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Black Rose


An Interview with Juan Goytisolo

EP: What means does the dissident have at his disposal today? What attitudes can he adopt?

JG: When I gave the title of Dissidences [Title of Goytisolo's book, Disidencias, not yet translated into English] to the volume of essays with my literary pieces of the last few years, I did it for a very precise reason. While I was translating (into Spanish) the English works of Blanco White [Spanish expatriate 7754840, who took refuge in England, where he wrote in English], something immediately caught my attention. Everything that Blanco wrote about the Church and the orthodoxy of his century (the nineteenth) was very similar to what the present dissidents in the USSR and Eastern Europe say about the ideological monolithism of the totalitarian societies in which they have to live. Just as the Catholic and Anglican churches in the time of Blanco White, the caste that holds power in the USSR behaves as if it were eternal; it doesn't want to see itself reflected in the mirror of time and to discover its own wrinkles; it mistakes its voice for the voice of the people; actually it only wants to perpetuate itself. The fight of Blanco and of the many Spanish dissidents who preceded him-the first and most illustrious of them being Fernando de Rojas- was above all the fight against a language occupied and manipulated by the ideology in power; a language that completely perverted its vocabulary and syntax; a frozen, empty, solemn language with a liturgical seriousness that was really funereal. A comparative analysis of the Papal encyclicals and Brezhnev's speeches would clearly show this parallel: the same pomposity, gravity, sufficiency, putrefaction of consecrated formulas, worn to the marrow. I remember that a Soviet hispanist, the translator into Spanish of the "political literature" of his country, confided to me once that his job was very easy: for someone experienced like himself, it was very easy to guess from a simple sentence the contents of the following paragraph, inasmuch as each pamphlet or speech had a framework, a kind of outline of articulated sentences, in which any one of them called inexorably for the next; that is, a kind of crossword puzzle argument in which the translator had only to fill in with cliches and topical phrases. Faced with this canonized, rigid language, monopolized by power, the dissident, whether he be Blanco White, Bulgakov, or Zinoviev, is forced to undertake a subversive and demystifying task, aiming to undermine the semantic order imposed by the occupying ideology. In this task, satire, irony play a primordial role: they are the weapons used by the writer to recuperate language, to expose the petrification of the system, to point to the grotesque and ridiculous side of the pontiffs and the processional oxen. Bakhtin's [Russian literary critic, author of Rabelais and His World] observations on the spaces of freedom of the Carnival, the Rabelaisian mockery of official and dogmatic religion, apply perfectly to that literature coming from the USSR today which is alive-and I have no doubt that, in speaking of the past, Bakhtin was at the same time pointing slyly to the political churches of the present. Coming back to my book: it's very clear to me that Rojas was a dissident with regard to the Spanish life of his time: a dissident both against a society that persecuted cruelly his own family and the members of his caste, and against a literary tradition that he confronted so admirably in La Celestina. A double rebellion, then: artistic and moral. If literature is, according to the well-known remark of Pavese, " a defense against life's offenses," one could outline a literary history from the successive answers of writers such as Rojas, Cervantes, etc. to the asphyxiating situation inevitably created by the totalitarian state and by orthodox thought, and arrive at the equation, "Writing = Dissidence."

EP: I think that the stance of the dissident, as far as you are concerned, is perfectly defined. You were interested, some time ago, in the writings of Gramsci and Rosa Luxemburg. What has Marxism meant to you as a global experience?

