12 January 2019

Bibliography of Philippine novels in English translation, 2

I once made a list of Philippine novels that have been translated into English in 2014 (see this post). I have updated this list. The complete list (as of December 2018) could be viewed in this spreadsheet in Google Docs. Further additions will be reflected in this same spreadsheet.

Several things could be observed from this list.

1. The translation of Philippine novels into English is a recent phenomenon.

Out of 25 novels in English translation, only six were published in the previous century. These six novels were written in either Spanish or Hiligaynon languages. The remaining 19 appeared in the 21st century (2006-2018). To date, the translations were produced from four source languages: Tagalog or Filipino (10), Spanish (6), Cebuano (5), and Hiligaynon (4). Vernacular Philippine languages with strong novelistic tradition still have to be represented.

2. Filipino male novelists were translated more than female novelists.

No surprise there. There were 16 translated novels by male writers (64%) while there were only 9 by women writers (36%).

3. The translated books are relatively hard to access, even for those living in the Philippines.

All novels in the list, except for the first three Spanish novels, were originally published in the Philippines. José Rizal's novels were originally published in Berlin and Ghent while Pedro Paterno's Nínay was published in Madrid.

More than half (13) were mainly published by academic publishers. This means that they were not stocked in mainstream bookstores. I had a hard time seucring a copy of the two 2018 translated titles. The two university publishers (Ateneo de Naga University Press and University of San Carlos Press) do not have an online bookstore from which to order books. They do have Facebook pages where I can send a direct message, wait for a relatively long time for the reply, give my order, pay in a bank or a cash transfer service, and wait for the book sent through courier.

As to availability as ebooks or hard copy, I think only Rizal's novels (the recent Penguin editions) were prominently available.

4. Filipino novels serialized in weekly magazines in the last century were a goldmine of possible materials for translation.

At most 10 novels in the list were first published in weekly serials in Philippine magazines in the 20th century. These were mainly the works of Ramon L Muzones and Magdalena Jalandoni in Hiligaynon, Austregelina Espina-Moore in Cebuano, and Macario Pineda and Rosario de Guzman Lingat in Tagalog. The upcoming translation of Lazaro Francisco's Light in the North was also first serialized in 1931-32.

Patricia May B. Jurilla, in Bibliography of Filipino Novels: 1901-2000 (The University of the Philippines Press, 2010), listed a total of 365 titles of novels in Tagalog/Filipino. This was a gross underestimation because she included only those that came out in book form.

Soledad S. Reyes, in Narratives of Note: Studies of Popular Forms in the Twentieth Century (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2012), made an estimate of the total novels in Filipino that appeared in magazine installments and in book form.

In the twentieth century, more than a thousand of novels in Filipino came out, some in book form, many as serialized novels [in weekly magazines and komiks]. The number of novels in English which came out mostly in book form was much smaller.

At present there is no comprehensive bibliography of all the published novels in Filipino. But it is safe to assume that serialized novels published weekly in several magazines—Liwayway (from 1922), Sampagita, Ilang Ilang, Hiwaga, Bulaklak, Aliwan, Tagumpay—and those that came out in book form, especially in the first four decades of the twentieth century, would reach more than a thousand. Liwayway alone would have published a total of 800 novels between 1922 and 1980, at ten novels per year. [emphases added]

Those novels awaiting translation were a veritable goldmine for would-be translators.

4. The list can be longer.

Strictly speaking, the two entries for Isabelo de los Reyes [El Folk-Lore Filipino (vol. 1) and Ang Diablo sa Filipinas ayon sa nasasabi sa mga casulatan luma sa Kastila) could hardly be called novels. The first is a hybrid compendium of folk-lore and other texts while the second is a mere short story. But I included them precisely to question the notion of a novel.

Even if we remove the two from the list, however, there may be others that could take their place. I know for a fact that one or more romance novels, published by the prolific imprint of Precious Hearts Romances (PHR), could qualify. I was hunting for a title in the PHR site that I "bookmarked" online but I lost the link.

