Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index



to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK


the Complete Review

A Literary Saloon and Site of Review

Juan Goytisolo
at the
complete review:

biographical | bibliography | quotes | pros/cons | our opinion | links


Nationality: Spanish
Born: 5 January 1931
Died: 4 June 2017

  • Attended University of Barcelona and University of Madrid
  • Has largely lived in exile since the late 1950s, mainly in Paris and Marrakesh
  • Visiting professor at the University of California, San Diego (1969), Boston University (1970), McGill (1972), NYU (1973-4)

Return to top of page.


Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

  • The Young Assassins - novel, 1954 (Juegos de manos, trans. John Rust, 1959)
  • Children of Chaos - novel, 1955 (Duelo en el Paraíso, trans. Christine Brooke-Rose, 1958)
  • Fiestas - novel, 1958 (Fiestas, trans. Herbert Weinstock, 1960)
  • Island of Women - novel, 1961 (La isla, trans. José Yglesias, 1962; UK title: Sands of Torremolinos)
  • Marks of Identity - novel, 1966 (rev. 1969) (Señas de identidad, trans. Gregory Rabassa, 1969)
  • Count Julian - novel, 1970 (Reivindicación del conde don Julián, trans. Helen Lane, 1974)
  • Juan the Landless - novel, 1975 (Juan sin Tierra, trans. Helen Lane, 1977)
  • Makbara - novel, 1980 (Makbara, trans. Helen Lane, 1981)
  • Landscapes after the Battle - novel, 1982 (Paisajes después de la batalla, trans. Helen Lane, 1987)
  • Forbidden Territory - memoir, 1985 (Coto vedado, trans. Peter Bush, 1989)
  • Realms of Strife - memoir, 1986 (En los reinos de taifa, trans. Peter Bush, 1990)
  • Space in Motion - essays, 1987 (trans. Helen Lane)
  • The Virtues of the Solitary Bird - novel, 1988 (Las virtudes del pájaro solitano, trans. Helen Lane, 1993)
  • Quarantine - novel, 1991 (La cuarentena, trans. Peter Bush, 1994)
  • Saracen Chronicles - essays, 1992
  • The Marx Family Saga - novel, 1993 (La saga de los Marx, trans. Peter Bush, 1996)
  • State of Siege - novel, 1995 (El sitio de los sitios, trans. Helen Lane, 2002)
  • The Garden of Secrets - novel, 1997 (Las semanas del jardín, trans. Peter Bush, 2000)
  • Landscapes of War - essays, 2000 (trans. Peter Bush)
  • A Cock-Eyed Comedy - novel, 2000 (Carajicomedia, trans. Peter Bush, 2002)
  • The Blind Rider - novel, 2002 (Telón de boca, trans. Peter Bush, 2005)
  • Exiled from Almost Everywhere - novel, 2008 (El exiliado de aquí y allá, trans. Peter Bush, 2011)

Please note that this bibliography is not complete.

Return to top of page.


What others have to
say about
Juan Goytisolo:

  • "What distinguishes Goytisolo from other writers in the ever-widening international confraternity of young protesters is the clinical objectivity of his vision and the vigorous control he displays over his powerful, driving style. His works -- short, violent and frightening -- are like pages torn out of the book of experience." - Helen Cantarella, The New York Times Book Review (18/3/1962)

  • "(T)he foremost novelist of contemporary Spain" - Carlos Fuentes, The New York Times Book Review (5/5/1974)

  • "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 [in The Marx Family Saga] does not reach Lane's heights or sink to Rabassa's depths." - Abigail Lee Six, New Statesman (9/8/1996)

  • "Now in his late 60s, Goytisolo remains a marginal man, at least in America, because of his nervy depictions of homosexuality, elliptical Modernism, his mordant sense of history, and an unfashionable multiculturalism -- he knows and admires Islamic traditions. A self-exile from Franco's Spain, Goytisolo proffers a ferocious critique of power as oppression: his dialectical standoffs between West and East, European and Arab temperaments, waver between positing irreconcilable differences, the result of centuries of injustice and misunderstanding, and tantalizing intimations of cultural synthesis." - Bill Marx, Boston Globe (29/4/1999)

  • "Goytisolo is one the finest masters of the postmodern." - Sophie McClennen, Review of Contemporary Fiction (Fall/1999)

