Count Julian by Juan Goytisolo ; Translated from the Spanish by Helen R. Lane
New York : Richard Seaver Book/Viking Press, 1974. First American Edition. Hardcover. 204 pages ; 22 cm. Price clipped dust jacket. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
Count Julian : A Novel by JuanGoytisolo
Translated by Helen R. Lane
Like James Joyce, to whom many European critics have increasingly compared the author of Count Julian, Juan Goytisolo has been in exile for nearly two decades. And in a sense, as Joyce never really left Ireland, so Goytisolo has never rid himself of the enveloping and often obsessive presence of Spain. All his works have been a love-hate affair with his native land.
The Count Julian of the title is a mysterious, enigmatic wanderer, also an exile, who from his refuge in Tangier observes his country, receives and sends messages, lives dreams and lies as he wanders the face of Africa As the book opens, Julian takes a daylong walk through Tangier. The sights and sounds and smells are vividly described: through Julian's eyes we see beggars and blind men and boy guides; tourists descend like Martians from air-conditioned buses; snake-charmers perform in the streets, and venders hawk their wares in the souks. But several almost surreal passages alert the reader that some mysterious cancer is eating at Julian, far below the surface of this picturesque stroll. Why, for instance, does Julian go daily to the Tangier library and squash insects he has brought with him in his wallet into the pages of various Spanish books? Why does he describe a lady tourist fatally bitten by a snake-charmer's cobra, only to resuscitate her a few pages later? The reader gradually realizes that this is no exotic travelogue and that Julian's reality is like a complex spider's web, made up of many strands: myth, history, dream, reality.
From the strands one gathers that Count Julian is not only an exile but a traitor, a revolutionary, one who execrates all that is false in Spain, all the blood and bullfights, repressed freedom and mummified culture, flamenco dances and ferias. It is also clear that he hates the "new" Spain of tourist buses, sleazy suburban developments, jerry-built hotels, SAC bases, television, and plastic food—that latest level of civilization which lies atop the other. But this scathing indictment of a country, and by extension of hypocrisy and cant wherever they exist, stems from an exile's thwarted love for the land that bore him, the culture that formed him, and the language that gave him tongue. If it is perhaps the most anti-Spanish novel ever penned, it nonetheless is one that brings us back to the real Spain, that of Goya, Picasso, and Buhuel.
Juan Goytisolo was born in Barcelona in 1931. He studied at the universities of Barcelona and Madrid, but in 1957 left Franco's Spain and has been in exile ever since, living mostly in France. The author of six novels and two works of non-fiction, Juan Goytisolo has been working for the past three years on a major new novel.
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