Also, there are other extant translations that I need to get a copy of first (though this might be impossible) before I add them. I'm not sure if they were published in the first place or they contain complete translations or just extracts. They were:

a. Translations of novels of Lazaro Francisco by the scholar Mona P. Highley. They were probably just drafts. [Soledad S. Reyes mentioned about it in her introduction to Halina sa Ating Bukas (Welcome to Our Tomorrow) by Macario Pineda.]

b. Translation of the Tagalog novel Banaag at Sikat (Dawn and Sunrise) by Lope K. Santos (1879-1963). According to N.V.M. Gonzalez [in The Novel of Justice], Mariano C. Javier wrote a critical reading and a complete English translation of this novel in A Study of the Life and Works of Lope K. Santos, with Special Reference to Banaag at Sikat (Unpublished Master's Thesis; University of the Philippines, 1960).

c. Translation of Jovito S. Abellana's novel in archaic Cebuano language, Aginid: Bayok sa Atong Tawarik (Aginid: Ode to Our History) (1952). According to Resil B. Mojares [in his critical introduction to the translation of Vicente Gullas's Lapulapu: The Conqueror of Mangellan], Aginid is a hybrid text consisting of a poem (bayok) written in baybayin (ancient alphabet), with interlinear translation into Romanized Cebuano. Its Pale Fire-ish quality makes me curious. Mojares's extended analysis of Abellana's work and critique of the text's provenance made me want to get a copy of the translation by Romola O. Savellon, A Translation and Critical Analysis of the Dance-Epic "Aginid Bayok sa Atong Tawarik" by Jovito Abellana (Cebu City: Cebu Normal University, 2010), Cultural Heritage Monograph Series on Indigenous Culture. Despite being packaged as a historical artifact, Mojares says that "Aginid should not be read as a folk document or historical chronicle but a piece of imaginative literature, an admirable, artistic fiction which should be justly recognized as such in studies of Cebuano literature.

I own 23 of the 25 titles and read 20 from the list so far. The two titles I lack (Jalandoni's The Lady in the Market and Gangcuangco's Orosa-Nakpil, Malate) were out of print.


Lapulapu: The Conqueror of Magellan
The Star of Panghulo
The Golden Dagger
Typewriter Altar
Ang Diablo sa Filipinas ayon sa nasasabi sa mga casulatan luma sa Kastila
Driftwood on Dry Land
Eight Muses of the Fall
What Now, Ricky?
The Death of Summer
The Cloak of God
House of Cards
La Oveja de Nathan / Nathan's Sheep
The Gold in Makiling: A Translation of Ang Ginto sa Makiling
Margosatubig: The Story of Salagunting
Diin May Punoan sa Arbol
Orosa-Nakpil, Malate
Ang Inahan ni Mila
Juanita Cruz: A Novel

08 January 2019

5 wounds, ca. 2018

"Where are Asia's Nobel Prize-winners?", asked the Filipino novelist N.V.M. Gonzalez in 1985. A prelude to his thoughts on "what literary prizes are for".

To Robert Frost the test of time is irrelevant. There is, in Frost's view, an "immortal wound" that is inflicted upon us by a good poem. He must have had the novel also in mind. Frost said this much, in a single-minded stand against being carried away by much-publicised literary trends.

Given the right circumstances, Gonzalez believed that prize-giving can be reminders that we might become "some writer's right kind of reader, soon to be 'hurt', to be 'immortally wounded – and ever grateful". But he eventually discarded his idea about prize-giving since "the Nobel committee misses the mark on occasion" because "to begin with, it doesn't, or can't, for some reason or other, collectively get 'wounded'".

Surely, the problem of accessing the novels in a language the gatekeepers understand is a key consideration for being considered for the prize.

The keepers of the garden gate would perhaps do well to remember that it would be unfair to quibble over whether certain credentials of entry, if in their original, are available in agreeable translations. Something truly substantial should be the basis for consideration [for the Nobel Prize].

Whatever that "something truly substantial" is, it could not be discovered unless one understands the letters on the page. Consider Kawabata Yasunari:

Kawabata appeared on the list of candidates for the first time in 1961.

