‘Snows of Yesteryear’ by Elmer Ordoñez

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What may well be a bildungsroman is Elmer Ordonez’s Snows of Yesteryear (University of the Philippines Press, 2014) in two parts, “A Family in War” and “A Sentimental Education”—based on the experiences of the author from his early years, the war years, his intellectual development, involvement in political struggle, and inevitable retirement. The author just turned 85.

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Hence, the book is autobiography disguised as a novel. It has elements of a roman, a clefin that the author oftentimes uses actual names in the cast of characters. In parts the story is creative non-fiction.

It aspires to what Rony Diaz wrote about the author’s Sitting in the Moonlight and Other Stories, quoting Rilke that all art is the result of having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end.”

Snows of Yesteryear is derived from the genre of ubisunt writing which originated in medieval times among writers like Francois Villon who wrote “Ballade” about famous women of times past—like Heloise and Joan of Arc who led tragic lives—using the refrain, “Where are the Snows of Yesteryear?”

The genre has since encompassed “nostalgia literature”—meditations on lives and events that were.

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