Maryanne Moll is the author of four books. Her short story “At Merienda” won the third prize in the 2005 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, and her other short stories have also been included in anthologies in the Philippines and abroad. Her first novel, The Maps of Camarines, was published by Penguin Random House SEA, and is available worldwide as a paperback and as an e-book. She is studying for an MA in Comparative Literature, with a major in literary theory, and is slated to undergo her final thesis defense in 2023.
When the Land Itself Metes Out Justice: Corruption, Retribution, and the Haunted Island in Caroline Hau’s Tiempo Muerto
Abstract: This paper analyzes Caroline Hau’s 2019 novel Tiempo Muerto in terms of the haunted wilderness that houses human pain and its eventual resolution in a manner that questions the stability of power structures and the concept of justice in a postcolonial country. Place has its own dominance in the unfolding of human lives, even during the exercise of human agency. Spectrality is used as a framework for analysis. It looks for the ‘spectral turn,’ the point where the non-dominant binary (the haunted) reveals itself to be the dominant binary, or the foundation for the dominant binary (the haunting). The novel is set in a fictional island called Banwa, in the real-life province of Negros in the Philippines, a victim of postcolonial corruption. Things that happened on the island years before were the root of the current crisis undergone by the main characters. If it were not for the island, these people’s situation would not have existed, and their intentions would not have been carried through. The haunted wilderness is a facet of literary study that is apt for Asian settings, as stories in this region are often rooted in the natural characteristics of place but also steeped in postcolonial pain. But more than being a mere backdrop, the wilderness carries its own power that does not stem from any human hand. Humanity’s attempts to subdue wilderness does not always succeed, and sometimes it is because the wilderness is just more powerful. It is time to talk about that power.
Keywords: spectrality, haunted wilderness, power structures, postcolonial, justice