01-06-1931

Juan Goytisolo

Today is the birthday of JUAN GOYTISOLO, the Spanish poet and novelist. Goytisolo was born in Barcelona in 1931, in an aristocratic family; two of his brothers José Agustín and Luis are also well known writers. His father was imprisoned by the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War while his mother was killed in the first Francoist air raid in 1938.

After law studies, he published his first novel, The Young Assassins, in 1954. His deep opposition to Generalissimo Francisco Franco led him into exile in Paris in 1956, where he worked as a reader for Gallimard. In the early 1960s, he was a friend of Guy Debord and Jean Genet was his mentor.  He says of the playwright who could fit all his belongings in a suitcase: “He was alien to all kinds of vanity. Because of him, I discovered I was interested in literature, not in literary life. I try to take my work seriously but not myself.” He quotes Genet: “If you know your point of arrival, it’s not a literary adventure, it’s a bus journey.”   Breaking with the realism of his earlier novels, he published Marks of Identity (1966), Count Julian (1970), and Juan the Landless (1975). Like all his works, they were banned in Spain until Franco’s death.

Juan Goytisolo was married to the publisher, novelist and screenwriter Monique Lange, a cousin of novelist Marcel Proust, Emmanuel Berl, and the philosopher Henri Bergson. Monique Lange died in 1996. After her death, he is noted as saying their once shared Paris apartment had become like a tomb. In 1997 he moved to Marrakesh, in part due to the Arab culture’s acceptance of his homosexuality.  In Edmund White’s view Goytisolo “is an apostle of the revolutionary, anarchic power of sexuality, of the desiring body, to break through the sterile confines of class.”