  • "His greatest achievement to date is his trilogy consisting of Masks of Identity, Count Julian and Juan the Landless. These three books can be considered together; though fictional, they are unashamedly autobiographical, and they reflect Goytisolo's sense of alienation experienced both in Spain and in exile. Cumulatively, they provide a debunking of Spanish culture, ideology and language, and a rejection not only of realist fiction but of the very idea of literary genres." - Shomit Dutta, Times Literary Supplement (17/11/2000)

  • "Goytisolo's fiction parodies traditions, dwells on solipsistic estrangement, and with coy postmodern irony questions the attempt to represent reality. But his journalism bleeds sincerity, and it uncompromisingly insists that ideals like toleration, respect, and magnanimity be put into political practice." - Thomas Hove, Review of Contemporary Fiction (Fall/2001)

  • "Thoroughly seduced by literary theory, Goytisolo maintains that a fiction writer should respond to movements in poetics and he invokes Russian formalists and French structuralists as patron saints. He tests his readers with punctuation-free interior monologues, citations in Latin and Arabic, dialogues in foreign languages, passages in mock Old Spanish, pastiche, unreliable narrators. The result is at times dazzling, but readability can hardly be counted among its merits. This may be intentional. One is not expected to curl up by the fire with a book by Goytisolo, but rather to be jolted out of any such bourgeois complacency in the first place." - Martin Schifino, Times Literary Supplement (22/11/2002)

  • "Juan Goytisolo is a literary philosopher of the highest type -- a writer interested in destroying hypocrisy and its old guard." - Joe Woodward, San Francisco Chronicle (12/2/2006)

Return to top of page.

Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

  • Unpredictable and experimental (in the best sense)
  • Some of the writing is superb
  • Very varied output
  • A man -- and author -- with firmly held convictions, and without any fear of expressing them

  • Limited availability of books in translation
  • Varied English translations (by at least seven different translators)
  • Sexual and political fixations -- and explicit manner in which these are addressed -- can be off-putting
  • Experimental approaches of later fiction not to everyone's taste
  • Various works -- but especially the essays and newspaper pieces -- are often a bit simplistic and blunt

Return to top of page.

the complete review's Opinion

     Long-time voluntary Spanish exile Juan Goytisolo is certainly among the best modern Spanish authors -- and among the most interesting authors writing anywhere. His long career has seen numerous triumphs, from the early promise of The Young Assassins to the famous trilogy consisting of Marks of Identity, Count Julian, and Juan the Landless to the excellent two-part memoir (Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife) and to his highly acclaimed late fiction (especially The Marx Family Saga and The Garden of Secrets). He has also been a loud moral and political voice -- at least in Europe --, and is one of the few authors effectively helping to bridge the European and Islamic worlds.
     Contentious, political, and -- for good measure -- bisexual, Goytisolo is not always the most approachable of authors. He tackles difficult subjects and, especially in his later fiction, also plays extensively with form. There are no constraints for him. He is not a predictable author, or one easily categorized: beyond an affinity for the underdog and a fascination with literature (including reading and the act of writing), there is little that is common to his writing.
     A strong stylist (surviving even the manglings of the translators that have rendered his work into English -- at least seven of them, to date), his writing is also clever, rich, and full (occasionally over-full). Almost invariably it is also entertaining.
     Goytisolo is also an active journalist, writing extensively for El País (see Landscapes of War, for example), and appearing occasionally in the TLS, the New Statesman, and elsewhere in translation. These pieces are also valuable, especially since Goytisolo is willing to examine subjects that many prefer to ignore, as well as to go to places too often overlooked. What other world-class novelist travelled to Chechnya, for example ? However, in these pieces Goytisolo tends to fall too easily into journalistic mode: they are, generally, not of the quality of his fiction (and occasionally they are outright pedestrian).
     The memoirs are fascinating, the famous trilogy justly acclaimed, and The Marx Family Saga one of the most significant (and also best) texts written in the 1990s. It is inexplicable why Goytisolo's work is not more readily available and why he is not more of a presence in the English-speaking world (especially in the United States, where he is a marginal author, barely acknowledged). Vastly underappreciated, Goytisolo is a major author whose work should reach a far greater audience. Some of it remains difficult to appreciate, but the gems (of which there are a number) shine brightly indeed.

Return to top of page.


Juan Goytisolo:
  • Profile in The New York Times Magazine
  • Portrait in The Guardian
  • Q & A at The White Review
  • Q & A by Goytisolo translator Peter Bush
  • Q & A in Review of Contemporary Fiction
Juan Goytisolo's Books at the complete review: See also:

Return to top of page.

© 2001-2021 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links