A couple of weeks ago, i read Goytisolo’s The Garden of Secrets. It seemed like putting a little time after its completion would help pull it into focus.
It was a complete novel, and it included a few techniques that always manage to hook me. However, it felt like i was walking in on the end of a conversation. There was a nagging sense that this novel was a capstone to Goytisolo’s other work, but i don’t have a shred of evidence for that yet. Obviously, a few things about Eusebio were drawn from personal experience. Some of the voices of the authors used to write the chapters seemed like they were references to something else, either referencing his own previous work or authors that i’m not familiar with.
I wound up being unsatisfied, as i wasn’t ready for the book. No matter how fun the varying styles of storytelling was, creating a mosaic of pieces that didn’t quite fit together (in a good way,) because of my ignorance, there was no hint of what some of the pieces really meant. Obviously i’m going to have to come back to this book in a few years, after reading some of Goytisolo’s earlier works.
It wasn’t a complete loss. Through the book, i kept getting the sense that some of the territory that Goytisolo was navigating was also navigated by Orhan Pamuk. There was a theme about twinned identity that clenched it, and i was desperately rattling my brain trying to connect the story of Eusebio to that of The White Castle. Wikipedia referenced a long NYT profile of Goytisolo, and it’s revealed that Pamuk’s a fan of Goytisolo:
“What was appealing to me when I first came across Juan Goytisolo’s books in the 1980’s,” the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk told me recently, “was that here was an experimental European novelist who had renounced the flat realism of the 19th-century novel and who was paying attention to my part of the world with an extraordinary humility, searching in his life and prose to create a different style enriched by what he’s found in this culture.”
The Pamuk connection is real. Since The Garden of Secrets is a relatively recent book though (1997,) Pamuk wasn’t drawing from it. It would seem that Goytisolo has been playing with the same themes for a long time, and i started at the end, rather than the beginning.
Oddly, the book itself was a relatively easy read. It was just a surface reading unfortunately, with as many intertextual games as he seemed to be playing.