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the Complete Review
the complete review - memoir

Realms of Strife

Juan Goytisolo

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To purchase Realms of Strife

Title: Realms of Strife
Author: Juan Goytisolo
Genre: Memoir
Written: 1986
Length: 261 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: in Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife - US
En los reinos de taifa - US
in Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife - UK
in Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife - Canada
Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife - India
Les royaumes déchirés - France
En los reinos de taifa - España
  • The Memoirs of Juan Goytisolo 1957-1982
  • Spanish title: En los reinos de taifa
  • Translated by Peter Bush
  • See also our review of Forbidden Territory (Memoirs 1931-1957)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fairly interesting, varied memoir

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 3/2/1991 Gerald Martin
TLS A 7/11/2003 Ryan Prout
Virginia Q. Rev. A Spring/1991 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The book not only offers a punishingly honest account of the writer's own development from would-be prizewinning prodigy to exiled black sheep, but also a vivid picture of Francoist Spain and of the literary scene in Paris." - Ryan Prout, Times Literary Supplement

  • "This book is harshly self-critical, painful to read, and superbly crafted." - Virginia Quarterly Review

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:

       Realms of Strife continues Juan Goytisolo's memoirs (see our review of the previous volume, Forbidden Territory). The subtitle misleadingly suggest that the memoirs cover the period 1957 to 1982 in Goytisolo's life. In fact, this volume deals almost solely with the 1960s and early 1970s, only briefly touching on later times.
       Goytisolo's approach is also different from that in Forbidden Territory. Neatly divided into longer chapters (seven of them), Goytisolo offers chunks of his life, focussing around specific events and people.
       Living mainly in Paris with long-time companion Monique, Goytisolo achieved quick critical success with his first novel. Though Goytisolo mentions his books at various points, in particular to point out what life-experiences later influenced his work, he writes surprisingly little about the success and reaction to the various books, acknowledging only that his first book was the only one that was practically universally acclaimed. He is surprised by his initial success -- which was indeed fairly impressive:

My name appeared after Cervantes in the list of most-translated Spanish writers published under the auspices of UNESCO in an annual survey of world literary activity relating to 1963.
       He acknowledges that "The phenomenon entirely omitted specific literary factors: it developed exclusively from the world of publishing." Nevertheless, it made him a man of note in the literary world in which he then moved.
       Much of Goytisolo's early time in Paris was centered around the French publishing house, Gallimard, where Monique worked and where he also was involved in finding Spanish authors and books to translate. Goytisolo moved in illustrious literary circles, from Sartre and de Beauvoir up (or down). There is a lot of name-dropping here -- and the absence of both an index (very annoying) and explanatory notes might leave some readers frustrated. Many of Goytisolo's acquaintances were literary worthies, but not all are equally well remembered.
       A few authors are described in more detail. Genet was a good friend, and Goytisolo offers an interesting picture of him. Yevtushenko crops up repeatedly. Cortazar (and his unloved partner, Ugné Karvelis) and a number of Latin American and Spanish authors move in an out of the periphery.
       Trips abroad to Cuba and later the Soviet Union are among the more significant events offered. Both experiences are well-related and interesting. Goytisolo remained a soft sort of Marxist, critical but supportive. He had disappointments in Cuba, but seemed genuinely taken by the Soviet Union.
       Politics play a large role. One longer section on the troubles surrounding the magazine Libre may be of literary-historical interest but, to those not familiar with Spanish and Latin American literary and political concerns around 1970 and the petty (and not so petty) infighting among the various characters, it is largely baffling and boring.
       Goytisolo also continues to move towards acknowledging his sexual inclinations. He and Monique (and her daughter) live together as a nice little family, but Goytisolo finds that he is irresistibly drawn to a certain type of young Arab male. He finally admits his yearnings (and that he acted on them) to Monique in a letter, most of which he prints here verbatim. Monique isn't too shocked and they continued to live happily together, finally getting married in 1978, fourteen years after he revealed his secret lustings. (Goytisolo explains a lot regarding his sexual preferences, but it does not seem quite enough.)
       There is a fair amount of introspection -- especially regarding sexual preferences, but also about having children (Goytisolo adamantly refuses to have any), and his own stature and place as a writer. Though not necessarily honest, Goytisolo is certainly brutally frank, especially towards himself.
       Realms of Strife is an interesting document, though it lacks the power of the first volume of his memoirs. The shifting foci makes for a more episodic read. The details are good and well-presented, but they do not fit together to provide the big picture. Gaps remain.
       Recommended -- Goytisolo writes well, and it is an interesting life -- but not as emphatically as the first volume.

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Realms of Strife: 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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