Goytisolo, Juan 1931-
GOYTISOLO, Juan 1931-
PERSONAL: Born January 5, 1931, in Barcelona, Spain; immigrated to France, 1957. Education: Attended University of Barcelona and University of Madrid, 1948-52.
ADDRESSES: Home—Marrakesh, Morocco. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Serpent's Tail, 4 Blackstock Mews, London N4 2BT, England.
CAREER: Writer. Worked as reporter in Cuba, 1965; associated with Gallimard Publishing Co., Paris, France. Visiting professor at universities in the United States.
AWARDS, HONORS: Numerous awards for Juegos de manos; Premio Europalia, 1985.
Juegos de manos, Destino (Barcelona, Spain), 1954, 4th edition, 1969, translation by John Rust published as The Young Assassins, Knopf (New York, NY), 1959.
Duelo en el paraíso, Planeta (Barcelona, Spain), 1955, reprinted, Destino (Barcelona, Spain), 1981, translation by Christine Brooke-Rose published as Children of Chaos, MacGibbon & Kee (London, England), 1958.
El Circo (first novel in "Mañana efímero" trilogy; title means "The Circus"), Destino (Barcelona, Spain), 1957, reissued, 1982.
Fiestas (second novel in "Mañana efímero" trilogy), Emece, 1958, Destino (Barcelona, Spain), 1981, translation by Herbert Weinstock published as Fiestas, Knopf (New York, NY), 1960.
La Resaca (third novel in "Mañana efímero" trilogy; title means "The Undertow"), Club del Libro Español (Paris, France), 1958, J. Mortiz (Mexico City, Mexico), 1977.
La Isla, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1961, reprinted, 1982, translation by Jose Yglesias published as Island of Women, Knopf (New York, NY), 1962, published as Sands of Torremolinos, J. Cape (London, England), 1962.
Señas de identidad (first novel in "Alvaro Mendiola" trilogy), J. Mortiz (Mexico City, Mexico), 1966, translation by Gregory Rabassa published as Marks of Identity, Grove (New York, NY), 1969, reprinted, Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 2003.
Reivindicación del conde don Julián (second novel in "Alvaro Mendiola" trilogy), J. Mortiz (Mexico City, Mexico), 1970, Catedra (Madrid, Spain), 1985, translation by Helen R. Lane published as Count Julian, Viking (New York, NY), 1974.
Juan sin tierra (third novel in "Alvaro Mendiola" trilogy), Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1975, translation by Helen R. Lane published as Juan the Landless, Viking (New York, NY), 1977.
Makbara, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1980, translation by Helen R. Lane, Seaver Books (New York, NY), 1981.
Paisajes despues de la batalla, Montesinos (Barcelona, Spain), 1982, translation by Helen R. Lane published as Landscapes after the Battle, Seaver Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Las Virtudes del pájaro solitario, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1988, translation published as The Virtues of the Solitary Bird, 1993.
La Cuarentena, Mondadori (Madrid, Spain), 1991, translation by Peter Bush published as Quarantine, Dalkey Archive Press (Normal, IL), 1994.
Cuaderno de Sarajevo, Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 1993, translation by Helen R. Lane published as State of Siege, City Light Books (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
La Saga de los Marx, Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 1993, translation published as The Marx Family Saga, City Lights Books (San Francisco, CA), 1999.
Argelia en el vendaval, Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 1994.
El Sitio de los sitios, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1995.
El Universo imaginario, Espasa Calpe (Barcelona, Spain), 1997.
Cogitus interruptus, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1999.
Carajicomedia: De Fray Bugeo Montesino y otros pajaros devario plumaje y pluma, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 2000, translation published as A Cock-eyed Comedy, Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 2002.
Para vivir aquí (title means "To Live Here"), Sur (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 1960, reprinted, Bruguera (Barcelona, Spain), 1983.
Fin de fiesta: Tentativas de interpretacion de una historia amorosa, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1962, translation by Jose Yglesias published as The Party's Over: Four Attempts to Define a Love Story, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1966, Grove (New York, NY), 1967.
Aproximaciones a Gaudí en Capadocia, Mondadori (Madrid, Spain), 1990.
Las Semanas del jardí; un círculo de lectores, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1997, translation by Peter Bush published as The Garden of Secrets: As Written Down, Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 2002.
