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Getting inside Rizal's head: Noli Me Tangere, the critical edition


Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere is a thing of contradictions. While it helped catapult Rizal into the consciousness of Filipinos a century ago, it also landed him a special spot in the minds of our Spanish colonizers.
 
More than a century after it was first published in 1887, the Noli continues to be a contradiction of sorts.
 
On Tuesday, Nov. 22, Instituto Cervantes de Manila and Vibal Foundation launched the first bilingual and critical edition of the novel at the Instituto Cervantes de Manila in Ermita, Manila.
Isaac Donoso's bilingual sesquicentennial edition contains over 1,200 notes on both the published Berlin edition and the original manuscript of the Noli me Tangere. Instituto Cervantes de Manila
One might expect a Filipino to be at the helm, but true to Noli fashion, that just can’t be—the bilingual and critical edition is the result of the two years Spanish philologist Isaac Donoso spent combing through notes on both the published Berlin edition and the original manuscript.
 
This edition, Donoso said, will give readers a deeper understanding of the history and story of the novel.
 
Present during the launch were Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Domecq and National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose, as well as officials from Instituto Cervantes de Manila and Vibal Foundation. Instituto Cervantes de Manila
Something the Filipino needs
 
“When I was 18 years old, I discovered Rizal in Spain so I looked for an original edition and I found one in Madrid. Then I wanted to come to the Philippines and when I came here, I wasn’t able to find an original version here,” Donoso told reporters Tuesday.
 
It was at this point that Donoso saw the need to come out with a version of the Noli that would more accurately reflect what Rizal had intended it to be.
 
“We did not want to make an archeological edition—we want a critical edition,” he said.
 
The 832-page hardbound novel contains not only the original Spanish version of the novel and Charles E. Derbyshire’s English translation, but also notes that highlight the entire process Rizal went through in producing the Noli—the additions, deletions and emendations.
 
The book also includes a prologue by popular Rizal historian Ambeth Ocampo (also chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines) , an epilogue from National Archives director Ino Manalo and the cover art by Juan Luna. 
 
Rizal’s writing process
 
“We are trying to show how Rizal made corrections and the history of the writing of the text. We found this out using the manuscript, and we annotated what Rizal changed,” explained Donoso.
 
According to him, Rizal went through three “stages” when he wrote and eventually, published the Noli. First, Rizal made changes while he was writing the novel. Afterward, Rizal made general revisions that he made using black and blue ink.
 
Finally, Rizal made final changes to the Berlin edition that aren’t in the manuscript.
 
The goal of the critical edition, Donoso said, was to come up with a version that better explained the original documents of Rizal. “This is important to establish and to fix the original sources of Philippine history and literature,” he said.
 
Donoso is also working on translations of the El Filibusterismo, Rizal’s short stories, and his uncompleted novels. The critical edition of the El Filibusterismo is due to be released in five to six months, he said.
 
Knowing the past, facing the future
 
Filipino literature legend and National Artist F. Sionil Jose, who also attended the Tuesday launch, explained the value of literature in any society.
 
“Literature is history that is lived and the writers and the artists create this identity which is the basic foundation of any nation,” he told GMA News Online.
 
While the book currently retails at P1,600 for the hardbound edition and P900 for the e-book version, Donoso said he hopes it would one day become available in paperback to make it more affordable and accessible to the masses.
 
“This is a book that the country needs. It’s something that needs to be available in local bookstores,” he added.
 
Donoso said that the lack of accessibility to the original version of the Noli was a handicap to the Filipino, since it prevented readers from understanding the original meaning of the text.
 
“What kind of country do you want? In order to know the future you have, you have to know your past,” Donoso said. –KG/TJD, GMA News
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