Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I'm tired, people. As I'm preparing for my Birthday trip to St. Louis this weekend, I need to do everything well ahead so that the grading for next week is done, the classes and the mini-quizzes are prepared. I've been working since 9 am today with a short nap during the day. And there is still a class to prepare and mini-quizzes to grade. 

In my Survey of Spanish literature course, we finally got to the stuff that represents my main area of specialization. We will be reading two of my favorite writers Luis Martin Santos and Juan Goytisolo from tomorrow on. And it turns out that it is a lot harder for me to prepare classes on these writers than, say, on Arcipreste de Hita or Espronceda whom I know and like a lot less. It is very difficult to squeeze all the knowledge I have on these authors and everything I have to say about them into two short lectures. I could probably spend the entire 50 minutes assigned to the lecture on Goytisolo quoting his work from memory.

When I first read Goytisolo's greatest novel Count Julian, my Spanish was still pretty weak. Most of Goytisolo's literary allusions which abound in the novel went right over my head. Still, the very first sentences of this novel, whichI consider to be the best novel of the XXth century not just in Spain but anywhere in the world, gripped me like no text had ever done before or since:
harsh homeland, the falsest, most miserable imaginable, I shall never return to you: with eyes still closed, it is there before you, enveloped in the blurry ubiquity of sleep and thus invisible, but nonetheless cleverly and subtly suggested, foreshortened and far in the distance: with even the tiniest details recognizable, outlined, as you yourself admit, with such scrupulous accuracy as to border on the maniacal: one day. another, and yet another; ever the same: a predictable sharpness of contour, a mere cardboard model, in reduced scale, of a familiar landscape; burning beneath a fiery sun perhaps? or enveloped in lowering clouds?: impossible to say: an unpredictable climate, this. 
Mind you, no translation can do justice to Goytisolo's text. It is worth learning Spanish just to read the novel, in my opinion. The best thing about this novel is the pure, undiluted rage that the narrator expresses towards every accepted piety he can find. And then, after declaring a cruel war on stereotypes, cliches and reductive ideologies, he ends up creating his own set of stereotypes and binary oppositions that is just as reductive that the one he battled against. Count Julian loses his war against ideology but his spectacular defeat produces the most magnificent and profound work of literature I have ever encountered.

This, of course, is my own reading of the novel. Many people would disagree with it. That is precisely where Count Julian's power resides. It is a novel that establishes a dialogue of its own with all readers who are ready to abandon themselves to the breathtaking adventure of reading it.

And now I think I'm ready to go and prepare my class. Blogging rocks, everybody.

1 comment:

liese4 said...

St. Louis food:
Monte christo hot dog...'nuff said.
Candy and shakes, awesome.
(turn your speakers down) BBQ is different all over the US, St. Louis has some darn good BBQ though.

Also I saw that the St. Louis art museum in forest park has an exhibit called: Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea Exhibit, looks cool.

When we were there we did not get to see the Cahokia mounds and they looked interesting (we saw mounds in TX though.)