Nick Joaquin (1917–2004) is often regarded as the greatest Filipino writer in English, yet he remains largely unknown outside his country. He published widely in all genres and was awarded the National Artist Award, yet he dropped out of high school and spent much of his youth holed up in libraries and walking Manila’s streets. He wrote some of his most powerful stories between the end of US colonial rule and the beginning of the postcolonial era, at a time when the very craft of storytelling was itself endangered. And he did so in another language, American English, which required setting aside his mother tongue, Tagalog, and an inherited tongue, Spanish. This article explores some of these contradictions, looking at the relationship between language and literature exemplified in Joaquin’s writings and situating him as a storyteller in the wake of Manila’s utter destruction by colonial wars and the uneven recovery from postcolonial strife. This article also asks how Joaquin sought to rescue not just the memory of the city but also the very faculty of remembering itself as well as the remembering self.
Telling Times: Nick Joaquin, Storyteller
Vicente L. Rafael is a Giovanni and Amne Costigan Professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Washington – Seattle. He is the author of several works on the history and cultural politics of the Philippines. His books include Contracting Colonialism (1992); White Love and Other Events in Filipino History (2000); The Promise of the Foreign (2005); and Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language Amid Wars of Translation (2016); all published by Duke University Press. He has also edited Discrepant Histories (1995); Figures of Criminality in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Colonial Vietnam (1999); and The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic by Nick Joaquin (2017). His most recent book is The Sovereign Trickster: Death and Laughter in the Age of Duterte (forthcoming 2021).
Vicente L. Rafael; Telling Times: Nick Joaquin, Storyteller. positions 1 February 2021; 29 (1): 121–139. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-8722810
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