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Juan Goytisolo Gay (Barcelona, Spain, January 5, 1931-Marrakech, Morocco, June 4, 2017) was a Spanish writer and intellectual. Considered the most important narrator of the Generation of the half century and even the best Spanish novelist of the beginning of the XXI century, his work includes novels, books of stories and travel, essays and poetry. He was a contributor to the newspaper El País. On November 24, 2014 he was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the highest award of the letters in Spanish. He was brother of the also writers José Agustín Goytisolo (1928-1999) and Luis Goytisolo (1935).
Third of four children (Marta, José Agustín, Juan and Luis) of a middle-class Barcelona couple, he soon learned about the hardships of the war: hunger and, most especially, the death of his mother Julia Gay in mid-March of 1938 in a bombing in Barcelona by the Italian aviation when Juan was only seven years old. After the Civil War concluded, he studied at the Jesuit school of Sarriá and, later, at the Bonanova school of the brothers of the Christian Doctrine. In 1948 he entered the University of Barcelona, where he began his law degree with the intention of becoming a diplomat. During his university days he would discover contemporary literature and unequivocally manifest his atheism.
Although his literary hobby encouraged him to write novels from the age of fourteen, his first published work, Juegos de manos, dates from 1954, when he left university. In one of his trips to Paris he met Monique Lange, with whom he would share much of his life. In 1956 he served six months of military service as a sergeant in Mataró, which would inspire him elements of the stories La guardia and Aquí abajo, included in the book To live here. That same year he settled in the French capital and began working as a literary consultant for the Gallimard publishing house. From this date he lived in different locations outside of Spain: Paris, Tangier, Marrakech … Between 1969 and 1975 he was professor of literature at universities in California, Boston and New York; of this time are his edition of the picaresque novel of the seventeenth century Vida de Estebanillo González, man of good humor and the combative anthology of the heterodox nineteenth-century José María Blanco White, written with the evident subterranean intention of attacking in double reading the closed Franco regime, that prohibited or censured several of his works and maintained, through the official press, a continuous hostility towards the writer.
Although he always maintained firm ideological convictions that are inseparable from his work, he remained totally independent of political organizations throughout his life. Regarding his relationship with Spain, he maintained a love relationship to his language and literature as well as a deliberate attempt to distance himself from his present (an attempt he was not always able to observe). Since the end of the 1960s his passion for the Arab world was integrated into his creations to become a fundamental element of his work, especially essays.
He cultivated the essay, the narrative, the story, the travel literature and the memoirs. The publication of his works outside of Spain made him one of the most influential Spanish intellectuals abroad. He published articles in the Spanish press, particularly in El País, for which he was a war correspondent in Chechnya and Bosnia. He was a critic of Western civilization, which he viewed from a peripheral perspective. Since the death of his wife, Monique Lange, in 1996, he took up residence in Marrakech.
His first novel, Juegos de manos, was adapted in 1980 by the filmmaker Enzo Tarquini in the Italian telefilm Gioco di morte, of which Goytisolo is a co-writer.
The composer José María Sánchez-Verdú freely adapted the novel The virtues of the solitary bird of Goytisolo in the opera El viaje a Simorgh, premiered on May 4, 2007 at the Teatro Real in Madrid.
In 2012 Juan Goytisolo affirmed that he left the narrative forever: «It is definitive. I have nothing to say and it is better to shut up. I do not write to earn money or dictation from publishers ». He continued, however, with literary essays and debuted in poetry. Regarding the publication of his first book of poems he said: “There are nine, neither one more nor one less. When I left the narrative they passed through my head like bands of storks that those poems left me. ”
He passed away on June 4, 2017 in Marrakesh, Morocco, at the age of 86. He was buried on Monday, June 5, 2017 in the civil cemetery of Larache, a town near Tangier. On his tombstone you can read: «Juan Goytisolo. Writer. Barcelona 1931-Marrakech 2017 ». Next to it is the tomb of the writer Jean Genet, who died in 1986. His executor, José María Ridao, the Arabista Lola López Enamorado and her French translator, Aline Schulman, spoke at the ceremony. verses by Federico García Lorca: “It will take a long time to be born, if it is born, a Spaniard so clear and so rich in adventures”. The Minister of Culture of the Embassy of Spain, Pablo Sanz, spoke on behalf of Ambassador Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner.
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