to alter it to fit his own vision, and finally to a kind of reconciliation in which his text becomes identified with ideological conflicts already present within Spanish literature. The three steps of engagement might be summarized as follows. The modern, non-literary Spanish intertexts of Señas are presented in a hostile way, as alien objects. Goytisolo states that at this stage his objective is to dislocate the usual language of narrative in order to escape from the linguistic prison in which he feels that he and his fellow Spanish novelists are trapped (Juan Goytisolo, pp. 112–13). In Reivindicación writings representing the ‘sterile’, dominant post-Isabelline tradition are subverted by emphasis on the Arab ingredient in the Spanish heritage. At the same time the author stresses the similarity of his linguistic project to Góngora's work (Juan Goytisolo, p. 125). The relationship with Golden-Age authors in the penultimate chapter of Juan sin tierra is rich and ambiguous, though one feature is clear: the author conducts his argument from within Golden-Age texts. He seems to be suggesting that subsequent literary and ideological development is an aberration which has been produced by a highly-selective and deluded notion of nationality and foreign influence.

Goytisolo's argument is, essentially, a two-part reply to the originators of the doctrine of casticismo and to those who employ it in order to criticize his work. Although an exile, he understands the currents in Spanish literature and recognizes the importance of foreign influence. He is an insider in that he establishes affinities with great writers of the past and also because he personifies the struggle of his generation of novelists. His critics, on the other hand, because of a narrow, nationalistic attitude, fail to grasp the real issues of the past or present and are thus cultural exiles.

With this broader perspective it might be productive to consider the possible resonances of the title ‘Juan sin tierra’ before discussing Chapter 6 of the novel. ‘John without land’ evokes his opposite: Juan Labrador, the archetypal Spanish peasant, best known in Lope de Vega's play El villano en su rincón. In Reivindicación Goytisolo shows unequivocal hostility towards Lope as a representative of the dominant tradition, and he is doubtless aware that Lope's protagonist is a Frenchman and that the play is set in France. His choice of the title ‘Juan sin tierra’ seems to contain the twin suggestions that his own work as an exile in France is rooted in the Spanish tradition and that at the same time the so-called pure Spanish tradition, which Goytisolo rejects, shares the same external influence. However, although he sees himself as a Spanish novelist, he cannot (as he once thought he could) engage in a creative dialogue with the nation; instead, writing is for him a self-sufficient and pleasurable activity of the imagination, akin to masturbation:

iniciando, tantálico, tu propio y personal proceso al canon novelesco y la radiografía de sus orondos comparsas: mientras buscas a tientas la secreta, guadianesca ecuación que soterradamente aúna sexualidad y escritura: tu empedernido gesto de empuñar la pluma y dejar escurrir su licor filiforme, prolongando indefinidamente el orgasmo:4

The other ‘tierra’ association in Juan sin tierra is the opposition of the body, sex, and excrement to religion and repression. The heterosexual, procreational aspect of sexuality—the analogue of the realists' alleged relationship with the people—is portrayed as an activity which is culturally circumscribed to such an extent that it no longer functions. The ‘parejita reproductora’ (the nation) is reduced to impotence, because the manual, or text, is alien and does not have the desired stimulating effect (pp. 71–73). The process of repression is illustrated by the parodic representation of the idea of sanctity, the conversion of bodily excretions to perfume (Alvarito's ordeal, pp. 203–08).

In his essay ‘Quevedo: La obsesión excremental’,5 Goytisolo suggests that Quevedo's scatological preoccupation is a sign of health: the author's expression of the neurosis of a culture that denies and represses the physical. In Juan sin tierra the numerous references to the need for the people to return to using the communal trench are intended to function in a similar manner, and at the same time constitute another root linking Goytisolo to something quintessentially Spanish: one of the great authors of the Golden Age.

This essay raises the question of the author's view of the relevance of his writing to the mass of the people. It is a servant who first tells Goytisolo the anecdote of Quevedo at the communal trench and this, as well as other anecdotes recounted in En los reinos de taifa,6 suggests that the novelist considers ordinary people to have a healthy attitude to the body, whereas official élites, whether Spanish, Russian, or Cuban, show by their language that they do not. However, although Goytisolo's language coincides with the servant's at the level of the anecdote about Quevedo, it also diverges, since he does not expect her to have read the Buscón. But he does not evade the question of élitism. The official writers of what he sees as repressive régimes claim to produce work which is accessible to a wide audience, and Goytisolo's earlier work is in a similar category: committed realism. In 1959 he had roundly condemned two tendencies in the contemporary Spanish novel: nationalism and modernism, both of which he considered to be alien to the Spanish people. He proposed in their stead a genre, national popular literature, which would reflect the ‘revolutionary truth’.7 In his later work he chooses the supremacy of art, and hence individualism, rather than adherence to a programme. His concern is to transgress ideological taboo, and the allusions to masturbation, excrement, and copulation—particularly of a perverse kind—are analogies of the processes that take place at the syntactic level. In Juan sin tierra the narrator comments: ‘paraíso, el tuyo, con culo y con falo, donde un lenguaje-metáfora subyugue el objeto al verbo y, liberadas de sus mazmorras y grillos, las palabras al fin, las traidoras, esquivas palabras, vibren, dancen, copulen, se encueren y cobren cuerpo’ (p. 218).

Chapter 6 of Juan sin tierra is a debate between realism and subjectivist literature, in which the exponents of realism (whether of the Spanish-Catholic or socialist kind) claim to have a monopoly of representational fidelity. The subjectivist side, on the other hand, makes no explicit claim to authority, establishing itself within the Spanish Golden-Age tradition and proceeding to call realism into question by demonstrating that it is not a direct reflection of the world but is, like subjectivism, a convention of codes. I have already referred to the ambiguous but strong links with certain Golden-Age writers. The strongest connection is, perhaps not surprisingly, with Cervantes: Goytisolo feels an affinity for a text such as Don Quijote, which explores subjectivism and the nature of fiction, and which also openly manipulates a vast array of elements from outside texts.

Two principal voices are present in Chapter 6. A voice identified as ‘tú’ is combined with an impersonal third-person narrator and represents subjectivism. (The ‘tú’ voice represents the central writing-consciousness addressing itself.) The voice of realism is Vosk, a metamorphosing character who also appears in the guise of a priest in those sections of other chapters which deal with nineteenth-century Cuba. Vosk combines the voice of Goytisolo's Marxist and Catholic realist critics with the author's own previous, realist voice. ‘Vosk’ is a transcription of the Russian word ‘Bosk’ (wax), and combines the notions of objectivity and solidity (which the author associates with theorists of socialist realism) with malleability and impermanence. It is worth noting the word's similarity to ‘voz’: textual voice.

Metamorphosing characters are used extensively in Reivindicación and Juan sin tierra. However, in Chapter 6 they cease to be simply a fictional technique but are used to explore and explain the process through which texts assimilate each other, rather like a film being projected at high speed. This kaleidoscopic transformation is undergone by the realist authoritarian voice whilst it maintains its dogmatic tone. The voice is trapped in two ways. First, realism is ridiculed by being made to speak while clothed in the pastoral: that is, through Vosk dressed as a shepherdess. Pastoral of course not only is an idealized and conventional form but is also foreign in origin. However, it is not simply pastoral, but one subverted by the intrusion of different Golden-Age voices. The notion of the faithful transcription of the world attempts to maintain itself against the invasion of idealized elements from Góngora, Cervantine self-deception, and, perhaps worst of all, the corrosive Quevedan notion of appearances: Vosk, like a pícaro, is always in disguise.

As well as the mutability and ambiguity of the model (world) which the voice inhabits, the question arises of the degree to which the voice is removed from being a representation of a human being. In the shepherdess disguise Vosk is far removed from the realist notion of character, since the voice is combined with at least three characters from Don Quijote (Cardenio, Dorotea, and the curate). The constituent characters in their turn call into play more levels of fiction because they were incorporated into Don Quijote from existing literature, and within the work they may have one or more secondary fictional roles. Dorotea is perhaps the best example: drawn from peregrination fiction, she initially plays a (transvestite) pastoral role as a defensive strategy before taking over from the curate the role of a princess from Chivalric Romance. In this latter role, Micomicona, she enters Quijote's fictional world in order to lure him into the power of the curate and the barber.

In Juan sin tierra there is a third voice, ‘él’, which represents the author's past. The voice migrates a good deal, although its most common form is young Alvarito. An additional complication is the merging of voices. For example, Vosk-the-critic and ‘tú’ use the same words to describe post-realist novelists: one voice identifies with the statement and the other is hostile.

In his interview with Julio Ortega, Goytisolo likens the reading (and presumably writing) of Juan sin tierra to travelling through a dream world, a ‘universo móvil y escurridizo, que se forma y deshace sin cesar ante sus [the reader's] propios ojos’ (Juan Goytisolo, p. 126). This is an apt description of Chapter 6: after the introductory remarks upon settling down to write, the statement of the author's objectives, and a reminder of some of the external texts to be entered, the text leads into a mutable fantasy world. The first step in the fantasy is a confrontation with, and rejection of, a literary type: the popular novelist. Goytisolo gives the character the name of a nineteenth-century French novelist, Pierre Loti. Loti, like don Álvaro Peranzules in Reivindicación, perhaps represents a possible future self of Alvarito, an alter ego of the author throughout the trilogy. More importantly, the character acquires significance if it is seen as a development of the novelist Fernández (Cela) in Señas de identidad, whose passport is destroyed in Paris and whose future could consequently be that of a French-speaking exile—an outcome desired by the narrator of Señas. The importance of the association is that it reinforces Loti's suspect literary opinions with a second, similar set voiced by Fernández, which invokes Cervantes as a defence for ignorance of modern literature and theory.8 The combined Loti-Fernández represents a supposedly innocent realism which Goytisolo rejects. Since the scene takes place in Turkey, and Loti speaks of peppering his narrative with the local vernacular, it seems likely that Goytisolo is drawing a comparison between the real Pierre Loti's exoticist books about Turkey and Cela's (and Goytisolo's) travel books.

From the interview with Loti the narrator moves back in time and into a desert landscape where a voice is heard lamenting the forthcoming demise of realism. The cause of the tragedy is cultismo and the remedy, readers and fame. With the reference to cultismo and to a scythe, the author invokes Góngora as an ally and suggests the inevitability of the triumph of subjectivism. In the reference to readers as the defenders of realism he makes the debate more personal: he seems to refer both to Cela's success and to the attacks on himself, which are parodied in the later scene of trial by readers.

The poem itself is an ovillejo, and is a close parody of one found in Don Quijote. Cervantes's version which, not surprisingly, is about love, uses uncomplicated syntax:

De ese modo, en mi dolencia
ningún remedio se alcanza.(9)

The corresponding lines in Goytisolo's poem use hyperbaton, and thus realism's language not only is contaminated by the association with a love poem but is syntactically infected by gongorismo:

De este modo, tal dolencia
tardo remedio te alcanza.

(p. 244)

In both Cervantes's and Goytisolo's narratives the indication is that the character will be male, and in Don Quijote he is revealed as Cardenio. Goytisolo, however, discovers what appears to be a female figure in a landscape, now transformed into a woodland glade, and proceeds with a stylized description of the maiden's beauty: her eyes are ‘dos milagrosas joyas que harían palidecer al mismísimo Febo’ (p. 246), her tears ‘preciosísimas perlas [which rolled down] sus mejillas de alabastro’ (p. 247). The description is foreign to the scene on which the episode is based (the discovery of Dorotea in Don Quijote, Part I, Chapter 28), although there is reference in terms of imagery to Dorotea's beauty which, interestingly, is presented through the eyes of Cardenio. Cervantes is content with an indirect allusion to culteranismo by making Cardenio compare Dorotea's legs to alabaster. Goytisolo's narrator, in its impersonal form, initially uses more developed simile: ‘sus manos esbeltas y ágiles parecen esculpidas en nieve: la garganta de sus pies pudiera competir en blancura con los mármoles más finos de Italia’ (p. 246). When Vosk's tears are described as pearls and his cheeks as alabaster (p. 247), the allusions appear to be concrete rather than metaphorical, an effect due to the intrusion of the ‘tú’ voice and to the adjacent use of language from a more naturalistic register. A double effect is thus produced: language has forced Vosk to acquire culterano attributes but, because of the non-metaphorical context, the attributes seem ridiculous, appropriate more to a doll or statue than to a person. This sense of the phoney rather than the idealized or the imaginary suggests that the author is combining Gongoran and Quevedan visions, thus making the character's position untenable from both sides. Quevedo makes the following remarks about the emulators of Góngora, although they fit equally well with Goytisolo's vision of poverty-stricken, Catholic, twentieth-century Spain: ‘Y por cuanto el siglo está pobre y necesitado, mandamos quemar las coplas de los poetas, como franjas viejas, para sacar el oro, plata y perlas, pues en los más versos hacen sus damas de todos metales, como estatuas de Nabuco.’10

The following section of Juan sin tierra, the history and defence of realism, is presented as Vosk's life-story. His first definition of the realist novel is a mixture of Golden-Age and Romantic views: the novel is a ‘reflejo veraz y sincero de las sociedades’ because it combines the notion of ‘instrucción con deleite’ with characters ‘capaces de elevarse a las alturas de un heroísmo sublime o descender a los abismos de la degradación y miseria’ (p. 248). He continues with the nineteenth-century idea of the novel as a means of diagnosing and correcting social ills, alluding to the social panorama recorded by Balzac and Galdós, before concluding with what he calls the uncompromising theoretical consistency which is acquired through the study of Lukács. By referring to Lukács's writing as the ‘Gospel according to Luke’, Goytisolo links the socialist and Spanish orthodoxies: the one the revelation of Marx, the other of Christ.

The process of the development of realism is described as a purging of myths and allegories: of the heterodox, in other words. Orthodoxies by their nature regard themselves as encompassing the whole of truth, and the post-realist developments in literature are duly condemned as deviance, sickness, and subjectivity. However, the reasons for the rise of a new kind of writing also need to be found and here Vosk resorts to the self-same allegories and myths which the rise of realism has supposedly purged: a caprice of nature in the form of the wind changing direction; a whim of Fortune.

The second element of Vosk's story is a parody of a critical attack on Goytisolo's later writing. The ridiculous plight of the critic, trapped in ‘drag’ within the very work he is attacking, is amusing, and perhaps his words may be taken lightly. However, they could equally well be interpreted as the author's own statement about his work: ‘autores entregados al cultivo de una escritura formal y abstracta, mera expresión enajenada, a menudo esquizofrénica, de obsesiones y complejos personales que, en lugar de ser reflejo objetivo del mundo, postulan tan sólo el intento de liberación, desesperado y parcial, de una mentalidad enferma’ (p. 250). Vosk is thus made to speak for the author: the development and overthrow of realism can be seen as representing Goytisolo's own earlier, committed realism—and its abandonment.

Thus far, Goytisolo has exploited to good effect the Golden-Age motif of the demoiselle in rustic disguise. However, the associations of exile and transvestism imply a number of additional dimensions. Usually the young woman disguises herself as a man to protect her virtue. Vosk, in his exile, has adopted a female disguise for a similar reason: to avoid the homosexual assaults of Bedouins. It is doubtful whether travellers to North Africa would believe the female form to be repugnant to the male inhabitants and, in homosexual circles, transvestism is not usually considered a deterrent strategy.11 Vosk's explanation for the disguise suggests that the critic is dépaysé and that his predicament, unlike that of some disguised young women who appear in Don Quijote, is a result of reading too much fiction. Dorotea, on whom the shepherdess Vosk is largely based, fled in disguise for the very practical reason that she had been subject to two attempts to rape or seduce her. Also, although she is not a critic, Dorotea's knowledge of Chivalric Romance is considerable and, far from being influenced by the world of fiction, she is prepared to use her knowledge of it in the plot to lure Quijote home. Vosk, on the other hand, is in disguise because his ideas of the real world derive from literature: he believes that Bedouins behave as he thinks they do because they are ‘enfebrecidos por la rudeza del clima’ (p. 251). This is the environmental determinism put forward by writers such as Baroja and Azorín, and its inclusion in this context reduces a major part of Spanish twentieth-century ideology to a ridiculous and dangerous fiction. Goytisolo is, in other words, restating one of the major themes of Reivindicación.

Another Cervantine character who shares the transvestite disguise, although for a different reason, is the curate. He is certainly present in Vosk: the curate was present, dressed as a lady, at Dorotea's first appearance in the narrative (Don Quijote, Part I, Chapter 28), and he too is an authoritarian literary critic. Whatever appearance the critic assumes, and whether he bases his authority on the Gospels or on Lukács, his historical role is, in Goytisolo's view, invariable.

Vosk claims that the Bedouin, ‘sin los frenos morales de nuestra civilización cristiana, se entregan descaradamente al vicio nefando y a otros y muy negros pecados’ (p. 251). As much as an ironic reference to the debt that Christian Europe owes to the Arabs, this appears to be a reference to biographical detail: in En los reinos de taifa Goytisolo writes about his gradual acceptance of his homosexual inclinations, and of his subsequent stay in Morocco. At the same time the reference epitomizes the author's view of his art: that personal and artistic freedoms require that rigid orthodoxy be overthrown, that creation be a pleasurable and imaginative process, and that any conjunction of ideas is permissible and possible. The contrast with Loti's naive notion of productive intercourse with the virgin page could not be greater, and equally vast is the gulf separating such views from the author's utilitarian and utopian manifesto of 1959.

With the introduction of a second locus amoenus a relation of mutual parody develops between realism and the pastoral. Here Cervantes's and Goytisolo's voices move closer together. Where previously Goytisolo had simply combined and distorted identifiable elements from Don Quijote, now he amplifies Cervantes's good-humoured parody by the inclusion of sordid elements. The authors use similar forms of locus amoenus, which are described in naturalistic rather than idealized language, although Goytisolo's trees (palms) are ragged, and the carved slogans are a defacement (p. 251). (It is of course difficult to imagine carvings being strikingly visible on a palm trunk.) However, the effect suggests that the realists are misusing the locus (art?) literarily as well as literally: the carving and sentiments of the eclogues are reduced by them to the equivalent of the casual defacement by youth of the trees in a modern city park (compare Don Quijote, Part I, Chapter 12).

The sonnet on literature has internal and external parodic relationships with the pastoral. Externally it draws the rapt attention of the woodland wildlife (this feature is absent from Cervantes's version), so it evokes directly the idea of the harmony of nature expressed in a scene in Garcilaso's Eclogue I. The evocation has a double sense: Goytisolo is mocking, but the realists are made to look doubly ridiculous because even in the original text the harmony is an illusion, the product of Salicio's disordered mind.

The sonnet alludes to a ‘true’, ‘ideal’ realism that is untainted by formalism or costumbrismo. Once again the subversion is double: even socialist realism cannot have an ideal form since it is supposed to be touched by reality, and hence can have no relation to the sonnet form, or to the ideal of love that is often its subject. The ideal neo-Platonic love, expressed as ‘amistad’ in Cervantes's poem, is in its turn destroyed, since it is based on the exclusion of realities such as lust and turbulent emotions. In the broader context of Goytisolo's work this second idea is probably more important, since it would be classed as part of the ideological structure of Spain, whose ultimate manifestation is the ‘parejita reproductora’.

The singer of the sonnet turns out to be a shepherdess reminiscent of Marcela, from Don Quijote, and her description is a further subversion of the pastoral. The narrator observes that the voluptuous figure has the minimum of clothing consistent with decency, and the destructive effect is once again more powerful than in Cervantes's version; the pastoral is not simply another game for the idle, taken from literature, but is explicitly sexual: the narrator expresses admiration for the scantily-clad shepherdess's ‘partes’ before proceeding to a conventional description of less provocative parts of her anatomy. Although imagery of gold and precious stones is used, as it was in the initial description of shepherdess Vosk, the tone is quite different: idealization is identified as a diversion from sexuality.

The scene of the dead realist parodies the burial of Grisóstomo (who died for love of Marcela) in the Quijote. Elements from outside the Quijote are, however, incorporated. The epitaph on Grisóstomo's tombstone (Don Quijote, Part I, Chapter 14) is, conventionally, a poem attributing the character's death to cruelly unrequited love. The rock which towers above the corpse of realism is by contrast covered with slogans proclaiming the realist, anti-subjectivist message:

el personaje no morirá
la novela es el reflejo objetivo de la realidad
abajo los mitos ocultativos!
las obsesiones del escritor mistifican
no a las experiencias formales y oníricas!
el realismo es la cumbre del arte

(p. 255)

The hyperbolic image of animals drinking from a stream created by the realist's tears is not in Don Quijote, but can be traced to the character Albanio in Garcilaso's Eclogue II. Perhaps the image is intended to evoke Quevedo's scathing remarks on the pastoral:

Advirtiendo que después que dejaron de ser moros—aunque todavía conservan algunas reliquias—se han metido a pastores, por lo cual andan los ganados flacos de beber sus lágrimas, chamuscados con sus ánimas encendidas, y tan embebecidos en su música, que no pacen, mandamos que dejen el tal oficio, señalando ermitas a los amigos de soledad. Y a los demás, por ser oficio alegre y de pullas, que se acomoden en mozos de mulas.

(El Buscón, Book II, Chapter 3, p. 165)

The principal interest of the Grisóstomo parody is in the treatment of the dead author's writing. In Cervantes's version the text is rescued from the flames against the known wishes of the deceased. Goytisolo's text is more ambiguous: ‘pasad unas hojas a vuestros camaradas a fin de que las lean y gusten de ellas, que bien os dará lugar a ello el que se tardare en cubrir la sepultura’ (p. 256). The dead realist, like the killing of Alvarito in Reivindicación, represents a laying to rest of Goytisolo's past, in this case his past as a realist writer. However, it is by no means clear that he wishes the product of his past labours to be consigned to oblivion. His use of the word ‘camaradas’ is striking and evokes his ex-collaborators in the PCE. What the author seems to be saying is that he is quite happy for readers of whatever tendency to read his realism—and in so doing give the author money to support himself, especially since he does not intend to die for quite some time. In addition, the words seem to be a bitter acknowledgement of the fact that realism will not disappear, just because it is dead, any more than (from the perspective of 1974–75) Francoism will.

The realist's text is an extract from ‘Capítulo XVII’ of a novel, and carries the title: ‘donde se describe el puerto de toledo con otros pormenores necesarios a la comprensión de ests verídica historia.’ Both in its typographical presentation and in its function—which is to move the narrative to a new plane, or genre—it is a typical Cervantine device. Vosk-the-realist-character's arguments about the innocence of modern realism are defeated even before they are presented, since the character is shown to be the product of a clearly-visible narrative trick which comes from an earlier, but by no means innocent, literary age.

The text is the link-section between Golden-Age and modern planes: Vosk metamorphoses from a shepherdess to a Galdosian character as ‘he/tú’ reads it. The explicit ideas contained in the text claim to be those of an innocent realism: the narrator of the extract states that although the events in his work may appear far-fetched, they are the inevitable result of certain social and environmental factors. What the narrator is really saying is that he assumes the reader's idea of verisimilitude to be different from his own. His intervention, which is in the style of an apology, and the references to low-life figures, ‘contrabandistas y ganapanes’, suggest that the work is in fact closer to the picaresque than to realism, and this is reinforced by the reference to Toledo, a city strongly associated with the picaresque through Lazarillo and the Buscón. Vosk's assertion, that the existence or otherwise of a seaport in Toledo is a minor detail, irrelevant to the psychological realism of the piece—a psychological realism rejected by the narrator of the Toledo passage—underlines the spurious objectivity of realism, as well as the mutability of its dogma.