JG: My discovery of Marxism was rather early, if one takes into account the milieu from which I came and the situation of Spain in 1950. My brother, Luis, and I used to attend a literary discussion group at the Bar-Club, in Barcelona, and there we discussed Marxism, political commitment, etc. We used to read French communist magazines, smuggled into Spain, and as a result a good number of my companions ended up joining the CP. Later, in Paris, I began to read Marx, Engels, and, above all, Lukacs, who was, unfortunately, my inseparable mentor during four or five years. I say unfortunately because, even though his intellectual stature is beyond doubt, and he has never- contrary to other orthodox intellectuals-fallen into the aberrant demagogy of Stalinism, his aesthetic conservatism, his fascination with bourgeois art and literature, influenced my work of those years: it is not by chance that the worst novel I have written, La Resaca (The Undertow), met with his very lively praise, which was conveyed to me through a common friend. Lukacs, the same as Lenin, thought that XIX Century realism was the epitome of art, and both judged contemporary literature through the prism of Balzac or Tolstoy. Both defended a rigid concept of realism and condemned the avant-garde (one only has to remember the attacks of Lukacs against Proust, Joyce, Kafka, Surrealism), without understanding at all that the new world in which they lived demanded the invention, the search for a new language (precisely what they called, derogatorily, formalism). They did not under- stand that, on the contrary, to try to grasp the changing reality (the technical and cultural revolution-Picasso's discovery of the "imaginary museum" which makes it possible to plunder the art and writing of all times and civilizations) within the framework of laws established once and for all, is to incur an authentic case of formalism (as far as I am concerned there is nothing more formal than so-called "socialist realism"). During these years I wrote two or three very Lukacsian essays, which had very little to do with my own writing: as is the case with 90 percent of Spanish essays, they were not the product of a personal literary experience, but of a hurried ingestion of badly digested reading.

Luckily for me, my later acquaintances were less orthodox. First Gramsci (whom I read in Italian, since the French CP then opposed his translation) and then Trotsky, and, above all, Rosa Luxemburg, whose live reading of Marx still seems to me fundamentally important. Of contemporary authors the one who influenced me most is probably Marcuse. But when I read him I had already abandoned my exclusive adherence to Marxism, if by that one understands the fact of looking at the totality of life through the single prism of an ideology. Marxism today is part of contemporary culture and, whether we like it or not, we are all impregnated by it. But the same thing happens with a number of thinkers, such as for example Freud, and I do not consider myself Freudian either. Actually, no ideological system can encompass nor explain the whole of human existence and the world without fatally becoming a totalitarian system: Stalinism proved that clearly with Zhdanov and Lysenko. In these last years my political reading has turned to anarchist thought: Fourier, Bakunin, Chomsky.

EP: The present Freudo-Marxism has used a schizoid-type analysis to label Bakunin as a neuropath and a nail. Or what amounts to the same: it has taken up again Plekhanov's old tag, identifying Bakuninism with decadent utopianism. Such a salutary appreciation turns out to be as gratuitous as the right-thinking bourgeois' identification of anarchism with barbarism. Now then, doesn't Bakunin's philosophy (between anti-authoritarianism and anti-social bureaucracy) become enlightening as a critical method when applied to today's Marxist regimes?

JG: If we go as far back as the famous polemic between Marx and Bakunin, we can verify that while history, the facts of the past, have proven Marx right-today close to a third of humanity lives in self-proclaimed Marxist societies, and even capitalism has completely modified its course by incorporating into its mechanisms, for reasons of self-defense, a series of elements taken from the body of ideas of Capital, the future belongs to Bakunin without a doubt. The "corrected" capitalism of social-democratic societies, as well as the authoritarian model (or anti-model) now governing the USSR, China, Cuba, etc., cry out for a revolution of the anarchist type in its dual aspect, individualistic and communitarian.

Let's take the industrial societies of the West, which are economically and culturally developed: the Leninist, Trotskyist, Maoist, Guevarist blueprints have very little to do with the real aspirations of the working class, or with the historical forces that are in favor of social change. The extreme economism of Marxist revolutionary movements has isolated them from the desires and the new needs of the masses, inasmuch as it does not address, nor has it addressed until recently, a series of problems about which anarchists have always been much more sensitive: citizens' rights, individual liberties, the condemnation of alienated labor, a critique of industrialization as a presumed liberatory agent of human beings, feminism, the defense of the environment, a denunciation of consumerism, etc.... As we can see from the present example in Spain, even the staunchest groups of Marxists or Marxist-Leninists are begining to undergo a healthy contagion of the anarchist virus.

