THE MAHJONG OF POWER AND POLITICS: A READING OF CHARLSON ONG’S EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

Luna Sicat Cleto

Abstract


This article notes the proliferation of stereotypical images of the Chinese unleashed by the problematic assumption of their economic and social relations to the Filipino. How does the Filipino-Chinese writer perceive this challenge, and how is it transmuted in his/her literary work? Are the stereotypes duplicated, or are there attempts to undermine these negative images? How does one remember one’s ancestry and heritage? How does one illustrate the dynamics of generations – i.e., the men from the east, with the new breed of Filipino Chinese men and women experiencing a sense of alienation and exclusion from the old country? In Charlson Ong’s Embarrassment of Riches (Centennial Prize Winner,* 2nd place) there is a double invocation in the crafting of fiction as history: while it is a novel about the Philippines, it is also about Victorianas, a metafictive double of a nation that had its own share of hauntings and cancers generated by colonialization, dictatorships, and other development afflictions. Using this double invocation, this paper opines that the work is an effective example of how to confront the “haunting of the Filipino writer,” previously articulated by Resil Mojares. Civil society’s role in the continuing narrative of the Filipino nation is also invoked in Ong’s fiction.

Keywords


metafiction, metahistory, knowable community, double invocation, ethinicity, novel, civil society

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ISSN: 2012-0788