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the Complete Review
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Juan Goytisolo

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To purchase Quarantine

Title: Quarantine
Author: Juan Goytisolo
Genre: Novel
Written: 1991 (Eng. 1994)
Length: 122 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Quarantine - US
Quarantine - UK
Quarantine - Canada
Quarantine - India
La cuarentena - España
  • Spanish title: La cuarantena
  • Translated by Peter Bush
  • Includes a Translator's Note on Islamic References

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Our Assessment:

B : strong but complex little novella

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction A Fall/1992 Susan E. Clark
VLS . 5/1994 Scott L. Makomson

  From the Reviews:
  • "It is perhaps not easy reading (...) but the adventurous reader-accomplice cannot help but be "contaminated" by such a daring journey." - Susan E. Clark, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Goytisolo prefers words to action, and equates quarantine with writing itself. But his words do caress and sting, and are in that sense actions. He treats the loss of a beloved friend and the loss of humanity in war as disparate parallels, bringing them together in elegy, weighing the evidence of things not seen." - Voice Literary Supplement, Scott L. Makomson

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Quarantine has forty chapters, corresponding to the forty days that, according to Islamic lore, the soul apparently spends roaming and wandering between death and eternity. This is a "period of quarantine" -- though not the only one in Goytisolo's book. Literary-minded Goytisolo, here (as in most of his later fiction) making his readers well aware of the authorial voice behind the story, also writes about writing. "Isn't the process of novelistic creation a quarantine ?" he asks, and he speaks also of the "quarantine for the reader, quarantine for the book." The fictional world: separated, isolated, a quarantine from the actual world -- for both good and bad.
       A friend of the narrator's dies, and the forty-day period marks that difficult time after her death. He accompanies her (or she him), experiencing much of this unreal afterworld. He returns to his wife in Paris, who expresses no surprise about his absence. His experiences here are hardly more down-to-earth -- including the need to justify his life before an Accounts Tribunal.
       Among the guides to this novel is Dante, his account of the journeys in Divine Comedy in some ways similar to the experiences recounted here. Islamic figures are also prominent, and Goytisolo draws on a wide number of artistic references, from Bosch and Doré to Rojas' La Celestina. Modernity and ancient visions clash and come together.
       Quarantine is often trancelike. The narrator expresses a great deal of uncertainty as to what is real and what is not. The narrator remembers "how I mentally ordered the chaotic screed of my text", and there is some order to the novel, but the references and the irreality make it a difficult, dense read.
       Written at the time of the Gulf War (which itself took only some forty-odd days) this conflict also figures in the text, real and immediate horrors so similar to the other visions. It is an appropriate background to the narrator's otherworldly experiences.
       Rich and occasionally overly lyrical, Quarantine is not among Goytisolo's most accessible texts. Despite being relatively short it is a complex text. The translator's note helpfully explains some of the Islamic references, but this is a work that places considerable demands on it readers.

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Quarantine: Reviews: Juan Goytisolo: Other books by Goytisolo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Spanish author Juan Goytisolo (1931-2017) lived in voluntary exile since 1956, mainly in Paris and Morocco. He is the author of numerous highly regarded novels.

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