DUSK by F. Sionil Jose


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From Filipino writer JosÇ, the first novel in the acclaimed Rosales Saga makes its American debut. Chronicling a century of Philippine history as experienced by one family, the story begins in the late 1800s as, in response to a growing indigenous revolutionary movement, the ruling Spanish increase their oppression. And it ends as American forces, after ousting Spain from Cuba in 1898, battle Philippine rebels who want to establish a government independent of American suzerainty. JosÇ is one of those writers for whom sociopolitical message--here, the sorry record of injustice--is as important as purely literary concerns. This means that character and plot are shaped by issues, not just imagination. The hero is Istak, a would-be seminarian who’s expelled from the church when he happens upon the new priest making love to a young parishioner. The priest insists further that Istak’s family leave the lands they have farmed, and when Istak’s father Ba-ac, who had been brutally maimed by this same priest, murders him, the family must find new lands as well as elude the pursuing Spanish authorities. Istak, torn between his faith and the cruelty he witnesses—a young girl is raped, and his brother is killed by the authorities--becomes the family’s leader as they trek into remote areas in search of a new home. Eventually, they find sanctuary: Istak marries happily, becoming a farmer and a noted healer. But now, though the Spanish have left, the country is at war with America, and Istak the pacifist finds himself fighting on the rebel side—because he believes in a free and united Philippine nation. Death in battle is inevitable. The obvious political agenda overwhelms the narrative, but JosÇ’s luminous evocations of the land and the life are fair compensations.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-75144-0
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998


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