FORBIDDEN TERRITORY: The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo, 1931-1956 by Juan Goytisolo

FORBIDDEN TERRITORY: The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo, 1931-1956

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In these memoirs, Spanish modernist Goytisolo, best known for his experimental novels (Landscapes after the Battle, 1987; Makbara, 1981), incisively describes domestic and intellectual repression in Spain under Franco and paints a portrait of himself as a young radical artist with a sexual-identity crisis. The book is part family history, part intellectual biography, and part sexual case study. Alternating between straightforward narrative and lyrical second-person passages with flash-forwards, Goytisolo describes a family of ""bankrupt prodigals""--father a Catholic monarchist with a factory in Barcelona, mother a secret reader of French literature. The father contracts pleurisy, the mother disappears on a routine journey, and the boy lives through the Spanish Civil War, his grandfather's sexual abuse, and an era of poverty and repression. He rebels against orthodox Catholic Spain by reading French and North American writers, by daydreaming and by masturbating. Once at the university, he discovers Gide, Camus, Kafka, Hesse, Faulkner, and various socialist writers. He also develops a bohemian urban sensibility, which he indulges in Madrid and Paris, where he becomes involved with the French left. Many pages are given to descriptions of male friendships full of intellectual passion, literary discussion and secret sexual confusion--the latter often analyzed in Freudian terms. By book's end, Goytisolo has found the Frenchwoman Monique, who for the moment becomes his sexual center; has defined himself as an independent leftist and cultural outsider; and has developed a literary reputation, along with an anathema for ""single-voiced"" literature that excludes ""dreams, feelings, defects, secret drives of human beings."" An absorbing subjective study of the way an individual with literary and bohemian tastes comes to consciousness in a punitive homophobic society.

Pub Date: Nov. 23rd, 1988
Publisher: North Point