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State of War

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  613 ratings  ·  37 reviews
An endless festival amidst an endless war is the central image of this stunning novel about the Philippines of the Marcos era, a time of brutality, treachery, and betrayed passion.

As the novel opens, our focus, in the Book of Acts, is on three young people—Eliza Hansen, Adrian Banyaga, and Anna Villaverde—as they arrive on the island of K_____ for the annual festival. Adri
Newsprint, Third Printing, 382 pages
Published 2007 by Anvil Publishing, Inc. (first published 1988)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  613 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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K.D. Absolutely
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Definitely a must-read for all Filipinos who still believe that the Marcoses are not guilty. This is also one of the books that I would like our President Rodrigo Duterte to read. Through the backstories of the three main characters, Eliza Hansen, Adrian Banyaga, and Anna Villaverde in the second part of the book called The Book of Numbers, he would have a good review of our history as a nation. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a history book, but through what happened to these characters and how ...more
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a book not to be taken lightly. This is a book that requires a steady head and deep thinking. This is a dangerous book.

It deals with the history of the Filipino people, from pre-Spanish (with the priestesses babaylan who wore gold trinkets & traded with the Chinese) to Spanish (with the friars and other foreigners, such as Germans, who come to this godforsaken land to grab something that is not theirs) to American (with Hey, Joe! and chocolates aplenty) to the current (with the beautiful
Nov 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Rosca's prose can be balletic, frenzied even. But a brilliant start to the novel is completely subverted by a 200 page exploration of one of the main characters' blood lines. The final 80 or so pages, which return us to the action proper fails to both regain its momentum and to capitalize much on the back story provided. In the end, trying to cover too much ground, to speak to too much of the history of the Philippines, the overall design of the novel is unfortunately hectic. Read the tremendous ...more
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who like One Hundred Years of Solitude or Noli me Tangere
This is so amazing I want to cry. Can't contain all these feels. To review (when I'm not busy anymore). ...more
Tito Quiling, Jr.
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, filipiniana
We've been told to read this novel back in college but I never had the chance and the interest to purchase a copy.

And I regret not reading State of War by Ninotchka Rosca earlier. The book is divided into three chapters -- The Book of Acts, the Book of Numbers, and the Book of Revelations. Among the three, I particularly liked the second half. State of War is a story about three characters: Adrian, Anna, and Eliza, whose lives are inherently intertwined because of their ancestors' history.

Jun 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"She lost all consciousness of who or where she was, knowing only that this would be the biggest, the best in her life, that henceforth she would suffer if he were not in her, beside her, on her, under her, holy mother of God who must have known the same pleasure once, forgive her." ...more
Oct 05, 2020 added it
Shelves: filipiniana, dnf
Set this aside because my head got jumbled up on that part where there's that boisterous street dance. I'm confused about the involvement of which politicians. Maybe I'll try to read this again from scratch if ever the drive comes back. dnf. ...more
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: filipino, fiction
The first part (Book of Acts) of this sort-of historical novel bored me. It was about three young people, leading different lives, attending a festival amid an ongoing dictatorship. Yet the second part (Book of Numbers) blew me away. Rosca displayed her deft narrative skills, pulling off something like a 100 Years of Solitude type of awesomeness. The final part is not satisfying, but still the book is great. Sorry for my post-reading incoherence.
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: filipiniana
It was morning when the Spanish long boats sailed from Mactan to Cebu.

As someone who favored Filipino literature written in the English language, I gravitated to authors like Arlene J. Chai during my high school days. Thus, when I saw this book, I was really hooked to dive straight into it. And yes, it did not disappoint.

In her first novel, State of War, Ninotchka Rosca creates an encompassing account of glimpses of Philippine history interspersed with the stories of her carefully crafted chara
Milknight Reader
Wow. The Book of Numbers is a real treasure. I'm most certain that this novel would be praised a hundredfold more if such part was let to stand alone on its own. This is definitely one of the best literary texts in English by a Filipina author.
Ninotchka Rosca's quality of prose is just so great I don't even have enough words to describe it in a few lines. She offers like that of an edifice intricately architected inside and out, or of an ornate fabric delicately woven by a great seamstress — it
Jennifer Pletcher
Oct 30, 2020 rated it liked it
This book opens during a festival in the Phillippines with three young people - Eliza, Anna, and Adrian. Adrian is rich and the son of a prominent family. Anna is a widow who was recently detained and tortured by the military. And Eliza is the daughter of a courtesan. As the festival is going on - so is a war. Anna gets in contact with the rebels who are planning to bomb the festival and Adrian is captured.

The book jumps to the past of these three families to trace the history of Adrian's famil
Jul 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: filipinx-authors
It is true, Rosca's writing style though heavy is beautiful, rich and full of imagery, longing and memory. It was eye opening for me to learn about civilian torture under the reign of Marcos and learning more about guerilla warfare. The novel has two stories: one that spans the Spanish, American, and Japanese occupied periods, the other more present history during the Marcos regime. I enjoyed both but have to admit breaking up the stories as she did made a rather halting experience, and I would ...more
Bianca Nagac
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
The depth of this book needs the reader to free up the mind from biases to absorb the writer's point of view. Roska has a keen eye to details when it comes to showing the significant transitions during the Spanish, American, Japanese and Martial Law Era. On a personal note, I think the Martial Law issue is too cliché that we often hear and see one to two sides of stories. It is time for us to free up ourselves from biases like this. And how do we do that? I think that's for future readers to fin ...more
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm trying to learn a bit more about the Philippines through fiction and started here.