In the Toledo passage and the succeeding exposition of realism, Goytisolo seems to have three main objectives. First, he demonstrates that realism, and in particular modern Spanish realism, is the product of other texts: the ‘Galdosian’ Vosk cites the fact that he has some leather gaiters sent by his cousin Bette, a Balzacian character, as an example to prove his reality. As the new Vosk is constructed, the narration places emphasis on the character's physical appearance: clothing, and particularly facial features. By emphasizing these characteristics Goytisolo draws attention to the textual influence, or ideology, which in its turn shaped Balzac's work: the French novelist was greatly influenced by the Swiss philosopher Lavater's theory of physiognomy.12

Second, the allusions to the picaresque in the realist's text, together with Vosk's approbation, not only make the point that the picaresque is an important element in the development of the novel, but suggest that the realist critic himself is a pícaro: a don Pablos because of his metamorphosing appearance, and a Lazarillo because of the false innocence of his words.

The third important element is a restatement of Goytisolo's own writing process. He constructs the new Vosk from ‘una conocida novela que por puro azar se encuentra entre los libros apilados junto a la mesa’ (p. 258). It is not important whether he incorporates an existing text unchanged, whether he alters it for some purpose, or even whether he is aware of using a specific text: his activity, like that of all novelists and critics, is a reworking of texts. He contrasts this vision with supposed innocence, in the form of the child Alvarito, whose saintly aspirations are shown to be the result of others' ideas. Ambiguity is retained, however. The words spoken by the adults when they believe the child to be asleep (p. 262) gratify his fantasy of becoming a missionary. Yet the whispered conversation is unlikely to be unique; the child's fantasy has perhaps been implanted subliminally as a result of a series of similar conversations. At the same time the missionary dream is a power fantasy, and is compared with two assessments of the activity of writing novels: pleasurable exercise of the imagination, which is likened to masturbation, and god-like creation, which is associated (ironically) with procreation.

The importance of the passage on pages 261–63 is that it focuses attention on the author himself. In the same way as he shows that post-Isabelline Spain is both determined by a particular kind of ideology and not determined by it, since external texts have been influential, so the author's development is likewise ambiguous. The almost constant theme of the immolation of Alvarito is, for Goytisolo, the attempt to destroy a false self, the product of a Spanish Catholic origin. However, it is at the point of origin that the nature of the false self becomes obscure. The precise relationship between the inner self and the text is deliberately blurred: the ‘innocent’ child is both receiving text and emitting it. The implication is that we do not know whether the Catholic ideology is influencing a tendency already present in the child, or whether the child is adapting the ideology to express his pre-existing urges. We can only conclude that the child's consciousness is neither a free agent nor totally determined.

Goytisolo's view of his own mature work becomes clearer in the light of this ambiguity. He seems to be expressing the view that literature is ludic and self-justifying. He is aware that although it may be subjected to analyses, it cannot be determined by them. An analysis cannot become an all-encompassing orthodoxy because in order to do so it would need to solve, not merely pronounce on, the problem of origin: the original dilemma of inner and outer.

The section containing the criticism, confession, and re-education of the post-realist writer raises the issue of persecution at the hands of different orthodoxies. The television panel represents the criticism of Goytisolo in modern Spain: the readers alluded to in the ovillejo at the beginning of the chapter are in fact the critics. The list of nine reproaches (p. 271) is enunciated by Vosk ‘como si [sus labios] desgranaran un espinoso rosario’, suggesting a parallel with the denunciation of Góngora to the ecclesiastical authorities. Vosk retains his ecclesiastical guise to hear the writer's confession, which is initially the boy Alvarito making his confession in church before it develops into the writer's confession of impurities. The post-realist writer's sins are sexual acts of various kinds and the confession a metaphor for Goytisolo's ‘linguistic copulation’. Vosk gives the final six acts Latin names—expressions which would be condemned under more than one of the nine reproaches.

The third part of the condemnation of the post-realist writer is set in a secure psychiatric institution. Although ostensibly the setting is modern Spain, the psychiatrist Vosk's terminology is not diagnostic: the subject must declare all his illnesses, and cooperate, or be certified as officially incurable. The coercive language is evocative more of the Inquisition than of a hospital, but Goytisolo's allusions are to the modern world. In the essay ‘Escribir en España’, he calls official censorship ‘silence therapy’, and the concerted press campaigns against writers ‘electric shock treatment’.13 He later alluded to the phenomenon of the re-education of dissidents, and in particular to the case of the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla. He describes Padilla's public confession in these terms: ‘El montaje teatral del esperpéntico mea culpa de Padilla en la UNEAC era un grotesco reflejo de las célebres purgas de Moscú’ (En los reinos de taifa, p. 184).

The final section of the chapter, the confessed post-realist's re-education in the orthodoxy of innocent realism, has affinities with the scene in Reivindicación of the parody of Sancho Panza's meal, in which the pure Castilian tradition starves because it is deprived of all elements of foreign etymology. Now realism is destroyed because its substance—language—is shown to be not an objective reflection of the world but a structure. Goytisolo incorporates two modern texts as the basis for the assault: a polemical piece condemning the view that literature is not the direct reflection of the world, and a section of a travel book, which seems faithfully to record a landscape, but which explains its structure by reference to maps and geological terminology.

The first explosion of the myth is produced by a dialogue in which the realist voice as re-educator makes a number of accusations against the subjectivist voice, always in the form of common idiomatic expressions (metaphors). The subjective voice treats each expression literally, exasperating the realist voice until it feels its head will burst—which is what happens.

The second part is the dissolution of the character Vosk. Modern writing has dissolved the illusion of character as representation of a human being, and Vosk is now reduced to the letter V, voice, ‘al murmullo de un vago e inidentificable discurso’ (p. 290). Curiously, although the character is no more than a voice or discourse which is bereft of substance or autonomy, it is in no doubt that it still has a director: the author. Goytisolo does not dispense with the notion of a subject: ‘V’ still exists, rather like Kafka's ‘K’ who, although he is not presented with the descriptive detail usually associated with a character, nevertheless is a clearly-identified consciousness.

The author's attitude to Cela provides the clearest illustration of the textual merging which takes place as the trilogy progresses. The chapter's opening scene, the interview with the novelist Loti, is a simple, hostile parody of Cela's views, and is similar to the conversation in Señas de identidad with the novelist Fernández. Knowledge of twentieth-century literary thought is assumed on the part of both narrator and reader.

The travel book text about the Cerros de Úbeda (p. 285) is also a hostile parody of Cela, but in this case the assumed perspective is Cervantine, although it also seems likely that here Goytisolo means to draw a comparison between Cela and Juan Benet's ironic use of scientific terminology to create an imaginary landscape.14 Perhaps one cannot be certain of Goytisolo's analysis of Cela's travel books, although the indications are that he would classify some elements as misuse of foreign words, would be aware of mythical features, and would have noticed the abundance of metaphor. (All these are accusations levelled at the post-realists.) I think he would classify them in the exotic-journey genre with extensive, largely unacknowledged, incorporation of external texts and costumbrista detail.

Primer viaje andaluz (which has a glossary of Andalusian terms) makes a number of references to the cerros, and includes a description of the town of Úbeda. Part II of Don Quijote also contains several references, with two different though closely-related senses. ‘Por los cerros de Úbeda’ was a sixteenth-century colloquial expression applied to narratives which were far-fetched, or impossible to follow. The second reference is to Úbeda's most famous inhabitant: Orbaneja, the painter from folk-tale. Don Quijote explains: ‘Tal vez pintaba un gallo, de tal suerte y tan mal parecido, que era menester que con letras góticas escribiese junto a él: “Éste es gallo”’ (Don Quijote, Part II, Chapter 3, p. 562).

Cela pretends to enter the world of his text by assuming the disguise of a traveller, a character who perceives echoes of Cervantine characters as well as of mythical events from Spanish history. However, the author in reality remains detached and in control, manipulating his fictional world according to a preconceived notion of the hierarchy of reality and imagination. Structuralism, of course, maintains that in reality authors do not have such a power, and Goytisolo's propelling of the realist or traditionalist voice into a textual world where there is no hierarchy of author, language, and world, makes exactly the same point. His journey through Golden-Age texts is a rewriting of those texts which suggests a great many further connections, or copulations, to use a word more in harmony with his concepts. However, his textual world is not absolutely without hierarchy, since his rewritings are generally intended either to establish the ever-elusive identity of the author or as quite specific acts of criticism. In his criticism, Goytisolo is prevented from dissecting realism by his philosophy of language, which does not allow decomposition into object-text and metalanguage, but is based on the concepts of metaphor and metamorphosis. However, his attachment of the realist voice to the central consciousness for the journey through, or rewriting of, Spanish text is a metaphor for Barthes's approach. Stripping away the protection of comfortable certainty (disguise) from the authorial voice, Goytisolo forces it to make one of many possible real journeys through a world where ultimately there is nothing but metaphor.

He does not regard the metaphorical explosion of the realist myth as definitive, however. He may have subjected the authorial or critical voice to a journey of metamorphosis through metaphor, but he seems to have curiously little confidence in the reality of the linguistic process he proclaims. Perhaps after all he believes that, like Góngora, he belongs not to his age but to later generations.

As the narrative switches to Paris, and exile, the potboiler portraitists of the Sacré Cœur continue to find customers; Vosk-the-character is reincarnated in the form of the portrait of a sitter whose jacket has the word ‘Bosch’ embroidered on it. The author notes wryly the coincidence of name with that of the visionary artist of Hell: Hieronymus Bosch.

In the penultimate page of the novel the ‘tú’ narrator witnesses a disintegration of the Castilian language, and identifies the process as his own deliberate self-exile from his linguistic roots, and perhaps as the failure of his attempt to defeat realism. By the last page, which is in Arabic script, the process is complete, Alvarito is dead and the writer is cut off from Spain.

The conclusion is an illusion, however. Goytisolo's project is to establish his identity as a Spanish writer (perhaps even as the personification of modern Spanish writing) and his writing demonstrates a progression from alienation to assimilation. His allusions to foreign texts are used either to force recognition of their importance in Spanish literary development or to suggest that the notion of Spanishness should be extended by the incorporation of new texts. In this respect Goytisolo is still in accord with his 1959 statement in Ínsula in which he suggested that literature could acquire universal significance only if it addressed national concerns. Also, the autobiographical volume En los reinos de laifa, published more than a decade after Juan sin tierra, confirms that he is interested less in the dilemma or possibilities of the modern novelist than in the problems of writing in Spain, and in the literary-political controversies of the Spanish-speaking world.15

The argument that Goytisolo conducts in Chapter 6 of Juan sin tierra is an old Spanish controversy. The charges laid against Góngora were that his work ran counter to the Castilian didactic tradition, that he was subject to foreign influences, and that he was too devoted to the purely formal aspects of language. Góngora was, in other words, a subjectivist. However, the attack was a seventeenth-century phenomenon and its causes were social and political, not literary. In the sixteenth century Spanish literature had assimilated many foreign models and influences. Goytisolo sees history repeating itself and draws a parallel between Galdós and himself, on the one hand, and Garcilaso and Góngora on the other. However, he sees an argument with three terms instead of two: the enemy is dogma and it is to be combated by a combination of the oneiric and the scatological. The conjunction of the two sides is expressed linguistically as ‘onanistic’, a hybrid link which functions both phonetically and semantically.

On the evidence of Chapter 6 of Juan sin tierra it is as difficult to accept the author's assertion of his exile from Spanish culture as it is to agree with Ugarte's view that in the third part of the trilogy Spanish literature plays a less important role. Goytisolo does have an individual notion of intertextuality. It is an important aspect of the trilogy, but it does not seem to function in the classic sense of textual dialogue. As the words of the dissolving Vosk indicate, Goytisolo's view of the interaction of text is author-centred; the distance between a perceived authorial discourse and the host text is always visible, even if at times it is ambiguous. To this extent Goytisolo's intertextuality does not admit an autonomy of language and thus is not dialogue but parody.

A characteristic of parody is that the parodying text falls increasingly under the influence of the host, and this is precisely what occurs with Goytisolo. It is the capture and merging of voices which causes the disintegration of Castilian in the final pages of Juan sin tierra. The author is not so much exiled from his language as imprisoned by it. The opening phrases of Chapter 6 confirm that this is Goytisolo's intuition:

en el silencio denso del escritorio-cocina la mariposa nocturna ronda en torno a la lámpara: gira, planea, describe círculos obsesivos, se aleja cuando la espantas pero vuelve en seguida, una vez y otra y otra, hacia el fulgor que la fascina y atrae, absorta en su alucinada tarea. (p. 239)

The moth and the flame. The inevitability of fate is the basis of the image, but in his Gongoran way Goytisolo meditates on the nature of a man's thought and an insect's nocturnal flight.


  1. Michael Ugarte, Trilogy of Treason: An Intertextual Study of Juan Goytisolo (Columbia, Missouri, 1982).

  2. Juan Goytisolo, edited by Julián Ríos (Madrid, 1975), p. 125.

  3. Francis J. Carmody, Yvan Goll: Jean sans terre (Berkeley, California, 1962), p. 6.

  4. Juan Goytisolo, Juan sin tierra, second edition (Barcelona, 1977), p. 239. All further page references to Juan sin tierra are to this edition.

  5. Juan Goytisolo, Disidencias (Barcelona, 1977), pp. 117–35. In this curious essay Quevedo is at first viewed positively: his obsession is the healthy expression of the neurosis of a society that suppresses the physical (Islamic). By means of an argument involving Jonathan Swift, and an even greater (although unexplained) Anglo-Saxon suppression of the physical, Quevedo is compared to Hitler, and the conclusion is drawn that Quevedo's obsession is due to a suppressed desire for sodomy. The evidence for this is a poem in which Quevedo accuses Góngora of homosexuality.

  6. Juan Goytisolo, En los reinos de taifa (Barcelona, 1986).

  7. Juan Goytisolo, ‘Para una literatura nacional popular’, Ínsula, 146 (January 1959), 6, 11. Reprinted in Ínsula, 499–500 (June/July/August 1988), 39–40.

  8. Loti's views are given on pages 241–42. The dominant metaphor is that of cooking; his philosophy of writing consists of a number of unrelated ‘ingredients’. Also, the author makes it clear that Loti is not French: ‘ … j'écoute ce qui racontent les gens: … je mets de phrases en turc: … qué virtuosidad de palabra! el acento francés es perfecto.’ Fernández represents Cela. For Fernández's visit to Paris, see Señ as de identidad, second edition (Barcelona, 1979), pp. 307–09. Fernández's view of literature is that ‘la teoría es otro camelo. Cervantes no sabía de teorías y escribió el Quijote’ (p. 307). Cela's visit to Paris is mentioned in En los reinos de taifa, pp. 109–10.

  9. Don Quijote de la Mancha, edited by Martín de Riquer, ninth edition (Barcelona, 1979), Part I, Chapter 27, p. 261.

  10. La vida del Buscón, edited by Domingo Ynduráin (Madrid, 1981), Book II, Chapter 3, p. 164.

  11. En los reinos de taifa contains references to Goytisolo's exotic night-life with Monique Lange, Violette Leduc, and Jean Genet (pp. 208–12).

  12. See Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (London, 1983), p. 65.

  13. Juan Goytisolo, El furgón de cola, second edition (Barcelona, 1976), pp. 39–49.

  14. Interviewed by Julio Ortega while in the process of writing Juan sin tierra. Goytisolo comments on the profound impression that Volverás a Región, particularly the first part, has made on him (Juan Goytisolo, p. 132).

  15. In En los reinos de taifa the main issues are: the persecution of some writers (including the Goytisolo brothers) by the Franco régime; the author's attitude to Cela; the conflict within the PCE (over attitudes to Stalinism); the disintegration of the solidarity between Spanish-language writers over Cuba, with Cortázar and García Márquez dividing from the others.

Brad Epps (essay date March 1992)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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

Adrienne Rich

Il est très doux de scandaliser


As the paradigmatic Spanish morality play, King Rodrigo's violation of Cava and Count Julián's subsequent betrayal of Spain tell a story of lust, honor, and vengeance that intimately links individual action and collective destiny. It is a story told and retold in ballads, chronicles, dramas, and novels, a story that, for all its permutations, appears to remain essentially constant: the violence of sexual desire, irrespective of the power or position of those who yield to it, is of such magnitude that civilization itself is threatened with destruction. Freudian avant la lettre, this eminently Spanish triangle of desire, written and read as moral lesson, represents a space of repression that the narrator of Juan Goytisolo's Reivindicación del Conde don Julián struggles to blow apart.1 The tools for this de(con)structive project, taken from within the very space of repression and thus dangerously double-edged, are textuality and history. These two terms, brought together under the ægis of political critique, designate a strategic intertextuality that explodes the supposed immutability of (moral) paradigms by repeating them, necessarily with a difference. Exploiting the radical potential of such necessary difference, Conde Julián repeats the story of Cava, Julián, and Rodrigo, and reiterates the moral interpretation that claims to have mastered the story's meaning. Through repetition and reiteration, Conde Julián hollows out the (repressed) space of representation as forever other, as forever traversed by places past, as forever cut by an erratic flow of other texts and other histories.

But in affirming the otherness of representation, Conde Julián necessarily affirms interpretative possibilities that are indeed other than the ones it explicitly endorses. Thus, although the story of Cava's violation and Spain's betrayal enables Goytisolo to reinterpret morality and tradition, and hence to undermine the supposed necessity of the status quo, it is a story that is itself perhaps always other than it seems. Following Goytisolo's lead, my reading of the story of Cava, Rodrigo, and Julián, of the story replayed in and as Conde Julián, takes as its hazardous bases the very destruction of bases the text purports to enact. In other words, mine is a reading 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. And for a text that presents itself as a betrayal of all things established, for a text that professes to undermine the bases of power, such a reading is not without its own curious turns. That is to say, such a reading is itself, paradoxically, most faithful to the text by betraying it.

Herein lies the dangerous power of intertextuality: in its limitless reversibility, in its denial of ends and origins, in its confusion of authorial voices, intertextuality is less substance than method and cannot in fact function as the permanent base for any one political project. And yet, in its very mutability, intertextuality is clearly most compelling as a tool against what Conde Julián presents as ideological rigidity and intellectual stagnation, as the powerfully conservative legacy of Seneca, to wit, “la aceptación estoica del destino histórico” (110). Sweeping through boundaries, incessantly absorbing, negating and (re)affirming codes, intertextuality may function as what Vincent Leitch describes as “an abysmal ground and as a strategic instrument” (161). Central to the decentering devices of Julián's de(con)structive project, intertextuality writes a radically different history, one that, discontinuous and dispersive, dreams of wresting a realm of freedom from necessity.2 Against the fatal tyranny of codified history, against the relentless teleology of transcendence, of “la Historia como un lento proceso de auto-depuración, como un continuo ejercicio ascético de perfeccionamiento” (111), against all this, the interplay of texts possesses, as Goytisolo knows, immense subversive potential.

Chief among Conde Julián's subversive intertextual plays is the narrator's relation to the mythico-historical figure of Count Julián. Exchanging his former signs of identity for those of Count Julián, the narrator defiantly assumes the role of the traitor and, systematically inverting conventional Spanish values, renders betrayal darkly heroic. Moreover, pondering his plans for the destruction of Spain, the narrator, as Julián, recognizes the power of memory, its rich potential to betray History: “reviviendo el recuerdo de tus humillaciones y agravios, acumulando gota a gota tu odio: sin Rodrigo, ni Frandina, ni Cava: nuevo conde don Julián, fraguando sombrías traiciones” (16). Memory, in Julián's case, has no room for others, no room for Rodrigo and Cava. Instead, self-concentrated and self-absorbed, memory distills an ever more potent hatred: of the past, of history, of memory itself. Personal and private, humiliating and hateful, memory reveals itself here as at once narcissistic and self-destructive, forever reviving an inner strife, forever rewriting an anger whose elusive objective is memory's own forgetting.

In Conde Julián, memory, in order to magnify hatred, in order to counter dominant History, becomes mythic. Reviving the mythic role of Julián, the narrator effectively remembers himself as another, and attains, in the process, an anonymity that masks his personal anger as universal. Where the Alvaro of Señas de identidad finds himself constrained by particular historical circumstances, the un-named narrator of Conde Julián appears to achieve, by means of a legendary re-identification, a demiurgic power that transcends history itself.3 Thus, as a “nuevo conde don Julián,” the narrator, by actualizing the treacherous force of the past, hoodwinks Francoist time, undoes its promise of prosperity and progress, mocks paternalistic power, and becomes master of himself. Or so he claims. Addressing both the reader and himself, the narrator declares his newly found independence from Spain and its tyrannically historical destiny: “dueño proteico de tu destino, sí, y, lo que es mejor, fuera del devenir histórico: del raudo progreso que, según testigos, juvenece la faz, ayer dormida y torva, hoy floreciente y dinámica del vetusto país” (26). Outside the flow of history, the narrator enjoys an imaginary freedom that those who remain enthralled by Franco can never know. As Count Julián, the narrator re-presents the past and in so doing ruptures the confident linearity of history, the necessity of progress, the ineluctability of Francoism. The attack on progress and linearity, by now a trademark of postmodern thought, is here important to the notion of a dispersive, discontinuous history that Julián dreams as liberating. It is important because at the same time that it effectively shatters and un-writes the history of domination and oppression, it vindicates another history, itself shattered and unwritten, of the marginalized and the disenfranchised. This liberating history of the marginalized and the disenfranchised, of Arabs and Blacks, homosexuals and women, is thus a history against the progress of oppression, a counter-history that, like Foucault's counter-memory, remembers history as “a totally different form of time” (160). Indeed, where Francoism justifies itself in the name of progress, where political and sexual repression are deemed necessary for economic growth, Julián can hardly construe his critique in straightforwardly progressive terms. Attacking the material advances, “los menguados beneficios de la arrabalera, peninsular sociedad de consumo: de esa España que engorda sí, pero que sigue muda” (44), Julián reacts against the generalized faith in modernity by reaffirming and “rehistoricizing” the radical potential supposedly inherent in the violent myths of the past. Consequently, in what is one of Conde Julián's many paradoxes, the fight against fascism, indeed the critique of ideology proper, becomes less a progressive than a reactive endeavor.4

Reacting against the (im)material prosperity and heavy silences of Francoist Spain, Julián forges a different economy, an economy of violent pleasure whose standard of value—relying as it does on memory and its historical exacerbation—is of mythic proportions. That pleasure is violent, and hence painfully ambiguous, responds to an equally violent tradition of sublimation and spirituality, renunciation and transcendence, that discards the base materiality of the human body only to end up haunting, centuries later, the super-materialism of technology. In the age of corporate idolatry, the spiritual denial of the body has become mechanical. It is, in Julián's eye, an age where bureaucrats bow down to IBM and where television is the medium of holy communion. Fleshing out the ghost in the machine of Spanish capitalism, reaching back to re-member the victims of Empire and Inquisition, Julián brings forth a battered body, a tortured corpus hispanicum that in denying sensual pleasure, in denying what Goytisolo presents as the Oriental principle, has denied life itself. It is, then, this ghastly denial of the body that Julián, in turn, must deny with almost mechanical repetitiveness, “como ayer, como mañana, como todos los días” (239).

The danger in such a reactive denial is, of course, that it remains subject to the object of critique, that it replicates perhaps a bit too closely, a bit too indifferently, the ideological violence that it professes to master. The danger, in short, is that the critique of historical violence may become, as Foucault repeatedly points out, its own worst enemy. In mentioning danger, however, I do not mean to imply that Conde Julián is oblivious to its own involvement in the system of violence and oppression it strives to reject. In fact, in broken sentences and fragmented characters, Goytisolo's text tells the story of violence as always a story of self-violence. But if Goytisolo's text presents its self-violence as Julián's furious desdoblamiento and rape of Alvarito, as a sadomasochistic dialogue with the self, as a rapturous rupture of literary conventions, it does another violence to itself, a violence not so openly acknowledged. This other violence, as we shall see, is one that trips up the Utopian dream of liberation, one that scandalizes the scandal of Goytisolian sexuality.

