By Kristian Sendon Cordero
CNN Philippines has asked several writers, editors and publishers to give them a list of remarkable books published last year. Here are the four books I enlisted which I would also like to share to our Bicol Mail readers. For other books enlisted, the link is here. http://cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/literature/2017/12/28/best-filipino-books-of-2017.html
1. Layag, European Classics in Filipino, edited by Jaroslav Olsa, Jr (Anvil)
In a country that is home to more than 100 languages, one must always celebrate the work of translation for it ensures our capacity to transcend our borders set by our histories and languages. I have always argued that to continue to actively imagine this archipelago as a nation, we must continue to seek and support translation both in Filipino and in the local languages.
In recent years, the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) has been at the forefront of these projects publishing the Filipino translations of Plato, Shelley, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Seifert among others. Similar undertakings have been pursued by the Ateneo de Naga University Press and the Ina nin Bikol Foundation Inc. to provide Bikolanos the chance to read the works of Kafka, Borges, Donne, Rilke, Saint Exupery, and Capek in our local languages. With these books readily available in our local languages, students and locals who have no access to university education that still favor literatures written in English can now have access to these literary masterpieces in Bikol.
With this in mind, I count Layag, European Classics in Filipino as one of the best books published in 2017. This anthology of translated works presents 14 writers from 11 different European countries never before available in Filipino. This undertaking for me allows us to give our languages the chance to breathe a new imaginary, a different world. Published with the support of the European Union National Institutes of Culture (Manila Cluster) and edited by Jaroslav Olsa, Jr., this anthology is an affirmation to what literature and translation can do to us especially in this most divisive time. This book is available at the National Bookstores nationwide.
2. Waray Hiunong Sa Gugma (Walang Tungkol Sa Pag-ibig) by Jerry Gracio (Ateneo de Naga University Press)
This third collection of Jerry Gracio, originally written in Waray and translated in Filipino gives us the immense sense of possibility for poets and writers in this country who can write in another Philippine language and eventually translate it in Filipino or English. Again, I will argue that in time, we will have to reclassify and revaluate our standards and categorizations when more of our writers like Gracio return to their other tongues and let us see how these points of return will inform and enrich our notions of national and local literatures. The book is available at the Ateneo de Naga University Bookstore in Naga City and also be available at Solidaridad and Ateneo de Manila Bookstore in Manila. To learn more about ADNU Press, kindly visit us at www.adnu.edu.ph/upress or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, our office number is 054-427-1692 loc 2087.
3. Dios Makina by Raffi Banzuela (Lagdaan ni Sural/Legazpi City)
An award-winning collection of Bikol poetry, this anthology gathers Banzuela’s most recent poems that deftly fuse ancient wisdom embedded in the Bikol language (the gurang/the old self as a poetic persona) as he struggles and survives the current situation of a region challenged by the onslaught of technological advancement and the massive urbanization glamorized by the number of tourists’ arrivals and the construction of new malls and airports while traditional political system lords over the public discourse. In his latest work, Banzuela reminds us what poetry is and what are poets for, and to as Martin Heidegger would say, that “the poet is the one that attends, sings, and traces the tracks of the fugitive gods in the most destitute time”, in Bikol, this poet is Banzuela.
For book order please contact Raffi Banzuela at firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Accidents of Composition (…There Could Be Kindness Here) by Merlinda Bobis (UP Press/ Spinifex)
I have always been a reader of Merlinda Bobis’ works since my college years when I accidentally stumbled a copy of Maria Lilia Realubit’s anthology of Bikol which contain her poems about the Agta (the indigene), a retelling of the legend of Mayon volcano and the poet who returns to Estancia. Her poetry written/translated in her three languages (Bikol, Filipino and English) to her most recent novel set in Australia (her other home) and Bikol (her first home) are works in transit, which will immediately resonate to our experience of diaspora. The border zones, which Bobis inhabits in her works, allow us to renegotiate our sense of identities (or the lack of it) as Bikols, as Filipinos probably living in a newfound home abroad. In this new collection, Bobis continues her travel that cut across our global histories and local memories asking bolder and unsettling questions that confront the dark horrors of colonialism while at the same time still hoping that “there could some accidents of kindness here”, rapacious at it may be. The book is available at the UP Press Bookstore.