Ty-Casper, Linda

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Pseudonym: Luz de Vera. Nationality: Philippine. Born: Belinda Francisca Velasquez Ty in Manila, Philippines, 17 September 1931. Education: University of the Philippines, Quezon City, 1949-51, AA 1951, LL.B. 1955; Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, LL.M. 1957. Family: Married Leonard R. Casper in 1956; two daughters. Career: Writer. Awards: University of Philippines grant, 1949-55; Harvard Law grant, 1956-57; Silliman grant, 1963; Radcliffe Institute grant, 1974-75; Djerassi grant, 1984; Filipino-American Women Network, 1985; Top 5 Women's Fiction published in England, 1986; Massachusetts Artists Foundation grant, 1988; Wheatland grant, 1990; UNESCO/P.E.N. Short Story award, for "Tides and Near Occasions of Love," 1993; Southeast Asia WRITE award, 1993; Rockefeller/Bellagio grant, 1994. Member: Boston Authors Club, 1986; University of Philippines Writers Club, 1973.


Short Stories

The Transparent Sun. 1963.

The Secret Runner. 1974.

Common Continent. 1991.


Dread Empire. 1980.

Hazards of Distance. 1981.

Fortress in the Plaza. 1985.

Awaiting Trespass. 1985.

Wings of Stone. 1986.

A Small Party in a Garden. 1988.


The Peninsulars. 1964.

The Three-Cornered Sun. 1979.

Ten Thousand Seeds. 1987.

DreamEden. 1996.


Kulasyon: Uninterrupted Vigils. 1995.


Critical Studies:

"Linda Ty-Casper: The Lost Eden" by Raquel Sims Zaraspe, in Philippine Collegian, 1963; "Well-Wrought Gestalts" by Nilda Rimonte, in Heritage, 1967; "The Art of Peninsulars " by Perla Hidalgo, in St. Louis University Research Journal, 1974; "The Writer and Martial Law" by Mauro R. Avena, in Who, 1979; "The Metasthesized Society: Recent Fiction of F. Sionil Jose and Linda V. Ty" by Leonard R. Casper, in Filipinas, 1983, pp. 57-61; "The Opposing Thumb: Recent Literature in English" by Leonard R. Casper, in Pacific Affairs, 1983, pp. 301-09; Points of Departure: International Writers by David Montenegro, 1991; "Lynda Ty-Casper's Sense of Country" by Danton Remoto, in Manila Sunday Chronicle, 1994, pp. 23, 27; "The Dynamics of Conversion in Linda Ty-Casper's A Small Party in a Garden " by Carol A. Nunez, April 1995.

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"If a country's history is its biography," Linda Ty-Casper has written, "its literature is its autobiography." Celebrated as the premier writer of historical fiction in the Philippines, she has written novels of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Filipinos struggling to assert themselves in the face of Spain's abusive Colonial Office, of Americans who came as liberators and stayed as territorial overlords, and of the native dictatorship under Ferdinand Marcos. (Given the forbidding volcanic terrain of the country's 7, 000 islands, however, it would have been difficult to become a nation rather than an assortment of separate provinces even if colonialism had not interfered.) Ty-Casper's effort has been devoted to dramatizing her countrymen's continuous struggle toward self-determination. This task has been made more difficult by her recognition that, beyond the historic tensions between dependency on alien empires and the nativist dream of independence, Filipinos have sought a productive balance of the need for individual recognition with the duty imposed by various collective social units. The docility demanded by Spanish or American overseers or by Japanese soldiers in wartime was prepared for by traditional submissiveness before family elders, including those connected not by blood but by ritual godparenthood, and before local or regional factional allegiances.