Estambul otomano, Planeta (Barcelona, Spain), 1989, translation published as Marrakesh Tales, Serpent's Tail (New York, NY), 2000.
Campos de Nijar, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1960, Grant & Cutler (London, England), 1984, translation by Luigi Luccarelli published as The Countryside of Nijar in The Countryside of Nijar [and] La Chanca, Alembic Press (Plainfield, IN), 1987.
La Chanca, Librería Española, 1962, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1983, translation by Luigi Luccarelli published as The Countryside of Nijar [and] La Chanca, Alembic Press (Plainfield, IN), 1987.
Pueblo en marcha: Instantaneas de un viaje a Cuba (title means "People on the March: Snapshots of a Trip to Cuba"), Librería Española (Paris, France), 1963.
Cronicas sarracinas (title means "Saracen Chronicles"), Iberica (Barcelona, Spain), 1982.
Problemas de la novela (literary criticism; title means "Problems of the Novel"), Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1959.
Las Mismas palabras, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1963.
Plume d'hier: Espagne d'aujourd'hui, compiled by Mariano José de Larra, Editeurs Français Reunis, 1965.
El Furgon de cola (critical essays; title means "The Caboose"), Ruedo Iberico, 1967, reprinted, Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1982.
España y los españoles, Editorial Lumen (Barcelona, Spain), 1969.
(Author of prologue) Jose Maria Blanco White, Obra inglesa, Formentor, 1972.
Obras completas (title means "Complete Works"), Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 1977.
Libertad, libertad, libertad (essays and speeches), Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1978.
(Author of introduction) Mohamed Chukri, El Pan desnudo (title means "For Bread Alone"), translation from the Arabic by Abdellah Djibilou, Montesinos (Barcelona, Spain), 1982.
Coto vedado (autobiography; also see below), Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1985, translation by Peter Bush published as Forbidden Territory: The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo, North Point Press (San Francisco, CA), 1989.
(Author of commentary) Omar Khayyam, Estances, translated into Catalan by Ramon Vives Pastor, del Mall (Barcelona, Spain), 1985.
Contracorrientes, Montesinos (Barcelona, Spain), 1985.
En los reinos de taifa (autobiography; title means "Realms of Strife: The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo, 1956-1982"; also see below), Seix Barral (Barcelona, Spain), 1986.
Space in Motion (essays), translation by Helen R. Lane, Lumen Books (New York, NY), 1987.
De la ceca a la meca, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1997.
Cartas de Americo Castro a Juan Goytisolo, 1968-1972: El Epistolario, Pre-Textos (Valencia, Spain), 1997.
(With Sami Naïr) El Paeje del vida: Integración o rechazo de la emigración en España, Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 2000.
Paisajes de guerra con Chechnia al fondo (articles; formerly published in El País), Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 1996, translation published as Landscapes of War, City Lights Books (San Francisco, CA), 2001.
Pájaro que ensucia su propio nido, Galaxia Tugenberg (Barcelona, Spain), 2001.
Telón de boca, Aleph (Barcelona, Spain), 2003.
España y sus ejidos, Hijos de Mule-Rubio (Madrid, Spain), 2003.
Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife: The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo (translations of Coto vedado and En los reinos de taifa), edited by Peter Bush, Verso (New York, NY), 2003.
Also author of Disidencias (essays), 1977. Work represented in collections and anthologies, including Juan Goytisolo, Ministerio de Cultura, Direccion General de Promocion del Libro y la Cinematografia, 1982. Contributor to periodicals, including Ínsula and El País.
SIDELIGHTS: "Juan Goytisolo is the best living Spanish novelist," wrote John Butt in the Times Literary Supplement. The author, as Butt observed, became renowned as a "pitiless satirist" of Spanish society during the dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who imposed his version of conservative religious values on the country from the late 1930s until his death in 1975. Goytisolo, whose youth coincided with the rise of Franco, had a variety of compelling reasons to feel alienated from his own country. He was a small child when his mother was killed in a bombing raid, a casualty of the civil war Franco instigated to seize power from a democratically elected government. The author then grew up as a bisexual in a country dominated, in Butt's words, by "frantic machismo." Eventually, said Goytisolo in his memoir Coto vedado (Forbidden Territory), he became "that strange species of writer claimed by none and alien and hostile to groups and categories."