I have a feeling that a lot of people will love this novel, but not me. The style is strongly magical realism, and that is not my thing. The language is beautiful and dreamlike. But it's too dreamy for me to really get my head around what was going on in the Philippines in the 80's. Not for me, but you may like it.
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a book. Though, I'm quite sure that not all would be too fond of how it was written. It was quite difficult to get accustomed to, especially in the first few chapters. But beyond that, it was a very interesting read, a quick rundown of the country's history from dealing with foreign colonizers until we ourselves are fighting each other.

Camille Joyce L
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: filipiniana
4/5, Ninotchka is undoubtedly one of the best Filipino writers. She has the eloquence, the gift of prose, the witting eye for details of our local culture and history. But her paragraphs are TOO WORDY. You can easily get lost in the plot over the persnickety of her details. "What, wait, where am I?" In her own words, the novel is discombobulating! It was well-written, however. :) ...more
Liza Macalandag
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading this very beautifully written book was an excruciating experience - it tugged deep in my Filipino heart.
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found a Filipina version of Isabel Allende!!!
Vernie Market
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Such historical prose and manner of writing has pulled at my heart, making me feel both hopeful and hopeless with the state of things in this country.
Reviewing this now after the peak of protests against the Marcos burial seems to solidify one of the underlying themes of State of War: the ability of a nation to forget, or at least, its failure to recover the whole truth of its past. History is a battlefield of perspectives and most of the time, the victors, the oppressors, and the dominant characters are the ones who have the chance to become its writers. In this novel, Rosca tries to re-create history from the perspective of the "victims." S ...more
Sep 25, 2020 rated it liked it
I found it difficult to engage with this work; I think I would probably enjoy it more on reread, but the carnivalesque elements were difficult for me to thread together.
Aug 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ninotchka Rosca's book, State of War, tells one of the Philippines' dark past: Martial Law. She, in my opinion, is using the endless parties in the book as an allegory of covering the atrocities of the military. Being distracted and drunk all the time, the people in the island of K------ were oblivious of what is happening around them. Even when the characters were chased by the military, the people seemed not to care to help. The only exception is the transvestite, who brought Eliza a gun.

Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
State of War is divided into three sections, the first and third of which take place at a festival on small island in the Philippine archipelago in the 1980s and concern a failed plot to assassinate president Marcos, while the middle section is set over the course of a century or so in Malolos and Manila following the intertwined lives of the three protagonists' ancestors. This middle section was by far my favorite part, because I love this sort of magical family history, full of sly winks and c ...more
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
i found this book very hard to read, not just because of the usage of really deep words, but also because im not used to reading books by filipino authors because 9 times out of 10, its gonna be about philippine history. and yes, this book is one of those. from the start of the book of acts to the beginning of the book of numbers, i was confused. so confused, and i still am. there were so many characters and so many points of views that it was hard to keep track even though i was writing notes. ...more
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Written in the early 80's, Rosca's State of War is a novel of reclaiming memory and culture/ power after years of Spanish and US colonization of the Philippines. The novel moves in three parts: The Book Of Acts, The Book of Numbers and The Book of Revelations, wherein Rosca depicts the story of three young filipin@s who are caught in a sort of love triangle with one another and their country, although divided by their politics and social rankings. From the present day, the novel takes a step bac ...more
Lanie Macatangay-bautista
Apr 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
this was an assigned novel back in college. content-wise, there's nothing that makes this novel any different from any other anti-government novels out there. the funny thing is, we even had a book signing in school. had mine signed, but was impressed with neither the book nor the author.

if you have to read it, then you should, because it's an ok book. but if you have to buy it, don't. it's just a waste of time and money. you're better off reading factual books instead. i didn't hang on to my c
Thomas Simmons
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
No bibliography, just inside sources. Strangely enough that is the primary criticism for tis book, but the content has not been attacked specifically. It is not unlike the expose Richard Clark gave the Bush administration in "Against All Enemies" wherein the author's reputation served to carry the weight of credibility. Anyway, this is just as scathing and expose by a reputable source ...more
Stephanie Chu
Sep 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not a fan of philippine activists movements, but curious now that I have the time.And since it is to them we have the time,I needed to start reading her books. Could have been a great beach book, philippine style, but with the deeply rooted stories of what it was like to be them during those days. Deeply grateful for her perspectives.
Jan 10, 2008 added it
Quote from the book: Everything in this country happens only in the morning. Truly a great novel. Comparable to Franz Kafka's works.

I wonder why Ninotchka Rosca (the author) did not write more novels. Hope she does write another one.
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
the language is beautiful and vivid, and the content is staunchly political. i loved it.
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Ninotchka Rosca is an outstanding contemporary writer, human rights activist and feminist. She is the author of six books: her short story collections include Bitter Country and Monsoon Country; her two novels are State of War and Twice Blessed which earned the 1993 American Book Award for excellence in literature; and her books of non-fiction are Endgame: The Fall of Marcos and Jose Maria Sison: ...more

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