QUARANTINE by Juan Goytisolo


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 Spanish experimental novelist Goytisolo (Landscapes After the Battle, 1987, etc.), the author of a two-volume memoir (Realms of Strife, 1990, and Forbidden Territory, 1988), explores the 40-day journey that souls, according to Islam, take from the moment of death to their final resting place and reflects on the creative writing process. For him, the journey is a quarantine of sorts, akin to the experience of a writer who must withdraw from the world so that his imagination can take flight. Indeed in Quarantine, Goytisolo's narrator is a writer in the process of composing a novel--in fact, the very novel we are reading. He is imagining his own death and journey as he meditates on the spiritual wandering of a woman friend who has recently died. The narrator, like the dead according to Islam, must account to Nakir and Munkar, the two angels who examine and, if necessary, punish the dead in their tombs. Meanwhile, it is the year of the Persian Gulf War, and all its wartime horrors become mingled with the torments of the underworld. At the end of the ``waiting'' period, the writer's novel is finished and his soul and the soul of his friend are released. ``Write, keep writing about me,'' she implores him. ``Only your interest and the interest of those who read you can continue to keep me alive!'' Quarantine is an intriguing multilayered novel, but one at times more powerful in concept than in execution. The writing itself is awash in a dreamlike quality that bestows on even the vivid descriptions of pain and torture a gauzy, and not always compelling, feel. Goytisolo's fans, however, should be pleased by this unique meditation on death and the creative process by a distinctly original voice.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1994
ISBN: 1-56478-044-9
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Dalkey Archive
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994


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