In Julián's textual world, liberation is the effect of a scandalous repetition. And in calling such repetition “scandalous,” I am not alluding merely to a conventional sense of moral propriety or sexual decency. The sense of “scandal” that I wish here to mine is from the Greek skandalon, meaning “trap” or “stumbling block.” As I read it, Julián's repetition is scandalous insofar as the past is reiterated in order to trip up and impede the inexorable movement of history. Julián's scandalous assault on Spain is thus not merely a semantic inversion or a re-scription of content, not merely a repositioning of negative and positive valences—what was “evil” is now “good” and vice versa—but a powerful formal trap as well. In other words, the very act of repetition, of re-presentation, seizes history and disrupts its supposedly unidirectional unfolding—that is to say, its progress—by foregrounding its dependence on memory, and hence on subjectivity, fleeting and fluctuant. Obviously, to imagine freedom in repetition owes much to Nietzsche and Derrida, to a radical rewriting of necessity that underscores the subversive potential of a willful return of the past.5

Willing the past to return, Julián, as we have seen, writes himself as its author. It is in this sense that Julián's authority is actually the effect of an unauthorized, if not unauthoritative, historiography. What is at stake for Julián in such a (re)writing of authority is not simply an escape from Francoism per se, but freedom from the entire monolith of Spanish History. Trapped in the repressive space of Historical representation, Julián struggles against the gravity of cultural grandeur: “el peso ejemplar de su heroísmo, su piedad, su saber, su conducta, su gloria: de tantos y tantos hechos y actitudes distinguidos y nobles: humanas flores de la virtud cimera: guerreros, santos, mártires, conquistadores” (33). Given the weight of Spanish History—“el peso ejemplar de su heroísmo”—Julián's darkly heroic quest for liberation cannot be obsessively oriented towards the future, but must first and foremost be re-oriented towards the past. In Conde Julián, this rigorous re-orientation is, in fact, a re-orientalization, a return to and recuperation of the buried Orient that Spain refuses to unearth and indeed professes to have transcended. To repeat the past of the Spanish nation is thus to re-orient it, to re-present it as a space of scandalous sexuality that blocks the pure progression of History and stumbles against the lessons of the status quo. Blocking the spurious progress of History, re-orienting the Spanish tradition, and re-membering another, buried past of play and possibility, a past that Goytisolo extrapolates from the work of Américo Castro, Conde Julián raises revenge—the willful repetition of crime—to an art.

Yet, seeking revenge—that is to say, narrating—without Cava, Frandina or Rodrigo, Goytisolo's reinvigorated Count Julián only partially betrays the (established) History of Spain. In fact, the story that Julián remembers is one that faithfully reaffirms the silent history of women, one that remains loyal—as the advertencia at the end of the text makes clear—to an entire narrative tradition that is almost exclusively male.6 Now, clearly, to the degree that Julián remembers Spanish literary history only to dis-member it all the more efficiently, the “lack” of women in the advertencia may here, if nowhere else, be read as positive. Nevertheless, the fact remains that such a lack is more than filled with the repressively anti-corporeal “presence” of the mystical Saint Teresa, the one woman who does figure among the list of the masters. Although Goytisolo comes to valorize mysticism in his latest novel, Las virtudes del pájaro solitario, in Conde Julián, the concept of spiritual renunciation, of bodily transcendence, is precisely what he repudiates as being most horribly Spanish. Teresa—like Lope and Machado, each for widely divergent reasons—is, with little doubt, one of Conde Julián's many negative influences and one of its most significant targets of satire. Furthermore, while it is true that Saint Teresa does not appear directly in the narrative itself, she is, nonetheless, constantly evoked in the figure of Queen Isabel, her textual counterpart. Like Teresa, Isabel is depicted as at once stoical and mystical. Like her, Isabel signifies the denial of the libidinal body, the very denial that Julián finds so ghastly. Mystical and masochistic, Isabel is the ghost who haunts Julián's dreams of full pleasure, the ghost whose flesh Julián must reaffirm, in order to flay it all the better.

In what may be read as an uncanny reworking of Simone de Beauvoir's dialectic of immanence and transcendence, Goytisolo's text pits the female body against the spirit. To make the assault on the spiritual tradition of Spain all the more virulent, to drive home the notion of the primacy of the sexual body, Conde Julián collapses Isabel's transcendental aspirations back into a world of immanence, a world described as follows: “horrible mundo, rezumante y vis-coso, de canales, vesículas, glándulas, nervios, arterias, secreciones, membranas y vasos, proteico reino de lo blando e informe, de la flora rastrera e inmunda, de la obscena ebullición de lo inorgánico” (171).7 This soft, formless, viscous world of oozing female corporeality is, to be sure, strikingly similar to Beauvoir's own representation of the myths of femininity and to the Sartrean nausea she experiences towards menstruation and maternity. For his part, Julián, in what is undoubtedly one of the text's most notorious passages, enters this world of soft horror that Beauvoir wishes to transcend (the “gruta sagrada”), penetrates each of its so-called secrets with the precision of a surgeon, and, after almost losing himself there, comes out more knowledgeable, more ruthless, more violent. Proudly overcoming the limitations of the body, he realizes, mutatis mutandis, Beauvoir's goal of authentic subjectivity. That is to say, he realizes, almost in spite of himself, a fearful form of transcendence. However much Julián may extol the sexual body, when it comes to women, he seems to believe that it is always best to get beyond the body, or in other words, to control. And control, as Beauvoir never tires of repeating, is what authentic existence is all about. For Julián, the control of the body—specifically the female body fantasized as dark and fluid—bears a haunting resemblance to ascetic practice, here rendered even more haunting in its curious, though timely, ties to Sartrean existentialism. By this I mean that in the celebration of self-definition, authenticity, and individual responsibility, in the faith in the human subject's ability to (re)write history from a personal situation, and in the anguished fear of female flesh, of a desire that Beauvoir herself describes as “the soft throbbing of a mollusc” (407), Goytisolo's text adheres to many of the most rigid and anti-corporeal formulations of existentialism.

Now, if the existentialist notion of freedom offers an appealing promise of empowerment, it is not, as Toril Moi explains, without its traps. Insofar as it construes freedom as the hard mastery of the softly fluid body, existentialism, at least in its Sartrean variety, advocates an escape from immanence that, in both Goytisolo and Beauvoir, is ultimately configured as an escape from female sexuality.8 In fact, Julián's particular story, like History in general, presents itself as a flight from women, as an erasure of their mark. Describing his self-actualizing betrayal and his violent act of personal liberation, Julián reveals the price of both to be a denial, in body and soul, of women; he reveals the refuge of the Orient to be a treacherous haven of masculinity:

aquí la nefanda traición dulcemente florece: víbora, reptilia o serpiente enconada que, al nacer, rompe los yjares de la madre: tu vientre liso ignora la infamia del ombligo: vida y muerte se confunden en ti con rigurosidad exacta. (126)

Here Julián presents his betrayal of Spain as a matricidal rupture that issues in salvation, in absolute freedom, in transcendence. His belly sleek and unpunctured, Julián is the serpent that defies death and bears no mark of female attachment. Free from what he essentially understands as the voracious immanence of the female body, Julián moves evermore beyond history and into the realm of myth. Striving to realize his demiurgic dreams, Julián, in the opinion of Jerome Bernstein, (re)creates himself “by parthogenesis … as an independent human being truly free of a destructive past” (353).9 And yet this ostensibly independent act of self-creation, of liberation from a destructive past, is itself a replication, on a mythic superhuman register, of historical destruction. Remembering the past only to destroy it more completely, and evoking the feminine only to eradicate it more fiercely, Goytisolo's traitor does not quite betray the well-worn lessons of history, the legacy of women's oppression. Memory, it seems, is not only violent, but violently masculine. And what it consistently re-members is, at least in Conde Julián, the powerfully symbolic value of the phallus.

That Conde Julián's standard of mythic value is ultimately phallic conforms strikingly well to the history of Cava's rape. For inasmuch as Cava's is a story told by men, it is a story of brutal silence. Cava, as history will have it, is the least “historical” of the characters involved. Despite the pivotal role she plays, Cava—unlike Julián, Rodrigo, Vitiza, Muça, Tariq, and a host of male personages—is a literary afterthought. Missing from the earliest recorded accounts of the Moorish conquest, “Cava” is merely a name that arises to fill a narrative lack, a structural gap. In the Primera crónica general (circa 1275), Cava, as yet in-significant, as yet absent from the tale's onomasticon, is indeed the dark and empty space her name comes to imply; and her rape—the violation of the enchanted, sacred cave that is one of the principal motifs of Goytisolo's text10—is in fact the rape of a nameless, albeit jealously guarded, possession. Skirting the unnameable, the Crónica general places the locus of meaning firmly within the symbolic realm of the Father's law by designating the rape as the rape of Julian's daughter or wife: “la fuerça que fué fecha a la fija o a la muger del cuende Julián” (307). Without a proper name, the woman in question is significant only insofar as she is related to Julián, to the man who, having “lawfully” appropriated the body of “la fija o la muger,” will read the rape as his own, as a violation of his sovereignty. Functioning as the proper point of reference, Julián alone gives meaning to the supposed indeterminacy and instability of feminine identity. “Algunos dizen,” the Crónica general informs us, with regard to Rodrigo, “que fué la muger y que ge la forçó [Rodrigo]; mas pero destas dos [fija o muger] qualquier que fuesse, desto se levantó destroimiento de España et de la Galia Góthica” (308). Whoever the rape victim may be, wife or daughter, history still manages to chronicle what is important: the force of kings, the ways of war, the downfall of nations. And yet when history thus chronicles the insignificance of feminine specificity, when history records the woman as indeterminate and replaceable, as nothing in and of herself but the pretext of “historical” meaning—here the “destroimiento de España” that arises out of rape—history speaks in spite of itself; it unwittingly articulates another story that it thought silent.

The other story, the one that Goytisolo, obeying the conventions of history, does not tell, is Cava's story. And if I say that Goytisolo obeys history even as he imagines himself most disobedient, it is because I read his text's obsessive rape of the female body as a suppressed, silenced text of history itself. Strategically shifting ground from Julián to Cava and engaging the power of intertextuality from a different perspective, I hope to show to what degree Julián's “radical” project is actually consistent with dominant culture, to what degree his desire for a “palabra sin historia” (125), for an utterly liberated language, is always self-constrained, and finally to what degree his myths, his legends, his narratives, are always suffused with history. Let me quickly add that I am not ascribing to Goytisolo some deep affinity to Galdós or a realist aesthetic, but rather that I understand his text as attesting to a more extensive impulse, indeed a violently silent and non-narrative impulse, that strives to maintain a certain historical illegibility. By this I mean that narrative history is also, at least where women have been concerned, a narrative against narration, a narrative of restriction and silence, suppression and illiteracy, a narrative where some invariably narrate (for) others.11

Although this narrative of non-narration has, among others, racial and class implications, it is the non-narration of Cava which I, aware of the contradictions implicit in my own narrating position, here find most significant.12 Having said that Goytisolo's text obediently rapes and silences women, I will now proceed to substantiate my claim that it remains faithful to an extensive tradition of masculinist writing. Now, where the sexual politics of the Spanish tradition are concerned, perhaps no one provides a better example than the prolific, and prolifically amorous, Lope de Vega. Cava's story, faltering in the first Chronicles, is reshaped, indeed re-nationalized, in Lope's El último godo. Here, Florinda, as a reflowered Cava, professes her silent submission to Julián's fatherly law: “Vuestra voluntad es ley, / Y el silencio mi obediencia” (83). Silence is woman's duty, expression, her crime. Hence, for the woman to publicize sexual violence, for her to cry out for justice and expose both crime and criminal, for her to take the law in her own hands, is precisely what honor—so thick in Spanish tradition—most fears. Honor cuts the flow of information, censors content for the sake of form, and underscores the bonds between power and public knowledge. Thus, as long as Cava's rape is not divulged, Rodrigo is able to believe that he has committed no offence, that his royal position remains secure. It is precisely such security in silence that Lope articulates as kingly knowledge. Referring to Cava's rape, Lope's Rodrigo describes it as: “Agravio en duda, / Porque, si no se sabe, no es agravio” (92). It appears that words are often more compelling than the flesh; for if Cava knows Rodrigo's offence intimately, Rodrigo doubts her knowledge as long as it remains private, as long as it is not ac-knowledged by Cava's father. For Rodrigo, king of the Goths and bearer of the law, rape has no meaning outside the public sphere, outside the sphere of men.

Scoffing at the hypocritical silence of the Spanish code of honor and ironically inserting Lope's El castigo sin venganza into Julián's story, Goytisolo appears to publicize the violent secret of the dominant order.13 Honor, as the literature of Julián clearly shows, is an eminently male enterprise, female virginity and fidelity being ultimately under the guardianship of father, brother, or husband. It is, after all, for that reason that Julián plays the part he does, the part of the angry avenger, the part of the rapist. Thus, and despite his rebellious claims to the contrary, Goytisolo's Julián may be read as actually carrying out the established work of History. The unestablished history, the counter-history of dispersal and discontinuity, the other history that Julián dreams that he dreams, is not one of male honor and male dishonor, of chastity manfully guarded or revenge phallically gotten. Indeed, truly anti-establishment power lies, I believe, with Cava, with the publication of her story, with the imaginative re-articulation of her voice. In fact, for Cava to publicize her outrage in her terms would be to usurp Julián's power, to play the manly part, to undertake a radical rebellion that Goytisolo writes in the name of Julián. The radical rebellion I am here considering is Cava's rebellion, over-written—that is to say, silenced—with Julián's name. The name “Julián” is hence itself a sign of violence, of a violence that muffles rebellion and thereby silences what it supposedly speaks. Of course, according to Julián, violence is indeed silent: “ha llegado la hora de limpiar la cizaña: el verbo ha muerto y la embriaguez de la acción te solicita: recuérdalo, Ulbán: la violencia es muda: para pillar, destruir, violar, traicionar no necesitarás las palabras” (157). Now, it clearly goes without saying that language, for all its shortcomings, is essential to Julián's endeavor, as he elsewhere makes perfectly patent. But while Julián's language may flay itself in contradiction, there is always one thing, one sign, that does not fail to maintain a powerful bar between Cava and Julián. Because to violate in silence, what is still essential is the force of the phallus: “sexos voladores, esferas viriles, artillería fálica” (58). To put it in somewhat different terms, Goytisolo, vindicating Julián while dismissing Cava, continues to operate within a phallic economy that construes women as the repository of male desire and honor and as the site of male conflict and exchange, as little or nothing, that is, in and of themselves. Women, subjugated and silenced by history, are also subjugated and silenced by Julián's critique of history, by his mythically inspired flight “lejos de vuestras santas mujeres y sus sagrarios bien guardados” (44). As in Florinda's case, silence is Julián's obedience, his paradoxical obedience to the history he finds so hateful, to the honor he finds so contemptible.

Returning to the Chronicles, that of 1344 as well as Pedro del Corral's Crónica sarracina, we return to the dilemma of Cava's representation. Supplemental and inessential, Cava, playing the woman's customary part, appears only to embellish the story of the destruction of Spain. Her appearance, late as it is in the literary and historical tradition, is, however, an appearance that quickly leads to disappearance. By this I mean that, once raped, Cava loses both beauty and value, sexual surface and social substance; once raped, Cava fades away, becoming as insignificant as when she had no name.14 Cava's loss is Julián's gain, narratively speaking; for when her story expires, Julián's story of treason and revenge, like Rodrigo's story of resistance and repentance, flourishes. Goytisolo, as we have already noted, does not engage Rodrigo any more than Cava in his assault on Spain; but, then again, Rodrigo, although he is the rapist, does not appear to require the fierce vindication that Goytisolo accords Julián. In fact, as Linda Ledford-Miller suggests, Rodrigo can hardly be vindicated when he has yet to be condemned, when rape has yet to be considered as historically “significant” as treason. In her opinion, “the relative anonymity of Julián's daughter is not surprising (her significance is not in her person, but in her loss of honor), but it seems curious that King Rodrigo bears no historical responsibility for the Moorish attack of which he was the primary cause” (26). While it does indeed seem curious that the King is relatively free from responsibility, it is no less curious that, “in her person,” Cava is insignificant. Examining Cava and Rodrigo's place in Goytisolo's text, Ledford-Miller acknowledges Cava's apparent insignificance, but also reiterates it, bracketing off Cava's plight and moving on to the more truly “significant” question of Rodrigo. If the woman's relative anonymity” is not surprising, it is, just possibly, because names, like women themselves, have been historically monopolized by men, circulated and hoarded with the greatest discrimination.15 Furthermore, the women who do figure prominently in history, who signify more than loss, who break the silence imposed on them, are exposed in Conde Julián to ever-renewed aggression and control.

Presented as models of moral duplicity for both church and state, Saint Teresa and Queen Isabel are, as we have seen, berated, ridiculed and defiled. Self-possessed and spiritual, Isabel, like Teresa, threatens to undermine masculine hegemony by appealing to a power that, outstripping social law, is at once immanent (her body) and transcendent (her spirit). But, as Goytisolo knows, where God is involved, the Father cannot be far away. Recast as the daughter of don Alvaro Peranzules, “perfecto caballero cristiano” (158), Isabel appears at first glance to have learned her father's lessons well: “su padre le ha enseñado el amor a Dios: a tener honor y ser esclava de la palabra” (163). Again, the word subdues the flesh, or so it seems. For here the slavish language of divine love and honor conceals a deeper desire, a desire for sexual knowledge, a desire for penetration. Slipping from prayer to prurience, from white maiden to black Cyprian,16 Isabel performs a strip-tease to a song by the Rolling Stones and flagellates herself as Julián, partially hidden behind a curtain, watches her. Isabel's pleasure is, in Julián's eyes, a pleasure of mortification, a painful pleasure of insatiable submission. “Invocando masculina ayuda con labios sedientos, convocando afluencia sanguínea con ojos extraviados” (165), Isabel reveals her repressive hypocrisy in her need for Julián and his powerful “sierpe”; she reveals, that is, her true significance in her lack, in her yearning for “masculine assistance,” in her desire for the phallus and its violent authority. Invariably duplicitous, Goytisolo's women couch their desire for phallic assistance in images of God and propriety, virginity and integrity. In Conde Julián, where appearances are—apparently—deceiving, truth seems to lie always beneath the surface, deep inside the body, hidden and hungry for the critical touch. Consequently, it is not surprising that Isabel merely pays lip service to the lessons of established morality, and that she speaks instead a language of violent sexual desire, a language that seems to emanate directly from her belly, a language that Julián understands as his own. Curiously, in Julián's endeavor to overturn Spanish values and to violate the repressive norms of sexual morality, he reveals himself as terribly truthful and magnanimous: for beating and raping Isabel, Julián satisfies what he takes to be her innermost desires as well as his. As with Cava, Isabel's significance lies in her loss of honor; as with Cava, her “truth”—the “truth” Julián locates in her, as hers—lies in rape.

In Conde Julián, what women want, what they truly want beneath their protective purity and guarded closure, is the open violence of masculinity. As a result, in his inverted universe of hatred and revenge, Julián imagines women's liberation in their rape and subjugation: “vírgenes fecundadas por lentos siglos de pudor y recato esperan impacientes vuestra cornada / sus muslos suaves, sus pechos mórbidos, reclaman a gritos la embestida, el mordisco” (173). The slow centuries of modesty and shame are exactly what Goytisolo wishes to trip up, to repeat as forever other than they appear. Realizing that scandal is his most powerful tool, he proceeds to hunt for impropriety, for an oriental seed, in every treasure of Spanish culture: in religion and ethics, government and history, art and literature, in the land and language, especially in language. And yet, rejecting all that is proper, Goytisolo nonetheless misreads the scandalous impropriety, the radical potential, that is Cava's name. He misreads, that is, the revolutionary force of a vindication that calls itself hers as well as Julián's. For if Goytisolo chooses Julián as the standard-bearer of his revolt of the damned, he forgets, as so many men before him, the forgotten history of women.

What he also forgets is the purportedly scandalous or evil truth of Cava herself, and hence the possibility for an act of vindication that makes Julián's vindication pale in comparison. For if Goytisolo's text champions the anti-cause of Julián, traitor par excellence, it fails to do the same for the decidedly more intricate anti-cause of Cava, historically travestied as a victim of herself, and so, like Julián, “juntamente verdugo y víctima” (52). It is here that the traditional lessons of the past, still frighteningly current, display their tireless capacity to throw notions of agency, volition, accountability, and moral responsibility—specifically, the responsibility of rape—into a body whose phantasmal desire becomes the equally phantasmal base for such notions. What I would like to underscore, then, is not only the repressive moralism of a system that attempts to convert the rape victim into a malicious hypocrite responsible for her own situation, but also the critical possibilities that Goytisolo misses in his dismissal of Cava. When the name “Cava” appears, in 1344, the victim of rape is formally designated as the “bad woman.”17 Indeed, so strong is this semantic link that almost three centuries later, and despite the use of the more florid name “Florinda” (first introduced by Miguel de Luna), Don Quijote itself, in the episode of the cautivo, reiterates the generic sinfulness of “Cava”, the tradition that maintains that “Cava,” in Arabic, means “bad woman.”18 The ramifications of this tradition of signification are, in my opinion, profoundly political. At first insignificant and indeterminate, the rape victim—Cava—enters the realm of proper meaning as already improper, as in some mysterious way responsible for her situation. The mixed echo of existential and Christian responsibility, the echo that reverberates through Conde Julián, carries, it appears, a frightening message: women are the masochistic arbiters of their own destiny, a perverse destiny of subjugation, silence, rape, and voracious desire. Such, in short, are the women who underwrite Julián's vindication: “mujeres de toda laya que, rehusando el lechugino concepto, invocan en sueños la ar´biga sierpe y su lento caudaloso festín” (149). In Conde Julián, masculine mastery finds its most cunning accomplice in feminine desire.

Responding to the patriarchy's persistent attempts to master women by writing them off as lacking, and yet forever desiring, the phallus, Patricia Klindienst Joplin passionately declares: “we are not less, lack, loss. Yet we feel like thieves and criminals when we speak, because we know that something originally ours has been stolen from us, and that the force used to take it away still threatens us as we struggle to win it back” (29). Without endorsing the notion of an “original” voice that Joplin implicitly advances, I believe that it is possible, ironically enough, to speak of the voice—and in particular the feminine voice—as always stolen. To do so, however, is to recognize my own activity for the theft that it is: for as a man writing about the history of women's speech and silence, employing Joplin's “we” in my re-presentation of Cava's loss, I am involved in an act of critical appropriation that mimics, albeit with a difference, the literary pilferage or intertextual piracy that Goytisolo practices in Conde Julián. The difference, as I see it, lies in a strategic appreciation of what I will call the politics of ventriloquism. In other words, it is my contention that Goytisolo's text, despite its self-professed intertextuality, underestimates the obliquity of discourse, its capacity to conceal its sources by creating the illusion that it emanates from others.

