Biography

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 473

Bienvenido N. Santos was born March 22, 1911, in Tondo, Manila, the Philippines, the son of Tomas and Vicenta (Nuqui) Santos. At the time, the Philip pines was a colony of the United States, and the language of instruction at the school Santos attended was English.

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Santos graduated from the University of the Philippines in 1932 and became an elementary and high school teacher. He began publishing his short stories in English at this time. When he left for America in September 1941 as a scholar of the Philippine Commonwealth government, Santos was an established writer in the Philippines. He enrolled at the University of Illinois in the master’s program in English, graduating in 1942. Meanwhile, the United States had entered World War II, and Santos was unable to return to the Philippines, where his wife Beatriz, whom he had married in 1933, and their three daughters lived (they later had a son).

In the summer of 1942, Santos studied at Columbia University. From 1942 to 1945, Santos was a public relations officer at the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, D.C. In 1945, Santos had his first fiction published in America, the short story ‘‘Early Harvest,’’ which appeared in the magazine Story. After studying at Harvard in 1945 and 1946, Santos returned home to the Philippines, where he became professor and vice-president at Legazpi College (now Aquinas University) in Legazpi City. It was during this period that he published two collections, You Lovely People (short stories, 1955) and The Wounded Stag: Fifty-Four Poems (1956).

Santos returned to America in 1958 as a Rockefeller Foundation fellow at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He remained at the University of Iowa for three years. During the 1960s, Santos divided his time between the United States and the Philippines. In 1965, his first two novels, Villa Magdalena and The Volcano, written with the help of a Rockefeller grant and a Guggenheim fellowship, were published in Manila. Also in 1965, Santos won the Philippine Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Literature.

In 1972, the Philippine government banned Santos’s serialized novel The Praying Man, which is about government corruption. It was ultimately published in book form in 1982. Santos had intended to return permanently to the Philippines, but he now found himself again in exile. From 1973 to 1982, Santos was Distinguished Writer-In-Residence at Wichita State University. In 1976, Santos became a U.S. citizen. In 1979, Scent of Apples, which includes the short story ‘‘Immigration Blues,’’ was published. It is the only book of Santos’s short stories published in the United States.

Many more of Santos’s writings appeared during the 1980s, including the novels The Man Who (Thought He) Looked Like Robert Taylor (1983) and What the Hell for You Left Your Heart in San Francisco (1987), as well as a collection of poetry, Distances in Time (1983), and a collection of stories, Dwell in the Wilderness (1985). Santos died January 7, 1996, at his home in Albay, the Philippines.

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