Depictions of City and Country in Kerima Polotan’s The Hand of the Enemy



Kerima Polotan’s works of fiction have long been overshadowed on two levels by the specter of history. First, her novel The Hand of the Enemy has been evaluated as a representation of a specific period in Philippine history, the Colorum Uprising of 1924-1931 and then analyzed by Caroline Hau in her Necessary Fictions through the lens of history and nationhood. Second, Polotan’s association with President Ferdinand  Marcos through her husband’s appointment as executive assistant and speech writer negatively affected how fellow writers and readers of the period perceived her work. This essay then attempts to address a gap in studies on her novel through a close reading of the novel’s various settings. The essay will compare and contrast sets of categories—city and country, natural geographies and anthropogenic places—and analyze how they shape and reflect the ideas and thoughts of the novel’s heroine, Emma Mercene-Gorrez, as she goes from country to city, then city to country twice in the course of the novel. Some application from a conceptual framework of geography in fiction will complement related ideas drawn from Filipina writers in English. Overall, this study aims to establish a link between narrative locations and what the poet Marianne Villanueva termed “something more personal and inward, a landscape of memory. ”

Keywords: Setting, Philippine literature, Kerima Polotan, memory

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