In the USSR and other Eastern European countries, the "contamination" is even clearer. The hierarchisation of power, the ideological monolithism, the dualism between the ruled and the rulers, the negation of the most elementary freedoms and rights, give to the writings of Bakunin a prophetic character. Not having taken into account his warnings, the paradise created by the Marxist-Leninist parties in power has transformed itself into something completely different from that predicted: after the mirage of the new man (a concept which, on the other hand smells strongly of Christianism) has come the sad reality of the old barbarian. The movements that crop up and will crop up with increasing strength in these societies (the demand for democratization, political and ideological freedom, criticism of the leadership, etc.) are also a kind of posthumous revenge of Bakunin against his old rival.

As Alvarez Junco observed [Spanish author of a political monograph published by the then French-based Spanish publisher "Ruedo lberico"] state "socialism" of an authoritarian type can only tempt the exploited and miserable societies of the Third World. Because of its rigid organiza- tion, almost military, it is the most efficient form to take them out of the underdevelopment and ignorance in which imperialism keeps them today. But once this is achieved-something that my brother Luis compared recently to the first-aid given to the victim of an accident-this so-called authoritarian socialism has proven to be totally incapable of improving and transforming itself. The first thing of course is to give food to a hungry population (something that capitalism doesn't do in the Third World countries which it exploits ruthlessly). But we shouldn't forget (and this the regimes of a Soviet style do not take into account) that human rights begin, do not end, with the right to eat.

EP: "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The revolutionary experiences (especially in the XX Century) have shown their inability even to improve an economic system, so that the means of production end up being the origin of repression, don't you think?

Marxism has justly denounced the economic exploitation of man by man, that is, the appropriation of the workers' surplus by capital, but it ignores or neglects a similar or worse exploitation: the political exploitation undertaken by power, the appropriation of part or all of the freedoms inherent in a human being by the representatives of power. While Marx limits himself to fighting private capital and economic exploitation, Bakunin, much more daring and revolutionary, condemns the State, that fatal usurper of our political, economic, cultural, physical freedoms: this monster, which Marx did not foresee, that decides what can and can't be read, who can and cannot travel, what is the orthodox way of thinking and of making love, and a very long etc. In the first draft of a projected anarchist manifesto, written to be discussed by a group of intellectual sympathizers, Francisco Carrasquer [Contemporary Spanish political writer] asks himself why it is realistic for the Left to fight against the desire, so prevalent, to accumulate private property, and, on the other hand, unrealistic to fight the desire for power; when it turns out that those who are obsessed by it, the power-sick, are only, fortunately, a small percentage of humanity. To argue in a pessimistic way by saying that "there will always be the ruled and the rulers," is it not perhaps to fall in the old trap of "there will always be slaves and masters," "capitalists and proletarians," not to speak of the male chauvinist argument which until recently justified the secondary and oppressed status of women? Future society could set itself the task of correcting the destructive tendencies to power the same way it already fights the destructive tendencies of the pyromaniac or of the born assassin. Without looking too far back in history, and sticking to that which has happened in this century, anybody can verify that tens of millions of men have died because of decisions taken by individuals thirsty for power. Based on such facts, it seems logical and reasonable that society should develop mechanisms of self-defense. The crimes of Docteur Petiot, of Jack the Ripper, or of the Texas Blue Beard are ridiculous and dilettantish next to those committed by Hitler, Stalin, and their kind. Given the extreme difficulty of dislodging the leaders once they have seized power- here we have the recent example of Franco, who died in bed-we ought to reach the following conclusion: the best way to prevent such individuals from taking possession of power is to prevent power from possessing them. This proposal is not utopian at all, rather it is a necessary and pressing one. Humanity must finish not only with its economic exploiters, but also with its führers, helmsmen, caudillos, benefactors, maximum leaders. At any rate, I agree completely with Carrasquer when he says that, even though we might not be able to do away with power, "human justice and liberty have been, are, and will be inversely proportional to the amount of concentrated power, and directly proportional to the influence of the anarchist mode of thought in the world."

