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Posted by Dexter Matilla - - 0 comments

Hot Picks for the Summer: Asia-related Books

Published: 30/06/2009 - Filed under: Features » Features » Great Reads » Archive » 2009 » July/August 2009 » Great Reads »

Alfredo Roces, Solidaridad Publishing House, US$13

Juan Luna, one the Philippines’ greatest art legends, is best known for his masterpiece, Spoliarum, which won a gold medal at Madrid’s Exposicion Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884.

Eight years later, in 1892, he would again make headlines but for less positive reasons. In a fit of jealous rage, he shot and killed his wife Paz Pardo de Tavera, along with her mother Juliana, at their Villa Dupont residence in Paris.

His sensational story – juxtaposed with the lives of his brother Antonio (later recognised as one the heroes of the Philippines’ fight for independence) and his brother-in-law Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, who were both there at the time – provides the rich basis for a narrative that keeps one feverishly turning the pages, especially those covering the episodes involving the painter and his doomed spouse.

Using the first-person technique, author and former journalist Alfredo Roces allows each man to tell his side of the tragedy and the events that followed, creating a sense of immediacy and suspense that readers easily forget the sensational incident happened two centuries ago.

Roces explained: “A historian’s approach seemed too cold for a story full of passion, so I devised the novelist’s device of a first-person account. I was confident I could do this because I felt that being an artist, I could put myself in Luna’s shoes.”

Like Akira Kurosawa’s memorable 1950s film Rashomon, that presented entirely different sides of the truth, Rage! confounds and ultimately leaves one hoping to see this novel translated into cinematic dramatisation. Dexter R Matilla

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