The Woman Who Had Two Navels
Book cover for Nick Joaquin's The Woman Who Had Two Navels.
The Woman Who Had Two Navels is a 1961 historical novel by Nick Joaquin, a National Artist for Literature and leading English-language writer from the Philippines. It is considered a classic in Philippine literature. It was the recipient of the first Harry Stonehill award. It tells the story of a Filipino elite woman who is hallucinating, and is preoccupied with the notion that she has two navels or belly buttons in order to be treated as an extraordinary person.
This novel by Joaquin is a literary assessment of the influence of the past to the time encompassing events in the Philippines after World War II, an examination of an assortment of legacy and heritage and the questions of how can an individual exercise free will and how to deal with the “shock” after experiencing “epiphanic recognition”.
Among the characters conjured by Joaquin are Manolo Vidal and his family, Connie Escobar, Esteban and Concha Borromeo, Father Tony, Paco Texeira, and Doctor Monson, a former rebel hiding in Hong Kong to avoid postwar trials.
Connie Escobar, the lead female character, was described by literary critic Epifanio San Juan as a sufferer of her mother’s estrangement from a world where unconfident males take advantage of women by violating them or by venerating them. Connie is married to Macho Escobar, a man who had an affair with Connie’s mother, a past incident that serves as an “umbilical cord” or "umbilicus", a remnant connected to her present and future because of her refusal to leave the issue in the past.
According to Epifanio San Juan, the character of Manolo Vidal is the embodiment of the Filipino nationalistic bourgeois who were once critical of the theocracy of the Spaniards but became transformed puppets and servants of these colonialists. While, on the other hand, Macho Escobar is not a revolutionary but a member of the dehumanized clan of hacenderos or landlords of sugar plantations. Paco Texeira was a survivor between the behaviors of the Monson and Vidal families, and also acted as Nick Joaquin’s “conscience”, an observer who could have penetrated the existing rituals and ruses. Texeira had the capacity to apprehend and break the class barrier depicted in the novel’s society, but refused to do so.
- Liukkonen, Petri. "Nick Joaquin". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015.
- The Woman Who Had Two Navels (Filipino Literary Classics, amazon.com
- San Juan, Epifanio. Chapter VI, Dialectics of Transcendence: An Interpretation of Nick Joaquin’s The Woman Who Had Two Navels, Toward a People's Literature: Essays in the Dialectics of Praxis and Contradiction in Philippine Writing, pages 146-165
- The Woman Who Had Two Navels (1961), britannica.com