Ventriloquism is an uncannily complex speech act. It refers, that is, to the slipperiness of reference, to the mystifying ability to take one thing for another, one's words for another's. Ventriloquism, in other words, is an act of speech that hides its sources and throws itself, disembodied, into the bodies of others. As such it requires the dumb compliance, the submissive insignificance, of these other bodies. It is, hence, an act of speech that entails a violent silence on the part of another. If I were Harold Bloom, I would say that it is an act of strength, a sign of value, the stuff of greatness. If I were Bakhtin, I would say—much more convincingly I might add—that it is a form of “heteroglossia,” one of a “multiplicity of social voices” (263) that, by virtue of its extreme complexity, tends to obscure such specifics as gender, class, and race. Fortunately I am neither, although both, even in negation, inevitably speak through me. They do not, at any rate, speak from me, as both would surely agree. They, like myself, would say that language is always a function of the living and the unborn, the dying and the dead, that it is always a function of power and historical movement. And whatever their own specific thoughts on gender, class, and race, they would certainly admit that it is impossible to cite every source, to record every word, to avoid the elusive play of plagiarism. Goytisolo's advertencia, his list of acknowledgments, his documented epigraphs, do not therefore account for all the voices, for all the silences, in his text. Goytisolo may lead us to think he has the source, and, in having it, that he may violate it, but the “sources” of discourse have a way of throwing themselves around, of appearing to hide deep in the belly of any given body. What is more, it is just such an appearance of localized depth in Conde Julián that distinguishes it from other dense and difficult texts where, as Leo Bersani puts it, “a certain unreadability … has much less to do with a hidden and profound sense than with the dissolution of sense in a voice which continuously refuses to adhere to its statements” (27). Against the notion of literature as an “unlocatable … performance” (Bersani 25), Goytisolo's text paradoxically locates truth even as, through the play of a multiplicity of voices, it appears to dislocate it. In Conde Julián, the politics of this ventriloquial variety and intertextual play, takes, as the specific site of the interplay between sense and nonsense, the female body. Thus, what begins as the explosion of authoritative voices seems to end up, “hidden and profound,” as the reduction and restriction of femininity.

Attacking the female body, Julián believes that he is attacking the austere morality of the Spanish tradition, that he is assailing the discourse of domination itself.19 Penetrating the “holy site,” the “sancta sanctorum designado … como la Remota, Fantástica, jamás Explorada por Viajero Alguno Gruta Sagrada” (166), Julián believes that he is penetrating the horrible, corrupt body of Francoism and Christianity, a body that he describes as: “la masa de horror, de ponzoña y de asco” (169). Penetrating woman, that is, Julián believes that he is sounding out the revolting truth of repression. What Julián misses, however, is the fact that Isabel, bound up in a discursive order that denies feminine specificity, mouths a language which is not hers, a language which speaks through her, but not from her. By this I mean that the language of moral authority, which Julián wishes to annihilate, does not reside in the female body (nor for that matter in any particular body), but is in fact vigorously anti-corporeal and, in particular, strongly anti-feminine.20 In Goytisolo's reading of the myths of history, Isabel, muttering the holy word of the Father, is made the mouthpiece of her own oppression; echoing a voice that has always muffled her own, Isabel speaks her own silence, she in effect provokes her own rape.

What I want to stress is that Isabel, whatever her place in history or myth, whatever her royal role in the history of violence, is not the source of repressive discourse. Consequently, the violation of her body is not the violation of moral tyranny, Francoist or otherwise. Instead, Julián's violent exploration of the “gruta sagrada”—specifically located in Isabel and generically distributed to all women—is a masterful negation of the female body and a troubling paean to the folly of women's resistance. For among the many causes Julián professes to champion, that of women is absent. Indeed, against the mesmerizing power of the phallus, submission appears to be the only possible response: “forcejeos inútiles de la doncella … antes de rendirse a discreción a los verdugos y de someterse al fin, con docilidad bestial, a sus cobras tenaces e imperiosas culebras” (172). With “bestial docility,” then, Isabel submits to the torture which, if we are to believe Julián, she both merits and desires. Yet in fusing together what Isabel merits and desires, Conde Julián describes the inescapable connection between morality and sexuality, ideology and desire, that it so desperately wants to break.

The relation between sexuality and morality is not, needless to say, a new discovery. Without it, the story of Cava, Rodrigo and Julián, the story of Conde Julián, the story of civilization itself, at least for Freud, would have no motivation, no meaning. Vindicating the oriental principle, reviving the desiring body of the Moorish past, propounding a renewed ethics of difference and desire, Goytisolo's sardonic commentary on the West's phantasmal fear of Islam provides another commentary, an unwittingly disturbing commentary on men's fear of women. Raped, dissected, and silenced, women constitute the abject Other from which Goytisolo's text flees and yet to which it inevitably returns for meaning. Like Philomela's tapestry that Joplin studies, Conde Julián is at once the silent site of woman's violation and the place from which her voice may be rearticulated, the enactment, and not merely the representation, of censorship and its overcoming. In saying this, I once again speak with Patricia Klindienst Joplin, for whom “dominance can only contain, but never successfully destroy, the woman's voice” (31); I speak, that is, with the voice of another resistance, another optimism.

Not wanting to dismiss Conde Julián as it dismisses Cava, not wanting to pronounce moral judgment based on the text's peculiar representation of the tension between reality and utopia, I do not assume the revolution to be realized, the struggle for liberation to be textually perfected. All of which is to say that, as I examine the cost of freedom in Conde Julián, I do not claim that textual value resides exclusively in a non-oppressive portrayal of society. To do so would be to blind myself to the socio-political circumstances that reinforce the necessity for a critical reading that does not eschew unpleasant sights or uncomfortable situations and that maintains faith in difference even as it only seems to uncover the same old thing. If I have defined this same old thing as women's oppression, if I have begun to narrate part of another story—Cava's story—ironically beneath the violent surface of Conde Julián, if I have attempted to temper the critical enthusiasm attendant on Goytisolo's so-called revolutionary textual project, I have also wavered between languages of accountability and of dissolution by which all stories are perhaps less the imaginary resolution of real conflict, than the sustained conflict of a very real imagination. Revolutionary textuality is in a certain sense always the function of a strategic positioning—on the part of readers, writers and other characters—with respect to conflict. Hence, if Goytisolo is truly revolutionary, it is, at least from my position, in a way decidedly different from what the vast majority of his critics think. His radicalness lies not, as I see it, in the way he violates language, but in the way his language violates itself, in the way his language throws itself into something different. Reiterating the silent history of women's oppression, Conde Julián slips a scandalous truth into the body of the text and trips itself up in the process.

And still, while in the very act of justifying my activity, there is something that remains too scandalous not to repeat. What is perhaps most scandalous is the fact that the scandalous corpus is itself so horribly repetitive that it actually normalizes violence, undercuts its claims to perversity and abnormality. If the scenes of rape and pillage, ecstasy and death, are initially shocking, their very repetitiveness not only lessens their force but also ironically fulfills the reader's expectations: heterosexuality will be rigorously denigrated, homosexuality will be negated even as it is championed, tenderness and love eradicated, and the body violated and destroyed. Or to put it more disturbingly: violation gives way to fulfillment. The reader, shifting his expectations to accommodate the proliferation of textural violence, finds them troublingly fulfilled. (I cannot help but think that the trouble with such textual fulfillment is all the more acute for those readers who are women or gay). In Conde Julián, the act of violence, incessantly replicating itself, reintroduces a standard of reading that violently implicates the reader's knowledge and critical skill. Following the inversion of values to its mercilessly logical end, the reader comes to anticipate rape and destruction, to understand their purpose, to know what they mean. For Carlos Fuentes, such knowledge in and of itself seems more than sufficient: “[t]he final refuge of Spain is the ‘stupid Vagina,’ its national emblem. … Against the Cave, Count Julián wields the serpent capable of raping the Cave and showing Spain to herself as the whore she is” (6–7). In Fuentes's eyes, that is, rape is the way to truth, the means by which to expose the whore that Spain (as woman) always is. Here rape serves as a strategy of reading, as the very activity of signification, as the emblem of knowledge itself. Penetrating Goytisolo's text, getting beneath its surfaces, overcoming its resistance, pinning down its voices, and reading its revolution as politically progressive, Fuentes finds truth as the reward for his audacity. And, as we know, truth, the barbarous truth of culture, the truth of silenced voices and ravaged bodies, is perhaps what is truly most oppressive.


  1. Bersani offers an interesting reading of Freud's “theoretical violence.” According to him, Freud's belief in the inevitable repressiveness of civilization leads to the correlative notion that “destructiveness is constitutive of sexuality,” 20 (Bersani's emphasis). In Goytisolo's textual world of violent passion, sex is destructive and destruction sexual. The similarities between Conde Julián and Freudian theory have also been noted by Vegas González, for whom, “la obra del ‘último’ Goytisolo no es más que una ejemplificación concreta de las tesis generales de Freud,” 210.

  2. If I agree with Jameson that history is an unfinished narrative of collective struggle, I do not read this narrative as unified and monothematic; nor do I believe that the claim to “recover” an “original urgency” (19–20) is in any way possible. Instead, I read history as intrinsically inapprehensible in its totality, as an unending interpretative activity that can never apprehend either origin or end. To that effect, I do subscribe to Jameson's claim that “History can be apprehended only through its effects, and never directly as some reified force,” 102. This “effective” history is, in my opinion, one of multiplicity and discontinuity, a history not merely of class struggles, but of other struggles as well.

  3. It is of course quite licit to assume, as do many critics, that the narrator of Conde Julián is the Alvaro of Señas de identidad, an assumption borne out by the fact that Conde Julián's Alvarito is the fantasized figure of the narrator's boyhood. At the same time I think it is important not to collapse the latter text back into the former as its “natural” or “real” base.

  4. Linking revenge and “reactive affects,” Nietzsche proceeds to distinguish between them, privileging the latter over the former (understood as “the senseless raging of ressentiment,” 511). In Conde Julián, however, the distinction is even less tenable than in Nietzsche, revenge being the mode of reaction, the form of power, that the narrator employs.

  5. Linda Ledford-Miller also reads Goytisolo through the prism of Nietzsche. According to her, “Goytisolo's Count Julian exemplifies Nietzsche's idea that history can best serve life by becoming a form of art,” 25. Moreover, she persuasively argues for a reading of Conde Julián as an historical novel, “a modern historical novel that unites history and fiction, science and art, to advocate the recovery of a rejected history (the Arabic and Jewish influences in Spain). Goytisolo would add this ‘recovered history’ to the ‘remembered history’ of Spain by ‘inventing’ history.” 29.

  6. Goytisolo's roster of writers is, with the exception of Teresa de Avila (herself conflated onto Queen Isabel and raped repeatedly in the text), completely male. Intertextuality is also, it would appear from Conde Julián, a male endeavor bound to what Harold Bloom describes as the anxiety of influence. If Goytisolo's writing fits nicely into a Bloomian scheme, it is in part because the struggle for creative freedom is presented as a macho-literary brawl. For a feminist critique of Bloom's theory, see Doane and Hodges, 81–93. What they say of Bloom is, I believe, germane to Goytisolo as well: “For Bloom … the mother is dangerous,” 87.

  7. Even before his exploration of “la gruta sagrada,” Julián makes clear his preference for what he describes as the hard smooth surface of masculinity: “vivo, vivo!: no en el proteico reino de lo blando e informe, de la flora rastrera e immunda, de la obscena ebullición de lo inorgánico: abarcando las tersas superficies pulidas, eludiendo la mórbida carnosidad innecesaria,” 85.

  8. According to Moi, “Beauvoir cannot appropriate for feminism the Sartrean notion of free subjectivity and self-defining agency without becoming ‘contaminated’ by the profoundly sexist ideology of objectivity to which this notion is inevitably coupled,” 95. For a less negative reading of Beauvoir's work, see Judith Butler.

  9. A number of critics have noted a shift in Goytisolo's work from chronological (or historical) to mythical time. See, for example, Ortega and Ugarte. For Ramos, Conde Julián “no es una novela histórica sino reflexión sobre su mitificación,” 25.

  10. According to the Enciclopedia universal ilustrada, “la primera leyenda que encontramos relacionada con la vida de don Rodrigo es la de la cueva encantada de Toledo, llamada también de Hércules. Es el egipcio Aben-Abdelháquen, autor del siglo IX, quien la cita por primera vez,” 1245.

  11. If indeed, as Auerbach affirms, “to write history is so difficult that most historians are forced to make concessions to the technique of legend” (20), the obverse is also true. History permeates legend, suffuses fiction, imbues myth with a sense of time and space that humanizes the divine and secularizes the sacred. But this implied “secular humanism” is not without its own (in)human sacrifices. For what human history narrates is a rather conventional plot to keep women, among others, reserved and silent, outside reading and writing. In speaking of a “plot” I do not have in mind a unified or conscious plotter, let alone a hypermasculine authority behind the scenes of oppression. Instead, I am thinking, somewhat along the lines of Bataille's reading of Sade, that violence is ultimately silent, and that any violent use of language is necessarily contradictory (186–187). Julián himself, for whom “el verbo ha muerto” and “la violencia es muda” (157), articulates the contradiction of violent language as follows: “para pillar, destruir, violar, traicionar no necesitarás las palabras” (157). Needless to say, Julián is not silent, at least not in Bataille's sense of an “utter and inevitably speechless solitude” (186–187), (though by the end of Juan sin tierra the silence of Spanish is suggested). Like Sade's libertines, Goytisolo's narrator would be nothing without the words he at times deems inessential. In fact, so virulently verbose are these master criminals that the silence Bataille notes may actually be the imaginary effect of a surfeit of sound, of a contradiction within the history of narrative itself. Silence is perhaps less the quality of those who do violence than those against whom violence is done, those who are “absented” or “disappeared” from narrative history. In fact, woman, as Virginia Woolf has noted, “pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history” (45). In this, Goytisolo's text, for all its poetic fire, reveals a fidelity to history even greater than that discussed by Woolf: Cava, although seemingly pervasive in poetry and legendary history, certainly does not pervade Conde Julián; she is, to put it simply, as “all but absent” from Goytisolo's text as she is from history. And yet she is also, in my reading, “nothing but present,” forever pointing to a conflict of and in signification, narrative, and history. Despite the text's “elocuente desdén ahistórico” (61), despite its apparent pretensions to a counter-history of the marginalized and disenfranchised, and despite its revolutionary pyrotechnics, it remains on another, more disturbing, level eminently consistent with dominant History.

  12. There is an inescapable irony in the story I am attempting to re-tell insofar as I am necessarily in complicity with the dominant story's silences and silencings, with its narration of another's non-narration. It is just this irony, this complicity, this narrative double bind between silence and appropriation (re-telling a male tale with a difference) that I attempt to address as the politics of ventriloquism. For his part, Ugarte finds a similar tale of ideology in Conde Julián: “[t]he parody of historical texts consists primarily of a transformation of history into discourse, that is from truth to ideology,” 96. This is, in my opinion, an accurate assessment of a major transformative process in Goytisolo's text, provided that it does not imply that there is some ultimate, non-transformative (i.e. non-figured or non-ideological), truth.

  13. Goytisolo quotes from El castigo sin venganza: “esto disponen las leyes del honor, y que no haya publicidad en mi afrenta con que se dobla mi infamia” (37); and “Quien en público castiga, / dos veces su honor infama, / pues, después que la [sic] ha perdido, / por el mundo le dilata” (178). From the Duque de Ferrara's final soliloquy (Act III, 2850–2857), these lines reflect the importance of the (non)communication of an event (here an adultery that verges on the incestuous) as well as the violent price of secrecy. Here, paternal power rests on the absolute control of language and the body (of wife and son), on a restrictive economy of sexual and linguistic exchange.

  14. “Mas Alataba, después que ovo enviado al escudero a su padre, tornóse para las otras donzellas e de tal guisa se trabajava que ninguno non la entendiese su fecho nada; mas todos quantos en la corte eran se fazían mucho maravillados … cómo en tan pequeño tiempo era desçendida de toda su fermosura,” Crónica de 1344, in Menéndez Pidal, 158.

  15. For Lévi-Strauss, woman, seen in terms of an exchange and communication essential to society, serves as little more than a variable in a patriarchal equation, a cipher functioning in opposition to, and dependent on meaning from, man. Gayle Rubin reads Lévi-Strauss and finds that, “[a]t the most general level, the social organization of sex rests upon gender, obligatory heterosexuality, and the constraint of female sexuality,” 179. Regarding obligatory heterosexuality, Irigaray, in Ce sexe, comes to the conclusion that the patriarchal exchange of women is actually proof of an underlying homosexual economy. While I have severe problems with Irigaray's reading of a hom(m)osexual (as opposed to a homosocial) economy, sociocultural transformation in Conde Julián does indeed entail a violent homosexual activity that reduces women to the role of objects. It is in this sense that Goytisolo's text risks reinscribing not only a misogynistic, but also a paradoxically homophobic, message.

  16. It is important to note how Goytisolo's text colors sexual expression black. Establishing its own antiphonies, Conde Julián links the lascivious Isabel with the black dancer of Thunderball (the James Bond movie Julián refers to in his wanderings through Tangier). The black dancer, like Isabel, is sparsely clothed—“los sostenes recatan apenas la volcánica erupción de los pechos, la triangular isla de raso enuncia, irrefutable, la ubicación del tesoro” (77)—and pleads for “masculine assistance” in the very same terms: “invocando masculina ayuda con labios sedientos, convocando afluencia sanguínea con ojos extraviados” (77). Conflating Isabel and the black dancer, Goytisolo undermines the “whiteness” of sexual purity and honor, but at a troubling price. For in such a conflation it becomes impossible to control the directional flow of meaning. Consequently, Julián's rape of Isabel is also a rape of the black dancer, of the sexually expressive woman, of the woman who has been historically subjugated as sexual slave.

  17. According to many critics, it is in Pedro del Corral's Crónica sarracina (c. 1430) that the story of Cava (and perhaps her name itself) is given its “definitive” treatment.

  18. I do not mean to imply that Cervantes' text simply reaffirms the negative value historically ascribed to Cava. In fact, as the cautivo states, Caba Rumía, the “evil” cove, is actually a place of (problematic) peace: “aun tienen por mal agüero llegar allí a dar fondo cuando la necesidad les fuerza a ello, porque nunca le dan sin ella; puesto que para nosotros no fue abrigo de mala mujer, sino puerto seguro de nuestro remedio, segün andaba alterada el mar,” 506. Miguel de Luna's text is Historia verdadera del rey don Rodrigo, compuesta por Abulcácin Tarif, published in 1589.

  19. Isabel has, in effect, interiorized—incorporated—the discourse of domination, the ideo(theo)logy of Empire: “su padre le ha enseñado el amor a Dios: a tener honor y ser esclava de la palabra: a amparar al desvalido: a ser grave y veraz, casta, continente: a rezar el ángelus tres veces al día y a venerar a san Millán y Santiago, dos santos a caballo, heraldos del imperativo poético de Castilla y de su acrisolada voluntad de Imperio,” 163.

  20. As Irigaray maintains in Speculum, the language of the patriarchy entails the censure of women, their interdiction and subjugation, their rape and silence. Hence, for a woman to “speak” is, according to Irigaray, for her to mask herself in masculinity. Masquerade, of course, is not entirely distinct from ventriloquism.

Works Consulted

Alfonso X, el Sabio. Primera crónica general de España. Ed. Ramón Menéndez Pidal. 1. Madrid: Gredos, 1955.

Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1953.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981.

Bataille, Georges. Erotism: Death and Sensuality. Trans. Mary Dalwood. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1986.

Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Trans. H. M. Parshley. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.

Bernstein, Jerome S. “The Surface and What Was Eliminated from the Surface of Don Julián.The Analysis of Hispanic Texts: Current Trends in Methodology. Eds. Mary Beck, et al. New York: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1976. 340–55.

Bersani, Leo. The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art. New York: Columbia UP, 1986.

Butler, Judith. “Sex and Gender in Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex.Yale French Studies (1986): 35–50.

Castro, Américo. La realidad histórica de España. Mexico: Porrúa, 1973.

Cervantes, Miguel de. Don Quijote de la Mancha. Ed. Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce. 1. Madrid: Alhambra, 1983. 2 vols.

Doane, Janice, and Devon Hodges. Nostalgia and Sexual Difference: The Resistance to Contemporary Feminism. New York: Methuen, 1987.

Foucault, Michel. “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History.” Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1977. 139–64.

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. Trans. James Strachey. New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 1961.

Fuentes, Carlos. “A Fierce Answer to Spanish Decadence.” New York Times Book Review 5 May 1974:5–7.

Goytisolo, Juan. Juan sin tierra. Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1975.

———. Reivindicación del Conde don Julián. Mexico: Joaquín Mortiz, 1970.

———. Señas de identidad. Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1966.

Irigaray, Luce. Ce sexe qui n'en est pas un. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1977.

———. Speculum de l'autre femme. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1974.

Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1981.

Joplin, Patricia Klindienst. “The Voice of the Shuttle is Ours.” Stanford Literary Review 1 (1984): 25–53.

Ledford-Miller, Linda. “History as Myth, Myth as History: Juan Goytisolo's Count Julián.Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos 8 (1983): 21–30.

Leitch, Vincent B. Deconstructive Criticism: An Advanced Introduction. New York: Columbia UP, 1983.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Les Structures élémentaires de la parenté. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1949.

Menéndez Pidal, Ramón, ed. Rodrigo, el último godo. Floresta de leyendas heroicas españolas. 1. Madrid: Ediciones de la Lectura, 1925.

Moi, Toril. “Existentialism and Feminism: The Rhetoric of Biology in the Second Sex.The Oxford Literary Review 8.1–2 (1986): 88–95.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Basic Writings of Nietzsche. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Random House, 1968. 437–599.

Ortega, José. “Approximación estructural a Reivindicación del Conde don Julián de Juan Goytisolo.” Explicación de Textos Literarios 3 (1974): 45–50.

Ramos, Alicia. “La anti-España de Juan Goytisolo.” Explicación de Textos Literarios 10.2 (1981–82): 15–32.

Rubin, Gayle. “The Traffic Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex.” Toward an Anthropology of Women. Ed. Rayna R. Reiter. New York: Monthly Review P, 1975. 157–210.

Ugarte, Michael. Trilogy of Treason: An Intertextual Study of Juan Goytisolo. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1982.

Vega y Carpio, Lope de. El castigo sin venganza. Madrid: Castalia, 1970.

———. El último godo. Vol 198. Biblioteca de Autores Españoles. Madrid: Librería de los Sucesores de Hernando, 1924.

Vegas González, Serafín. “La función terrorista del lenguaje.” Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos No. 335 (1978): 190–212.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1929.

Susan E. Clark (review date Fall 1992)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 eternity, still in possession of a tenuous, dreamlike body. The principal narrator, after the unexpected death of a friend, follows her in his writings and in his imagination into this otherworld where all kinds of implausible—or are they really?—things occur. Able to pass from one world to the next, he is one moment walking hand in hand with his newly departed friend through some undefined area—a hotel lobby? a flying plane? an elevator? he asks himself—with music streaming out from some unknown place, and then on to other dreamlike settings, some horrific, some comical, to later being at home, watching in astonishment as his wife unhurriedly prepares the daily cocktail, and hearing her greet him as if nothing unusual had happened. In the other/underworld, he meets a host of enigmatic characters: Naquir and Muncar, the angels of death who, announcing themselves in a letter slid under the narrator's office door as Doctors Naquir and Muncar, expert accountants, courteously request that he answer their absurd questionnaire and whose voices and presence reappear throughout the forty days; the French-speaking Lady of the Parasol, who, always incongruously frivolous, appears and disappears throughout this unusual journey/meditation/novel in a variety of roles from travel agent to television host; and the panel of guests, including George Sand and a psychoanalyst, who continually pontificate, elaborating theories on such profound issues as war and human identity to which no one pays any attention.