EP: There have been two recent revolutionary experiences: concerning the Chinese, I don't know what references and data you have about it, but I imagine that you must have more information about the Cuban one. And, besides, you have been there several times.

JG: About the Chinese revolution I can't give you an opinion simply because have never been in China and I do not know the history, culture, and language of that country. I have read several books on Maoism like everybody else, but that is not enough to judge an experience which affects the destiny of a billion persons. I believe that Maoism, like all authoritarian "socialist" systems, has given "first aid" to that huge mass of "victims of an accident": it has given them food and clothing, something which, if we take as a starting point the alleged bourgeois democracy of India, certainly represents a giant step forward (the industrial regimes of the Free World, on the other hand, keep the masses of the Third World in a state of subhuman misery). Still, I think that the Western Left has undertaken an idealization of the Maoist experience by repeat- ing the same schematic thinking and by falling into the same errors of forty years ago about the Soviet Union. Now, after the K hr us hc he report and the subsequent dismantling of the Stalinist myth, though the Western Left has finally opened its eyes about the USSR, a great number of its members maintain a kind of pious self-deceit about China, about the evident fact that Stalinism there is still alive and kicking. The image of the Soviet paradise already destroyed, the Left insists in forging a substitute paradise, call it China, Cuba, Vietnam (I even know of some devotees of the Albanian and North Korean Edens).

The continuous see-sawing of Chinese policies in the last twenty years has forced its unfortunate defenders in the West to extraordinary exercises of mental gymnastics, to a series of dialectical pirouettes which would be grotesque, if they weren't, at least for me, quite painful: this is irrefutable evidence of the alienation that exists on the Left. Those who praise the experience of the Hundred Flowers have to take up immediately thereafter the hosanna to the Great Leap Forward; the panegyrists of the Cultural Revolution and denigrators of Confucius, have to applaud the reintroduction of the profit-motive and to proclaim that Confucius had been calumniated by the sinister "gang of four." These unconditional pro-Chinese prove themselves to be excellent acrobats when, after they have praised Lin Piao to the skies, they accuse him the next day of being a traitor; when, after they have praised Mao's wife extravagantly, they must then admit that she had had an empress's dress made, and that she attended with her cronies showings of Soviet porno-movies-1 imagine the characters in these movies were played by powerful Stakhanovites and expert feminine manual workers.

Obviously we are facing a phenomenon of a religious nature: what many books and allegedly revolutionary publications offer us are neither arguments nor reasons but acts of will, and, above all, statements of faith, some of them very close to the well-known credo quia absurdum of Tertullian. As Thorez's widow said recently on a TV program, Soviet socialism had been as clear to her as two and two makes four and, even more, as clear as two and two makes five.

And Castro's experience?

