Makbara by Juan Goytisolo ; Translated From the Spanish by Helen R. Lane
New York : Seaver Books, 1981. First edition. Stated "First edition, 1981" on the copyright page. Hardcover. 270 pages ; 21 cm. Very good + copy, has the original dust jacket but the price has been clipped. Blind stamp on half title page. Binding is firm and pages are clean and unmarked.
by Juan Goytisolo
Translated by Helen R. Lane
Generally considered Spain's greatest living writer, Goytisolo here turns his extraordinary talents to more universal themes than in the past. Spain has always been an obsession with Goytisolo—as Ireland was with Joyce—but in Makbara he uses the land of his birth to transcend the geographical and the temporal. If, as Carlos Fuentes noted in The New York Times Book Review, Goytisolo's earlier novel Count Julian was "a shout from the belly/' his subsequent Juan the Landless was more an abstract cry of pain. Mak-bara, on the other hand, exudes a warmth, a roundness, humor and human yearning that reflect the end of Goytisolo's self-imposed exile from his native Spain.
Makbara—an Arab word which refers to the places in North African cemeteries where young couples meet to make love and hold trysts—is a book whose essential theme is love. Goytisolo finds sex by far the best cosmic joke ever perpetrated upon man, and much of the wit and black humor in Makbara stem from his vision of sex as the great leveler. "Sex." says he, "is above all freedom.
As in his earlier novels, style is Goytisolo's very special and personal protest against all the doting Catholic mamas and the pale, sexless priestlings inflicted on him by the toothless Francoist agitprop, tne official culture of his country for forty years. What Goytisolo- is creating from book to book is a language he himself compares to a snake: sly, sinuous, flexible; a language cunning and mesmerizing as that, doubtless, of the first Ophidian in that original Garden. Here, Goytisolo moves away from the masters of past and present to whom he has till now been most often compared —Sade, Celine, Genet. Makbara sings with universal passion.
About the author Juan Goytisolo was born in Barcelona in 1931; his early memories are of the searing Civil War. He studied at the universities of Madrid and Barcelona, but in 1957, when it became obvious that Franco's repressive regime would not tolerate free expression, he left and remained an exile for almost twenty years, over which period he published seven novels and two works.of nonfiction—all banned in Spain. Since Franco's death his works have all been published in Spain, and Goytisolo has had the ironic distinction of seeing three of his novels on the Spanish bestseller lists.
About the translator Helen R. Lane translates with equal ease and brilliance from the Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Over the past several years she has won virtually every major prize awarded translators, including the prestigious P.E.N. Prize, which she won in 1975 for her translation of Goytisolo's Count Julian.
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