cover image Sins


F. Sionil Jose. Random House (NY), $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42018-7

Flamboyantly injecting an aristocratic family chronicle into Philippine history, Jose (Three Filipino Women) brings a novelistic authority to match the worldly authority of his lustful, patrician protagonist. Corrupt and exploitative, Don Carlos Corbello, aka C.C., is a general of international industry, the illustrious son of one of the country's canniest mestizo families, one whose members have a tradition of furthering their ambitions through expedient service to political masters--the Spanish, the Americans, the Japanese and President Marcos. Reviewing his life in a deathbed confession, C.C., in the way of unreliable and morally obtuse narrators, tries to bury a sense of regret under boasts of lineage, power and amorous exploits. ""Sin,"" he says, ""is a social definition, not a moral one."" In his formative youth, Carlos forces himself on a housemaid, Severina, manages his father's wartime bordello for Japanese officers (on whom he spies) and fathers a daughter, Angela, with his sister, Corito (passing on brothel-contracted syphilis to both). In adulthood, he conducts strangely bittersweet romances during his business travels in Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. But when his power seems consolidated under Marcos, he learns that Severina had a son, Delfin, who has arrived in Manila to study law and fight for reform. Avoiding any political resolution, Jose orchestrates a swift climax for Carlos, Delfin, Corito and Angela, as the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons in an ironic twist. (May)