About Castro's experience I can speak with more knowledge, as I have visited Cuba several times, during different phases of the revolutionary process, and in spite of the present scarcity of reliable information, I fol- low very closely, as best I can, the Cuban situation. I have to say, right at the beginning, that I have defended, I now defend, and will always defend the historical necessity of the Cuban revolution. Since the time of its independence from Spain, Cuba, just like the rest of the countries of Hispanic America, was subjected to an unbridled exploitation by U.S. capitalism and by its own bourgeoisie: corruption, illiteracy, poverty existed in Cuba, just as they exist today in most of the continent (even in a wealthy country with a bourgeois democratic regime like Venezuela, the people in the "ranchitos" (local slums) live in conditions that are totally unacceptable). Castro's revolution ended this state of affairs very quickly: it eliminated the most outrageous differences of the past, it provided a series of immediate social benefits, it did away with illiteracy, etc. That is to say, it provided first aid to a series of sectors of the population (the subproletariat in the slums, the farmers) who hadn't reached until then the threshold of minimal dignity for human beings. But if the authoritarian model followed by Castro could have been the necessary condition for the progress of the people, today it obviously is an obstacle. just like the Soviet CP, the Cuban party seems totally incapable of becoming democratic, of abandoning its authoritarian habits, of providing the people rights other than those strictly elementary. That is to say, if Castro has liberated a great sector of the population from the poverty and humiliation of the past, he maintains today the whole of the population in a state of perpetual legal minority, of frustration and impotence, inasmuch as he controls absolutely the mechanisms of power, has confiscated all of the political rights, has imposed an iron censorship, has established an all-powerful police force. The predictions of Bakunin, the warnings of Rosa Luxemburg to Lenin, fit perfectly the social practice of the Cuban revolution: the dictatorship of the proletariat has become that of the party, the one of the party has become that of the Central Committee and the Central Committee's that of the Secretary General, Maximum Leader and Commander-in-Chief, who holds in his hands all of the powers without any limitation or check. It is Fidel Castro who decides everything: from the breeding of cows and the manufacturing of cheese to what must be planted and to what reading is authorized (his panegyrists quote rapturously the fact that he allowed in 1966 the first and only edition of Paradiso) [Novel by the Cuban writer Lezama Lima, now dead, which has been the object of much controversy]. In the early seventies, I remember that he launched the idea of "Havana's Belt": they had to plant coffee around the capital instead of going to Pinar del Rio for it. It was a time of great popular enthusiasm, and people volunteered to work after normal working hours: a true manifestation of energy, voluntary and spontaneous. I was very impressed by this collective effort and I received a cold shower when Carlos Franqui [Now a Cuban defector] informed me confidentially that coffee would never grow there because the land was not suited for growing coffee. He is of peasant stock, and he knew what he was talking about. I asked him then why they wasted so much time, enthusiasm, and energy in a task that was doomed to fail (which actually happened: two years later nobody was speaking anymore of "Havana's Belt" and in order to substitute for the spectacular low in volunteer work they had to revive laws against vagrancy and idleness, very similar to those which existed in colonial times), and Franqui answered me with a smile: "It's a personal decision of Fidel's. Who's going to bell the cat?" About the same time-to give you another example-the director of ICA IC [Cuban Government's branch in charge of, among other things, film production and distribution], Alfredo Guevara. to whom I had confided my preoccupations because of the attacks he had been subjected to by some of the members of the old core of directors of the Cuban CP (Blas Roca, Vicentina Antuna, etc.), speaking about the organization's tolerance regarding films (it had allowed the showing of Eight and a Half by Fellini), explained to me his cultural policy in these terms: "What Blas Roca and the rest do not know is that, before I buy a film or I authorize a script, I tell Fidel the plot, and if he likes it, then we go ahead." To speak of democracy and popular participation in this context is to pervert language. Fidel Castro goes back to a Hispano-Arabic tradition of "caudiIlos": he governs Cuba like a ranch. He did away with large landed estates (among them those of his own family), but today he administers one infinitely larger: the whole island. I don't think that the degeneration of the Cuban revolutionary project is caused by a deliberate Machiavellism of Castro. Geopolitics explains many things and it exonerates him in a certain sense. In 1959 the 26th of July Movement wanted to put an end to those characteristics of political-economic underdevelopment that Cuba had in common with the other nations of the Caribbean: single crop, the military as a pillar of national life, the "caudillismo," the dependence on U.S. imperialism. I know for a fact, I was witness to the efforts made to come out of this state of underdevelopment in which the U.S. keeps the countries in the area. That's why it is very sad to see that in trying to escape a single crop system, they have fallen back into it (exploitation today is run by the state and not be capitalists; but the "macheteros" still can't determine the utilization of the fruits of their labor); that the military is still the backbone of the nation (Cuban society today is a society in a permanent state of mobilization); that Fidel Castro exercises the prerogatives of a true "caudillo" and that, even though they have managed to escape the claws of U.S. capitalism, it has been to fall into the political, economic, and ideological dependency of the USSR. I insist that the least favored sectors of the population during the last regime have benfited from the change. But the authoritarian program of the revolution is blocking today any possibility of betterment beyond the most elementary social and economic sphere. The people have learned to read, but only to be subjected to an indoctrination without precedent; censorship is much more severe than the one which existed in Spain in the last fifteen years of Franco's rule. Literary magazines are of the lowest quality, discussion groups concerning Marxism have been prohibited. lust as in East Germany, the regime fabricates excellent athletes, but it has destroyed its thinkers. Muscular development coincides with cerebral atrophy. This is clear as mountain water, even though, for whatever reason, many insist on not seeing it or don't want to take it into account. I, for one, have supported the Cuban revolution when one had to support it, and I stopped doing it the day I saw that it had become a check instead of the motor of the people's progress.