La cuarentena is at once an exploration of the human condition, in life and in death, for which Dante and Ibn Arabi, Muslim mystic and philosopher, serve as the narrator's guides, and an investigation of the writing process. As one wonderful chapter explains, the creation of a novel is itself a quarantine (cuarentena) in which the author must withdraw from the outside world and establish his/her own world. And the written word that the author uses to create such a world is so powerful that then the receptive—contaminated—reader too lives a kind of quarantine, isolated within the bubble of the book. A rumination on the creative process and on human identity, La cuarentena also represents more specifically a denunciation of a cruel war, and the entire framework of a precisely Islamic tradition is far from fortuitous. The visions of Hell we see portrayed become gradually more and more specific. The hellish horrors of Bosch's paintings and Gustave Doré's engravings evolve into the more specific images of war, and more precisely, the forty-day war in the Persian Gulf. However this is not to say the novel is comprised only of one horror after another in some labyrinthine inferno. No. Humor, playful language, surprise, friendship, and love are also all elements of this exceptional tale. It is perhaps not easy reading, and to understand it well requires some knowledge of both Western and Near Eastern civilizations, as well as an extensive vocabulary, but the adventurous reader-accomplice cannot help but be “contaminated” by such a daring journey.

Penny Kagaroff (review date 11 November 1992)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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, imprisoned “in her hermetic cell” so she cannot contaminate others. St. John of the Cross, the Spanish poet and mystic, also figures as the solitary bird. Writing of “the intoxication and joyful consummation” of the soul with God, he was singled out by an “all-powerful ecclesiastical machinery” that would not tolerate his personal, sensual spirituality. Finally, the figure doubles for Goytisolo himself, self-exiled from Spain for many years.

Drawing on these scraps of personae, Goytisolo (Juan the Landless) creates a single voice that resonates broadly. The solitary bird's nightmarish account of pursuit by gangs “wearing rubber gloves and gauze masks” is the AIDS victim's experience of society's paranoia. It is also the story of the independent thinker throughout history, flushed out by those fearful of “contaminating ideas.” Goytisolo finds in those attributes that set the solitary bird apart—which are to him virtues—an aesthetic from which he derives a fiery, mercurial style. From St. John's poem “The Spiritual Canticle,” Goytisolo adopts “his tense, fragmented turns of phrase … his insular and ecstatic spaces … fluctuating between the freedom and the gloom of his spiritual night.” As fiercely dedicated to imaginative freedom as Goytisolo is in this uncompromising, difficult novel—expertly rendered into English—his moments of greatest power and poignancy come when he descends into the solitary bird's dark night of the soul. Considering the source of her illness, she asks: “might not the Beloved from whose wine cellar we drank and whom we abandoned satiated with his delightful knowledge be the instrument chosen by destiny to annihilate us?” Does the solitary bird die, like St. John, for having loved God or does she die, like contemporary men and women stricken with AIDS, for human love? Goytisolo does not answer, but offers this novel, a by turns wrenching and ecstatic song of “the solitude of wounded love.”

Amanda Hopkinson (review date 20 November 1992)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 somewhat about the values of your tribe and establish your own scale of values.”

Juan Goytisolo is acclaimed as one of the greatest living writers, perhaps Spain's most successful “alienated author”. A victim of Franco's censorship, directed at the Turin group of writers he helped found, Goytisolo left his native Barcelona and settled in Paris in 1956. He now divides the year between there, where he is married to fellow writer Monique Lange, and Marrakech. Like all great writers, Goytisolo is a great reader. The exploration of Latin and Arab cultures is the hallmark of his vast output as journalist and campaigner, novelist and lecturer, essayist and, latterly, as creator of a television series devoted to Islamic culture.

Goytisolo is in England as guest of the European Arts Festival's literature programme, resident at Ruskin College, Oxford, and lecturing on such topics as “Fortress Europe” and “We Could All be Bosnians”. His visit coincides with the publication of Saracen Chronicles, a collection of literary essays that betray Goytisolo's preferences for a Spanish “sub-literature” which, he proudly acknowledges, “doesn't in any way correspond to the teaching of literature in Spain”.

Goytisolo's taste runs from the satirical to the scatological and deals in social as well as literary taboos. He unearths scabrous material that has had little, if any, currency in the “lost 500 years” between the dusk of the Middle Ages and the dawn of a rediscovery of “the Other”, amid the clashes and conflicts of the present century.

Many of the Saracen Chronicles may be almost as unfamiliar to Spanish as English audiences, as are some of his interpretations of known texts. He offers a post-Freudian reading of “the erotic metaphor” in Góngora, Joaquín Belda and Lezama Lima; a revisionist reading of Carlos Fuentes; a “Cervantine” one of the Cuban writer G Cabrera Infante; and “a possible orientalist reading” of those of his own earlier novels not discarded by the author for their “realism”. While the title reveals Goytisolo's continuing preference for a “Moorish rendition”, the barrage of chapter headings suggests flux as well as scope, with the truth of the matter implicit in the variety of its versions.

The Brazilian Joāo Ubaldo Ribeiro has succinctly defined “the secret of Truth as follows: there are not facts, only stories”. Goytisolo works as a vast integrating literary force—but also as a great storyteller with an appreciation of those who have gone before.

Among them, Cervantes: the original Don Quixote claims its origins in a manuscript written by Cid Hamete Benengali and translated by a “Morisco”. As if to establish incontrovertibly its lack of veracity, Cervantes adds: “Of course we all know Moors are liars.” This clearly implies that his fable is not to be taken on the level of a true story about a foolhardy knight.

Goytisolo bypasses this comment, observing simply that “Cervantes … never sets himself up as a possessor of the Truth … on the contrary, he acts as a disseminator of a multiplicity of lower-class truths, in as much as he allows the Other every opportunity to express a viewpoint opposed to the one commonly held by the public for whom his work was intended”. He concludes that the work is a true rendition of Islamic origins, and “it would be inexplicable, had it not been for the fertilising influence of Islam”.

When Goytisolo brings Cervantes' work into contemporary history, talking like “those pure, hard-core communists who suddenly desert and become turncoats” and reliving “in my imagination the shadows and the lacunae of Cervantes' experience in Algiers”, he lays himself open to the charges of idealising Arab culture and over-estimating its influence. It is no more essential to believe Cervantes incapable of creating without “the fertilising influence of Islam” than to believe that St John of the Cross (about whom Goytisolo wrote his Virtues of the Solitary Bird) derived his mysticism from an Islamic rather than a Christian tradition.

Goytisolo is as provocative as he is paradoxical. The provocation lies not only in incurring the predictable wrath of powers-that-be for his radical politics, defended with a heroic spirit to match his eloquence, but in that element of protesting-too-much. By offering a different reading of Spanish literature, Goytisolo comes perilously close to implying that the best survives not just despite Spain, but because of a mythic Islam, redolent of that European invention the Arabian Nights, where lives are bought with endless tale-telling. In mounting such a necessary attack on the neglected and rejected in Iberian literature, Goytisolo neglects and rejects elements of his own.

A glaring absence in all these writings on the theme of the Other is a sense of the other gender, woman. It is as though, in asserting his homosexuality, Goytisolo has disposed of the sexual Other. Is it really such an accident that in the whole of Goytisolo's opening lecture, “To Read or to Re-Read”—in which he strenuously recommended the latter—not one woman author features in his impressively catholic selection? And his understandable contempt for the repression wrought by the Catholic Church leads him to reject the undeniable abundance of Christian references and traditions, and so to give an oddly unbalanced account.

Goytisolo is unarguably a daunting author, who feels strongly that few concessions should be made to an uninformed readership. Implicitly, by returning to lesser-known Jewish and Islamic medieval literature, and explicitly, in attacking the succession of wars waged after 1492 on a hated Other created by racist nationalism, he forces his readers to think and think again. Or, in his terms of highest praise, to read—and re-read.

Kirkus Reviews (review date 1 March 1994)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 reflects on the creative writing process. For him, the journey is a quarantine of sorts, akin to the experience of a writer who must withdraw from the world so that his imagination can take flight.

Indeed in Quarantine, Goytisolo's narrator is a writer in the process of composing a novel—in fact, the very novel we are reading. He is imagining his own death and journey as he meditates on the spiritual wandering of a woman friend who has recently died. The narrator, like the dead according to Islam, must account to Nakir and Munkar, the two angels who examine and, if necessary, punish the dead in their tombs. Meanwhile, it is the year of the Persian Gulf War, and all its wartime horrors become mingled with the torments of the underworld. At the end of the “waiting” period, the writer's novel is finished and his soul and the soul of his friend are released. “Write, keep writing about me,” she implores him. “Only your interest and the interest of those who read you can continue to keep me alive!”

Quarantine is an intriguing multilayered novel, but one at times more powerful in concept than in execution. The writing itself is awash in a dreamlike quality that bestows on even the vivid descriptions of pain and torture a gauzy, and not always compelling, feel. Goytisolo's fans, however, should be pleased by this unique meditation on death and the creative process by a distinctly original voice.

Jeremy S. Squires (essay date April 1996)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 This approach he has termed ‘autenticidad subjetiva’.2 The purpose of the present article is to suggest that the desire to erase all mythical illusions is ambiguously present in the early, relatively sparsely studied, novels.3 Myth (or mystification) is a paradoxical entity in Goytisolo's work, and a consideration of the early fiction might add nuance to the general view that Goytisolo is simply anti-myth.4 In the course of the first five works there is a developing appreciation of the subversive capabilities of mystification and betrayal, an evolution which leads away from a conventionally Sartrean inspiration for the first novel, Juegos de manos, towards a less self-censored embrace of cultural treason in La resaca. Throughout Goytisolo's work myth is the purveyor of oppression. The myth-maker controls those who are taken in: he can betray without fear of being betrayed, and in these first works this power relationship is most often configured, metaphorically or literally, as that which exists between parent and child. Children are bemythed, easily abused, malleable, powerless to act. Betrayal is the means by which the adult may repudiate childish mythification, and, as Linda Gould Levine points out, the cultural traitor becomes a central figure in Goytisolo's later work: she notes that his ‘lenta gravitación hacia el traidor’ can be seen as a ‘proceso bien vinculado con su exaltación de los marginales y desposeídos’ (p. 124). Through an examination of the first five novels my contention is that Goytisolo's traitor-figure does not banish myth altogether; on the contrary, he harnesses it for his own ends, enchanting the dupes of mythology in order to effect his own release. This dark strategy, resisted initially by Goytisolo in his first novel in favour of a more orthodox left-oriented morality, is explored in the course of his following work, and, in La resaca, finally appropriated. The non-Nationalist illusionists, or mixtificadores, are of two main types.5 Some are evasive, others are self-possessed, and in the span of the first five novels there is an evolution from the former to the latter.6

Since Existentialist ethics oppose authentic and inauthentic rather than good and evil, Goytisolo had considerable scope for inquiring into the effects that the deceiver may have upon others in his quest for personal fulfillment.7 Yet, in Juegos de manos (1954), the author seems to set greater store by Sartre's earlier emphasis on the commonality of ends, the notion that the pursuit of individual freedom will necessarily respect and enhance the freedom of others.8 In this novel, play-acting is construed as a means of evading personal and social responsibility, and the betrayal of one's peers is shown to have destructive consequences. A rigged poker-hand selects the innocent David to be the assassin of a Francoist politician; unable to carry it through, David suffers a punishment-killing at the hands of Agustín, the leader of his own gang. Long, introspective reminiscences of childhood experiences on the part of several characters persuade the reader that their present activities are spurred by smouldering Freudian conflicts. Barry Jordan has rightly highlighted the absence of truly politically inspired strife within the middle-class gang of would-be revolutionaries that this novel portrays, yet it is still possible to place it squarely within the domain of orthodox committed literature.9 It is a text imbued with Sartrean philosophy, albeit of an emphasis more akin to La Nausée than to Les Chemins de la liberté, and might be read as a cautionary tale on the pitfalls of political action before knowing thyself adequately.10 Despite the infighting and eventual dissolution of the gang, the initial ideal of collective salvation does survive intact: when an unspecified person says at the end of the novel ‘Es como si al matar a David nos hubiésemos matado a nosotros, y como si al negar a Agustín hubiésemos negado nuestra vida’ (Goytisolo's italics),11 the effect is to affirm solidarity and fidelity as values worth cultivating, since the anonymity of these words lends them an air of detached authority. Certainly, however, as in the subsequent novels, oppression is seen to be the handmaiden of intimacy. Emotional (as distinct from intellectual) communion between people is ‘pegajoso’ (p. 146), a word that recalls Sartre's notion of le visqueux; to be good is to acquiesce in the views of others and is therefore dangerous. But here, in Juegos de manos, this loving tyranny is meted out by the gang's moral enemies: that is to say, by their right-wing parents, from whom they are striving to dissociate themselves. The act of breaking a myth, that of perfect parenthood, serves to bring the group members closer together. In the first novel, then, demythification does not impair solidarity, it enhances it.

Eduardo ‘Tánger’ Uribe is the first of the mixtificadores, but unlike later exemplars in Goytisolo's fiction, his behaviour appears cowardly and inauthentic. A descendant of Sartre's poseur barman in L'Etre et le néant, he is an embodiment of mauvaise foi, an unmistakable lâche.12 He dislikes being touched physically (he is uncomradely), he likes to mislead with disguises and costumes (though he craves an audience), he is drawn to mirrors (but he smashes his own image), he loves to invent cocktails (but he will not drink them), he is the innocent whose dextrous trickery delivers a bad hand of cards to David (though he genuinely believes it to be but a harmless prank), he is the man-child who picks a quarrel and then leaves it for his protector, Raúl, to fight on his behalf. Although, in some respects, Uribe is portrayed sympathetically (he is sensitive to others; it is he who has the key insight that David's failure to assassinate Francisco Guarner means that the gang will instead execute David), at several points, the narrator's characterization of him is critical. It is implied that his love of dressing up (‘su amor a los disfraces’ [p. 152]) derives from an inability to come to terms with life, a desire to escape his inadequacies. Despite creating the effect of dynamism, his constant self-reinvention is narcissistic in origin. He wishes to be comforted like a child (‘ser acunado lo mismo que un niño’ [p. 164]); he is described as a doll or dummy, a ‘muñeco’ (p. 165). His evasiveness, stemming from the acute sensibility of a child who is wary of others and desperate to avoid their judgement, is static and impotent. Uribe, furthermore, resembles Sartre's Baudelaire, jealously nurturing his own liberty, yet shunning responsibility.13 Indeed, he wears his affectation like a suit of armour, not to deceive others so much as to protect himself.

In Uribe, then, the encounter with ‘el vértigo de lo desconocido’ (p. 154) entails angst, yet ends badly in flight and caprice rather than in commitment and solidarity. Goytisolo's portrayal of this process is at odds with his more positive attitude towards the illusionist in later novels. When Uribe does attempt to communicate honestly with another person, he begins to ‘descaracterizarse’ (p. 156); his make-up begins to run, his masks to slip out of place. Whenever the opportunity arises to talk candidly, he senses that he has become the prisoner of the very masks he has created in order to safeguard his freedom, and so clings to these masks all the more tenaciously. When Uribe comes to warn David that the gang leaders are on their way to kill him, he tries to confess by explaining to David that it was he who perpetrated the card trick, not suspecting the consequences of his action. Yet, as ever, sincerity eludes him. He suspects, like the boy who too often cried wolf, that David believes he is bluffing. Helplessly, Uribe begins playing to his own reflection in the mirror, and finally, with a bow to this looking-glass audience, abandons David to his killers (p. 238). In Uribe, Goytisolo presents a man who lacks courage, who sacrifices authenticity to freedom, and whose Existential evasiveness destroys the solidarity of his gang and, with it, any possibility of resisting the régime.

Though less obviously identifiable as a mixtificador, it is Agustín who is the true forerunner of later illusionists such as Pablo Márquez and Metralla, yet in Juegos de manos this embryonic archetype is characterized as a hero with a distinctly fatal flaw. That Agustín is at a more advanced stage of Existential awareness than Uribe is evidenced by their respective approaches to acting. Uribe's prime aim is to insulate himself from others, and the paradox in this ploy is his constant craving for the limelight. Certainly, when Agustín was a child he bore a marked resemblance to Uribe. Flattered by his indulgent mother into thinking that he would one day be a great actor, Agustín remembers himself as a spoilt child who loved dressing up, wearing disguises, and winning the applause of his elders. Oblivious of any irony, he would recite for his parents Rimbaud's jubilant evocation of childhood unrestrained, Le Bateau ivre, simply to gratify them (p. 143). The beginnings of Agustín's awakening into rebellious self-awareness are signalled by a turning-point in his relationship to his own performances. As he explains:

Comenzó mientras lucía uno de los disfraces que acababan de regalarme y entre cuyos pliegues me sentía un ser distinto, altivo e insolente. Ataviado de negro recitaba ‘Une saison en l'Enfer’ [sic] ante el armario de luna de mi habitación. Y al llegar a la invocación de los antepasados hice mía la cólera del poeta, me sentí despegado de mí mismo y olvidé el lugar en que me hallaba.

Confieso sin humildad que recitaba bastante bien el texto y me compenetraba fácilmente con su intención. Algunas de las frases parecían brotar espontáneamente de mí mismo. Me asombraba casi de verlas escritas, tal era la identidad que nos ligaba. (pp. 144–45).

The crucial step is to be one's role rather than simply play it: to become identical with one's disguise and so take command of one's destiny. This is the turning-point that is never reached either by Uribe or by Agustín's eventual victim. For David, a model pupil, strives masochistically to star in the roles that the authority-figures in his life create for him. Agustín can progress; David will become an hombre-niño.

What causes this model Existentialist to fall at the final hurdle, however, is his faulty insight into his own political motivation. A self-delusion remains. By sleight of hand his unconscious had eluded him, and though Goytisolo allows him to perform a tardy self-analysis once David has been murdered, the consequences of this act, for him and for the gang, are irreparable. For Agustín finally perceives that the project to kill Guarner, carried out by David (who, like Uribe, is an image of Agustín's own pre-Rimbaud self), was in reality fuelled by an unconscious desire to re-encounter a primal scene and resolve it once and for all. (Guarner is above all a symbolic father.) Hence, Agustín does not kill David for having set back the political cause of the group. Rather he must murder the angelic child he himself once was, and David epitomizes that child. For want of self-knowledge, then, politics itself is the ultimate juego de manos. Indeed, Agustín understands that the attempted political assassination was only the ‘pretexto’ that would allow him to confront his alter ego: ‘He necesitado todos esos rodeos para darle muerte [a David]’ (p. 253). When Agustín learns from Luis that David had been set up by himself and Uribe, he reacts with indifference: it is an irrelevance. And, having killed David, he voluntarily gives himself up to the authorities. The political dimension has vanished. Agustín's allegiance to the good of the cause has been a form of sincere pretence. But Goytisolo, in this prototype of an encounter that recurs in later writings, implies that here the attempted showdown between the liberated and repressed components of Agustín's personality is a misguided enterprise, wholly negative in its effects. Neither Agustín nor David will survive the confrontation: David has been denied the chance to grow up, and, in surrendering himself to the police, Agustín surrenders to an image that authority figures may choose to have of him, rather as he did as a small boy. The gang disintegrates and society is quite unaltered. Agustín's inner-illumination, contrived, perhaps, to allow the author his say, represents a new way forward, but degenerates finally into fatalism, the very antithesis of Sartre's prise de conscience. As Gemma Robert's article illustrates, Uribe, David, and Agustín all succumb to ‘auto-engaño’. Nevertheless, although Juegos de manos castigates radical middle-class youth in its totality for its feeble powers of self-appraisal, the novel is saved from political nihilism through being underpinned by a conventional left-wing morality that suggests that solidarity amongst the oppressed is required in order to countermand the mythifying propensities of the oppressors. Its effect is to qualify this orthodoxy by warning its readership that nurtured values are not easily transcended, and that naive forms of engagement can express rather than destroy one's past.

In subsequent novels, however, Goytisolo's sanctioning of the nosotros of Juegos de manos undergoes modifications, as does his critical attitude towards the mystifier. In Duelo en El Paraíso (1955) the bipartite personality constituted by Agustín–David in Juegos de manos is distributed across a class divide, so that now a Marxist justification may be given for Pablo Márquez's betrayal of the upper-middle-class Abel. The relationship between these two parallels Agustín's enthrallment of David, but, unlike Agustín, Pablo is a knowing dissembler, free from the inconveniences of guilt. Since the bourgeoisie in its entirety, enlightened or otherwise, seems destined never to overcome its own limitations, solidarity with one of its members is dispensable. Abel, whose fate stands for that of his class, may try to escape the childhood paradise that his great-aunt, Doña Estanislaa, insists that he inhabit in perpetuity, and he may, in offering himself up for sacrifice to the evacuee children, make a last attempt to participate meaningfully in the process of history, but he may never survive into adulthood.

As Jo Labanyi has observed, the excesses of the refugee children indicate that corruption is preferable to innocence.14 The novel celebrates anarchy as maturation, the means by which society's underdogs can capture the weapons of dominion, and it associates this anarchic process with the politics of the Second Republic. There is nothing utopian in this vision. The refugee children may enjoy new-found freedoms, but they govern themselves in an extremely hierarchical and authoritarian manner. Gone is the free-associating solidarity of the student rebels in Juegos de manos. With the escape and disappearance of Pablo Márquez, the only character in the novel who succeeds in withstanding the pull of Estanislaa's fairy-tale, Goytisolo implies that deception by enthralment (which, and this cannot be ignored, is an adaptation of Estanislaa's own behaviour) affords a real way out of the Nationalist paradise that is about to be instated. Growing up bad is preferable to not growing up at all, and to this effect the mythoclast may sacrifice solidarity: unlike Agustín, Pablo is not himself destroyed by destroying his ward. Only the dimension of class conflict, absent in Juegos de manos, rescues this dénouement for enlightened political (and therefore moral) orthodoxy.

The status of Duelo en El Paraíso as polemical allegory makes it difficult to assess the overlap between the then Goytisolo and the implied author of the text. My own view is that Goytisolo was playing aggressive devil's advocate, and that his own hopes for social change were, at this stage, more consensual. A truer reflection of his views might be provided by the figure of Ortega, a schoolmaster in Goytisolo's next novel, Fiestas (1955). Ortega takes exception to Don Paco's description of the Second Republic as ‘aquel desorden’:

—Desorden—repitió Ortega con amargura—. Era el de un niño que tiene necesidad de correr, de desahogarse …

—Reconozca usted al menos que sus desahogos eran bastante brutales—dijo don Paco.

—Brutales o no, no podían durar mucho. Con el tiempo habrían desaparecido.15

Tactics of the kind used by Pablo Márquez might thus have been envisaged by Goytisolo, at this period at least, as a necessary, but passing phase only.

Indeed, in Fiestas the role of treacherous mystifier is assumed by a minor character, González, the policeman who tricks Pipo into betrayal. Instead, Goytisolo reintroduces centre-stage a benign, Uribe-like poseur in the shape of El Gorila, a fisherman living in La Barceloneta, whom young Pipo reveres as more than a father. El Gorila's performances, like those of Uribe, are presented as harmless enough to those who know him. Rather than a practitioner of conscious deceit, he is an exhibitionist, an ‘actor de teatro’ (p. 97), a free spirit who openly scorns politics of any colour, and likes to read comics. Uribe's fate is left hanging in the balance at the end of Juegos de manos: El Gorila, however, unquestionably becomes a victim of his capacity for evasion. Though his antics allow him to elude the traps that ensnare most other members of Francoist society, he eventually comes to grief through placing his confidence in a child. The mythical highground in Fiestas belongs firmly to the establishment, and it goes unchallenged: the Eucharistic Congress will win Pipo to its ranks; Pira's fantasy of going to Rome to be reunited with her absent father will end in her being murdered by a mendicant pilgrim; the lottery on which the poor pin their hopes will be won by the middle-class Don Melchor. As in Duelo en El Paraíso, therefore, beguilement is seen as one class's weapon against another. But this time, even without the polemicism of the preceding novel, darker tones obscure the text's more obvious denunciations. In Fiestas all friendships, including sincerely held ones, prove to be relentlessly self-deceiving. The confession El Gorila makes to Pipo that in the past he has murdered a policeman is taken by Pipo to be an irrevocable pledge of friendship. Despite this pledge, however, or rather because of it, both Pipo and El Gorila are diminished by each other, for Pipo is beguiled by the policeman's offers of friendship into revealing El Gorila's secret crime. Pipo reverts to class type and El Gorila, González explains, is content to submit to being punished for his crime. Mutuality may not necessarily, then, be capable of bringing fulfilment to the lives of those who are thwarted by the régime's mythmaking: in Fiestas it proves to be a dead-end, since it magnifies solitude.16 (It is still possible to retrieve a Marxist reading, however: in historical terms, the relationship between Pipo and El Gorila must fail, since it attempts to build a bridge across a social faultline.)

