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Literary spotlight: Manila

MANILA, Philippines — Earlier this year, Manila drew the attention of readers around the world in Dan Brown’s latest Robert Langdon novel, Inferno, where the city was described as the “gates of hell.”
But Dan Brown isn’t the first to write about Manila – many writers, both Filipino and foreign alike, have been captivated by the exoticism and enigma of this Philippine capital, inspiring many literary works.

The Manila International Book Fair, the country’s biggest and longest running book fair slated on Sept. 11-15, 10 am to 8pm at the SMX Convention Center, lists famous literary works set right here in Manila. From urban legends to iconic representations of a country united by People Power, Manila has proven to be an enigmatic, historical and memorable city as depicted in literature.

“Manila Noir” edited by Jessica Hagedorn 

While Jessica Hagedorn rose to international fame with “Dogeaters,” a novel set in 50’s Manila, her latest work is the landmark “Manila Noir,” an anthology of 14 stories from 14 authors tackling the dark side of Manila from aswangs, to shabu, to planned terrorism, the poor and bourgeois, and a whole lot more. Manila Noir is part of the Akashic Noir series, an acclaimed series of original noir anthologies set in different cities all over the world. Contributing stories to the collection are writers Lourd de Veyra, F.H. Batacan, Angelo Lacuesta, Jose Dalisay, R. Zamora Linmark, Lysley Tenorio, Rosario Cruz-Lucero, Budjette Tan &KajoBaldisimo, Marianne Villanueva and many more.

“Moondogs” by Alexander Yates

This 2011 novel is about the disappearance of an American businessman in Manila while his estranged son, Benicio, searches for him and uncover his father’s secrets. The book gives us a glimpse of the Filipino and expat cultures while adding a dash of wizard-like policemen, and a villainous rooster in the form of magic-realism to add spice to one’s everyday reading.

“Trash” by Andy Mulligan

While its setting is not explicitly stated, this 2010 young adult novel was inspired by the author’s visits to a Manila dumpsite. “Trash” features three dumpsite boys who find a treasure in the mountains of steaming rubbish. A gritty read, the story exposes the reader to brutal realities of life in the lowest rungs of society: abject poverty, exploitation, and the grave effects of festering corruption.


“The Tesseract” by Alex Garland

This 1998 novel, told in non-linear storylines, depicts the lives of Manila gangsters, mothers and street children, whose fates randomly intersect. “Tesseract” refers to a four-dimensional cube, a metaphor for the characters’ limitations in understanding the events that affect their lives.

“Mango Bride” by Marivi Soliven 

This is a novel about two women, Amparo Guerrero and Beverly Obejas, who lead two separate lives in the Philippines but went to the US to lead brand new lives despite many challenges that they face in an unfamiliar country. Originally called “In The Service of Secrets,” this Palanca Award Winning book was later renamed as “The Mango Bride” when it was published internationally.

“Baby Jesus Pawn Shop” by Lucia Orth 

Set in Manila during the last years of the Marcos regime the novel depicts the perspective of the average Filipino during those dark days. Both entertaining and controversial, the 2009 novel also explores the dark side of Manila, drawing attention to the poverty, the syndicates and the corruption

Find these books and and more at the 34th Manila International Book Fair organized by Primetrade Asia. MIBF is slated on Sept. 11-15, 10 am to 8 pm at the SMX Convention Center, Seashell Drive, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.

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Tags: Alex Garland , Arts & Culture , Jessica Hagedorn , Manila International Book Fair , Marivi Soliven

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