But for the Apocalypse: Wilfrido Nolledo’s Da rk Mirror of Empire

Ryan Canlas


This essay reads Wilfrido Nolledo’s novel, But for the Lovers (1970), across the rocky terrain in which the postcolonial Anglophone novel intersects with the question of postmodernity. Using Paul Ricoeur’s Memory, History, and Forgetting and Fredric Jameson’s exhortation to the critic to “Always historicize!” as my primary theoretical frameworks, I argue against the seemingly common accusation that the “postmodern” Anglophone Filipino novel––of which But for the Lovers is a kind of prototypical example––is incapable of creating a perspective on the political and historical conditions of the Philippines as a postcolonial nation and that it is merely symptomatic of the much larger political, social, and cultural malaise characteristic of the current political economic and cultural moment. My argument is that But for the Lovers forces the critic to resituate her perspective on the problems of Philippine nationalism by linking it to the question of the novel’s style: only by doing so can the way that history and fiction narrate and produce knowledge about the past be interrogated. Ultimately, I argue that But for the Lovers demonstrates that the ultimate horizon for any reading of Anglophone Philippine fiction is not just history, but the unassailable historical condition of US imperialism in the Philippines. The novel’s apocalyptic finale, I suggest, dramatizes the large-scale violence and genocide that founds, as historian Dylan Rodriguez argues, the moment of US-Philippine “contact” in the early twentieth century, and in this way conditions the very possibility of a Filipino literature in English.


Filipino Novels in English; Postmodernity; Postcoloniality; Genocide; Historiography; World War II; Manifest Destiny; Philippine American War; Filipino Novels in English

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/2045