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Lualhati Bautista receives offer for 'Dekada '70' Penguin Classics edition

By NICK GARCIA Published Jan 28, 2022 5:44 pm

Acclaimed author Lualhati Bautista's magnum opus Dekada '70 is in the offing to be part of Penguin Classics, which houses titles from the global literary canon.

In a Jan. 27 Facebook post, Bautista shared an excerpt of an email that she said she reportedly received from Elda Rotor, Penguin Classics vice president and publisher, on Jan. 5.

“Bakit ba ngayon ko lang ito naisipang ipagyabang–este, i-post," she wrote. "January 5 pa ito, a. E-mail from New York."

In the email, Rotor told Bautista that she was "intrigued" by Dekada '70 "and its impact and study in Philippine classrooms," after learning about the modern classic from her colleagues.

The publisher added that she read its English translation, "and found the Bartolome family’s story in the era of Martial Law, especially from the mother Amanda’s perspective, very moving, timely, and propulsive."

Rotor said she sees "the potential for (Bautista's) classic for a wider English-language audience, especially students, outside the Philippines."

Rotor then asked if the Filipino author would be interested in publishing Dekada '70 as a Penguin Classic.

Bautista didn't share the entire email, saying that it must be "skipped" as it's too lengthy.

Should the deal push through, she would join a handful of Filipino authors in the Penguin Classics roster: Jose Rizal, Jose Garcia Villa, Nick Joaquin, and Carlos Bulosan. Bautista would also be the very first Filipino woman author to be part of the elite lineup.

If ever, Bautista's Dekada '70 would also be the sixth Filipiniana title under Penguin Classics, following Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Garcia Villa's Doveglion: Collected Poems, Joaquin's The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic, and Bulosan's America is in the Heart.

Photo from Penguin Random House

Her post has garnered over 12,000 reactions, 700 comments, and 1,300 shares as of writing.

Well-wishes have poured in for Bautista in the comment section from fellow Filipino authors, littérateurs, and fans.

Avenida Books' Nida Ramirez, publishing manager of the defunct Visprint Inc. which had been home to the popular Bob Ong books, told Bautista in jest that it's Penguin Classics that needs congratulating more, as it managed to "persuade" Bautista.

Screencap from the comments section of Bautista's post

"Pinaplantsa na lang namin ang contract," Bautista replied.

Karina Bolasco, Ateneo de Manila University Press director, said she once spoke with Rotor about featuring Filipino authors in Penguin Classics.

Screencap from the comments section of Bautista's post

"This is what I had raised with Elda before," Bolasco's comment read, "that our writers in Tagalog unless translated will not be featured in the Penguin Classics. Only writers in English."

"Happy that yours will be the first showcase of our fiction in Filipino. Congrats!" she added.

The National Book Development Board also shared Bautista's post and gave her a shoutout.

"Lubos kaming nagagalak sa balitang ito, Ms. Lualhati Bautista. Mabuhay po kayo!" the NBDB's post read.

Dekada '70, first published in 1983, revolves around the life of the middle-class Bartolome family and its struggles during the Marcos regime's dictatorship.

The novel won the grand prize of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in the same year.

It has been adapted into a movie in 2002, starring Vilma Santos, and into a musical in 2020 by Ateneo's Doreen Black Box Theater.

Its English edition, The '70s, was translated by Clarisse B. De Jesus and is being self-published by Bautista.

Photo from Lualhati Bautista's Facebook page

Penguin Classics is an imprint of Penguin Books, which originally hailed from the United Kingdom. It publishes the world's greatest literary minds, like Homer, Leo Tolstoy, Emily Brönte, Shirley Jackson, and Jane Austen.