cover image Quarantine


Juan Goytisolo. Dalkey Archive Press, $19.95 (122pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-044-7

In this rarefied experimental novel, Spanish novelist Goytisolo ( The Virtues of the Solitary Bird ) attempts to penetrate the 40-day waiting period between death and eternity when, according to Islamic tradition, the soul wanders still sheathed in a fragile, dreamlike body. The nameless narrator, a writer based in Paris (as is Goytisolo), learns of a friend's sudden death and joins her in the shadowy afterworld by dint of a leap of consciousness. Together and separately, they have chance encounters with celestial nomads who judge the dead. The friend meets the shade of Ibn Arabi, a 13th-century Sufi mystic whose portrayal of the afterlife influenced Dante's Divine Comedy. News of contemporary events, including the Persian Gulf war, filters through to them and mingles with other searing images of carnage and brutality. Besides injecting an eloquent antiwar message, Goytisolo draws parallels between the soul's journey in the next world and the act of writing, which to him involves ``abolishing the frontiers between reality and dream.'' Bush, who translated Goytisolo's memoirs, deftly conveys the lyrical, complex, rhapsodic style used here to evoke spiritual transcendence. (Apr.)