Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Damn Good Writing

Starting a new thread, since the comments are stretching out on the last one.

I just want to say how much I'm enjoying the narration in Po-on. Mrs. Darwin mentioned that it was written in English; I originally thought it was a translation. But I think the ESL quality of it is what appeals to me so much--the simplicity and straightforwardness of the language (almost, but not quite, monosyllabic), and yet the most expressive arrangement.

Mayang doesn't just get mad. "It was her time to be angry."

And Istak calming himself, "Let me not think ill of my father, for he has suffered."

The dialogue has each character sounding like an oracle, which should be annoying, but it's not.

"Will you pray the nine-day novena by yourself and keep the year of mourning?" he asked.

"Everything else that must be done I will do."

That's getting pretty close to iambic pentameter, and I've had to stop reading several times to dwell on a line of dialogue here and there, or some descriptive detail, like the rays that "impaled the mists upon the kapok trees."

I love being in competent hands. Thanks, E, for a fun read.


Enbrethiliel said...


There's another Filipino writer who once said of his style, "I write in Filipino using English words"--and I think the same is true for Jose.

mrsdarwin said...

I remember reading part of Waiting for Godot in the original French (ah, college days...) and thinking that it was pretty obvious it was written by an English speaker. The thought behind the choice of language was English, even if the written text wasn't.

Melanie B said...

I think that non-native speakers often bring a richness to English. A deliberation? That translating from one language's thought adds a kind of poetry. Both Conrad and, more recently, Tom Stoppard, have some of that as well, I think.

Jose's stylistic mastery really stood out in the final letter from the American soldier. The voice, style was so very American and such a contrast to all the Filipino voices.