In El circo, the least successful of the early novels, Goytisolo further considers the fate of a non-committal, Uribe-like escape artist.17 This time the archetype meets a different fate. Utah similarly lives his life as if he were on stage before an admiring audience, and, in order to keep one step ahead of his creditors, he deftly juggles identities. However, as the novel progresses, reality crowds in upon him and he begins to lose control. The dénouement to this vertiginous crescendo of falsehood is again suggestive of Sartre's philosophy. In the end, Utah remedies his inauthenticity by making his predicament concrete with an act of self-commitment. For when he discovers that Don Julio, the wealthy patrician he eventually visits in the hope of acquiring money, has been murdered, Utah assumes responsibility for the crime himself, thus allowing the real assassin, the Pablo Márquez-like Atila, to go free. Thus, this final piece of play-acting (a substitute parricide) is what will define his fickle personality. It is reminiscent of the transformation undergone by Agustín in Juegos de manos when he becomes the Rimbaud of Une Saison en enfer. It is an act, in both senses of the word, that is real; one that slams the door on evasion. This resolution, by means of which Goytisolo rehabilitates the Baudelairean poseurs of Juegos de manos and Fiestas, is prompted by a Nietzschean act of will, by the need for self-therapy, rather than by any sense of solidarity or political expediency.

In conjunction, then, with the critique of Nationalist ideology, Goytisolo's first four novels scrutinize how Franco's children, so that they might become the parents of their own destiny, use mystification for their own ends. The initial denunciation, in Juegos de manos, of Uribe's useless dilettantism and Agustín's hubristic self-conviction works itself out in intriguing ways in succeeding texts. Each of these two archetypes comes to moral grief in the first novel. Uribe delivers David into the hands of his killer, and Agustín destroys himself by murdering his infant self. The relationship between Agustín and David is reproduced in Duelo en El Paraíso with that between Pablo Márquez and Abel. This time, however, the introduction of a class division permits the captivator to betray his follower successfully and with impunity. The text is a provocative thought experiment. In El circo we are no longer in fantasia, and Utah takes the first step towards becoming a Pablo Márquez, a righteous deceiver.

La resaca (1958) is the final part of the trilogy (following Fiestas and El circo), and is epigraphed by Antonio Machado's campaigning poem ‘El mañana efimero’, the last eight lines of which appear at the end of the text.18 With this in mind, the reader might have expected the novel to show the birth of a new rebellious and vengeful spirit amongst Spain's youth. Instead, the reader is introduced to a world of political apathy, working-class sycophancy, of near universal mauvaise foi. The novel has been seen as a turning-point in Goytisolo's fiction precisely because it initiates a concentration on objective social conditions.19 On a subjective level, however, the author himself has explained that the novel represents a psychological resolution of an abiding obsession:

Con La risacca ho liquidato un problema che mi ossessionava e che avevo trattato in tutti i miei libri precedenti: il problema dell'infanzia. Dopo La risacca non scriveró piú su questo tema. Quel que volevo dire l'ho detto in questo libro.20

The liquidation of the problem of childhood is also the liquidation of the problem of what strategy to adopt in the face of myth, and the nature of this new strategy is grounds for seeing La resaca as a fresh departure of a different kind: a herald not so much of the period of documentary realism that immediately follows it as of the novels of aggressive demythification from Señas de identidad onwards. For the constant theme in La resaca is the perversion of every means of human deliverance, save one: in this, the most socially plausible of Goytisolo's early works, the act of mystifying and betraying the bemythed will provide the mixtificador (Metralla) with his solution.

The archetypal credulous but sensitive child in this novel, Antonio, is the eldest son of the drunkard Cinco Duros, and seems to have found a way to avoid following in his father's footsteps when he becomes the protégé of Metralla, a violent gangleader who awes him with his ruthless self-assurance. Antonio's relationship with Metralla takes the form of a criminal apprenticeship and affords a respite from the psychological orphanhood which so often afflicts Goytisolo's male characters. The impressionable Antonio has his exit blocked, however, when his guirlochero mentor encourages him to act the toy-child to an icon-maker's wife, explaining that, once they have milked her of sufficient money, they can stowaway to South America where they will begin a new life together as revolutionaries. Having in effect pimped his ward, Metralla takes all the cash for himself, embarks alone, and abandons Antonio to an Oedipal liaison with his bogus mother and lover. This failure of Antonio is especially disturbing, since he has the same Christian name as Machado. Moreover, this outcome seems to undermine the title of the novel: it is the exact reverse of the process of sobering up after a bout of (mythical) intoxication.

A more politically complex understanding of mythification emerges in this novel. The ruling and the ruled are engaged in a game of mutual deception, but the ruses perpetrated by the proletariat against their masters are depicted as a form of collusion that works to maintain the political status quo. Their interests are limited to social and economic advancement. One of the few ways in which the workers can prosper is through collaborating with state Catholicism. Several religious orders compete amongst themselves to administer first communion to the slum children, but the exploitation is two way, since the children, encouraged by their parents, are quick to accept the material incentives they offer. El Hombre-Gato, the son of Cien Gramos, plays his part to perfection and enlists for confirmation classes for a third time. Saturio, or ‘chupacirios’ (p. 118), permits the clergy to use his house as a canvassing base, and by ingratiating himself with Padre Bueno earns the promise of a flat outside the slum district. However, crafty manipulation by the have-nots is shown up to be a still more subtle form of self-delusion. El Hombre-Gato is a miniature Metralla, but he is not trying to transcend the establishment that maintains him, and Saturio's less than honourable escape route is barred by the sudden death of his small daughter during the ‘Fiesta de San Juan’ when, thinking it is a kind of sweet, she eats the gunpowder from a firework. In so doing, she becomes one of several eternal doll-children who inhabit Goytisolo's early novels, for sweet-eating, as at the beginning of Fiestas, is an index of political malleability. In succumbing to Franco's fiesta, fulfilment, for parent and child, is arrested.

The fiesta in all its forms (the church, bulls, flamenco, football, the circus, radio broadcasts, lotteries, alcohol) is a beacon of false promise in these early works. As a means of potentially anarchic self-expression it must be sanctioned and policed by the authorities, and provides instead an appealing illusion of release. In this guise the fiesta becomes a potent weapon in the armoury of the oppressor. Naive children are its main victims. Like Estanislaa's over-protected son, David, who in Duelo en El Paraíso dies mysteriously during a carnival in Panama, Saturio's daughter is a martyr to her own ingenuousness. In a sense her death predicts the fate of her parents. The aftermath of the accident reveals Saturio to be, like his daughter, an innocent. In his grief, he turns not to the Church nor to others for consolation but to the bottle, for in La resaca alcohol is used to symbolize illusion as the art of evasion par excellence, a way of falling victim to myth rather than learning to exploit it. Saturio quarrels with Padre Bueno, loses his promised flat, and ends the novel a broken man.

Antonio's superior impressibility to that of his exploiter, then, is that of his class: despite Machado's poem, Goytisolo's depiction of La Barceloneta, the one-time heartland of Anarchism, does not in any way suggest a pre-revolutionary situation. Rather it depicts the eclipse of a once fiery political conscience. Now the battle for the hearts and minds of the ‘hombres de las afueras’ is being fought on the one hand by the Church, and, on the other, in a more modest way, by a garage worker named Giner, a former Republican soldier who, having spent four years in prison after the Civil War, is now trying to drum up support for a union. In part, Giner is inspired by news from Emilio, a friend who has recently emigrated to France and now enthuses him with accounts of the very favourable conditions enjoyed by the workers there. Giner can see, as others cannot, that his associates are crippled by a lack of solidarity. The precarious sense of fellow-feeling they exhibit is exemplified by the on-off friendship between Cinco Duros and Cien Gramos. Their continual quarrels and reconciliations are wholly self-serving, for they use one another merely to excuse private inadequacies.

The illusions used by those above them in the social hierarchy to rule and divide are disturbingly like the pressures the murcianos exert upon one another, pressures which similarly work against class solidarity. Almost every relationship in the novel is exploitative in some way, even when not intentionally so. Cinco Duros is lucid enough to condemn Cien Gramos for making his son, El Hombre-Gato, spout Latin and attend Communion classes for the sole purpose of obtaining a free suit of clothes for him, a suit that Cien Gramos afterwards steals in order to finance a bout of drinking and whoring (‘Vergüenza debería darte, vergüenza, exhibir así a tu propio hijo’ [p. 98]). Yet later on in the novel he is unaware that he does something similar in selling his own son, Antonio, into the service of the icon-maker's wife. Cinco Duros uses the money from this transaction to lay on, for himself and his family, a feast of cakes; he then, perversely, feeds some of the food to Antonio as a means of persuading him to accept his new appointment, an unwitting mimesis of the régime's exploitation of the fiesta. As Cien Gramos exploits his son, so Metralla exploits Antonio by persuading him to turn the tables on the Church by impersonating a virtuous youth. Metralla dresses him up as a señorito, douses him in eau de cologne, and induces him to play the part of a collector on behalf of the ‘Cruzada Cordimariana’. This highly lucrative scam is nevertheless felt by Antonio to be a threat to his virility, and he agrees to it only because, to feel mature, he needs money and the gang's esteem. Suffering the indignity of being dressed up by another in a doll-like fashion is a concrete manifestation of Sartrean pour-autrui, and, in Goytisolo's early fiction, a sure prelude to death and eternal childhood. Similarly, the first act of the icon-maker's wife upon taking Antonio into her care is to measure him for a new suit of clothes. The reader is left to ponder the similarities between Metralla and this smothering pseudo-parent. Both rob Antonio of his identity while ostensibly working to affirm it.

A more distant equivalent to the above pairings is suggested in the relationship between Giner, the most politically aware character in the novel, and Emilio, the emigrant worker whose brief return to Spain galvanizes Giner's hopes of unionizing the workers, and whose departure, conversely, signals their decay. Despite Emilio's indications to the contrary, it is apparent, after the disastrous initial meeting with some jittery dockers, that this time he is going to leave Spain for good and will not keep in touch with Giner. The political isolation of Giner, which this abandonment represents, parallels the emotional abandonment suffered by Antonio at the hands of Metralla. Unlike his namesake, the poet whose work serves as reference point for the novel, Antonio never crosses paths with a man named Giner; they are ships that pass in the night. Yet their lives are complementary. Giner, whose own offspring have given themselves over entirely to ‘La España de charanga y de pandereta’ and who, bored with politics, are left cold by their father's tales of life in prison after the Civil War, is someone who lacks a son, and Antonio is, in turn, someone in need of a father. Both are thwarted. If it is feasible to see a committed message in La resaca, one could say that it is configured by this absent centre, a potential relationship founded upon loyalty, which might embrace inequality without the tainting threat of deception.

Such a message is undermined, however, by darker, more anguished thematizations. With the working classes corrupted and co-opted by their oppressors, as well as divided amongst themselves, fraternity begins to look like a false grail. It is alcohol, the purveyor of illusion, that more frequently induces a sense of fellow-feeling in the murcianos. At Maño's inn three strangers drink heavily before breaking into an old Republican war song. Maño's sense of recognition (he suddenly realizes that these same men were his comrades-in-arms at the battle of the Ebro) is overwhelming:

Había millares, centenares de miles, esparcidos por todo el país, faltos de aire como baja una campana de vidrio, solitarios sin norte y sin guía, ignorantes de su fuerza secreta … Bastaba un gesto, una mirada, el aire de una canción, para que estos solitarios dejaran de serlo, se descubrieran, entraran en contacto … Todo no estaba perdido, tal vez. Inmóvil desde hacía largo tiempo, el cuerpo palpitaba … (p. 79)

This rousing vision of a mighty dormant brotherhood is in free indirect style, thus mingling the minds of narrator and character. The narrator builds a stylistic bridge between himself and Maño at the very moment that Maño is experiencing a forgotten sense of togetherness. However, the instant before the three strangers begin their song, the narrator observes: ‘El vino les había dado una rigidez casi solemne y se mantenían tiesos, lo mismo que muñecos’ (p. 78). The word muñeco, used with great frequency in these early writings, is always a mark of damnation.

The episode is rendered still more ambiguous when it recurs later in the novel in a tragically distorted form. The meeting with the dockers convened by Giner and Emilio is rudely curtailed by the arrival of Cinco Duros and Cien Gramos. The drunken duo, having had yet another of their quarrels and reconciliations, sing a socialist anthem and declare themselves revolutionaries, though in fact they are celebrating their own self-indulgence. Giner himself is appalled and the meeting breaks up having achieved nothing. The fraternity of the bottle proves to be that of the man who uses his brother as a crutch to make good his own frailty: ‘Ninguno de los dos se aguantaba de pie y se abrazaban para no caer’ (p. 154). Here solidarity is an intoxicating consolation, a means of perpetuating self-delusion. This, the only enduring relationship in the novel, is a conspiracy whose purpose is to hold reality at bay. As with Saturio's children, who ‘ante la amenaza de quedarse sin fiesta, dejaron de pelear’ (p. 125), the falsifying fiesta and the ideal of union become interdependent. In a culture that sustains itself on contagious myth it seems therefore that any mutual feeling may be bedevilled by an impaired appreciation of real circumstances, and any dream, though it may create a sense of fellow-feeling, is easily corrupted. In part, this puzzle is explained by Giner's assertion during his meeting that the régime's abuse of the language of idealism has had the effect of debilitating and corrupting any form of idealism. Giner's theory is truer than he suspects, for his contributions to the union meeting are interspersed with snippets from a radio propaganda broadcast playing in the background, directed at members of the régime's verticalist unions. There is a disconcerting similarity between the Voz's paean to self-sacrifice, its appeal to the memory of the hardships undergone by working men during the war, its call for peace and social justice, and Giner's own well-meaning rhetoric. His privileging of the deed over the word cannot easily be distinguished here from the same creed as it appears in Falangist culture, even if it springs, in his case, from an appreciation of how officialese has robbed his class of its self-possession:

— … Los hombres del Centro habían absorbido su vocabulario para estilizarlo [ … ]. Y los hombres de las afueras debían callar. No podían servirse del habla … (p. 148)

The result of splicing the speeches of the propaganda broadcast with the words of Giner is to insinuate that the process of decay in language, communication, and idealism has gone further even than Giner might appreciate. The counterpoint turns out to be a duet that intones a single, decadent melody.

La resaca, then, contains a thematic hesitancy between solidarity and self-preservation. These tensions are resolved by the coming of age of the mixtificador. Antonio, the illusionee, admires Metralla, since he believes that, by knowing him, he too is learning to appreciate the benefits of deceit. If, he reflects, the world is a ‘gigantesca empresa de explotación’ (p. 91), then crime, which is a kind of social deceit, is preferable to honest drudgery. Indeed, his impersonation of a ‘chiquito con cara de inocente’ who collects alms for the ‘Cruzada Cordimariana’ is so remunerative that it allows him to feel superior even to his father: ‘Sin trabajar ganaba en un solo día lo que su padre obtenía en una semana, partiéndose el espinazo’ (p. 90). Thus, his new-found duplicity, in allowing him to feel grown up, permits him to supplant his father's authority and to escape childhood credulity. Unfortunately, he entrusts his earnings to Metralla, who, having taken him in (while Antonio had been busy taking other people in), fulfils his own dreams by robbing him and then abandoning him, appropriately enough, to the wife of a maker of graven images.

The result for Antonio is a bittersweet regression to childhood. He rejects the imperative to grow that is constantly sounding in the ear of the true child, to become instead an hombre-niño, a willing underling. By creating the illusion of comradeship and then exploiting it, Metralla, at least, does manage to escape, and in the closing pages of the novel Metralla's dubious strategy gains in authenticity for two reasons. First, in consummating his childhood in a relationship with the ever nameless mujer, the implication is that once his hopes have been dashed, Antonio's self-abnegation is quite voluntary. And second, when, in the novel's closing episode, one of Saturio's sons is selected to read the welcoming address to the visiting Delegate, and the boy, Carlitos, falters, the entrapment of Franco's children is shown to require more than an appeal for fellow-feeling. Affected by the tragedy unfolding within his family, Carlitos makes the most heartfelt attempt at sincere communication by any character in the novel besides Giner. His words are equally ineffectual:

Sólo acertó a balbucir:

—Delegado … Somos probres … Mi padre … (p. 184)

The pomp and circumstance of the occasion swiftly drown out his silence. In a society in which it is futile to be open and in earnest, in which the emperor's new clothes are vouchsafed by small boys, it becomes a creditable strategy to beat the authorities at their own game, by turning oneself, like Metralla, into a master of ceremonies; by deluding the illusionist as well as his victims. In the land of make-believe, communion is a false fiesta. Betrayal, criminality, deception, illusion: only arms such as these can enable the bemythed to break the spell. The means of deliverance, the guarantee against being written into someone else's script and so putting oneself at that person's mercy, entail becoming the active creator of illusion. In Fiestas Pira's ill-fated fantasy of visiting her father in Rome is taken from a film. She is duped. In La resaca the plan to escape to America is also taken from a film, but the fantasy becomes real because Metralla knows how to transform himself into the author of his own fiction. It is possible to see the self-possessed mixtificadores as the truest manifestation of the Existentialist hero in Goytisolo's works, since, having had criminality thrust upon them by circumstances, they assume fully the consequences of their adversity, and become consummate con-artists. One is reminded of Sartre's approval of Jean Genet, whom Goytisolo himself came to know and admire greatly, on similar grounds.21

The career of the counter-illusionist has advanced thus far. To be a mythoclast one must usurp myth rather than destroy it outright. Pablo Márquez escapes, as does Metralla in La resaca. In Juegos de manos the killing of David by Agustín is internecine and the outcome of this sacrifice is negative for all concerned. In the polemical fantasy, Duelo en El Paraiso, the abuse of Abel by Pablo Márquez is beneficial to the latter and could be justified as retribution against a representátive of the ruling caste. In La resaca Metralla prospers at the expense of Antonio, but in this novel betrayal is internecine, as it had been in the first. La resaca is thus a rerun of Juegos de manos, but this time there is a winner. In a sense this later novel redeems Agustín and discredits David. The échec of Agustín is transformed into the success of Metralla. Moreover, in later texts the figure of Uribe is assimilated to that of Agustín: Pablo Márquez is a mountebank; Metralla is a brilliant actor-manager, and his gang hero-worships Sabater, who is anarchist, arch-villain, and master of disguises all rolled into one. The moment of assimilation occurs, perhaps, in El circo when the blameless Utah takes on the role of a lifetime, and, in the eyes of society, becomes a criminal. At this instant Uribe ceases to be a minor.

In a society in which the politics of oppression have corrupted the politics of opposition, authentic action involves calling the bluff of all those who are too easily enchanted. The importance of orthodox political activity thus fades. Unlike the youngsters of Juegos de manos, those of La resaca are apolitical. Metralla and his gang are the children of anarchist activists, but these are now long dead, and are remembered for their criminal prowess rather than for their ideals. Political renewal proves useless if it is not preceded by an internal renewal which exorcises all susceptibility to the comforts of mythification.

Linda Gould Levine has argued that the conflicts embodied by different characters in the early works are internalized as warring fragments of a divided psyche in the later ones. The need to denounce the conservative child within himself (from Señas de identidad and Reivindicación del conde don Julián onwards) and, with him, the stultifying myths which beset Spain, begins, I have argued, in the early fiction with a continuing revaluation of the mixtificador to the point that he metamorphoses finally from a lâche into the symbolic slayer of childish myths. Paradoxically, however, he slays myths by engendering myths. The conservative child who is deluded by mythical relationships is also an enemy, since, to the betrayer, he personifies the threat of regression to childish gullibility, and therefore must be transgressed in order that he might be transcended. The very facility with which the sensitive children of the early novels are mystified by those they admire is a sign of their menacing corruptibility. Liberation thus comes through control and a high degree of intentionality. The mythophile child must be subjugated, not conjugated.

To read these novels in the 1950s must have been a cruel experience for individuals from either side of the civil divide in Spain. Those characters deceived are beguilingly attractive, and, with Abel and Antonio, Goytisolo uses an internal focus that invites the reader to sympathize especially with well-meaning children who are trying to break free. In inviting the reader to witness (in fictional form, merely) the death, through beguilement, of the knowingly beguiled child, Goytisolo invites those in opposition to the régime to put away childish things. Yet, to this end, in these early novels, there is by no means a straight choice between authenticity and myth.


  1. I understand myth here in the Barthesian sense as mystification or delusion capable of governing unconscious assent: see Roland Barthes, Mythologies: Le Mythe aujourd'hui (Paris: Seuil, 1957).

  2. Juan Goytisolo, Coto vedado (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1985), p. 234.

  3. The main surveys of the early fiction can be found in Ramón Buckley, Problemas formales en la novela española contemporánea (Barcelona: Peninsula, 1968), pp. 145–82; Gonzalo Sobejano, Novela española de nuestro tiempo: En busca del pueblo perdido (Madrid: Prensa Española, 1970), pp. 261–96; Kessel Schwartz, Juan Goytisolo (New York: Twayne, 1970); Linda Gould Levine, Juan Goytisolo: La destrucción creadora (Mexico City: Mortiz, 1976), pp. 13–47, in particular; Santos Sanz Villanueva, Lectura de Juan Goytisolo (Barcelona: Anthropos, 1977); José Carlos Pérez, La trayectoria novelistica de Juan Goytisolo: El autor y sus obsesiones (Zaragoza: Oroel, 1984). In Writing and Politics in Franco's Spain (London and New York: Routledge, 1990) Barry Jordan analyses Juegos de manos and Duelo en El Paraíso.

  4. For example, in his Trilogy of Treason: An Intertextual Study of Juan Goytisolo (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1982) Michael Ugarte catalogues Goytisolo's destruction of mythical Spain. Gould Levine remarks that ‘Goytisolo niega el mito del paraíso infantil’ (p. 16). In his La novela desde 1936 (Madrid: Alhambra, 1980) Ignacio Soldevila Durante notes the mitoclastia of Reivindicación del conde don Julián (p. 248). In her Juan Goytisolo: The Case for Chaos (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1990) Abigail Lee Six considers Goytisolo's textual transgressions of myth in the later novels, and notes, with Gould Levine, the recurrent pairing of victim and executioner in the early novels, without, however, discussing the nature of the relationship which mythification has with each of these two archetypes. In an interview with Emir Rodríguez Monegal (Emir Rodríguez Monegal, El arte de narrar [Caracas: Monte Avila, 1968]) Goytisolo said of Señas de identidad: ’En mi novela he propuesto una destrucción de todos los mitos que envuelven el término España’ (p. 188). In his Disidencias (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1977) Goytisolo states, before writing Reivindicación del conde don Julián, that ‘la interpretación mítica, justificativa de la historia de España, me obsesionaba desde años’, and that ‘el único problema que se me planteaba era el del lenguaje mediante el cual debía llevar a cabo mi traición (p. 292). In Myth and History in the Contemporary Spanish Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989) Jo Labanyi argues that in transgressing cultural myths, Goytisolo perpetuates the very myths that he wishes to eradicate. In the present article I argue that in the course of the first five novels Goytisolo's traitors learn to extemporize their own myths and, moreover, that history and myth in these novels are not antithetical concepts.

