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The Garden of Secrets [Paperback]

Juan Goytisolo , Peter Bush
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2002
Over three weeks twenty-eight story-tellers - one for each letter in the Arabic alphabet - meet in a Marrakesh garden to tell the story of a poet, Eusebio, arrested in Melilla in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. Eusebio, a friend of Garcia Lorca and his Circle, escapes assassination and his life then escapes the control of a single destiny. Some tales embroider his shadowy life with stories from Djemaa-el-Fna - the pasha's cook, the slave-market, Aysha and the stork... Does Eusebio betray his Fascist friends by confessing in a show-trial that they indulged in orgies with the youngsters from their battallions? Does he transform into Eugenio the world war two black marketeer from Tangiers? Or does he transmute into the world of Alphonse van Worden, doyen of Marrakesh queens with his Rolls, Indian chauffeur and home showings of Mary Pickford movies? In The Garden of Secrets, Juan Goytisolo tells a moving story as he reflects on memory, history and the mythical power of fiction.

Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail; New edition edition (1 Aug 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852428090
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852428099
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.4 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 921,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Juan Goytisolo has been hailed as one of the finest writers currently working in the Spanish language. He has produced a series of passionately iconoclastic and obliquely autobiographical novels, charting the effects of civil war and fascist dictatorship upon his native Spain. In The Garden of Secrets, a Circle of 28 readers, each one represented by a letter of the Arabic alphabet, gather in a garden to tell the story of Eusebio, a dissident poet arrested by the Falange in the early years of the Spanish Civil War. Diagnosed as a victim of "collectivist social utopias" exacerbated by "feminoid urges", the poet is subjected to a brutal programme of drugs, re-indoctrination and electric shock treatment. The narrative which follows is disorientating, nightmarish and fragmentarily beautiful. At the heart of the narrative, a fabric that constantly unravels itself with each successive storyteller, is the enigma of the poet himself. Who is Eusebio? The Islamic convert and ascetic divine of Marrakesh, the bloated black marketeer of Tangiers or a sham aristocrat with a passion for Mary Pickford and a penchant for female impersonation? These myriad identities, constructed by the various narrators (including a brilliant parody of the Arabist scholar), shroud the subject in mystery whilst illuminating the real object of Goytisolo's interest: the process of storytelling itself. After all, the author is yet another "fictitious character, a mere paper being like the one you're laboriously constructing". The Garden of Secrets is a brilliant, mesmerising novel. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'The main Spanish novelist on active service' Carlos Fuentes 'Goytisolo's extraordinary lyrical and imaginative gifts...are simultaneously forceful and beguiling' Observer

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First Sentence
On the basis of a short review of a work whose author I'd rather not remember, referring to the discovery in a suitcase without owner of two quite distinctive series of poems attributed without proof to Eusebio***, interned at the request of his family in the military psychiatric centre in Melilla at the start of the July '36 rebellion, from which he escaped, according to one version, aided and abetted by a soldier from the Rif, or where, according to another, he underwent 'rehabilitation treatment' provided by a few Fascist psychiatrists, we, a Circle of active, passionate readers in a provincial city, decided to write a collective story based on the poet's elusive history, gathered together over the course of three weeks in the benign summer shade of a delightfully cultivated garden. Read the first page
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
A group of readers gather to reconstruct the life of a Spanish poet, Eusebio, who disappeared at the outbreak of the Civil War. Each proposes his or her part of the story in a short chapter. Did he escape with his male lover to become a Muslim mystic? Was he "re-educated" by fascist psychologists to become a loyal follower of Franco? It is up to the reader to choose from these (and other) conflicting versions, to fill in the gaps, and generally rejoice in this playful celebration of the art of narrative.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Garden of Earthly Delights 25 May 2001
By Grady Harp - Published on
Borrowing the title from Hieronymous Bosch's painting as a way to present this book is cogent. Juan Goytisolo is considered Spain's foremost writer and if this small book, THE GARDEN OF SECRETS, is any indication, his standing is well supported.
To postulate the fate of a well know poet - Eusebio - who was close to Lorca and other writers during the Franco period of Spain, a poet who "disappeared" about the same time as Lorca, the author has gathered 28 literary people in a garden in Marrakesh to discuss the life and possible fates of the honored poet. We have, then, 28 versions of what happened to Eusebio, and the stories range from campy, to wild, to tragic, to nationalistic. Goytisolo is a linguist who mixes French, Arabic, Spanish - all the voices in the intrigue laden Marrakech, Morocco - and translates in footnotes and interactive conversations so that we never lose track of the story lines. This little book is somewhat like the story of the three blind men describing an elephant, or even the old Steve Allen show which featured characters from many periods sharing reponses to questions colored by their own histories. A delightful little diversion, this, and yet it is more. It is poetry, Spanish history, an exploration of the gay writers so prominent in Spanish history, and a beautiful introduction to the wonders of Marrakech. Credit must also be given to the translator - very sensitive work. If you are as unfamiliar with Goyistolo as I, thne I highly recommend this little book as a rapt starting point in your discovery of ANOTHER great writer of our times.
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