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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Killing Time in a Warm Place

by
Jose Dalisay


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase In Flight



Title: Killing Time in a Warm Place
Author: Jose Dalisay
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992
Length: 170 pages
Availability: in In Flight - US
in In Flight - UK
in In Flight - Canada
in In Flight - India
  • Published together with Soledad's Sister in the volume, In Flight: Two Novels of the Philippines

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fine writing, and fascinating glimpses of country and events -- but could be a more cohesive narrative

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 28/3/2011 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "This novel in particular is full of rich, riveting detail" - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Killing Time in a Warm Place is narrated by Noel Ilustre Bulaong, a Filipino of author Dalisay's generation, for whom the defining event of their lives was Ferdinand Marcos' declaration of martial law (in 1972), when they were college-age. While the narrative is set in the present, opening with a mature Noel flying back to the Philippines from America for his father's funeral, much of it is made up of reminiscences of his youth, and those years of political and personal rebellion. Despite the reason for Noel's return home, this is not a story of a reckoning with the still-looming shadow of some overwhelming father-figure; though the father is significant -- and, as a former policeman, a double-authority figure of sorts -- Noel's return means facing much more than just his memories of the old man. Dalisay's novel is an impressively broad one of his country and generation.
       The novel opens with simple but arresting general observations, a welcome to the Philippines that already tries to offer some insight into nation and psyche:

     I come from a country without snow or raspberries. Instead we have pounding rain and coconuts.
       Tellingly, Noel admits later that the Philippines isn't entirely without raspberries -- he realizes there is an area where they do grow -- yet another indication that even sweeping statements rarely cover the true sweep of the Philippines.
       Years earlier, Noel had started college in Manila, but soon devoted most of his time to political protest, eventually dropping out. Living with some others in a remote city apartment as a revolutionary cell, the small group increasingly worried about their safety and about being betrayed. Their small group is torn apart when martial law is declared and they go their separate ways, uncertain of each other's fates until considerably later. Noel is jailed (as was Dalisay), and eventually freed; instead of returning to and finishing university he picks up a BA from a small business college where, as he sheepishly admits, "I didn't really have to come to class, you know how the system works". For a time he also takes a job as a government lackey, becoming "Special Assistant to the Deputy Minister" in the Ministry of Public Welfare. His compromises, and the guilt over what he sees as his betrayals -- of his ideals and of his comrades -- wears him down, and eventually he resigns from his job and looks to escape elsewhere, leading also to him putting distance between himself and his country and his past.
       Noel is selective in what he presents in his account. Prison clearly marked him, but the description of his stay there is fairly limited. Among the longer sections about that time describes a day he is able to actually spend outside of prison with his mother -- under armed guard, but still allowed to go to a nice restaurant and take in a movie.
       Noel also admits:
Prison was frightening, but freedom even more so. Prison could be a warm and restful place, and all you had to do in it was to kill some time.
       Though, of course, it does not turn out to have all been quite so straightforward.
       The descriptions of the students' revolutionary talk and domestic lives as Marcos' crackdown approaches -- their uncertainty of what to do with the gun they come across, their ideological debates, their fears of betrayal -- are particularly well done. Noel is dedicated but self-aware enough to recognize that: "I was the most unreliable comrade I knew". The apparent contradictions in their cause -- and Filipino society in general -- are nicely summed up in his acknowledgement that:
Of course we believed in Marx, but of course we also believed in God. We were Filipinos, nad we had a tremendous capacity for faith.
       Much of Killing Time in a Warm Place skims over time and events, and one regrets that certain characters are not on stage for longer in the novel. Aspects of the story could also be more fully developed, as Noel's back and forth, and his omissions, make for a sense of evasiveness to his account. Nevertheless, this is a rich account of this period and of what it meant to reach maturity and then try to find purpose in this corrupted country.
       Dalisay writes well, with many descriptions that are arresting and well-put -- and that not in any predictable way -- and Killing Time in a Warm Place is a very fine novel of this time and place.

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 August 2012

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Links:

Killing Time in a Warm Place: Reviews: Other books by José Dalisay under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Leading Filipino author José Y. Dalisay Jr. was born in 1954.

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© 2012 the complete review

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