In the late 1950s, when his writing career began to flourish, Goytisolo left Spain for Paris and remained in self-imposed exile until after Franco died. The literary world was greatly impressed when Goytisolo's first novel, Juegos de manos (The Young Assassins), was published in 1954. Goytisolo was identified as a member of the Spanish "restless generation" but his first novel seemed as much akin to Fedor Dostoevski as it did to America's Jack Kerouac. The plot is similar to Dostoevski's The Possessed: a group of students plot the murder of a politician but end up murdering the fellow student chosen to kill the politician. Some reviewers saw the theme as the self-destructiveness and hedonism of the smug and self-righteous.
Duelo en el paraíso (Children of Chaos) is seen as a violent extension of The Young Assassins. Like Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange and William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Children of Chaos focuses on the terror wrought by adolescents. The children have taken over a small town after the end of the Spanish Civil War causes a breakdown of order.
Fiestas begins a trilogy referred to as "Ephemeral Morrow" (after a famous poem by Antonio Machado). Considered the best volume of the trilogy, this novel follows four characters as they try to escape life in Spain by chasing their dreams. Each character meets with disappointment in the novel's end. El Circo, the second book in the "Ephemeral Morrow" trilogy, was deemed by critics as too blatantly ironic to succeed as a follow-up to Fiestas. It is the story of a painter who manages a fraud before being punished for a murder he didn't commit. The third book, La Resaca, was also a disappointment, the novel's style considered too realistic to function as a fitting conclusion to the trilogy.
After writing two politically oriented travelogues, Campos de Nijar (The Countryside of Nijar) and La Chanca, Goytisolo returned to fiction and the overt realism he had begun in La Resaca. Unfortunately, critics have implied that both La Isla (Island of Women) and Fin de fiesta (The Party's Over) suffer because they ultimately resembled their subject matter, a small world of intellectuals who operate in a vacuum.
Goytisolo abandoned his realist style after The Party's Over. Señas de identidad (Marks of Identity), about an exile who returns to his native Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War, is the first in a trilogy that includes Reivindicación del conde don Julián (Count Julian) and Juan sin tierra (Juan the Landless). Count Julian has been widely considered as Goyitsolo's masterpiece to date. In it, the novelist uses techniques borrowed from James Joyce, Celine, Jean Genet, filmmaker Luis Bunuel, and painter Pablo Picasso. Count Julian is named for the legendary Spanish nobleman who betrayed his country to Arab invaders in the Middle Ages. In the shocking fantasies of the novel's narrator, a modern Spaniard living as an outcast in Africa, Julian returns to punish Spain for its cruelty and hypocrisy. Over the course of the narration, the Spanish language itself gradually transforms into Arabic. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Carlos Fuentes called Count Julian "an adventure of language, a critical battle against the language appropriated by power in Spain. It is also a search for a new/old language that would offer an alternative for the future." Reviews of Juan the Landless were generally less favorable than those of either Marks of Identity or Count Julian, an Atlantic critic suggesting that the uninformed reader begin elsewhere with Goytisolo.
Even after the oppressive Franco regime was dismantled in the late 1970s, Goytisolo continued to write novels that expressed deep alienation by displaying an unconventional, disorienting view of human society. Makbara, for example, is named for the cemeteries of North Africa where lovers meet for late-night trysts. "What a poignant central image it is," wrote Paul West in the Washington Post Book World, "not only as an emblem of life in death … but also as a vantage point from which to review the human antic in general, which includes all those who go about their daily chores with their minds below their belts." The characters Goytisolo "feels at home with," West declared, "are the drop-outs and the ne'er do wells, the outcasts and the misfits." In Paisajes despues de la batalla (Landscapes after the Battle), the author moves his vision of alienation to Paris, where he had long remained in exile. This short novel, made up of seventy-eight nonsequential chapters, displays the chaotic mix of people—from French nationalists to Arab immigrants—who uneasily coexist in the city. "The Paris metro map which the protagonist contemplates … for all its innumerable permutations of routes," explained Abigail Lee in the Times Literary Supplement, "provides an apt image for the text itself." Landscapes after the Battle "looked like another repudiation, this time of Paris," Butt wrote, adding: "One wondered what Goytisolo would destroy next."
