Note: This review, such as it is, includes absolutely NO spoilers, as that would be, I believe, impossible.
Another Note: Should you, you glutinous seeker of punishment, decide to pursue the reading of this relatively slim volume, be forewarned that several editions of this novel exist which are drastically different one from another, and do not skip the Afterword to the New Edition, as it contains enough information on the author’s structuring, intent, history, and revisions to render this slimmed-down, abbreviated, and (hopefully) final version the definitive version.
The Review: In a novel rich in language and the timeless classic and romantic themes—slavery, perversion, religion, constipation, and the onanistic nature of writing (especially, the writing of poetry)—all those themes which, deservedly, belong together, Goytisolo weaves an astonishing prose poem which leaves you gasping and ready for the end.
Some gratuitous quotes for your edification:
from now on you will learn to think against your own language
eliminate the last traces of theatricality from the corpus of the novel : transform it into an uneventful discourse : dynamite the worn-out notion of the flesh-and-blood character : replacing the dramatic progression of the story with clusters of text driven by a single centripetal force : organizing kernel of the writing itself, pen fountaining the textual process : improvising the architecture of the literary object not as a tissue of relationships ordered by time and logic but as an ars combinatoria of elements (opposition, alternatives, symmetrical play) on the rectangle of the page : emulating painting and poetry at a purely spatial level : indifferent to the vociferous or tacit threats of the commissar-sergeant-customs officer disguised as a critic : deaf to the siren songs of self-interested functional-content based and petty utilitarian criteriaAnd one more that compromises my vision and risks carpal-tunnel syndrome:
autonomy of the literary object : verbal structure with its own inner connections, language perceived in itself and not as a transparent mediator of an alien external world : via the act of releasing words from their subjugation to a pragmatic order that transforms them into mere vehicles of almighty reason : of logical thought that uses them contemptuously without considering their specific weight and worth : fulfilling the functions of representation, expression and address inherent in oral communication whose elements (transmitter, receiver, context, contact) also operate (though diversely) at the moment of reading in a fourth (erogenous?) function that will exclusively center attention on the linguistic sign : thanks to that, stripping language of its ancillary miserly purpose : transmuting semantic anomaly into a kernel for generating poetry and at a stroke, combining the polysemic harmony, sexuality and writing : general contempt for the useful procreating serial mode that changes abominable barren pleasure into a figure of speech, the crimine pessimo into existential metaphor : at last resolving, at the end of such a long detour, the secret equation of your double deviation : noproductive (onanistic) manipulation of the written word, self-sufficient (poetic) exercise of illicit pleasuringI hope you’re satisfied.
The Rating: Four stars, in the hope of returning to the text at some point and being able to add the fifth. Impossible to recommend to more than a couple of you, as I fear the inevitable backlash and being murderously stalked in the Land of Lincoln.