Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic by Nick Joaquin

Finally finished another book for the SEA Reading Challenge and this is probably my favourite book so far!

The Woman With Two Navels and tales of the tropical Gothic is a collection of short stories by Nick Joaquin, who is apparently very famous in Philippines but sadly unknown almost anywhere else (at least that's what I got from the introduction before I skipped it because I do not want to read literary analysis before I read the text).

These are stories that you experience rather than read. I've never been to the Philippines so I can't tell if this is an accurate picture of the country, but the stories gave me the impression of heat, of humidity that might choke you, of the chaos of life and everything I've said so far sounds universal (at least to SEA) but it also feels so specific. I would, for example, never mistake these stories for being set in Singapore or Malaysia.

Each story is a snapshot of an aspect of life, and if I'm honest I don't quite get what they're about, but they make me feel. It's intense and amazing. Even the last story, 'A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino', which is actually a play in three acts and which I was unsure if I could pay enough attention managed to pull me in and make me experience a squabbling family with a treasure that functions more like a threat.

Warning: the sentences here are really long and you will need to come up for air every now and then, but I find that the language is beautiful without being distracting. I admire it when I've closed the book but when I'm reading, it feels really immersive.

I really, really love this book. I do not understand it, probably because that requires work and I haven't analysed anything since IB (I think?) but it was such a fantastic reading experience. It's available from the NLB's ebook lending service too so as long as you have a phone you can get this too.


  1. I love books which turn out to be ones you experience rather than just read! I am not sure I would fully understand it all if you didn't, but it sounds like that doesn't matter with this one. I am glad you enjoyed it!

    1. I'm sure there are people who understand it, but just experiencing it was enough for me (though luckily I finished this before the weather actually got hotter)


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