Rediscover: F. Sionil José

F. Sionil José, the author of "a dozen socially engaged novels and countless short stories and essays who was sometimes called the grand old man of Philippine letters and even the conscience of his nation," died January 6 at age 97, the New York Times reported. José's writing, "rich in themes drawn from his rural upbringing, amounted to a continuing morality play about poverty and class divisions in the Philippines" and often explored "his anguish over what he saw as his country's failure to overcome centuries of Spanish colonization, followed by further domination by the United States."

José wrote more than 35 books, all in English, with the core being the Rosales Saga, five interconnected novels published over 20 years, beginning with The Pretenders (1962) and continuing with My Brother, My Executioner (1973), Mass (1974) Tree (1978) and Po-on (1984). He received many awards, grants and fellowships from abroad as well as in the Philippines, where the government named him a National Artist for Literature. His works have been translated into 28 languages. José opened and ran a bookshop in Manila, Solidaridad, and founded the Philippine chapter of PEN International. He also published Solidarity, a monthly journal of "current affairs, ideas and the arts." Several of his titles are available from Modern Library.

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