Thursday, January 15, 2015
Juan Goytisolo's Count Julian
Much better than his Marks of Identity (as translated by Rabassa), Juan Goytisolo’s Count Julian, the 1970 middle novel in the trilogy, gains that evaluation in no small part from Helen Lane’s fine, lyrical translation. The rhetoric is rhythmically calibrated for emotional shock, metaphorically daring (repetitive insect predation is handled with skillful variation and merciless scientific observation), and tonally sensitive and various. Most importantly, the voice which seemed, at times in the opening novel, pedantic and general, here is sharper. The reader can hear echoes of a necessary rage and mockery. Relentless in its targetted hits, Goytisolo avoids the flippant drive-by which often marred Marks of Identity to first colour his characters with specific tics and twitches in order to more effectively drive juice through the electric chair’s occupied head-and-hand irons. But, though it’s shorter than its predecessor, the pace also fries the reader’s sensibilities just past the half-way point. I’ll be reporting on the concluding book, Juan the Landless, later this year since it’s also translated by Lane.