EP: On many occasions Moscow's radicalism as well as Cuba's have defined clearly and forcefully their stand regarding dissidents or any rebellious initiative (Hungary, Czechoslovakia). The revolutionary capacity in the Left seems to have been literally extirpated. Paternal substitutes for criticism and obfuscation turn out to be the best antidote to truth.

JG: The Left's self-censorship continues to function today with enviable health. As Enzensberger said in one of his essays, "For the last fifty years there still lives in us the custom of lying, knowing that we are lying." The reasons for this painful exercise are the same always: not to give ammunition to the enemy, not to discourage those "comrades" who do not "know," etc. The only thing that's changed is the field of application: today, for example, one can be a Marxist, a Communist, Leninist, and criticize freely the social practice of the Soviet Union; nobody or almost nobody is scandalized anymore when Ellenstein or Azcarte speak of the USSR as an anti-model. But the taboo has been displaced to other coun- tries, other areas: for some it's Cuba, for others China, for some Vietnam. ...When the Soviet courts condemn for grossly false reasons a dissident like Ginz burg, we are witness to a true storm of protest in the socialist or communist ranks of the western countries. When a Cuban tribunal condemns to 29 years a woman with an exemplary revolutionary past such as Martha Frayde because of her political disagreements with the regime, accusing her falsely of being a CIA agent, nobody says a word. For the ineffable Tierno Galvan [leading Spanish Socialist], the Cuban authorities "respect human freedoms to the fullest." The left has internalized this habit of hiding the truth to the marrow. Camp de l'Arpa [Spanish literary magazine] published recently a letter of Orwell explaining the censorship he was the victim of in the English socialist press when he wanted to tell what really happened to the POUM in Spain: even his editor refused to publish his Homage to Catalonia. This might seem shocking to us today, because even Carrillo himself bemoans the anti-Trotskyist sectarianism of that time. But self-censorship still exists about contemporary realities that are very similar. When K.S. Karol wrote his book about Cuba, he spent several years without a publisher in Spanish and when it finally appeared in Spain, the leftist press maintained a total silence about it. The need to preserve the purity of the Castroist myth closed all doors to him, just as the need not to besmirch the image of the Popular Front closed doors to Orwell in 1937. The same miserable reasoning has infected almost the whole of the political class: the socialist leaders of the 1930s believed or said they believed in the contents of the charges of the Moscow trials against Bukharin and other revolutionary leaders; Felipe Gonzalez [Secretary General of the Partido Socialista Obrero Espanol] believes or feigns to believe the leaders of Algeria when they tell him that Ben Bella isn't arrested, rather that he is voluntarily detained (apparently he suffers from agoraphobia!). If the Left wants to finish once and for all with its present dejection and to offer a believable revolutionary alternative, it must free itself from these habits of self-justification, from these pious lies. Octavio Paz quoted recently the sentence of one of the heroes of the Paris Commune: "He who tells the people false revolutionary legends is as much of a criminal as the one who draws false navigational charts." The unfortunate experience of this half century must make us understand the importance of Gramsci's phrase: "Truth is always revolutionary."

EP: From an anti-authoritarian viewpoint, putting aside the right wing which

disqualifies itself, and from a critical perspective, where would you locate the bases for the permanent revolution?

