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Juan Goytisolo: Paisajes después de la batalla (Landscapes after the Battle)

There is no question that Goytisolo likes sticking it to the establishment. In Reivindicación del conde don Julián (Count Julian; Don Julián), for example, he damned Spain and much of its history. In this novel, which is certainly more fun though probably also more sleazy, he is happy to have a go at anyone in the establishment. The novel starts with strange markings appearing on the walls in the Le Sentier district of Paris. Le Sentier is noted for being multi-ethnic and for being a textile district. Gradually more signs appear with these strange markings. Fortunately Goytisolo show us some of these markings and they are Arabic but the locals do not know that. All they know is that their road signs and even the local McDonalds sign have been replaced by signs with these strange, illegible markings. But Goytisolo has barely started. In the 78 short chapters, he lets fly. Margaret Thatcher is having an affair with Julio Iglesias. A man writes a serious and polite letter to the editor of a newspaper, claiming rights for his different needs, which consist of the desire to fondle the genitals of male dogs of any breed. As he points out, the dogs don’t mind, it is only the owners that do and he pleads for indulgence. White Parisians who go on holiday to sunny climes are advised to avoid the Metro if they have become suntanned, as they are liable to be seized by the local police and brutalised.

There is a hero but he is not an endearing person. Like Charles Dodgson, as Goytisolo points out in several places, his main pleasure is lusting after young girls. He takes a tame mouse to the park and plays with it, in order to get the girls to come and have a look because he wants to look at them. He is picked up and threatened by the police not because of his lust for little girls – they know about it and only use it to blackmail him – but because they suspect him of being behind the Oteka Commandos. This is a group of representatives of the Oteka people, allied to the Ruthenians, who keep issuing threatening notes, the first of which says that they will execute a Berlin, Paris or Madrid passenger every day, till history books mention the genocide of the Oteka people by the Tartar hordes and a tribunal is set up to determine responsibility for this genocide. Other threats follow.

Of course the Oteka people do not exist and even though we do see a whole host of liberation groups for peoples that do exist, like most others in this book, they are all at odds with one another, unable to communicate, with differing and often conflicting aims. Goytisolo is clearly having great fun, firing his scatter gun at a every target he can, with some hitting their mark – he clearly does not like Julio Iglesias – and others less successful. However, it is superbly done, very funny and very original.

Publishing history

First published in Spanish 1982 by Montesinos
First published in English by Seaver in 1987
Translated by Helen Lane