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Goytisolo, Juan (b. 1931)  
 
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Juan Goytisolo, born in Barcelona in 1931, is today one of the most prominent literary figures of Spain. Although he is quite prolific, his critical acclaim is mostly due to his trilogy: Señas de identidad (Marks of Identity, 1966); Reivindicación del conde don Julián (Count Julian, 1970), and Juan sin tierra (John the Landless, 1975). Besides novels and an autobiography, he has published some literary criticism. Two of his brothers (José Agustín and Luis) are also writers.

Goytisolo's biography is, in a sense, recorded throughout his writings. He frequently uses autobiographical material in his novels. Certain incidents and people important to his personal development reappear in different forms throughout the body of his work, giving it a subjective interrelatedness.

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The author accepts this subjectivity in a conscious attempt to bind his work and his life. Many of his characters (most notably, Álvaro Mendiola, who reappears in several novels) function as doubles of the author who is on the same internal voyage in search of the authentic self.

In his autobiographical work, Coto vedado (Forbidden Territory, 1985), Goytisolo reveals the decisive moments in his psychological and sexual development. The author claims it was French writer Jean Genet who first helped him overcome his personal taboos and come to terms with his sexual orientation. He has had sexual relations with both men and women, but admits to feeling reservations in his dealings with the opposite sex.

Sexuality itself is a major component of his literature and his ethics. He relates sexual freedom directly to personal and political freedom. His own sexuality becomes a vehicle for channeling his moral opposition to Spain, the country he rejects and that he feels has rejected him.

The author identifies his work with eroticism, equating the act of writing with masturbation, and describing his entry into the world of literature as a sort of copulation. He claims to be "procreating" himself and "impregnating" his reader through his writing. His work contains much phallic imagery and much vivid sexuality. When sexual acts are portrayed, they tend to be aggressive and often sadomasochistic.

In Reivindicación del conde don Julián and Juan sin tierra, two ideologically aggressive novels with profound psychological, historical, religious, and sexual implications, Goytisolo seems to come to terms with his true being, removing all inhibitions and false identities. The novels represent efforts to destroy his personal past and to establish the connection between political and sexual power.

In Juan sin tierra, positive and negative social values are reversed. Heterosexuality and homosexuality conflict. Although society relates heterosexuality with reproduction, cleanliness, and clarity, and homosexuality with the anus, darkness, and uncleanness, the author inverts these values. He associates heterosexuality with capitalism and slavery, and homosexuality with rebellion against prohibition.

In Reivindicación, he expresses his obsessive hatred of traditional Spain, attempting to critique the country through its literature, openly using the great writers of the Spanish canon as literary models in order to violate them and overcome them. He wants to show how the country has become petrified and how the individual, in order to be free, must free himself of stultified traditions.

The aggression culminates with the symbolic rape and murder of the "motherland." The Álvaro of his earlier novel, Señas de identidad, becomes Count Julian, the legendary traitor of Spain, in his attack on the stale culture of his homeland. Goytisolo believes that, to create a new self (through authorship), one must first destroy the old self. By embracing the figure of the exiled Count, he assumes the role of a rebellious deviant.

Goytisolo is an iconoclast in every sense of the word. His defiance is political, sexual, and literary. He takes great pride in being different and uses this difference to attack the status quo though his attacks can also be read as attempts at self-justification in confronting a world that is hostile to him.

He is most staunchly opposed to the Catholic, middle-class morality that surrounded him from birth, believing that the prominent social values he has been taught have failed him.

Instead, Goytisolo seeks to align himself with outcasts who, like him, are disconnected from the social order that surrounds them and threatens to obliterate them. The theme of alienation is repeated constantly. His works deal forcefully with the issue of finding one's self within a society that divorces us from our authentic nature. This seems, in part, an effort to purge himself of his own sense of alienation.

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