But at that time, the translation of his works into foreign languages was limited to “Thousand Cranes,” which was released in serial form from 1949, and “Snow Country,” the novel that was published in serials between 1935 and 1947 and cemented his status as a leading author in the Japanese literary world.

The academy did not award the prize to Kawabata [from 1961 to 1967] as it deemed that it “cannot accurately evaluate his accomplishments due to a paucity of available translations of his novels.” [from: The Asahi Shimbum, via the complete review]

All of which brings me to the exemplary books I read during the previous year. All Asian works (from the Philippines and Japan), written by mostly dead (except for one) novelists.

They are fictional works that have impacted me by "wounding" me, the way Frost would never get over a good poem, and perhaps akin to how Kafka was stabbed and wounded, in his oft-quoted violent axing of the inner frozen sea.

The Locked Door and Other Stories
Territory of Light
Halina sa Ating Bukas
Driftwood on Dry Land
The Cry and the Dedication
Ilaw sa Hilaga

1. The Locked Door and Other Stories (2017) by Rosario de Guzman Lingat, translated from Tagalog by Soledad S. Reyes (review)

Like her novels, Lingat's short stories were products of a discerning imagination. In this collection, her female protagonists navigate a social, economic, and cultural landscape inhospitable to women's desires and ambitions. But they resisted and persisted. These narratives were conflict-ridden, oftentimes reflecting the social unrest simmering in the background. They contained motifs and images that stirred the already troubled atmosphere. 

2. Territory of Light (2018) by Yūko Tsushima, translated from the Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt (review)

Tsushima would have been a very worthy Nobel laureate from Japan. In Territory of Light, the play of light and shadows was palpable, providing succor to a female character faced with domestic and societal pressures. The well-controlled mood, the nuance of feelings,

3. Driftwood on Dry Land (2013) by T.S. Sungkit Jr., translated from Cebuano by T.S. Sungkit Jr. (review)

This epic novel, influenced a lot by the oral tradition, straddles between two kinds of time: mythic time and historical time. But its ingenuity is in relying much on the former, making it similar to the style and content of folk tales like "the epic and the bayok". According to Resil Mojares, these narratives "are constructed out of a repetitive, limited set of verbal formulas and units of action, which is what allows the poem to be spontaneously composed, extemporized, as it is performed. In the epic Mindanao bayok, the language is highly figurative, elliptical, and improvisatory. Typically the action take place in mythic (rather than historical) time and construes place, person, and action differently from modern narratives". By his creative combination of both mythic and historical times, Sungkit provided density (history) to an otherwise light (mythic) narrative and produced a hybrid text characterized by its close attention to the dispossessed people, and hence the celebration of a marginal, off-center literary-historical tradition.

4. The Cry and the Dedication (1995) by Carlos Bulosan

If we go by hurt and feels, then this posthumously published (unfinished) novel was certainly wounding. Flawed, sometimes erratically written, it conjured character personas for the author who could be considered spiritually exiled in America. It was not something I enjoyed reading but something I couldn't get out of my mind. Its Dantesque approach (going to the underground and experiencing various circles of hell) might be sloppy and contrived but the "hurtful" ideas it generates on nationalism, revolution, and the aesthetics of resistance are worth pondering.

5. Ilaw sa Hilaga (Northern Light) (1997) by Lázaro Francisco (review

A unique form of socioeconomic novel, if there was one, complete with analysis (in microcosm) of competition, trade, and foreign investment and its impact on local (rural) development. The specter of collective suicidal tendencies was satirized here, one wherein the elite of society ran headlong toward its self-demise due to being seduced by colonial mentality of Filipinos during the early decades of American occupation. A translation of the novel is underway.

Note: Quotations from N.V.M. Gonzalez were from “Among the Wounded”, in The Novel of Justice: Selected Essays 1968-1994 (National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 1996). Words of Resil Mojares were from “In Search of Lapulapu: A Critical Introduction”, in Lapulapu: The Conqueror of Magellan, a novel by Vicente Gullas, translated by Erlinda K. Alburo (University of San Carlos Press, 2018).