Farewell to Juan Goytisolo

Last time I spoke to Juan Goytisolo was three months ago, when I tried to convince him to take part in the “Trobades Literaries mediterráneas” in tribute to Albert Camus, in Sant Lluís (Minorca). His voice seemed to me weak and his tone slightly subdued, but as always he was warm and behaved in the friendly manner that always made you feel comfortable when speaking to him.

I felt slightly sad and disappointed that he would not be there to help us grasp the keys of the recent divergences in the Mediterranean, but I could never figure that it would be the last time I would speak to such a great personality.

Juan Goytisolo has been one of the greatest Spanish writers, and literary critics have already acclaimed him, well deservedly, although I am certain that his work will revive and extend even more in the near future, when our collective memory searches out to better understand our origin and our contradictions as Spaniards. My admiration and friendship stem on the one hand from all that he made me feel as part of that Spanish generation craving for freedom and justice and seeking to recover our identity traits without having to go into exile. When I read his books in my youth, I greatly identified with the confusion and distress he felt in Franco’s Spain. Moreover, my closeness to his work and personality also originated in the passion and concern he always showed for the Arab-Muslim legacy which, thanks to his accuracy of interpretation, allowed me to better grasp that part of ourselves that all us Spaniards carry inside but that we often try to erase or forget. How many times have I heard in my dear Cordoba: we are Romans, Senecans, yes… Averroes and the Arab influence also were around, but it wasn’t the same thing”.

Goytisolo’s advanced multiculturalism is today a self-evident fact. He was always able to convey it with force and emotion when he depicted the grubbiness of Parisian outskirts where the various layers of immigrants accumulate in those murderous identities, as Amin Maalouf would say. He was in love with Morocco, its history, its culture, its people. We paid him several visits in his house in Marrakech, around the corner from the historical square Yamaa el Fna. In the past, the Spanish pseudo-intelligence criticised him for his affection for Morocco, but ultimately it had to recognise his accurate forward-looking vision. He supported and defended the wise idea of the Alliance of Civilisations when all kinds of criticism were voiced in our country against this initiative, which they considered unnecessary and unjustified.

With his disappearance, Spanish thinking and literary creation lose one of the great ones. And those of us who are still keen on defending a greater and more intense understanding between different cultures and civilisations lose the brave and visionary message of the “creative miscegenation” that Juan Goytisolo always advocated.

May he rest in peace in that Larache cemetery next to Jean Genet. I will go visit him in my next travel to Spain’s friendly neighbouring country.