Joan-Lluís Lluís (Perpignan, 1963) is one of the most restless authors on the current scene. Restless because in his works he delights in kneading literary dough and risking fresh recipes. He began by publishing a novel about the Algerian war, ‘Ulls de sorra’ (1993), which was followed by the novel ‘Vagons robots and the erotic story ‘Cirera’. From there, the author has cultivated the crime novel, the pamphlet or style exercises. With the ucronía ‘Jo soc aquell que’ll kill Franco’ he won the Sant Jordi 2017 .
Therefore, he is not satisfied with turning the crank, but tends to play with different narrative textures and has even decided to publish his poetry, Salives (2021). In this context now comes an adventure novel ‘Junil a les terres dels bàrbars’, the first title published with Club Editor (in Spanish with Sigilo, translated by Edgardo Dobry).
The narrator —who questions the reader from time to time as I do— starts with “once upon a time …” to rewind a story starring Junil, a young woman despised by her father who, on the edge of the Roman Empire, learns to read against all prognosis and set out on a journey on foot through unknown lands.
It is a ‘bildungsroman’ in which the heroine will go through different tests accompanied by her friends, Tresdits, a slave scribe, Lafàs, a slave librarian and Dirmini, an old gladiator, “four castaways who have, to advance, the fear of dying and a certain desire for dignity ”.
On the trail of Ovid
The author from Perpignan takes a triple somersault to place himself at the dawn of the first century, the moment in which the Latin poet Ovidio lived, who, without knowing it, will unleash this odyssey, since the objective of the trip is to find him. Lluís has fun imagining this pagan era with grotesque notes, such as Junil’s father, writing, considering prostituting his daughter and enriching himself as a pimp.
The plot is set in the Empire, where the hierarchy of power between masters and slaves is very delimited. The capital, Nyala, is the reflection of this order, which does not satisfy this young reader, in love with ‘The metamorphoses’ by Ovid, who is in exile.
Behind this flight – an allegory of the path towards the ideals of freedom and democracy – there is also a journey to the heart of language. On their journey, Junil and his people come across peoples who still do not know writing and the reader experiences, through their eyes, the wonder of being able to fix words by means of signs that last, and by extension the stories, that they spread thanks precisely to writing.
Joan-Lluís Lluís cannot always make such a remote time credible and characters whose naive gaze reminds us of Rousseau’s good savage. What weighs on the novel, which at the end of the day is one of adventures with a clear outcome, is the narrative capacity of the writer peppered with a mammoth imagination . An example? The exclamations “for the boils of Mars!”, Or the deities that Ablost, god of semen, or Dumisté, god of blood is removed from the sleeve. He must still be laughing.