Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although N. V. M. Gonzalez traveled widely and taught the craft of writing on several continents, his principal rapport was always with the farmers and fishermen of his homeland. For such folk, social change over the centuries has been minimal, and their daily lives are attached to unvarying natural cycles. In each of his collections of short stories, Gonzalez found a deceptively simple style appropriate to the tempo of frontier life and the peasant mind-set.

Many of his first stories in Seven Hills Away (1947) seem more like sketches, reproducing the quiet, sometimes desperate, static lifestyle of the Philippine kainginero. On the small islands of Romblon and Mindoro, south of Manila, the landless frontiersman regularly leaves the village barrio in search of land. The wilderness is his if he will clear it by slash-and-burn techniques; yet it can never be cultivated well enough, by these primitive means, to support a large population. The first and last stories in the collection establish an outward movement from a growing settlement by pioneers anxious to find one more uninhabited horizon. Even as the stress falls on small-scale self-reliance, however, the fulfillment of ancestral patterns in the process of pioneering becomes dramatically evident. The animistic minds of the kaingineros tell them that nature is unfriendly, but they meet each setback with a stoic lack of surprise and complaint. The style of these stories is...

(The entire section is 523 words.)