N. V. M. Gonzalez Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Nestor Vicente Madali Gonzalez (guhn-ZAH-lehs), who sometimes adopted the surname spelling “Gonzales,” was born into a family of educators, his mother being a teacher and his father a school supervisor. When he was four years old, Gonzalez moved with his family to the barrio of Wasig in Mindoro. This locale had a seminal influence on his writing, as the titles of his works “Hunger in Barok,” “Life and Death in a Mindoro Kaingin,” and Mindoro and Beyond suggest. From 1927 to 1930, Gonzalez stayed with aunts and uncles in Romblon, his last year being spent at Mindoro High School.

Gonzalez failed his University of the Philippines entrance examination, but in 1949 he became the first to teach college courses there without holding a degree. In 1933 Gonzalez visited Manila and met famed Commonwealth period president Manuel Quezon y Molina but quickly returned to Mindoro. The next year he went back to Manila, where he joined the Veronicans, certainly the finest literary organization in the pre-World War II Philippines, noteworthy for such luminaries as Manuel A. Viray among its members. In that same year, Gonzalez entered an essay commemorating Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to Calapan in a students’ literary contest (Gonzalez did two years of college studies at National University and Manila Law College). Noted poet and literary critic A. E. Litiatco awarded Gonzalez the five-peso first prize. This was the first of numerous awards, prizes, and other honors Gonzalez garnered. Among the most prestigious were an honorable mention in the First Commonwealth Literary Contest (1940) for The Winds of April; Rockefeller grants in 1949-1950, 1952, and 1964; a Republic Award of Merit (1954), and a Republic Cultural Heritage Award (1960) for The Bamboo Dancers; a National Artist Award for Literature (1997); and a Philippines Centennial Award for Literature (1998).

Although his renowned works are in English, the language was acquired; Hiligaynofl is the native tongue of Romblon. He also was accomplished in Tagalog, as his third prize in the 1943 Liwayway Short Story Contest for “Lunsod, Nayon, at Dagat-dagatan” (city, town, and lake) attests.


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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Born in 1915 on one of the smaller mid-archipelago Philippine islands, Nestor Vicente Madali Gonzalez was taken as a child to the larger neighboring island of Mindoro by his father, who was a teacher. There he spent his youth among farmers and fishermen, figures who dominated his fiction. After graduating from the University of the Philippines, then in Manila, he turned to writing a newspaper column, as well as a novel and short tales about the people of Mindoro. He also was one of the Veronicans, a group of young writers striving for stark and striking imagery. The authenticity of his fiction won him national attention just before Japanese Occupation forces landed on Luzon. When English was practically forbidden by the invaders, Gonzalez and others wrote in Tagalog but brought to the native language new techniques, themes, and theories as an alternative to formulas in conventional literature.

Gonzalez’s chance for prominence came in 1947, when the Swallow Press in Denver, Colorado, published his prizewinning stories, Seven Hills Away. In 1949, a Rockefeller grant allowed him to visit several writing centers in the United States and to attend both Stanford and Bread Loaf workshops. On his return to the Philippines, he was appointed to the faculty of the state university, which had just been constructed in the temporary capital, Quezon City; he taught creative writing and comparative literature there for eighteen years. During Carlos P....

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