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The Summer Solstice

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on with the fun - i am back to 'hurried' writing, enjoying it while i've got free time and getting responses from friends in flips-land, i'm telling you, this is the best part of my day, after being poo-poo'ed and strained by patients. in my working hours, i lift people while keeping my temper down - oh boy - keeping my temper is the hardest to do - especially with the types of patients i have - sometimes it just gets into me - imagine treating retired new yorkers. there's a joke in florida that when "i retire, i'm gonna settle in manhattan and drive really slow and be nice to everybody."

talking about retired men and women, nick joaquin( i'm sure) is retired now and has probably mellowed a bit. but there was a time...

it is said you never submit mediocre writing to nick joaquin, if you do, he'd tear your paper and soul apart.

teodoro locsin calls him the first literary artist of the philippines; no filipino now writing matches his stories in power and beauty... and when i imagine nick joaquin, i see a fatherly figure sitting quietly in a corner enjoying beer with hemingway and you DO NOT approach him unless you've got an important thing to say. i hope i'm wrong with my impression of joaquin but you can't blame people like me who never have seen him, I see his picture alright but gawd, in person he is more aloof than greta garbo, which prods me to ask sometimes, is he still around? he is no better than the poet jose garcia villa who never stayed around while the town clamored for his presence. or maybe I was the one who wasn't around.

but this i can tell - after i read nick joaquin during my highschool, i knew i wanted to become a writer. it was in his short stories i learned a parasol is a type of umbrella.

years have passed and i found that i couldn't and i wouldn't be able to write like him; the only thing i could do now is to write a review like this one; nick joaquin's writing requires a lot of painstaking hours because he is after pure beauty and for him to achieve ultimate beauty he must penetrate the ultimate evil in one's soul, the ultimate nakedness of one's desires, the most freightening emotions in the deepest crevices of one's heart. and all these are found in the summer solstice

only nick hoaquin can get away with a paragraph like this:

Though it was only seven by the clock the house was already a furnace, the windows dilating with the harsh light and the air already burning with the immense intense fever of noon.

imagine these: a house as a furnace

windows dilating

air burning

fever of noon

that's the reason i love the man! he comes up with word combinations that never in my life i could imagine possible; a house as a furnace to me remains an oven, hell. a dilating window may belong to the field of salvador dali; air burning reminds me of atomic bomb; and fever of noon? well, i dunno, i'd probably look for a thermometer.

but analyzing it more, and converting it into tagalog(although I heard it's more appropriate to convert it in Spanish), one will understand why joaquin's paragraphs are this way:

Kahit a las siyete pa lamang nang umaga, ang bahay ay isa nang pugon, ang mga bintana'y nakadilat na sa mabagsik na liwanag ng araw at ang hangin ay nagliliyab na sa gitna ng matinding sinat ng tanghaling tapat.

I think joaquin's beauty in writing stems from his being a tagalog and the way he converts/interprets tagalog into english. another writing similar to this is bino realuyo's umbrella country - and bino admits his novel's english is direct from his native tongue's being interpreted, and in doing so they both come up with phrases unencountered before, very poetic because tagalog is poetic, and deserving of a unique place in world literature. they speak an english language that comes from the soil of the Philippines...and perhaps the reason why those who're used to the western english find their writings hard to read.

but let me go on with the story, let me dissect it.


summer solstice reveals the complexity of joaquin's writing: in one stroke, he covers topics ranging from women subjugation to feminism, form sexual slavery to domination, to attempted adultery to foot licking, to civility degrading to bestiality, to reversal of roles...and not one of these words was written in the story.

the story begins with heat, as suggested by the above parapgraph and we're talking of tropical heat, brown skins in sweat, burning heat in the middle of a plantation, a plantation ruled by don paeng of spanish extraction and his beautiful wife dona lupeng.

the moment dona lupeng notices that amada, the cook, isn't cooking breakfast, she knows something is wrong.

she finds amada in the servant's quarter writhing and howling like a beast, half-naked. according to entoy(amada's husband and the family dirver), amada is possessed by the spirit of tadtarin, the god of earth, river, animals etcetera, whose day is being celebrated that day with the feast of saint john. (blending of animist cult and catholic tradition)

the whole family proceeds to the celebration of the feast of st john: dominated by men; quite offensive to the sensibilities of dona lupeng - a concourse of young men clad only in soggy trousers were carrying aloft the image of the Precursor... st john - a fine, blond, heroic st john...erect and goldly virile above the prone and female earth (whoa!); She did...defy those rude creatures flaunting their manhood in the sun. And she wondered peevishly what the braggarts were being so cocky about?

then the young guido who belongs the - young men were all going to europe and bringing back with them, not the age of victoria, but the age of byron. the young guido knew nothing of darwin and evolution; he knew everything about napoleon and revolutiion....- follows dona lupeng all over, talks with her with such embarrassing vulgarity



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