By Alvin I. Dacanay
Renowned international publisher Penguin Books is set to publish a collection of the major works of the late National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin a few weeks ahead of the centenary of his birth next year, it was learned late last week.
Penguin said on its website that the 448-page book, titled The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic, will be the first publication of Joaquin’s works in the United States. It will be released under the Penguin Classics imprint on April 18, 2017.
The paperback will include a foreword by prize-winning novelist Gina Apostol and an introduction by historian Vicente L. Rafael.
According to Rafael, the book contains the stories “Three Generations” (1940), “Legend of the Dying Wanton” (1946), “The Mass of St. Sylvester” (1946), “The Summer Solstice” (1947), “May Day Eve” (1947), “Guardia de Honor” (1949), “Dona Jerónima” (1965), “The Order of Melkizedek” (1965) and “Candido’s Apocalypse” (1965); the novel The Woman Who Had Two Navels (1961); and the play Portrait of the Artist as Filipino: An Elegy in Three Acts (1951).
The publishing house described Joaquin as someone who “wrote in English with the postcolonial sensibilities of Junot Diaz, Teju Cole, and Jhumpa Lahiri, and an ironic perspective of colonial history in the vein of [Gabriel] Garcia Marquez and [Mario] Vargas Llosa.”
“His work meditates on the questions and challenges of the Filipino individual’s new freedom after centuries of colonialism, exploring folklore, centuries-old Catholic rites, the Spanish colonial past, and the postwar dilemmas of reconstruction written in a style that would later be associated with magical realism, brimming with baroque splendor and excess,” it said.
Members of the Philippine literary community welcomed the news of the forthcoming book. Poet-essayist Marra PL. Lanot, one of Joaquin’s closest friends, said the “Penguin edition of Nick Joaquin is welcome news, as it will introduce to the world another great Filipino author. While Nick writes in English, his thoughts, his sentiments, his sense of history are undeniably Filipino. He has enriched our language and the Philippine literary style. He bridges the national and the universal.”
“If Nick were alive today, he would be happy about the Penguin publication,” she added.
Joaquin is the third Filipino author to have his works published by Penguin Classics. The first two were Dr. José Rizal, with his novels Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) and El Filibusterismo (The Filibustering), which came out in June 2006 and May 2011, respectively; and poet José Garcia Villa, with Doveglion: Collected Poems, released in July 2008.
Born on May 4, 1917, in Paco, Manila, Joaquin is considered one of the Philippines’s greatest writers in English. He was a creative writer who distinguished himself in poetry, fiction, and drama. He was celebrated for his handling of the English language that carry a strong Spanish rhythm and sensibility.
He was also a journalist and editor who, under the pen name Quijano de Manila, wrote numerous articles on various subjects and was credited by many as having raised Philippine reportage to a higher level.
Joaquin’s numerous books included a second novel, Cave and Shadows; the short-story collection Tropical Gothic; the poetry collections Prose and Poems, The Ballad of Five Battles and Collected Verse; Culture and History; A Question of Heroes; and Manila, My Manila.
For his accomplishments, Joaquin won many awards, including the Order of National Artists in 1976 and the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts in 1996.
Joaquin died in San Juan City, Metro Manila, on April 29, 2004.