Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 315
State of War (a.k.a State of War: A Novel) is a 1988 fictional novel written by Filipino author, journalist, and human rights activist Ninotchka Rosca. It is the author’s first novel, and it tells the life stories of three young Filipinos—Eliza Hansen, Adrian Banyaga, and Anna Villaverde—who visit a festival on the island of K and get involved in a terrorist plot by revolutionary leader Guevara, who plans to assassinate The Commander.
The novel consists of three chapters: The Book of Acts, the Book of Numbers, and the Book of Revelations. The Book of Acts describes the arrival of Hansen, Banyaga, and Villaverde to the festival on K Island; the Book of Numbers explains their past, their (mixed) ancestry, and their history; and the Book of Revelations brings us back to the festival, where we witness the story’s thrilling conclusion.
Many critics and readers have praised Rosca’s prose and narrative, describing it as engaging, thought-provoking, and eye-opening, but also confusing at times. She manages to incorporate several socioeconomic and politically relevant themes, boldly and shamelessly writing about subjects that are more often than not hidden from the public, such as death, oppression, prostitution, (post)colonialism, rape, poverty, religion, refugees, rebellions, torture, violence, terrorism, politics, hopelessness, and superstition.
Through her numerous metaphors and allegories, Rosca attempts to give insight into the daily struggles and sufferings of the Filipinos, as well as the political secrets and terrors of the Filipino society under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. In fact, the character of The Commander, whom the rebels want and fail to assassinate, is said to be an indirect reference to Marcos. Aside from this, Rosca also touches upon the Filipinos’ national identity and culture, accurately and authentically describing Filipino history from pre-Spanish to modern times. Thus, the novel is considered to be both a political and a historical novel as well.