A new novel by Gina Apostol, Insurrecto, it's about two women on the go to make a movie in the Philippines. Only that they see different films in the same forms.
Chiara Brasi is an American who wants to make a film about an event during the Philippine-American war. He hires a translator Magsalin, who takes her to the island of Samar – specifically to the city of Balangiga, where the Philippine rebels were massacred in retaliation for the attack on US forces in 1901. Magsalin reads the Chiara script and writes another story.
The Apostle uses a range of literary and film techniques – memories, jumps, close-ups and reveries – to create a story in today's Philippines Rodrigo Duterte.
"I am very interested in this concept of many ways of looking at things," he says in an interview. "You know, it's the belief that there are many identities in each of us, and we do not recognize their simultaneity. I am a mother, I am a daughter, I am a teacher, I am a writer, I am a Filipino, I am an American and I really like this kind of view from different points of view.
Gina Apostol won the PEN Open Book Award for the last novel, Daughter of a seller of pistolsand won the Philippine National Book Award. Her latest book shows us that although winners often write stories, survivors and artists can revise them.
The most important information from the interview
Well, I wanted it to be a confusion of their ways of looking at these things, because as a story – I mean the history of the Filipino-American war, you know that you have this seemingly binary, colonized and colonized. But for example, as Filipino, I recognize the colonizer in me. I speak English – I mean, I grew up learning English. I thought it was very important for the colonizer to recognize the voice of the people colonized in it.
I think it is important, for example, for an American to recognize his numerous stories. You know, this story of the desire to be a liberator during the Spanish-American war, but also the recognition of the inhumanity that came from this war. So there is tension between them.
At Casiana Nacionales, in real life insurrecto the title of the book
History barely knows. And even say, when I went to Samar to ask for her, little was known about her. But I think that the figure of Casiana Nacionales – I think that he solves this multiple vision dilemma. Because the fact that we have to see in many ways does not mean that we do not take part. That is – that this confusion of empathy with ethics is sometimes problematic, because yes, as a writer, I feel empathy for my character, a US soldier, an army soldier; I feel empathy with a white photographer. But I realize that for my novel, Casiana Nacionales is the heart of this story – that we must, in a sense, be on the side of her revolutionary anger.
Because I realize that there has been cruelty, this war has happened because of the inability of, say, invaders, an American army soldier, a white female photographer – all of whom I feel sorry for – I did not imagine the agency and aspirations of Casiana Nacionales. So the way in which it fits into this story, which is spiritually guided by layers and layers of narrative, is for me / my way a way to solve my dilemma of empathy and ethics.
For humor in the book
You know, I'm really grateful that you're talking about it because I think it's not clear to people that when you write a political novel, I really mean that this novel has a very clear political character. stakes – that you can not be funny because of that, you know? That he is placed in this box as a political novelist, but the fact is that so much can be done as a writer with history. And I'm glad you mentioned humor. I'm glad that it worked.
The presence of Elvis in the book
The thing about Elvis is that I – you know, I did not like him because he was my mother's favorite. But only a few years ago I realized that all those songs that my uncles, when I was a child, are singing – this is in the 70s – they will be singing long, long guitar balls, actually all Elvis songs. I really thought Elvis was Filipino for a long time. …
So I really started to think: what does it mean that I think Elvis is in me? Do you know what this colonization history means? What does this mean for all of us that we are not just one thing? There are so many different things! I have Frank Sinatra; I have Elvis; I have Virginia Woolf; I have Dante; I also have Balangiga; I have, you know, Iluminado Lucente, Waray [language] writers; I have José Rizala. We are all so many things, and it was the recognition of Elvis – I say "OK". So I put it on.
About how being a teacher affects her writing
It fits very well – I mean, I just taught Frederick Douglass "Co [the] Slave Is this the fourth of July? "I taught the Constitution of my 15-year-olds and teach my Filipino war to my students because the way I say this to my students: You hold these tensions in your country good and it's good that you recognize the liberal aspects of" the rules of salvation " as Frederick Douglass called it, and it is good that you recognize that our original Constitution was inhuman – there was a three-fifth clause that normalized the genocide against Native Americans, and keeping them together and facing this daily newspaper – it's really very difficult – but keeping these tensions together is a way of being a healthy American and I think that's why this book is so Insurrecto It would be useful because you can see all these different pages. So this is a Filipino book, an American book and the recognition that they are part of this nation.
And let the students be able to stop these tensions and from there, think: OK, what is the ethical movement? What is your ethical movement when you recognize the fuller meaning of your country? This is not the unique singularity. It's an interesting plural. I teach these things to my students and I think we should use these liberal aspects of founding documents to counter the inhumanity that is also part of this story. So I think that as a teacher, simply – considering the difficulty of our time, it is also a kind of liberation for me to do the work I do as a novelist that is not at all separate from the ethical reader I want, and ethical citizen, which I want in my class.
Sarah Haendel and Barrie Hardymon created and edited this interview for broadcast. Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted him to the network.