A review of
Marks of Identity
by Juan Goytisolo
For close to fifty years, Juan Goytisolo has been one of Spain’s most celebrated writers, although Goytisolo doesn’t see much to celebrate about Spain. In fact, most of his work revolves around his passionate rejection of traditional Spanish culture. Yet the Spanish can’t get enough of his incisive critiques of sexual conventions or of Spain’s disconnect with the Arab world across the Atlantic in Morocco, where Goytisolo prefers to live.
In one of his strongest novels, Marks of Identity, deftly translated by Gregory Rabassa and recently reissued by Dalkey Archive Press, Goytisolo follows the wanderings of several characters whose lives are irrevocably altered by the Franco regime. His iconoclastic impulse shapes the novel at every level. Even the structure of the writing is a protest against what he once called the “tyrannical conception of genre” in a 1984 interview published in the Review of Contemporary Fiction. Goytisolo wrote Marks of Identity nearly two decades before the interview, and the intervening years led to books increasingly varied in format, though not all as successful as this one.
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