Assertions of Truth Through Modes of Fact and Fiction: Texts and Paratexts and the “Autobiographical Pact” in Lualhati Abreu’s Agaw-dilim, Agaw-liwanag and Mila Aguilar’s The Nine Deaths of M

Mary Grace R Concepcion



Autobiographical narratives may resemble fictional narratives in textual form. Yet, autobiography differentiates itself from other literary genres through its truth-telling function. Autobiographies may be controversial as they expose contested historical events and reveal the private life of the author, who is established as the narrator. This paper examines the assertions of truth through modes of fact and fiction in Lualhati M. Abreu’s Agaw-dilim, Agaw-liwanag (2009) and Mila D. Aguilar’s The Nine Deaths of M (2013). They address sensitive events within the Philippine Left. Abreu recounts her own torture during the communist killings in Southern Tagalog under the Oplan Missing Link. A top Party officer, Aguilar airs her misgivings of the movement as she underwent a Christian conversion. Through interviews with the author, I aim to get closer to their ideas of autobiography and why they choose to write a certain genre: Abreu’s testimonial is written as creative nonfiction, while Aguilar labels her confessional an autobiographical novel. Because of her unconventional stand of affirming the revolution, Abreu’s narrative must routethe sympathy of the readers to accept her testimonial. The paratexts of comrades establish the credibility of her account by establishing their personal ties. On the other hand, Aguilar’s autobiographical novel grants her literary license and deliberate questioning of fact and fiction. Yet, naming her characters with actual people suggests the truthfulness of her narrative. The choice of genre affects the ways the authors would reveal inside information on the underground movement: either by asserting the legitimacy of the narrative in the testimonial, or by obscuring the relationship of fact and fiction in the autobiographical novel in order to write more freely.


autobiographical novel, Lualhati Abreu, Mila Aguilar, Philippine autobiographical writing, testimonial narratives

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Kritika Kultura
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Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)