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Don Vicente: Two Novels

Don Vicente: Two Novels

by F. Sionil Jose, Jose F. Sionil

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Written in elegant and precise prose, Don Vicente contains two novels in F. Sionil José's classic Rosales Saga. The saga, begun in José's novel Dusk, traces the life of one family, and that of their rural town of Rosales, from the Philippine revolution against Spain through the arrival of the Americans to, ultimately, the Marcos dictatorship


Written in elegant and precise prose, Don Vicente contains two novels in F. Sionil José's classic Rosales Saga. The saga, begun in José's novel Dusk, traces the life of one family, and that of their rural town of Rosales, from the Philippine revolution against Spain through the arrival of the Americans to, ultimately, the Marcos dictatorship.
The first novel here, Tree, is told by the loving but uneasy son of a land overseer. It is the story of one young man's search for parental love and for his place in a society with rigid class structures. The tree of the title is a symbol of the hopes and dreams—too often dashed—of the Filipino people.
The second novel, My Brother, My Executioner, follows the misfortunes of two brothers, one the editor of a radical magazine who is tempted by the luxury of the city, the other an activist who is prepared to confront all of his enemies, real or imagined. The critic I. R. Cruz called it "a masterly symphony" of injustice, women, sex, and suicide.
Together in Don Vicente, they form the second volume of the five-novel Rosales Saga, an epic the Chicago Tribune has called "a masterpiece."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[José] writes eloquently about his people, their losses and longings . . . [he] lovingly describes the trees, plants and topography of the land that suffuses his books with a natural lyricism."
—Michael J. Ybarra, Los Angeles Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The publisher has chosen to combine two novels (Tree and My Brother, My Executioner) in this second volume of the reissued Rosales Saga by Filipino writer Jos . The two works, first published in Manila in 1924, are loosely held together by geography--both take place in the Philippines--and by the presence of Don Vincente Asperri, a rapacious feudal landlord. In the first, less interesting, section, a middle-aged man looks back on his youth as the son of the overseer for Don Vincente. Characters amble across the stage, tell their story or anecdote, then disappear: an old priest lives in abject poverty in order to save money for church renovations; a young man learns he cannot fight the establishment when he is betrayed by the very people he wants to help. The longer section deals with Luis Asperri, the illegitimate son of the "all-powerful, all-devouring" Don Vincente. Luis and his half-brother Victor (same mother, different fathers) choose opposing sides in a peasant uprising. Luis, though Don Vincente's heir, considers himself liberal. He writes poetry and edits a left-wing magazine, but in many ways he is as heartless as his father. At Don Vincente's insistence, in order to keep the family fortune intact, Luis marries a cousin instead of his city girlfriend, with tragic results all around. When the chips are down, he will not divest himself of his lands as his brother Victor, leader of the revolutionary Huks, demands. Jos --founding president of the Philippines PEN Center, bookseller, and editor and publisher of a literary journal--fills the story with melodramatic events (a mad woman in an attic, a deformed baby) and with heavy-handed political rhetoric, perhaps better suited to essays. As a result, both narratives seem somewhat unsophisticated. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The second in the prominent Filipino author's five-volume "Rosales Saga" (following Dusk), this two-part novel covers Filipino history in the 1950s, focusing on the social inequality rooted in the plantation system. Jos details the harmful effects for both the oppressed and their oppressors, chronicling the birth of an uprising to transform Filipino society. The unnamed son of a plantation manager narrates "Tree," the first part of the novel. He recalls awakening to his father's culpability in subjugating other Filipinos in his hometown. The father works for a more powerful landowner, Don Vicente, whose illegitimate son Luis gives voice to the second, definitely stronger part, "My Brother, My Executioner." Once a victim of the system, Luis goes to live with Don Vicente, reaping the benefits of his father's exploitation. He also suffers deeply when he must leave his family behind amidst harsh, impoverished living conditions. This intense work is recommended for most collections.--Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
David Walton
... vivid...José's storytelling is direct and accessible...
The New York Times Book Review
The Baltimore Sun
Jode writes absorbing novels...Like Dickens, Jose is a master storyteller, breeding characters from setting and social condition. Like Dome, Jose is a poet, seeking the spiritual ramifications of his subjects. [In Don Vicente] so powerful is Jose's sense of soul that he infuses not only his characters with it, but his readers as well.
Kirkus Reviews
The second volume of the Filipino author•s celebrated Rosales Saga, whose initial volume Dusk appeared here last year, following such unrelated fiction as Three Filipino Women (1992) and Sins (1996). José's oeuvre, however, appears to be only too uniform: an ongoing song in praise of Filipino nationalism and independence, and a scathing indictment of these islands' Spanish, Japanese, and American oppressors and occupiers. His fiction is thus of very uneven quality: a deeply felt love of the land and its traditions, communicated through vivid characterizations and dramatic conflicts, and hamstrung by lengthy conversations and monologues in which characters are little more than mouthpieces. José's strengths are best seen in the (untitled) first section of this "Novel in Two Parts," which relates its nameless narrators gradual alienation from his sheltered life in the village of Rosales (during the 1940s). There, his father manages a plantation, owned by the shadowy absentee figure of Don Vicente, that cruelly exploits native workers. The story is distinguished both by its narrator's eloquently conflicted feelings and by the facility with which José creates a rich parade of characters, each embodying some aspect of the struggles of Don Vicente's "people" to overthrow him. The much weaker (and longer) companion story, "My Brother, My Executioner," contrasts the fates of (the selfsame) Don Vicente's natural son Luis, a poet and magazine editor bent on distancing himself from his father's world, and Luis's half-brother Victor, who joins an inchoate peasant revolt against their father's economic empire. Though José does make Don Vicente a complex,self-questioning character, his story sinks under the weight of

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Modern Library Paperbacks Series
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

F. Sionil José, whose work has been published in twenty-four languages, is also a bookseller, editor, founding president of the Philippines PEN Center, and a former publisher of the journal Solidarity. He has taught most recently at the University of California at Berkeley. He lives in Manila.

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