Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Blind Rider by Juan Goytisolo

Among many accolades, Carlos Fuentes calls Juan Goytisolo "Spain's greatest living novelist"-just but curious praise for a writer who has not lived in Spain for 50 years and continues to be its most scabrous critic. Born Barcelona in 1931, Goytisolo’s early novels, including Marks of Identity, were banned by the Franco regime. Driven into exile, Goytisolo lived in Paris from 1956 to 1996, when his wife, the writer Monique Lange, died. Since then he has lived in Marrakesh where he continues to be actively engaged in political and humanitarian projects and write trenchant essays and articles supporting these causes. The Blind Rider marks his10th novel, which he claims will be his last.

Goytisolo has always brought autobiographical elements into his fiction, and The Blind Rider clearly belongs to the genre "fictional memoir," where personal reminiscences of past and present events play a large part. The heart of these memories is expressed through the unnamed narrator, a widower, as he struggles with the anguishing grief that he feels over his loss.

The novel is structured loosely into five parts; the opening pages are an unrelenting, harshly unsentimental and stark collection of scenes and vignettes of a septuagenarian's life as he looks back, where images of death, both past and impending, prevail. With the loss of his wife everything crumbles; he loses his bearings. In despair, he realizes that "Time was a blind rider nobody could unsaddle," and that "His yesterdays were a series of eclipsed scenarios." These ironic themes reverberate throughout the novel.

You can find the review here

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