Accordingly, Butt was surprised to find that the author's memoir of his youth, published in 1985, had a markedly warmer tone than the novels that had preceded it. "Far from being a new repudiation," the critic observed, Forbidden Territory "is really an essay in acceptance and understanding…. Gone, almost, are the tortuous language, the lurid fantasies, the dreams of violation and abuse. Instead, we are given a moving, confessional account of a difficult childhood and adolescence." Goytisolo's recollections, the reviewer concluded, constitute "a moving and sympathetic story of how one courageous victim of the Franco regime fought his way out of a cultural and intellectual wasteland, educated himself, and went on to inflict a brilliant revenge on the social system which so isolated and insulted him."
In Las Virtudes del pájaro solitario (The Virtues of the Solitary Bird), Goytisolo explores the Christian, Jewish, and Moorish heritage of Spain and the hybrid mysticism that emerged from the intermingling of the three religions, particularly as expressed in the writings of Saint John of the Cross and Arabian poet Ibn al Farid. Goytisolo juxtaposes the persecution of Saint John with a contemporary narrator who entertains imaginary conversations with the sixteenth-century saint while living in exile and suffering from AIDS. Mirroring the author's own political oppression and departure from Franco's Spain, the book "is also the story of the independent thinker throughout history, flushed out by those fearful of 'contaminating ideas,'" observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Jack Byrne noted in the Review of Contemporary Fiction that Goytisolo's version of the martyred saint's verse "modernize[s], while not sanitizing, the horror of heresy—theological, political, social, moral—wherever and whenever it appears." Amanda Hopkinson wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that "Goytisolo expects to be read as a parable of our time, with all its complexities and obscurities. This is not prose, at least as conventionally punctuated, it is poetry full of rhapsodic psalms and oriental mysticism."
Goyitsolo's Quarantine, another complex, experimental novel, follows the spiritual wandering of a recently deceased female writer whose soul, according to Islamic tradition, must embark on a forty-day journey to eternal rest. Through an unnamed narrator, Goytisolo likens this spiritual quarantine to the creative writing process, whereby an author remains in isolation for a time to summon memory and the imagination. In effect, the fictional author's meditations on death and writing become the story itself as he imagines his own death, encounters the soul of his dead friend among angels and a Sufi mystic, and considers parallels to Dante's Divine Comedy. Jack Shreve noted in a Library Journal review that Goytisolo "multiplies levels of interpretation in order to 'destabilize' the reader." Goytisolo also interjects a strong antiwar theme through surreal news reports that describe the carnage of the Persian Gulf War.
In his novel La Saga de los Marx (The Marx Family Saga), Goytisolo tackles the political theme of the fall of communism in Europe and the West's reaction it. The wry, satirical, and funny story focuses on Albanian refugees in an Italian resort who are searching for a paradise called "Dallas" and who are confronted by locals outraged at their presence. The family is, in essence, a reincarnation of Karl Marx and his family, all living in a type of historical limbo, watching the televised crumbling of the system the father of communism created. Sophia A. McClennen, writing in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, said the novel "provides a brutally vivid characterization of the intricacies of social commitment in a world which consumes more television than literature." New Statesman contributor Abigail Lee Six commented, "The Marx Family Saga, like most of Goytisolo's recent fiction, is very funny as it makes serious literary and sociopolitical points."
Goytisolo's The Garden of Secrets tells the story of the young poet Eusebio, who is confined by his family in a psychiatric center and diagnosed as schizophrenic. Eusebio ultimately escapes and flees Franco's Spain. A reading group later tries to arrange the various facts of the poet's case, each telling their own respective versions of the story. Writing in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, Thomas Hove noted that Eusebio resembles Goytisolo in many biographical aspects and went on to note that "his story develops the author's frequent Joycean theme of exile as both liberation and alienation." Writing in Library Journal, Jack Shreve called The Garden of Secrets an "intriguing collective portrait by one of Spain's foremost writers."
Goytisolo tackles the Roman Catholic Church and its secret society Opus Dei in his satirical novel Carajico-media: De Fray Bugeo Montesino y otros pajaros devario plumaje y pluma (Cock-eyed Comedy). The novel includes a wide cast of historical characters, including Roland Barthes, Jean Genet, and a character who keeps popping up throughout the centuries under different guises to expose the hypocrisy of the Spanish priesthood. Writing in Library Journal, Nelly S. Gonzalez noted that in Goyitsolo's "parody of our times, humor and cynicism are omnipresent but unexaggerated, and nobody escapes Goytisolo's mordant wit."