  5. J. F. Cirre coins the term ‘mixtificador’ in his ‘Novela e ideologia en J. Goytisolo’, Insula, no. 230 (January 1966), pp. 1, 12.

  6. Buckley says: ‘También la figura del mixtificador se ve afectado a través de la evolución goytisoliana: mientras que en la primera época [that is, the first two novels] se ve aliada a la figura del lider (Duelo en el paraíso) [El Arquero], o por lo menos no inmersa en la tragedia (Juego de niños [sic]) [Uribe], en la segunda [that is, Fiestas, El circo, La resaca] el mixtificador se convierte en víctima o por lo menos en una de las víctimas [that is, Utah, El Gorila, Pira, Coral]’ (p. 160). The thrust of the present article, however, is to argue the contrary: the mystifier ceases to be a victim and becomes instead a leader-figure.

  7. For Goytisolo's voracious consumption of Sartre (and Marx) around the time of writing Juegos de manos, see Coto vedado, p. 196.

  8. In L'Existentialisme est un humanisme (Paris: Nagel, 1946) Sartre writes: ‘Certes, la liberté comme définition de l'homme ne dépend pas d'autrui, mais dès qu'il y a engagement, je suis obligé de vouloir, en même temps que ma liberté, la liberté des autres; je ne puis prendre ma liberté pour but que si je prends également celle des autres pour but’ (p. 83).

  9. See Jordan, pp. 131–36.

  10. For an examination of Sartrean influences in this novel, see Gemma Roberts, ‘El auto-engaño en Juegos de manos de Juan Goytisolo’, Hispanic Review, 43 (1975), 393–405.

  11. Juan Goytisolo, Juegos de manos (Barcelona: Destino, 1954), p. 263. All page references are to this edition.

  12. See Jean-Paul Sartre, L'Etre et le néant: Essai d'ontologie phénoménologique (Paris: Gallimard, 1943), pp. 83–111 (p. 98).

  13. See Jean-Paul Sartre, Baudelaire (Paris: Gallimard, 1947).

  14. Jo Labanyi, ‘The Ambiguous Implications of the Mythical References in Juan Goytisolo's Duelo en El Paraíso’, MLR, 80 (1985), 845–57.

  15. Juan Goytisolo, Fiestas (Barcelona: Destino, 1981), p. 186. Although the novel was published in 1958 it was written in 1955, before El circo. All page references are to the 1981 edition.

  16. In his article ‘¿Evasion o rebelión?: Lectura de Fiestas de Juan Goytisolo’, Kentucky Romance Quarterly, 28 (1981), 309–22, Carlos Feal Deibe argues, more optimistically, that ‘la amenaza de rebelión [ … ] sólo será eficaz cuando deje de ser un gesto aislado para comunicarse a más individuos. Sólo un grupo podrá oponerse con fuerza al grupo opresor dominante’ (p. 320).

  17. Juan Goytisolo, El circo (Barcelona: Destino, 1957).

  18. Juan Goytisolo, La resaca (Mexico City: Mortiz, 1977). All page references are to this edition.

  19. Gonzalo Sobejano summarizes thus: ‘Basándose en declaraciones del propio autor, los críticos J. F. Cirre, J. M. Martínez Cachero y Ramón Buckley vienen a coincidir poco más o menos en señalar tres períodos: el primero, subjetivista (Juegos, Duelo), el segundo, de transición político-revolucionaria (la trilogía) y el último, de realismo objetivo predominante’ (p. 265). See also Sanz Villanueva, p. 56.

  20. From the jacket of the second Italian edition of La risacca (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1961). Quotation and reference from Sanz Villanueva, p. 26.

  21. See Jean-Paul Sartre, Saint Genet, comédien et martyr (Paris: Gallimard, 1952).

Abigail Lee Six (review date 9 August 1996)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 Strife. His earlier trilogy of novels, Marks of Identity,Count Julian and Juan the Landless, had an impact on Spanish letters and thought that can hardly be overestimated.

Since then his fiction and non-fiction have evolved in directions that open up untrodden territory, through a virtuoso combination of literary, philosophical and topical issues. In 1988 The Virtues of the Solitary Bird took up the question of contagion, in the literary sense of originality versus influence and in the medico-political reaction to the presence of Aids in western society. The Quarantine (1991) fused a commentary on the Gulf war with a study of occidental and Muslim attitudes to death and the afterlife. Most recently he has been to Sarajevo and written both journalistic and fictional accounts of his experiences there.

Goytisolo has joked that he feels like a political wallflower at the ball: no party wants him to dance with them. Unlike many of his contemporaries he never joined the Communist Party, in spite of being known for strong socialist sympathies and branded a traitor by the fascist establishment of Spain before 1975. He has always been his own man politically. After vociferous support for the Cuban revolution, Goytisolo changed his mind when he discovered the fate of homosexuals under Castro. Indeed he tellingly said that his sympathies lie with underdogs and the marginalised of all stripes.

Written in 1994 The Marx Family Saga, like all Goytisolo's mature fiction, has no single story line or theme. Instead a cluster of interlinked ideas reaches out to current affairs on the one hand and critical theory on the other. The novel's political component deals with the demise of communism in eastern Europe, including the way the west has reacted to it. We see Albanians landing on an exclusive Italian beach, met with repugnance and violence by locals and watched on TV by viewers who zap to another channel.

Karl Marx and his family are brought back to life in the present. He attends communist meetings in Paris (no one recognises him) and has difficulty understanding the speakers; he goes to an exhibition of Soviet art and is abused by the figures in the pictures. Seemingly happy workers, they are furious because they represent stereotypes that have nothing to do with real life in the Soviet Union. The novel dramatises the way in which Marx's philosophy was traduced by the Soviet empire—but also the cruelty, vacuousness and nastiness of present-day consumer society.

Running commentary on the nature of biography juxtaposes different ways of representing the Marx family. A romanticised soap-style television series is set against the novel's messier picture, in which an authorial figure visits the Marxes and finds out, for example, that their faithful servant Lenchen has no time for talk about her having been exploited. Indeed, the inappropriateness of such a view comes across strongly, reminding us of the cultural gulf between our own era and theirs.

The Marx Family Saga, like most of Goytisolo's recent fiction, is very funny as it makes serious literary and socio-political points. Readers familiar with his writing will recognise Goytisolo's satirical hobby-horses in some marvellous set pieces. In an excruciating TV chat-show on Marx, for instance, each panellist has their own agenda and a set of clichés to match—as in the similar programme on realism in Juan the Landless.

Goytisolo's identification with the underdog finds expression on two levels. On the one hand, the novel's sympathetic author-figure is marginalised by the mass-media scene. In contrast to the establishment figures he is open-minded, a good listener, sensitive. On the other, the Marx family find their 19th-century minds bemused at their portrayal by the media machine.

The quality of Goytisolo's translations has varied over the years, from the disastrous version of Marks of Identity by Gregory Rabassa to the masterpieces that Helen Lane made of Count Julian and others. Peter Bush does not reach Lane's heights or sink to Rabassa's depths. The loss to the English reader is undeniable: the light humour plods in places, register and tone are not always spot-on. But Goytisolo's genius transcends these handicaps. The Marx Family Saga is worth reading in any language.

David Vilaseca (essay date April 1999)

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

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 paintings, I look for the subconscious—in a Surrealist painting, for the conscious.’ (Sigmund Freud)2

One of the most productive yet relatively overlooked contributions in Lee Edelman's Homographesis (1994) is its rereading of Freud's famous case From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (The ‘Wolf Man’) (1918) in terms of a crisis not only of the dominant narratives that inform and orient the knowledge of sexual difference, but also of Western epistemology in general.3 From his distinctively deconstructive perspective, Edelman points out that such an epistemological crisis follows from the metaleptic, ‘Moebius-strip’ type of logic that informs Freud's hypothesis of the ‘primal scene’ as described in the case, as well as from the scene's implication in the spectacle of what the critic provocatively calls a ‘proto-homosexuality’ (Homographesis, p. 180). This article looks in some detail at the relationship between such epistemological disruptions and the constitution and uses of homosexuality in Juan Goytisolo's two autobiographical volumes to date: Coto vedado (1985) and En los reinos de laifa (1986). Building on an implicit comparison between Edelman's ideas on the metaleptic nature of the primal scene as a (proto-)homosexual structure, and Jacques Lacan's theory of the subject's ‘extimate’ relationship to the Other, I shall attempt to show that the subject of Goytisolo's autobiography constructs his own ontological coherence always in retrospect and a tergo (from behind), hence in a series of anti-essentialist movements in which it is the metaleptic ‘(be)hindsight’4 of homosexuality that determines both the subject's constitution and his exorbitant chronology.

As is well known, in The ‘Wolf Man’ Freud undertook the analysis of a young Russian man who had suffered in the earlier years of his childhood from a ‘severe neurotic disturbance’, one that began as an anxiety-hysteria (in the shape of an animal phobia) and then changed into an obsessional neurosis.5 In his attempt to interpret an early dream from which his patient, as a child, had emerged in a great state of anxiety, Freud famously arrived in this case at his hypothesis of the ‘primal scene’: at the age of one and a half, as he was sleeping in his cot in his parents' bedroom, the Wolf Man must have woken up to witness his parents engaged in a sexual intercourse a tergo (from behind),6 a sight he had not understood at the time, and only retrospectively (coinciding with the time when the Wolf Man had his anxiety dream) had convinced him of ‘the reality of the existence of castration’ (p. 267).

Emerging from the interpretation of a childhood dream, based in its turn on a previous memory, and featuring an erotic vision that within its discursive context can only be described as quite ‘sensational’,7 Freud's hypothesis of the ‘primal scene’ raises a number of interesting questions.8 First, there is a parallel Edelman calls ‘directional’ to be considered: a parallel between the type of sexual intercourse that the Wolf Man was supposed to have witnessed and the practice of psychoanalysis itself, in so far as it too, as Edelman points out, approaches the subject's experience ‘from behind’ through the analyst's efforts to disentangle the distinctive logic of the unconscious (p. 175). Secondly, however, and more important for my purposes, the coitus a tergo allegedly witnessed by the Wolf Man allegorizes (mirrors in mîse en abîme) the retroactive (behindactive) character of the primal scene itself as described by Freud. As suggested in The ‘Wolf Man’, the impact of the primal scene upon the subject appears also to come chronologically ‘from behind’ (or ‘back to front’), for it is not at the time it is allegedly witnessed but only in retrospect (as the scene comes to be remembered and interpreted in the very process of analytical (re)construction) that it acquires its foundational, ‘primal’ status.9 As Edelman points out, in the primal scene the subject thus returns ‘to a trauma occasioned by an earlier event that has no existence as a scene of trauma until it is (re)presented—or (re)produced—as a trauma in the movement of return itself’ (p. 175).

Therefore, both the primal scene and the sodomitical (retroactive/behindactive) exchange that allegorizes it constitute metaleptic, ‘Moebius-strip’ types of structures, which, as Edelman points out, bespeak ‘a crisis of certainty’ and a ‘destabilizing of the foundational logic on which knowledge as such depends’ (p. 176). What distinguishes the ‘Moebius strip’ is its subversion of the usual (Euclidean) way of representing space: the strip appears to have two sides when in fact it has only one: hence the impossibility of distinguishing its ‘back’ from its ‘front’.10 Likewise, what distinguishes a metalepsis (the rhetorical figure that takes a cause for its effect or vice versa) is its undermining of the temporal logic upon which the very distinction between cause and effect (what comes before and what comes after) is based. Conceived of as a (re)construction that emerges from the interpretation of symptoms subsequently determined to have been, themselves, effects of that very (re)construction, it is precisely such epistemological disruptions, such a destabilizing of oppositional and temporal logic (cause v. effect, before v. after), that Freud's notion of the primal scene brings about.

The metaleptic ‘(il)logic’ characterizing the primal scene in Edelman's account is best exemplified in Juan Goytisolo's two autobiographical volumes. The autobiography by the Barcelona-born Castillian writer is the story of a ‘conversion’ of sorts: that of a writer who at a crucial point in his life chooses to give up the literary, political, and sexual orthodoxies to which he owed his incipient popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s in order to follow, in the decades to come, what he experiences as a more genuine, individualized, and ethically valuable personal and literary path. Such a transformation affects all aspects of his life, entailing the overthrowing and subsequent substitution of most of his previous values and literary models: as far as politics are concerned, during the 1970s, partly after he became aware of the appalling treatment of homosexuals following the 1st National Congress in Havana in 1971, his Marxism and early admiration for the Soviet Union and Castroist Cuba gives way to the outright condemnation of all Western totalitarian régimes, Fascist as well as Communist. As for literature, his pursuit of worldly recognition and his tactical defence of social realism in early novels such as Juegos de manos (1954) and Duelo en el paraíso (1955) developed, in Reivindicación del Conde Don Fulián (1970), towards a new conception of literature as ‘gracia y condena’, one that followed the example of Jean Genet, among others, and despised professionalization, proclaiming the writer's sole commitment to his own ‘autenticidad subjetiva’.11 Finally, when he is thirty-four years old his public heterosexual identity from the 1950s and 1960s gives way to his coming out as a homosexual man, an identity finding its ideal object of desire in Arab men from the Maghreb countries, but not preventing the writer from remaining in a loving relationship with his long-time female partner Monique Lange.

Goytisolo speaks of such a change in his personal and literary path in terms of a ‘renacimiento’ (Reinos, p. 248) and a ‘muda de piel’ (p. 107). Resorting to what is arguably a highly essentializing set of comparisons and rhetorical devices, the writer establishes a clear cut, hierarchical opposition between the person he used to be in ‘esa etapa de pose e inautenticidad’ (Coto, p. 117) during the 1950s and early 1960s and the narrator of the autobiography as he conceives of himself at the time of the writing.12 The former Juan Goytisolo is characterized as an impostor and a fake, as a vain and dishonest double who used to run after social recognition and who masked his ‘yo genuino inerme y agazapado’ (p. 139); on the other hand, the present-day Goytisolo represents the writer's genuine, true self, devoid of all former opportunistic concerns, somebody who ‘sin las anteojeras ni prejuicios inherentes a toda ideología o sistema’ (p. 145) has learnt entirely to devote himself to ‘el debate contigo y con tu verdad’ (Reinos, p. 65).

To return to Freud's account of the primal scene, what is particularly interesting about Goytisolo's biographical narrative and about such a ‘renacimiento’ into ‘Juan Goytisolo’ the writer as he is known now, is precisely the metaleptic, retroactive/behindactive logic that underlies and informs the narrator's ‘transformation’. For, paraphrasing Edelman on Freud, this is also a Moebius-strip type of narrative, one in which a particular event (the advent of ‘Juan Goytisolo’ as master-signifier of the autobiography) functions as both effect and cause of its own history, and in so doing undermines the temporal and positional logic upon which the very distinction between cause and effect depends.

This question will be studied in more detail. On the one hand, the ‘first’ Goytisolo of the 1950s and early 1960s does precede the narrator of the autobiography as he conceives of himself at the time of the writing: one has developed into the other; the former's biographical experiences, influences, and thoughts are at the origin of the latter's, leading to his present-day identity. Paradoxically, however, that original, ‘primal’ Goytisolo is always already an effect and an offshoot of his namesake successor, for he is never ‘in his own terms’ but is constituted as a result of that moment of future identification from which ‘Juan Goytisolo’, achieving what Walter Benjamin calls a ‘tiger's leap into the past’,13 has retrospectively generated ‘his own’ history and ‘his own’ ontological necessity as a projection or reflection of ‘himself’. To put it in Lacanian terminology, Goytisolo's past in Coto vedado and En los reinos de taifa is thus produced in that most paradoxical of tenses, the future perfect (future antérieur), as a cluster of defining features that literally ‘are not’ but always ‘will have been’ (what came before ‘myself’, what preceded my own ‘renaissance’).14

A passage from Coto vedado best exemplifies this point. It is 1956 and Juan Goytisolo, increasingly critical of the Spanish cultural and political situation under Franco, is just about to move to Paris for good. ‘Aquél joven español imbuido de marxismo y adepto a las tesis del compromiso de Sartre’ (as Goytisolo describes himself at the time [Coto, p. 209]) has not yet read any of the authors who roughly eight years later (when he will no longer uphold Marxist ideals) will inspire his new way of writing and conception of the intellectual's task: Artaud, Bataille, Beckett, Genet, Rimbaud. At this point, however, and for a brief period, Goytisolo befriends the Catalan poet in exile Josep Palau i Fabre, who is fourteen years older than he is, whom he describes as ‘una suerte de francotirador en un panorama cultural que tendía fatalmente a politizarse’ (p. 209). The point is that as Goytisolo knows perfectly well, Palau i Fabre's poetry at the time was already strongly influenced by these French authors (particularly by Artaud and Rimbaud), which means that when reflecting on this episode almost thirty years later, Goytisolo is left with the metaleptic riddle of wondering whether, along with his brief friendship with Palau i Fabre, he lost a unique opportunity then of familiarizing himself much earlier with those who were to be his intellectual and aesthetic influences, and hence of considerably ‘shortening the path’ (‘acortar el camino’) that was to lead to his ‘new’, present-day ‘self’. Goytisolo writes:

Mi amistad con él [Palau i Fabre] hubiera podido procurarme la oportunidad de penetrar entonces en la obra de unos autores que, libre ya de mis anteojeras ideológicas, descubriría tan sólo ocho años más tarde; pero la brevedad de nuestra relación [ … ] malogró aquella ocasión única de acortar el camino que debería llevarme a la conquista de una escritura personal y responsable. (p. 209)

How may we befriend our future friends? What is of interest here, of course, is the metaleptic, Moebius-strip type of logic underlying Goytisolo's reflection, which raises the question of how he could possibly shorten, with or without Palau i Fabre, the path leading to something that had not yet taken place. Or, in other words, how could he possibly become who he ‘is’ before ‘being’ who he is, except as an illusion of the autobiographical distance already separating ‘him’ as subject of the enunciation from ‘him’ as subject of the utterance? In fact, what has happened is that despite the chronological disposition of events here, just as in Freud's primal scene, meaning comes ‘from behind’ and in the future perfect of what ‘I’ (‘Juan Goytisolo’) will have been. The Juan Goytisolo of 1956 is no entity in himself; a mere imperfect prefiguration of his namesake successor, his identity is established in the mode not of what he was (which he no longer is), not even of what he will be (which the autobiographer never follows through), but in the mode of what he will (not) have been for what ‘I’ (‘Juan Goytisolo’) presently am: he who ‘malogró aquella ocasión única’; he who ‘hubiera podido acortar el camino’. Ultimately, it is the later, present-day Goytisolo who, by endowing his predecessor with a specific meaning and position in the overall narrative, thus ‘precedes’ him in the autobiography, not the other way around. Generating his own history and his own ontological necessity as projections of himself, it is Goytisolo who (always at the absolute origin of the narrative) thus establishes his ‘new’ identity in an act of (be)hindsight where causes and effects are the two reversible sides of his own symbolic and ideological naturalization.15

Later in this article I shall look at the metaleptic ‘(il)logic’ underlying Goytisolo's subjective constitution in connection with his later friendship with Jean Genet; first, however, I discuss another question: what is the relationship between the chronological disruptions that Freud's primal scene can be taken to epitomize within the history of the subject and the spectacle of male sodomy? Or, in so far as the question relates to a reading of Goytisolo, in what ways, if at all, is the narrator's distinctively retroactive hindsight (as exemplified by the above episode) related to homosexuality as a discursive structure undermining the classical hierarchical binaries of corporeal and epistemological representation (front/back, before/behind, penis/anus) with its particular investment in the ‘behind’: in what comes from the ‘rear’ and a tergo?

The theoretical implications of this question have been the object of careful analysis in Edelman's Homographesis. As well as indicating how in the first instance (at a pre-genital stage) Freud's primal scene is always of a ‘proto-homosexual’ nature (that is, always fantasmatically perceived as taking place between partners both of whom are thought to possess the phallus)16 and with either of whose positions the infant has no difficulty in identifying pleasurably at that stage (Homographesis, p. 180), Edelman notes that the spectacle of male sodomy represents in itself a troubling structural subversion of the binary logic on which knowledge (not least sexual knowledge) is based. As he points out in his reading of John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, equally capable of penetrating and being penetrated (of having the phallus and ‘taking’ it), the male homosexual is a man who, from the front, is like his father from the front, while being also, from behind (by the same fantasmatic principle that purportedly leads a little boy to construct the vagina as the mother's ‘front bottom’) like his mother from the front (Homographesis, p. 184).17 Hence, not only does the homosexual challenge the opposition between ‘having’ and ‘not having’ the phallus (or in Lacanian terms, between ‘having’ the phallus and ‘being’ it) upon which gender difference is culturally constructed,18 but ‘he’ embodies also the metaleptic structure of the Moebius strip as described above. As Edelman argues, the homosexual constitutes himself ‘as a single-sided surface whose front and back are never completely distinguishable as such’, hence enacting a positional and temporal ‘(il)logic’ whose consequences for classical gender and epistemological narratives can be described as nothing short of ‘catastrophic’ (pp. 185–89).

It is worth briefly referring at this point to Jacques Derrida's seminal insights on homosexuality in The Post-Card (1987), in which he reads a post-card reproduction of a thirteenth century frontispiece of Plato and Socrates as a graphic depiction of penetration from behind.19 Elevating that image to the category of philosophy's primal scene, Derrida focuses on the ways in which Plato and Socrates play out a vertiginous reversibility of positions, particularly of the spatial-temporal positions on which Western philosophy rests. The spectacle of sodomy between these philosophers, according to Derrida, represents an ‘overturning and inversion of relations’ (p. 22) of ‘apocalyptic’ consequences (p. 13); for, by undermining the determinacy of (and opposition between) what or who is before and what or who behind (phallic presence v. absence, speech [Socrates] v. writing [Plato]), such a spectacle challenges in its turn the very foundations of the whole Western phallogocentric legacy. Derrida writes: ‘What I prefer, about post-cards, is that one does not know what is in front or what is in back, here or there, near or far, the Plato or the Socrates, recto or verso’ (p. 13), and ‘S. does not see P. who sees S., but (and here is the truth of philosophy) only from the back. There is only the back, seen from the back, in what is written [ … ]. Everything is played out in retro and a tergo’ (p. 48).

Before entering further into this theoretical discussion, I return to Goytisolo's autobiography, to see in what ways the troubling resistances posed by homosexuality to a conventional lineal epistemological logic, as described by Derrida and Edelman, can shed some further light on its narrator's uses of subjectivity. On several occasions in Coto vedado and En los reinos de taifa the narrator lays emphasis on the inevitably ‘constructed’ (retroactive/behindactive) character of any totalizing meaning imposed upon the discontinuous cluster of his biographical events and subjective attributes. Reflecting on the incident with his Madrid friend Lucho, reported in Part II of Coto vedado (the incident in which, much to his own surprise, a still heterosexually identified Goytisolo found himself accused of attempting to seduce his friend while under the effects of alcohol), the narrator says: ‘A la luz de mi experiencia posterior resulta muy cómodo atribuir a lo acaecido un sentido premonitorio y establecer a partir de ello una impecable cadena de causas y efectos. Pero mi deseo no es ése sino exponer los hechos tal y como los percibía en el momento en que sucedieron’ (p. 188). Moreover, still reflecting on roughly the same period of his life (though in that other self-engendering autobiographical voice, characterized by the use of italics and unconventional punctuation, which Annie Perrin defines as ‘homotextual’),20 Goytisolo notes: ‘Tu personalidad aleatoria de aquellos años, con sus rasgos a menudo antitéticos, propicia la tentación de otorgarle una posterior coherencia que, pese a su verdad teleológica, será una forma sutil de traición’ (Coto, p. 152).

