A Review: Salamanca

my choice for the scond book review is a novel written by Dean

“Power of an Artist: Salamanca

  1. Introduction

My choice for the second book review is a novel written by Dean Francis Alfar entitled Salamanca, which won the Palanca Grand Prize Award for the Novel in 2005 as published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Dean Francis Alfar is a playwright, essayist, and fictionist whose works are performed and published locally and abroad. He has won 8 Don Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature and the Manila critics Circle National Book Award for the acclaimed graphic novel Siglo: Freedom. He is also a comic book creator, and a marketing and publishing entrepreneur. Salamanca is his first novel.

The book revolves around the lives of its characters- presented in magical realist fiction genre of writing. At first, I was taken aback by the magical and fantastical elements of the novel that I wondered whether I could appreciate it. Yet it was through the course of events in the book that made me realize how effective the workings were in the novel that all the while give the story a realistic touch and an admirable uniqueness among the literary efforts of great contemporary writers. I loved how the book created a world of magic and reality through love in the lives of its many characters.

II. Body

According to Caroline S. Hau in the book’s preface: ” The novel is about the sorcery wrought by love, lust, and literature, by friendship, family and the Filipino nation. Salamanca tracks the stormy relationship between the polymorphous-perverse Gaudencio Rivera, whose passions ignite prodigious feat of writin and wandering, and Palawena beauty Jacinta Cordova, whose perfection transmutes walls into glass and adoration into art. Tracing the arc of an imperfect marriage sundered by acts of nature(not least human) and sutured by acts of will (not least nonhuman), and vividly peopled by a multigenerational and multinational cast of kithand kin, this audacous work of imagination takes the reader on a magical exursion into the Philippine life and history while setting new standards for the Filipino novel along the way.”

This novel reminded me of Laura Esquivel’s “Like Water for Chocolate.” Both novels have similarities through supernatural elements like in the first meeting of Gauencio and Jacinta:

“At the moment their eyes met through the see-through walls of the inconceivable house, Gaudencio dropped the cigarette from his hand as he was devastated by exposure to Jacinta’s luminous beauty….For Jacinta, an invisible bolt of electricity stuck her where she stood, causing her to gasp once before the energy arced from her hands to the cooking pot she carried, causing the clump of string beans that she had been planning to prepare for supper to explode from the intense heat, releasing pods that left contrails as they flew with untoward vigor”(12).

A series of extraordinary events happened during a storm in the latter part of the book stating the lines: “The inhuman storm swept up all four victims of outrageous passion from off their backs or legs, buffeting them in coiling cross currents as they rose off the ground”(26). I just didn’t think that the four victims namely Gaudencio, Jacinta, Mrs. Helen Brown and Ceasar could survive being whirled by the wind.

Prior to all series of unrealistic or rather fantastical event is what had happened to the infamous woman who lives in a house in the island of Tagbaoran in the province of Palawan: “Jacinta Cordova was a firm believer of modesty, and did everything she could to comport herself in a manner that was beyond reproach,especially since the walls of the house she lived in were transparent.She had adjusted as best as she could when her unearthly beauty came into full force on the eve of her twelfth birthday that midnight, she had trembled and closed her eyes as a potent radiance burst from her skin, transforming all the walls inside and outside her house to a material that resembled fine glass”(5).

One significant thing about the novel is the duplication of pages 57-64 and 81-88. I wondered if that was due to publishing errors (because some donated books are defects or discarded) or it had a reason for it being that way. I have settled for the latter because I think those pages contain most of the crucial scenes of the novel.

The flashbacks were wrought well in the book. Without causing confusion, the flashbacks pieced the story together, showing a juxtaposed angle of the separate lives of its characters. The time frame of the story was relevant to the historical facts in the Philippine history and setting. The techniques used by the author continually paces the movement of the story. Cirilo F. Bautista, also a notable writer, stated that the narrative moved at an appropriate psychological pace to give us an interpretation of a slice of Philippine life that is both common and unique. A comment stated by Lawrence L. Ypil says, “In the end, it reminds us ultimately in its expansive scope of the historical retelling and fable making fantasy and ‘reality,’ what good novels, when they work, can do.”

In the third chapter of A Preface to Literary Analysis an important detail was discussed in these statements:

What distinguishes literature from nonliterature is its invented quality…. style is the way a writes, whatever he writes about regardless of its relationship to actual fact. It is however, neither mere mannerism or idiosyncrasy, but the sum of those devices, inherited or newly invented by which language in its various possibilities is employed to bring an implied reader into a hypothetical world, contrived by an empirical author speaking through an artificial voice”(Zitner et al. 33).

These relevant arguments provides an emphasis on the devices that render a styled texture to any work as that which is evident in Salamanca.

III. Conclusion

Salamanca is a novel worth reading. The book made me understand the deeper meaning of the lives of its fictional characters. At first, I thought I wouldn’t finish reading it because a novel is lengthy but then the in reading the first part, I was hooked by the novel.

  1. References:

Alfar, Dean Francis. Salamanca. Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press,2005.

Zitner, Sheldon et al. A Preface To Literary Analysis. New York: Scott Foresman & Company,1964. 33

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