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Juan the Landless by Juan Goytisolo

Juan the Landless (1975)

by Juan Goytisolo

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Álvaro Mendiola Trilogy (3)

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In the first line of his afterword to my edition of this book, Goytisolo writes, "I have always rejected the term "experimental" in relation to my novels . . . Every book that aspires to be innovative does just that, experiment . . ." And yet, if this novel isn't experimental, I don't know what is! Not only is it written in completely run in sentences divided by colons (with nary a period in sight, and no capital letters to start), but it is very difficult to follow what is going on. And, indeed, not much "happens," in the traditional novelistic sense; it appears to be more a series of vignettes that frame scenes fraught with some meaning that is developed at length, in almost poetic language, but opaque to me.

There are several recurring themes and images. Perhaps the most recurring is the use, which requires a strong stomach, of different approaches to defecation as a metaphor for the difference between poor, powerless, people of color and rich, powerful white people. Goytisolo first uses these images in the first section, which refers to his ancestors, slave-owning sugar cane farmers and processors in Cuba. Another image/metaphor Goytisolo uses is the of the writer's pen as analogous to a penis. Needless to say, the Catholic church doesn't come off well in this book.

Reading this book drove me constantly to the dictionary, Wikipedia ,and Google Translate: not only are there references to writers, places, etc., but some subsections have Latin titles, and indeed there are passages in Latin, French, and other languages.

What is this book about? I hesitate to say. Some descriptions I have read say it reflects Goytisolo's attraction to the pariahs of the world. This book has been on my TBR for several years, and I read it for the Reading Globally theme read on the Iberian Peninsula. I'm glad I read it, but it mystified me. (It has been almost a week since I read it, and perhaps I could have said something slightly more meaningful if I'd had a chance to review it earlier, but definitely only slightly.)
1 vote rebeccanyc | Jun 20, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Juan Goytisoloprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bush, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lane, HelenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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