What is particularly striking about these remarks is that they performatively affirm what they seek to deny: by telling us what the autobiography strives not to do, they in fact manage to do it all the more successfully. For, such wilful declarations of faithfulness to events as perceived at the moment they happened (‘los hechos tal y como los percibía en el momento en que sucedieron’), such an emphatic wariness not to mystify with an overimposed teleology, Goytisolo's youthful ‘volatile personality’ (‘tu personalidad aleatoria de aquellos años’), rather than a refutation, surely constitute the best proof that the process of ‘mystification’ the reader is warned about is found here at its purest. I suggest that it is precisely because of such remarks that what Goytisolo calls ‘una forma sutil de traición’ (the betrayal of a past that in the autobiography is always already ‘his own’ or, to put it in Derrida's terminology, always played out in retro) can remain ‘sutil’, thereby masking the fact that the biographical necessity of the narrator's so-called moral and sexual ‘muda de piel’ at the age of thirty-four constitutes only a secondary effect of projecting himself onto his own history, and of doing so in the future perfect of what will have been for what ‘I’ presently am.

It is not surprising that such metaleptic effects, the effects (following Derrida and Edelman) whereby the founding and naturalization of a subject's position can be said to come always ‘from behind’ and a tergo, should be perfectly exemplified here, in an autobiography that constitutes Goytisolo's ‘official’ coming-out narrative as a homosexual man. More interesting, however, than suggesting that Goytisolo's uses of subjectivity (qua distinctively homosexual) stand in any privileged relationship to such spatial-temporal disruptions (a position which is vulnerable to accusations of essentialism), is analysing in its discursive specificity the way in which he radically reconceptialises some of the most basic nodes of contemporary Western thought. Considering the episode of Goytisolo's inaugural friendship with Jean Genet in the light of the Lacanian notion of ‘extimacy’ (‘extimité’), I will endeavour to show that the metaleptic challenges posed by this episode's chronology cannot be understood without taking into account a broader context in which Goytisolo's life writing problematises and undermines the most basic opposition between the real and its symbolisation.

The friendship with Genet constitutes one of the most influential events in the autobiography, as Genet's example represented the main triggering factor in Goytisolo's crucial ‘muda de piel’ in the late 1960's. Goytisolo notes:

[Genet] ha sido en verdad mi única influencia adulta en el plano estrictamente moral. Genet me enseñó a desprenderme poco a poco de mi vanidad primeriza, el oportunismo político, el deseo de figurar en la vida literariosocial para centrarme en algo más hondo y difícil: la conquista de una expresión literaria propia, mi autenticidad subjectiva. Sin él, sin su ejemplo, no habría tenido tal vez la fuerza de [ … ] escribir cuanto he escrito a partir de Don Julián.

(Reinos, p. 153)


Las apariciones y eclipses de Genet a lo largo de dos décadas me descubrirán un ámbito moral nuevo: tras un mundo burgués cerrado y compacto [ … ] me internaré poco a poco y con cautela, de su mano, en esa fecundidad desligada de nociones de patria, credo, estado, doctrina o respetabilidad de mi ejido-medina de la Bonne Nouvelle. (p. 123)

As noted previously, what is particularly interesting about the constitution of Goytisolo's subjective position is that despite the chronological disposition of events, it generates its own biographical necessity always in retrospect and in the future perfect of what ‘I’ will have been. This fact can now be observed in relation to Genet's influence, which, achieving an identical ‘tiger's leap into the past’ (Benjamin), appears also to project itself ‘back to front’ onto an earlier period of the narrator's life, hence, so to speak, presupposing ‘Goytisolo’ as already present in his own history. An example is the narrator's remark that after reading Genet's Journal du voleur (1949) for the first time, he felt as if he had been introduced to ‘un mundo para mí [no] totalmente desconocido; algo presentido de modo oscuro desde la adolescencia, pero que mi educación y prejuicios me habían impedido verificar’ (Reinos, p. 126). Furthermore, something similar occurs as Goytisolo discovers his desire for Arab men two chapters later in En los reinos de taifa, pointing out how even before meeting his first Arab lover, Mohamed, he could have reproduced in his mind an exact model of masculinity that had attracted him since childhood: ‘Antes aún de mi encuentro iniciador con Mohamed, podía reproducir mentalmente, con la minucia y exactitud de un miniaturista, la imagen masculina que me imantaba desde su mágica irrupción en la infancia’ (p. 221).

The metaleptic ‘(il)logic’ of Genet's influence on Goytisolo and, later, of Goytisolo's subjective constitution in the autobiography is nowhere better represented than in the very first meeting between the two men. I conclude with analysis of this episode. It took place on 8 October 1955, and is noted in the autobiography, not once but twice. The first time, towards the end of Coto vedado, it forms part of the roughly chronological disposition of events that characterizes the diegesis: along with other events taking place in that same year, the narrator attended a dinner party at the home of Monique Lange (whom Goytisolo had recently met through her work as an editor at Gallimard) to which Genet had also been invited (pp. 259–60).21 Goytisolo and Genet apparently spent most of the evening without speaking to each other, as Genet, at a time when Goytisolo had not yet come out as a homosexual, famously embarrassed him with the question: ‘Y usted, ¿es maricón?’, to which Goytisolo replied evasively (p. 260). It is only some one hundred and fifty pages later, when the dinner party is again recalled in En los reinos de taifa, that its real importance for the narrator's uses of subjectivity is made clear. The beginning of a friendship that over the following two decades completely transformed the way Goytisolo conceived of himself and his literary career that evening represented for Goytisolo nothing less than ‘mi Lil Al Qader’ (Arabic for ‘Night of Decree’). This is a reference to the twenty-seventh night of the Ramadan month, in which, according to the Koran (97.1), the Scriptures were sent down as a guidance to the Muslim people:22

Mi Lil Al Qader acaeció un ocho de octubre, no sé si dentro o fuera del mes sagrado de Ramadán, la noche en que fui por primera vez en el lugar en el que escribo estas líneas y conocí a un tiempo a Monique y Genet, dos personas que por vías y maneras distintas influyeron decisivamente en mi vida y cuyo encuentro desempeña en esta un papel auroral. Mi evolución posterior la deberé en gran parte a ellas. (p. 123)

There are two interesting things about this quotation. The first is the use of the reference to Lailat Al-Qadr to mark the inaugural role of that first encounter with Genet, despite the fact that if the chronology of Goytisolo's autobiography is to be believed, Muslim culture was still quite alien to him in 1955.23 What he calls ‘la entrada del mundo magrebí en mi vida’ (Reinos, p. 229), his ‘afán posterior de saber, explorar paso a paso [ … ] embeberme de su lengua y cultura’ (p. 225) (first by wandering alone around the Parisian Barbès quarter and later inspired by his lover Mohammed) did not start, according to En los reinos de taifa, until roughly eight years later, in 1963, which again points to the metaleptic nature of an event that challenges conventional causal logic by retroactively extending its structural effects to a moment when it had not yet taken place. But what is the symbolic function of the double (re)presentation of the first encounter with Genet in Goytisolo's autobiography? More precisely: why is it that, embarrassing and forgettable as it appears to have been the first time it is described in Coto vedado, it is not until it is revisited in En los reinos de taifa that its ‘inaugural’ function (‘auroral’) for the narrator's identity should be made clear to us (and, I would argue, even to himself as subject)?24

An interesting analogy may be drawn with Lacan's theory of the ‘two deaths’ here, a theory which, following Slavoj Žižek, may be summarized ironically as ‘everybody must die twice’.25 In his 1959–60 seminar ‘The Ethics of Psychoanalysis’, Lacan distinguishes between real (biological) death and its symbolization; between the physical, contingent death of a human being and a death already inscribed in the signifying web as a ‘settling of accounts’ and an ‘accomplishment of symbolic destiny’.26 As opposed to biological death, the second, symbolic death represents for Lacan the moment in which a subject recognizes himself as the addressee of a certain (death) ‘sentence’ coming from the Other, the moment in which, effecting a retroactive inversion of contingency into necessity, the subject is finally able to recognize and identify with his or her own death. Žižek gives an example of this distinction with the classical, archetypal cartoon scene: a cat inattentively runs past the edge of a precipice, and although it is already hanging in the air, without ground under its feet, it does not fall, until the moment it looks down and becomes aware of its perilous situation. As Žižek notes, the point of this nonsensical accident is that because the cat does not know that it is falling, it continues to hang. In other words, it is as if nature had ‘forgotten its laws’ for a moment: the cat has to realize that it is falling, it must be reminded of it a second time for the fall to happen (The Sublime Object of Ideology, pp. 133–34).

Something similar took place on that emblematic night of 8 October 1955, Goytisolo's metaphorical ‘Lailat Al-Qadr’. Inscribed in mise en abîme within the autobiography's diegesis, we are also presented here with an event that becomes ‘auroral’ (which properly becomes a scene of ‘transformation’) only as it is interpreted and remembered for the second time in the process of autobiographical (re)construction. The night of ‘my Lailat Al-Qadr’ does not exist until it is (re)presented, symbolized, or revealed as such in the movement of return itself. As in Freud's primal scene, what particularly concerns me here is the retroactive, metaleptic effect that symbolization appears to have upon the real. Regardless of the chronological disposition of events, it is the inscription in the symbolic web (the act of naming a particular occasion through hindsight as ‘my Lailat Al-Qadr’) that precedes (and performatively constitutes) the referent, not the other way around. In other words, the revelation of Goytisolo's new self as subject of the autobiography may well be situated on that occasion in 1955 when he and Genet met for the first time; much more interesting than that, however, is that the foundational effect (in Lacanian terms, the effect of ‘quilting’)27 that a signifier such as ‘my Lailat Al-Qadr’ has in the subject's chronology is inescapably retroactive/behindactive. This is what the second (re)presentation of that occasion in En los reinos de taifa appears to be hinting at. Had it not been for the performative act of returning to the event a second time, surely the ‘revelations’ of that night, along with Goytisolo who saw his future in them, would have been left hanging in the air like the cat in the cartoon.

The oxymoronic neologism ‘extimacy’, coined by Lacan by applying the prefix ‘ex-’ (external, exterior) to ‘intimacy’, occurs two or three times in the Seminar and neatly expresses the way in which psychoanalysis aims to question a number of binary oppositions.28 Topologically, ‘extimacy’ designates the relationship between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ (or ‘container’ and ‘contained’) (as in the Moebius strip); structurally, it designates the relationship between ‘self’ and ‘other’ (or the ‘conscious’ and the ‘unconscious’) as in Lacan's definition of the Other as ‘something strange to me, although it is at the heart of me’ (hence, ‘extimate’) (The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, p. 71). Finally, from the standpoint of the three Lacanian orders, ‘extimacy’ also designates the Real in the Symbolic, as the former is neither fully outside nor inside the latter (p. 118). In the words of Jacques-Alain Miller, ‘extimacy says that the intimate is Other—like a foreign body, a parasite’; moreover, ‘the subject contains as the most intimate (intime) of its intimacy the extimacy of the Other [ … ]. This is what Lacan is commenting on when he speaks of the unconscious as discourse of the Other, of this Other who, more intimate than my intimacy, stirs me’.29

There is something rather obvious about the fact that the constitution of Goytisolo's subjective identity in the autobiography, linked to a large extent to Genet's influence and example, should lead to this notion of ‘extimacy’. If what Goytisolo calls ‘la conquista de una expresión literaria propia [y de] mi autenticidad subjetiva’ (Reinos, p. 153) is closely associated with his friendship with Genet and his identification with Genet's ethical, sexual, and artistic positions, that surely makes difficult any simple opposition between ‘subject’ and ‘Other’, placing Genet at the most internal and intimate of Goytisolo's ‘intimacy’, and therefore establishing Goytisolo's identity (for all his declarations of having finally reached his ‘yo genuino’ [Coto, p. 139] and his ‘realidad más profunda’ [Reinos, p. 115]) as a perfect example of an ‘ex-centric’, truly extimate identity.

However, in a less obvious manner, Goytisolo's ‘extimacy’ must also be sought at the very core of his history and subjective chronology as represented in the autobiography. I have shown some of the ways in which, challenging conventional causal and positional logic, Goytisolo's newly found subjective position establishes its own past and its own ontological necessity only metaleptically and in retrospect, through the very act of autobiographical (re)presentation. Establishing himself as both effect and cause of his own history (hence performatively presupposing himself as already present in it), Goytisolo, following Lacan, is in a fundamentally extimate relationship to himself.

Here, it is the presence of the Real in the Symbolic, according to Lacan's description, that best exemplifies my argument. Defined as both the basis, the starting-point of the process of symbolization (that which in a sense precedes the symbolic order) and at the same time the result, product and leftover of such a process, the real is neither inside nor totally outside the symbolic: it is extimate to it (The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, p. 118).30 Likewise with Goytisolo: his newly established identity as the subject/narrator of the autobiography lies neither totally outside the process of its own discursive constitution (pre-existing its own symbolic inscription as self-present inwardness) nor merely inside it either. The crucial point is that ‘Goytisolo’, as ‘outside’ agency, still remains he who performatively constitutes ‘himself’: he who (as ‘pure void of self-relating’)31 determines which history and which biographical necessity will, through hindsight, become his own (hence determining ‘him’).

Such an irreducible contradiction or deadlock of the Real is what keeps this argument strictly within the metaleptic ‘(il)logic’ of the Moebius strip, and is the fine line that separates Goytisolo (along with Lacan) from deconstruction or poststructuralism tout court. Just as it is impossible to say, on passing a finger along the strip, at which precise point the finger has crossed over from ‘back’ to ‘front’, so it is impossible to distinguish in Goytisolo's uses of subjectivity what is ‘inside’ and what is ‘outside’ his own symbolic inscription, what comes ‘before’ and what ‘after’, what belongs to the Symbolic, what to the Real. This is why, in Goytisolo's realms of ‘extimacy’, to say that identity is discursive should not imply that all in identity is discourse, and to say that subjectivity is played out in retrospect and a tergo need not mean that all in subjectivity ‘comes from behind’.


  1. The Post-Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans. by Alan Bass (London: University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 48. All references are to this edition.

  2. Quoted in Salvador Dalí, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, trans. by Haakon M. Chevalier (London: Vision Press, 1948), p. 397.

  3. Lee Edelman, Homographesis: Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Theory (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 173–91. All references are to this edition.

  4. Edelman coins this term in order to figure the ‘complicitous involvement [of structures such as Freud's primal scene] in the sodomitical encounter’ (Homographesis, p. 176).

  5. ‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (“The Wolf Man”)’, in Case Histories, II, trans. by James Strachey (London: Penguin, 1979); pp. 227–366. All references cited as Wolf Man are to this edition.

  6. Freud writes: ‘When he woke up, he witnessed a coitus a tergo three times repeated; he was able to see his mother's genitals as well as his father's organ’ (Wolf Man, p. 269).

  7. The adjective is Edelman's, who writes: ‘That the parents of a one-and-a-half-year-old boy—a boy who was suffering at the time from malaria—would engage in sexual relations three times while the child rested in the same room—let alone that those relations would feature penetration from behind—and that all of this would take place around five o'clock on a summer afternoon, represents, within its discursive context, so sensational an erotic vision that Freud must initially defend his construction by flatly denying that there is anything sensational in this scenario at all’ (Homographesis, p. 177).

  8. Not least, it raises the question of its own historical character, as opposed to merely ‘suppositional’, an aspect that never quite ceases to preoccupy Freud throughout the case history. Edelman notes in this respect: ‘Throughout the case history of the Wolf Man the insistence of such doubt reflects Freud's deep anxiety that the primal scene that takes center stage in his analysis may prove to be only an illicit supposition of something that ought never to be supposed to exist’ (p. 177).

  9. As Freud notes in a crucial paragraph: ‘Scenes like this one in my present patient's case, which date from such an early period and which further lay claim to such an extraordinary significance for the history of the case, are as a rule not reproduced as recollections, but have to be divined—constructed—gradually and laboriously from an aggregate of indications’ (Wolf Man, pp. 284–85).

  10. As is well-known, the Moebius strip (bande de Moebius) is the three dimensional figure that can be formed by giving a 180° twist to a strip of paper before joining its ends. For a discussion on its function within the Lacanian use of topology, see Dylan Evans, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 116–17.

  11. En los reinos de taifa (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1986), p. 117. All references are to this edition. There exists an English version under the title, Realms of Strife: Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo, 1957–1982, trans. by Peter Bush (London: Quartet Books, 1990).

  12. Coto vedado (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1985), pp. 103, 153. All references are to this edition. There exists an English version under the title, Forbidden Territory: Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo, 1931–1956, trans. by Peter Bush (London: Quartet Books, 1989).

  13. ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, in Illuminations, ed. by Hannah Arendt, trans. by Harry Zohn (London: Fontana, 1973), pp. 245–55 (p. 253).

  14. Lacan posits the future perfect as the subject's grammatical tense par excellence: ‘Ce qui se réalise dans mon histoire n'est past le passé défini de ce qui fut puisquíl n'est plus, ni même le parfait de ce qui a été dans ce que je suis, mais le futur antérieur de ce que j'aurai été pour ce que je suis en train de devenir’ (‘Fonction et champ de la parole et du langage en psychanalyse’, in Jacques Lacan, Écrits [Paris: Seuil, 1966], pp. 237–322 [p. 300]).

  15. I am aware that here and in the rest of the article my argument runs against the general trend of current Goytisolo criticism. Most critics have tended to emphasize the ways in which his texts (through their postmodern use of conflicting narrative voices and subjective positions) give representation, in Bradley Epps's words, to a ‘fragmented subject that resists totalisation [ … ] a figure in tension, a figure that is not one’ (Significant Violence: Oppression and Resistance in the Narratives of Juan Goytisolo: 1971–1990 [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996], p. 455). See also Jo Labanyi, ‘The Construction/Deconstruction of the Self in the Autobiographies of Pablo Neruda and Juan Goytisolo’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 26 (1990); 212–21; Abigail Lee Six, Juan Goytisolo: The Case for Chaos (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990); Paul Julian Smith, Laws of Desire: Questions of Homosexuality in Spanish Writing and Film 1960–1990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 31–41. Without disagreeing in principle with such arguments, I am more interested in the way in which, despite Goytisolo's use of these narrative devices, his uses of subjectivity as represented in the autobiography are much more indebted to a metaphysics of ‘essences’, ‘naturalness’, and ‘truth’ (‘mi yo genuino, imerme y agazapado’ [Coto, p. 139]) than critics have so far been willing to accept. Here, I am reading Goytisolo very much against ‘himself’ and ultimately a tergo. To paraphrase Freud on Dalí as quoted in my first epigraph: if in a traditional writer one should look for the transgressive and liberational, in a self-consciously ‘transgressive’ and ‘deviant’ writer such as Goytisolo, one should definitely look for the traditional and canonical.

  16. This point deserves some further explanation. As Edelman's reading of Freud makes clear, it is only belatedly that a normative heterosexualization takes place, as the child comes retrospectively to understand the primal scene as the trauma of the mother's lack of penis, which brings about his fear of castration and the subsequent repression of his identification with the so-called ‘passive’ position in the scene. From the diachronic perspective of the dominant narratives of psycho-sexual development, the spectacle of male homosexuality is thus both uncannily familiar and deeply subversive: playing out the multiplicity of non-exclusive erotic identifications that the heterosexual male is expected to have repudiated, it constitutes a reminder of that most primary of sexual ‘visions’, one that by showing how being penetrated and having a penis need not be contradictory positions challenges the privileged status of the threat of castration in opposition to which his sexual identity has been constructed (see Homographesis, p. 180).

  17. As Edelman points out, at one point in Cleland's novel the main female character focuses on the erection sported by a young man while being penetrated from the rear, a spectacle which she describes as follows: ‘His red-topt ivory toy, that stood perfectly stiff shewed, that if he was like his mother behind, he was like his father before’ (John Cleland, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, ed. by Peter Sabor [New York: Harrington Park Press, 1989], p. 158), quoted in Homographesis, p. 184.

  18. Concerning this crucial Lacanian distinction, Judith Butler notes: ‘Women are said to “be” the Phallus in the sense that they maintain the power to reflect or represent the “reality” of the self-grounding postures of the masculine subject [ … ]. In order to “be” the Phallus, the reflector and guarantor of an apparent masculine subject position, women must become, must “be” (in the sense of “posture as if they were”) precisely what men are not and, in their very lack, establish the essential function of men. Hence, “being” the Phallus is always a “being for” a masculine subject who seeks to reconfirm and augment his identity through the recognition of that “being for”’ (Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity [London: Routledge, 1990], p. 45).

  19. See particularly the chapter ‘Envois’, in The Post-Card, pp. 3–256.

  20. ‘El laberinto homotextual’, in Escritos sobre Juan Goytisolo. Coloquio en torno a la obra de Juan Goytisolo (Almería, 1987), ed. by Manuel Ruiz Lagos (Almería: Instituto de Estudios Almerienses, 1988), pp. 73–81 (p. 75).

  21. The date and circumstances of the first meeting between Genet and Goytisolo are also confirmed in Edmund White's biography of the French writer, Genet (London: Picador, 1994), p. 518.

  22. The Quran, trans. by Muhammed Zafrulla Khan (London: Curzon Press, 1971), p. 625.

  23. In his description of a visit to the Arab quarter in Paris in the early 1960s, Goytisolo remarks upon his ‘absoluta ignorancia de su idioma, cultura, normas de cultura e idiosincrasia’ (Reinos, p. 224).

  24. Of course, I am interested in the symbolic economy of the text (which is largely independent from ‘history’ or ‘biography’), and in the apparent paradox underlying the fact that it is only secondarily and in retrospect that the ‘original’, ‘primary’ character of that first encounter with Genet can manifest itself as such. It falls beyond the scope of this article to draw attention to other autobiographical texts in which similar retroactive effects lie also at the very core of their narrators' uses of subjectivity. For example, I have argued elsewhere that Dali's self-made public persona as the ‘mad genius’ of modern art is also the result of a metaleptic reading of his own history and biography, one in which Dalí can establish his identity only in the future perfect and from the point of view of an always already accomplished identification with himself (see my The Apocryphal Subject Masochism, Identification and Paranoia in Salvador Dalí's Autobiographical Writings (New York: Lang, 1986), pp. 175–212).

  25. Žižek's slightly different version is ‘You only die twice’ (The Sublime Object of Ideology (London: Verso, 1989), p. 131).

  26. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VII: 1959–1960: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, ed. by Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. by Dennis Porter (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 211–48.

  27. For the use of the term ‘quilting’ (translation of the French ‘point de capiton’) in Lacan, see Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (London: Verso, 1985), p. 112.

  28. See, for example The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, p. 139. See also Dylan Evans's interesting discussion of this term in his An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, pp. 58–59.

  29. ‘Extimité’, in Lacanian Theory of Discourse: Subject, Structure and Society, ed. by Mark Bracher and others (New York: New York University Press, 1994), pp. 74–87 (pp. 76–77).

  30. For the notion of the Lacanian Real, see also Žižek, The Sublime Object of Ideology, p. 169, and Miller, ‘Extimité’, p. 75.

  31. The phrase is Žižek's (‘Identity and Its Vicissitudes: Hegel's “Logic of Essence” as a Theory of Ideology’, in The Making of Political Identities, ed. by Ernesto Laclau [London: Verso, 1994], pp. 40–75 [p. 45]).

Additional coverage of Goytisolo's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85-88; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 32, 61; DISCovering Authors Modules: Multicultural;Hispanic Literature Criticism, Vol. 1; Hispanic Writers, Vols. 1, 2; and Major 20th-Century Writers, Vols. 1, 2.


Goytisolo, Juan (Vol. 10)


Goytisolo, Juan (Vol. 23)