Quarantine, a novel by one of Spain’s most provocative writers, recounts the forty days in which, according to Islamic tradition, the soul wanders between death and eternity, still in possession of a tenuous, dreamlike body. After the unexpected death of a friend, the narrator—a writer like Goytisolo—follows her in his imagination into this otherworld where all kinds of implausible (or are they?) things occur.
Meanwhile, television and radio report the 40-day war in the Persian Gulf, and images of war’s destruction mingle with the narrator’s vivid imagination of the torments of the underworld. Simultaneously, the narrator is writing the novel we are reading, for writing itself is a kind of quarantine where the writer withdraws from the world to wander in the otherworld of the imagination.
Quarantine is thus both an exploration of the human condition and an investigation of the writing process. It celebrates friendship and denounces war with equal force, and despite the grim themes is filled with humor, shocking surprises, playful language, and love.