Author Topic: The quiet, little pleasures of reading Bienvenido Santos  (Read 23732 times)

Joe Carillo

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The quiet, little pleasures of reading Bienvenido Santos
« on: June 13, 2009, 04:01:43 PM »
One of the quiet, little pleasures of my early college days was reading the stories from a small, yellow-covered book bought for me by my eldest sister—whether for Christmas or for my birthday I now couldn’t recall. The book was You Lovely People by Bienvenido Santos, and, if my memory still serves me right, it had a charming story that starts with the line “In Hays, Kansas, I saw some German prisoners…”, then goes on to describe the progression of the seasons in the United States in precise, lilting language. Santos’ prose is so relaxed, so easy-to-read that it became a habit of mine to read him aloud—but always in hushed tones—as practice in my English speech. In time, though, I thought that I had outgrown his simple, uncomplicated storytelling style, so I went on to reading short-stories and novels with more ambitious and more complex ways of using the English language.

Many years later, I was to learn that Bienvenido Santos (1911-1996) had been hailed as a pioneering Asian-American writer of great lyric sensitivity. I also found out that he had studied creative writing under Paz Marquez Benitez, a pioneering Filipina fictionist in the English language. As featured in this Forum seven weeks ago, Benitez had learned her English from the very first American teachers who came to the Philippines after the United States had driven out the Spanish colonizers from the islands in 1898. In a very real sense, then, Santos the writer was a true, authentic link to the present times of the literary tradition started by Benitez Marquez at the turn of the 20th century.

A prolific fictionist, poet and nonfiction writer, Santos wrote six novels, namely The Man Who (Thought He) Looked Like Robert Taylor, Brother My Brother, The Praying Man, The Volcano, Villa Magdalena, and What the Hell For You Left Your Heart in San Francisco; four short-story collections, namely Dwell in the Wilderness, Scent of Apples, The Day the Dancers Came, and You Lovely People; and two poetry collections, Distances: In Time and The Wounded Stag: 54 Poems.

In recognition of his literary prowess, he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship at the Writers Workshop of the University of Iowa where he later taught as a Fulbright exchange professor. Santos later received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and over the years, he won a Republic Cultural Heritage Award in Literature and several Palanca Awards for his short stories. In 1980, Scent of Apples, the only book of his to be published in the United States, won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

Read Bienvenido Santos’ The Day the Dancers Came

Read parts of Bienvenido Santos’ Distances: In Time

Read “Bienvenido Santos: A Literary History”

Read “Scent of Apples” by Bienvenido N. Santos

What do you think of Bienvenido Santos’ position in Philippine literature as well as in world literature? Click the Reply button to post your thoughts on Jose Carillo’s English Forum.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2019, 02:58:58 PM by Joe Carillo »