The siege of Sarajevo is the setting for Goytisolo's Cuaderno de Sarajevo (State of Siege), which centers on the mystery surrounding the disappearance of a Spanish visitor's corpse. The missing visitor has left behind various writings signed "J. G." The novel is made up of these and other texts, including stories and poems, police reports, and testimonies by people who saw or knew the vanished man. Writing in Booklist, Frank Sennett noted that the novel has "all the earmarks of magic realism" and concluded that the story is "effective in underscoring the tragic absurdity of sieges whose victims can only guess at the rationale of their persecutors." Review of Contemporary Fiction contributor Megan A. McDowell noted that in State of Siege "Goytisolo exposes the most basic quality of consciousness that both feeds on and creates literature, the part that spawns violence and madness, humor and language."
In 2003, the author's two memoirs were published together in English translation as Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife: The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo. Describing the work as "literary history up close," a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "style is king here, and it is wonderful, infiltrating Goytisolo's chronological narrative like one of his characters." Nedra Crowe Evers, writing in Library Journal, commented that the memoir's lack of an index is the book's only drawback and added, "The writing is powerful but never crude; many passages are, quite simply, beautiful."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Amell, Samuel, editor, Literature, the Arts, and Democracy: Spain in the Eighties, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (Madison, NJ), 1990.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 5, 1976, Volume 10, 1979, Volume 23, 1983.
Epps, Bradley S., Significant Violence: Oppression and Resistance in the Later Narrative of Juan Goytisolo, Clarendon (New York, NY), 1996.
Gazarian Gautier, Marie-Lise, Interviews with Spanish Writers, Dalkey Archive Press (Normal, IL), 1991.
Goytisolo, Juan, Forbidden Territory, translation by Peter Bush, North Point Press (San Francisco, CA), 1989.
Pope, Randolph D., Understanding Juan Goytisolo, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 1995.
Schwartz, Kessel, Juan Goytisolo, Twayne (New York, NY), 1970.
Schwartz, Ronald, Spain's New Wave Novelists, 1950-1974: Studies in Spanish Realism, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 1976.
Atlantic, August, 1977.
Best Sellers, June 15, 1974.
Booklist, October 1, 2002, Frank Sennett, review of State of Siege, p. 301.
Journal of Spanish Studies, winter, 1979, pp. 353-364.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1994, p. 234.
Lettres Peninsulares, fall-winter, 1990, pp. 259-278.
Library Journal, October 1, 1990, p. 89; March 1, 1994, p. 117; December, 2000, Jack Shreve, review of The Garden of Secrets, p. 187; August, 2001, Nelly S. Gonzalez, review of Cock-eyed Comedy, p. S34; July, 2003, Nedra Crowe Evers, review of Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife: The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo, p. 80.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 22, 1989.
Nation, March 1, 1975.
New Republic, January 31, 1967.
New Statesman, July 19, 1991, p. 38; December 17, 1993, p. 46; August 9, 1996, Abigail Lee Six, review of The Marx Family Saga, p. 47.
New York Times Book Review, January 22, 1967; May 5, 1974; September 18, 1977; June 14, 1987; July 3, 1988; February 12, 1989.
Publishers Weekly, November 30, 1992, p. 48; March 7, 1994, p. 55; May 19, 2003, review of Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife, p. 64.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 1993, p. 213; fall, 1999, Sophia A. McClennen, review of The Marx Family Saga, p. 176; January 8, 2001, Maya Jaggi, "Juan Goytisolo" (interview with author), p. 42; fall, 2001, Thomas Hove, "Landscapes of War: From Sarajevo to Chechnya," p. 197; spring, 2003, Megan A. McDowell, review of State of Siege, p. 148.
Saturday Review, February 14, 1959; June 11, 1960; June 28, 1969.
Texas Quarterly, spring, 1975.
Times Literary Supplement, May 31, 1985; September 9, 1988; May 19, 1989; November 17, 1989; July 12, 1991, p. 18.
Washington Post Book World, January 17, 1982; June 14, 1987.
World Press Review, April, 1994. p. 51.
Juan Goyitsolo Web site, http://www.cnice.mecd.es/tematicas/juangoyitsolo (April 15, 2004).*