JG: Taking, as I do, an optimistic perspective, one open to the future, I know nothing more defeatist than the mania of the partisan of an authoritarian socialism who want to foist upon us their -paradises," Soviet style, or Chinese, or Cuban, with a kind of smiling fatalism-1 think that my position is very clear: to help those forces which, in the industrial countries of the west, which include Spain, fight for a political-social transformation from a socialist and libertarian perspective; to support the needed political revolution that will put an end to the totalitarian bureaucracies of the East; to support, in a first phase, the authoritarian socialist regimes of the Third World to the extent that their blueprint-which in fact is the solution of least effort-favors the progress of the people: once this objective is reached, when the motor becomes a brake, to extend to these regimes the modes of thought and the requirements of libertarian communism- When one acts in this way, without hiding anything, without obeying considerations or calculations of opportunity, one doesn't have to fear playing into the hands of the Right: those who help the Right are, on the contrary, those who insist on imposing on the advanced societies regressive, oppressive models, which, actually serve as scarecrows.

EP: To bring this matter to a close, there is an almost obligatory question about the ten years which separate us from that French May, the prodigious decade of the "new" seventies: what have been the results of that revolutionary initiative?

JG: The experience of May '68 was for all those who lived it very impressive: it meant the break with the old political blueprints and the surging forth of a new problematic. To understand the explosion that took place, one has to take into account the convergence of two opposite elements within the framework of an exceptionally favorable economic situation: Europe lived in the middle of a boom, a thousand leagues away from the present situation of a crisis of capitalism, in which the harshness of the fight to survive provokes the anguish of losing one's job, the fear of unemployment, and that makes the working class, and even a larger number of students, hesitate greatly before they decide on radical, confrontational actions. There was on the one hand the student movement, supported by most of the young people and even by many young workers, and on the other hand the traditional working class, whose instantaneous - and massive action, outside of unions and political parties, was the surprise factor, on which nobody was counting. But these two movements were divergent, even though their coming together at that point in time provided momentarily the spark. The students, the sons of the bourgeoisie and the intellectual strata, protested against the stultifying consumerism, the aberrant dogma of industrialization, alienated labor, in the name of a conception of life that was freer and more spontaneous: they carried Bakunin's flag. The working class, on the other hand, as the political and union leaders discovered very soon to their relief, did not contest the role whole of the consumer society, rather, egged on and directed by them, it demanded a larger share in the goods of that society: their revindications had a social democratic content; they referred to Bernstein. Within this dual framework, Lenin was nowhere to be seen, except perhaps in the dead rhetoric of the French CP and some Trotskyist or Maoist groups, which belatedly and against the grain tried to recuperate the movement. The revolution was frustrated the moment that the CGT [French CP trade union] and Marchais [Secretary General of the French CP] agreed to discuss salary improvements with the government. But that which specifically characterizes the dynamics of May is the surging of a problematic, which instead of reducing the human being to the economic sphere, encompasses the whole of the components of social life: the new status of women, the liberation from the slavery of work, the right to happiness. With this perspective it can be said that May '68 signals the comeback of Bakunin, the resurgence of anarchist thought. Today these questions are everyday matters in Western industrial societies, and the political parties are forced to take them into consideration in their programs.

EP: After having chosen a certain identity [References to the three novels mentioned in the introduction], and through that prism carrying out a critical revision of the historical context, you laid the foundations of an ethical nomadism (which implies, in turn, a new aesthetic of writing): refusal of hierarchy and of the norms of power. In the last page of Juan the Landless you choose to remain "on the other side of the fence, with the pariahs, sharpening the knife." From this point on, the texts that you have published, even though they represent a partial exposition, a fragmentary one (and even an insufficient one) of the work that you are preparing ["Lectura del espacio en Xemaa-El-Fna," passage from his work in prog- ress], express a severe attitude of unlearning: Xemaa-el-fna is the agora: a space inhabited by gestures, provocations and the bloodless although grotesque spectacle of the hunted hunter: "merienda de blancos," [Untranslatable pun on the Spanish idiom "merienda de negros," literally the midday sweat of the negros, meaning a chaotic, primitive, destructive undertaking. Goytisolo turns it around ethnically, ascribing it to Whites instead of Blacks] you write; it could be interpreted as a "merienda" on the Western orthodox culture. A revolutionary proposal that requires an active interpretation of the rhapsodist, making speech the vehicle of literature, in which the listener, even the illiterate one, participates and protagonizes. The reading of the space of Kemaa-el-fna seems to be evoked under the motto: "I destroy in order to build," in its widest sense.

