The Violent Narration of “Pure” Spain: National
Identity and Treason in Reinvindicación del conde don Julián
by Juan Goytisolo.
Margaret Gates Frohlich
SUNY at Stony Brook
A foundational narrative of Spanish identity is the legend of the “treason” of don Julián against the last Gothic king, don Rodrigo, and the subsequent Muslim invasion of the Peninsula. Treason is henceforth intimately linked with the notion of a “pure” Spain, fervently maintaining a polemic separation between Arabs and Spanish that glosses over the integral role of the Arab in Spain´s negatively constructed self-definition: A Spaniard is not an Arab. The purpose of this work is to explore the resonance between the legend of the treasonous don Julián and a modern narration of the relationship between Spain and the Arab world: Reinvindicación del conde don Julián by Juan Goytisolo.1 The ties between the State, national identity, and the concept of loyalty help us to understand the meaning that treason has for a national identity that engages a dialectical negation of its own internal heterogeneity.
Jacques Derrida’s Politics of Friendship,2 which explores the relation between narratives of friendship and enmity in the construction of the State, is useful for tracing the particular violence that national narratives, such as that of a “pure” Spain, engender. National identities that locate the enemy from within, such as occurs in the case of treason, engage a process of self-definition that simultaneously self-destructs. Goytisolo problematizes the notion of a singular Spain through a violent re-writing of its foundational legends and literary tradition. What emerges is a history that inscribes self-criticism within itself: that accepts treason as part of its own character.
1. (Madrid: Cátedra, 1995).
2. Trans. George Collins (New York: Verso, 1997).