On Nick Joaquin’s Candido’s Apocalypse (which begins my month-long marathon of Phil Pub reading)

(Pardon me for the blurry photograph. I just stole this from the Anvil website, and I don’t have a camera at the moment to take a picture of my own copy. Fail.)

“He thought of what he had been taught about the flesh being a rotting garment you had to shed before you could become a capable of feeling a greater love. But without the flesh you couldn’t even feel, as he could feel nothing for these three skeletons that were no longer Pete, Willie and Rene because they had lost, in his eyes, the rotting garment which alone made them Pete, Willie and Rene. Feeling was of the flesh, personality was of the flesh, companionship was of the flesh, friendship was of the flesh, love was of the flesh, contact was of the flesh. They had been told in religion about a saint who licked the sores of lepers and he guessed that the saint had gone through what he was now going through, had started out feeling so superior and sneering at people for overacting and all that until he got punished and had to wander about in the night, banished from the world of the flesh and trying to find companionship among mineral or some such “clean” things, and when he had learned is lesson and was forgiven and came back to his senses, flesh had looked so good to him that even in its filthiest, smelliest, horridest, rottenest state, like in lepers’ sores, he saw it still as clean, sweet, beautiful, holy, and he had fallen down on his knees and kissed that leper’s sores, my God, in sheer adoration, having found God there. Sarcastic idiots kept saying this about beauty or manner of what-have-you-being only skin-deep. That was their ignorance. He had learned that skin was the deepest thing of all, deeper than the earth, deeper than ocean, deeper than outer space, its depth being the joys of human contact, and if God was to be found at all it could only be in those depths.” (Joaquin, Nick. Candido’s Apocalypse, Page72-73)

My god, I’ve quite forgotten how riveting and how euphoric it is to read Nick Joaquin. Nick Joaquin is, for me, one of the most important authors I have ever encountered. Not only has his stories influenced the content of my works, some of  the techniques that I employ, and a number of the themes which I continually explore, his stories also motivated some of the most important events of my life, which I will not divulge in this sudden “spontaneous overflow of emotions.”

Candido’s Apocalypse, which was recently released by Anvil Publishing, tells the story of Bobby, and his short and terrifying moment of insanity, where, for some reason unbeknownst to him, he begins seeing everyone around him stark naked. The nakedness does not end there though. Pretty soon, his eyesight strips everyone of their flesh, of their muscle, until everyone around him is bone, a mere frame of those that he loved ad hated.

The novella is eighty-three pages of brilliance, and I highly doubt that this will be my last reading of this narrative.  A part of me fears to look at the text critically and scholarly, for fear of misinterpretation or over-reading. But one thing is true, what stands out in this story is how narrative presents Bobby’s descent down to oblivion, how it lingers to carefully tell each process the character goes through, how it vigilantly presents the details and the events that contributes to the temporary dementia of the protagonist, and how it painstakingly attempts to convey the confusing, surreal and enchanting experience of unclothing the men and women that make up Bobby’s existence. The experience of reading his fall, his step-by-step plunge, is sheer wizadry, one of the gems of the novel which in five hours I finished and I have fallen in love with.

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