The scale of such conflicting loyalties is most noticeable in Ty-Casper's panoramic novels but often most intensely presented in her roughly three dozen published short stories. Within situations drawn from authentic public events and from well-established social mores, she concentrates on individual characterization as the element most resistant to stereotyping. Rarely, "A Swarm of Sun" may be the sole exception, do her stories read like tales, with conventional twists and turns in linear narration. External descriptions, however vivid and plenteous as the settings in the tropics require, are chiefly rendered as mirrors of a participating observer's interior state. Her narrators' feelings are more significant than any recorded event. Similarly, the author's attention to the smallest detail is intended to stimulate the reader's capacity for felt response. Such solicitation of another's sensitivities, such sharing, is typically Filipino.

Even stories of protest like "The Dead Well" or "A Standing Sun," in which socioeconomic sympathies are with the landless against absentee landlords, are not nakedly polemic. They provide the reader all of the dimensions necessary for the experiencing of slow suffocation without distancing the human moment through Marxist commentary or a suggested program of action. Similarly, "One Man Deep" or "Losses of Sunday," stories of the Philippine-American war at the beginning of the twentieth century, assume that there is a reader's conscience to be reached through subtle education, not indoctrination. Propaganda, therefore, is absent, but meaning is not.

Initially writing for her homeland or for overseas countrymen, who often have been accused of "amnesia," Ty-Casper presents variations on reminders of the essentiality of memory. At an elementary level the theme is broached in "The Salted Land" when a chapel mural along with interior burial sites are to be painted over without anyone showing the slightest interest in whom or what the figures of thin-faced, bearded men represent. The security guard who once fought Sakdal rebels and who directed liberation troops in the battle for Manila can now only fantasize about heroism. The woman in "Hill, Sky and Longing" who intermittently sees a strange speck in the sky that resembles a wingless peregrine formed like a projectile feels life as daily loss, like an ocean frustrated by the resilience of shores. An emigrant living in California, she misses her parents and the Philippines and wonders, "How long does memory matter, or persist, existing like the light of dead stars?"

Occasionally feeling undone, characters, even the unborn, respond like the boy in "The Longer Ritual" who is ignored by relatives at the funeral of his father, who also used to ignore him. The boy wants his presence acknowledged and stands among the strangers as if to proclaim, "I am here." But in the Filipino world and in these stories, being is nothing without belonging. Becoming is for a future-oriented culture, while these stories are trying to understand the past, stolen from the people collectively by Spanish and American history books that left no place for them. Consequently, Ty-Casper probes members of all age groups to search for continuities and to mitigate seeming differences. Her mission is less to restore the past through memory than to perceive and appreciate it intimately as if for the first time.

The emotion-enriching restoration of times—precolonial, prewar, premodernization—when belonging was still possible and family cohesion not threatened pervades each of these stories. It is present even when noticeably absent, as in "Gently Unbending," "Cousin, Cousin," or "Germinal," in which relatives are not supportive of one another. The need to belong is epitomized in the Kafkaesque story "Two," in which two sisters are trying to catch at home a brother who has stolen their heritage and only rarely and reluctantly will spare them a bag of rice. But they are divided from one another as well as from him. For most of her life the sister with a lovely face has been crippled by a car accident; the ugly younger sister is healthy but feels guilt that it was not she who suffered the accident. Painfully ascending their brother's three-story building, the elder sister wonders if God exists at all and, if so, if he might be deformed like her.

Nevertheless, despite displacement and disfiguration bordering on despair, Ty-Casper convincingly notices amazing signs of healing grace. In "Fellow Passengers" it is the accidental touch by the pastor of his immobilized, mute predecessor that sets the latter's rocker perpetually moving. Characters merge beyond compassion in the hospice stories "Triptych for a Ruined Altar" and "Tides and Near Occasions of Love." Elsewhere ("Small Lives," "Mulch," "The Outside Heart," "A Wine of Beeswings," "A Swarm of Sun") there is a gradual recognition that the life of someone pitied or condemned or mocked actually mirrors one's own life. Especially between mothers and daughters thought to be at painful odds ("A Wake for Childbearers" and "Sometimes My Body Remembers Singing"), there emerges an irrevocable sense of belonging to one another.

—Leonard Casper