JG: Juan the Landless has been the object of much critical attention in Spain and outside of Spain: some of the essays included, for instance, in the volume of Espiral [Spanish literary magazine] seem to me excellent. But what has intrigued me most is the fact that nobody until now has undertaken a political reading of the book, when I believe it to be the most political book I have written or, if you want, a metapolitical one: all the problems we have just discussed are essential ingredients of its structure. The need for a Bakunin-styled revolution; the references to Marx, Lafargue, Fourier, the proposal of a society strictly egalitarian, based on the inversion of the duality face-ass; the refusal of alienated labor; the revindication of the body, assumed in its most material and "base" aspect: excrement; the abolition of classes and hierarchies of power, inasmuch as those who undertake temporarily public functions, don't have a face, they're only known by their backsides, etc.-all these elements are part of a global revolutionary position.

Any careful reader will find an X-ray picture of the sado-masochistic mechanism of power (hence my reference to D.H. Lawrence) or an analysis of the repressive role of society, with its normative criteria regarding free, abnormal, unconditioned writing (in this last point, the anarchist aspect is not the communal one, but the individualistic one, following Stirner).

These ingredients are very mixed with others and are subjected to the requirements and imponderables of narrative discourse; but Juan the Landless is a literary text, and one has to accept it as such. When I wrote it, Franco was still alive, there wasn't yet any room for discussion, and a proposal such as mine, translated to the strictly rational language of theessay, couldn't find its place in the narrow political framework of those years; not only within the parameters of tolerance of the regime, but even within those of the opposition. To say what I wanted to say I had to use a new language. The novel was the product of this strategy of invention.

EP: Language as a source of pleasure is the result of the deepest of subversions of its utilitarian function, but at the same time, doesn't that exclude from writing its most somatic, most ludic quality, the gestural one?

JG: I have to confess at the onset that that expression is beginning to bother me considerably. Lately, people have invoked "the ludic function of language" to cover up so many botched jobs and so many irresponsible monstrosities, that the expression should be used with the utmost care. Nowadays, almost all of the apes of our national literature have decided to dress in its finery, and the spectacle they offer is really painful. Actually, to evoke the ludic element of literature ought to be a truism. Our classics, from Juan Ruiz and the Archpriest of Talavera to Cervantes, played with language with the same naturalness with which they ate, fucked, or shat: without speaking about it, precisely because it was self-evident. The sensual function of aesthetic enjoyment-which distinguishes the literary code from the rest of communicative languages-became critical in the eighteenth century, which was, as we know, in Spain, an ill-fated century, speaking in literary terms. With the Enlightenment, a rational, serious, reductive, constipated language was introduced among us, which purges "reality" from a host of factors which were integral to it; utilitarian criteria were introduced among us based on a naive optimism, in the belief that literature was an intrument to improve the condition of human beings in the cities. The culmination of this tendency is to be found in Lukacs (intelligent version) and in Zhdanov (schematic and rough version). The best literature in the Spanish language of the twentieth century tries to link itself with the literary language before that century; but for that effort to yield good results, I think that one must avoid being too explicit. Many of those who flaunt the ludic character seem rather like paraplegics intent on performing sad acrobatic exercises.

EP: To conclude I would like to ask you one thing, even though it might be a cliche: what does writing mean to you?

JG: I can't answer, because it's as if you asked me what does eating or mak ing love mean to me- I simply write, and I try to do it well. I do precisely the contrary of what our luminaries do: while they normally take their own persons very seriously, instead of taking their work seriously, I do my work with all the rigor I can muster, and I try not to take myself seriously- I'm inspired by the old popular wisdom. As the marvelous woman who brought me up used to say: "Your doo-doo smells like everybody else's."


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