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Professor Quemada's Last Words
Transcript of Professor Quemada's Last Words
Recognition for his work includes:
• New York State Council on the Arts grant for film and media ,
• The Cultural Center of the Philippines Independent Film and Video Awards ,
• The Asian American Literary Award and the Alice James Books New York/New England Selection for Zero Gravity [poems, 2000],
• The New York Foundation for the Arts [fiction, 1998],
• The Philippine Centennial Literary Prize for My Sad Republic [novel, 1998],
• The Philippine National Book Award twice for Planet Waves [novel, 1990] and My Sad Republic ,
• The Asiaweek Short Story Competition .
• And He has also won the Philippines’ top literary prize, the Palanca Memorial Awards, several times for poetry, fiction, non-fiction and playwriting.
The story holds a lot of similarities to the Faustian Bargain with the differences only being the ending and instead of a deal with the devil, it is a deal with an angel of the Lord.
In the story, an Angel of the Lord appears before Professor Quemada to tell him that: “from hereon he could use a word only once, after which he would cease to remember what it meant.
In exchange for this he would write some of the most provocative essays of his time.” when the time came that he had used up all of the words known to man, the angel would return and transport the professor the “realm beyond words”
“Realm beyond Words” in this context could possibly be a reference to a quote by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn meaning a world outside of human understanding; where words were no longer needed to communicate.
It is important to note how the professor willingly accepts the bargain of his life for scholastic immortality and how he views the surrender of his words to be surrender to death: “the professor had always believed that the end of words was the end of life itself.”
Professor Quemada's Last Words
By: Eric Gamalinda
Eric Gamalinda is a Filipino poet, fiction writer and play wright He took undergraduate courses at the UST for three years and the UP for a semester. He was a local fellow for poetry of the UP ICW in 1983.
In 1990, he went to Great Britain to represent the Philippines in the Cambridge International Writers’ Conference and to attend the Hawthornden International Writers’ Retreat in Scotland, 1991. he got a Rockefeller Foundation residency in Bellagio, Italy
He participated in the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Programme for the 21st century. He currently works with the Center for Investigative Journalism.
The story is about Professor Quemada and everything that happened to him after he was given a deal that he can only use a word once and forget the meaning afterward.
Professor Artemio Quemada
– an intelligent old man who became dejected and has lost
his passion because of the death of his wife.
“because ever since his wife died- many cold nights ago, he had lost that aggressiveness mad much of by men in their youth.”
– a kind, young and vibrant college student who became the object of the professor’s desires
“the very presence that made his heart jump as he slipped into the car, the very essence that moved him to veer his eyes slowly, surreptitiously toward her arms as she maneuvered the wheel.”
– a celestial being acting on behalf of the Lord.
“it hovered over him like a perfect hologram, giving the room a faint, moon-like glow.”
The professor makes good use of his gained potential, and eventually achieves fame as writer: “Journals praised him as the rightful heir to Derrida, Foucault, Braudillard, all the droppable names and current darlings of the academe. "
Despite all of these he felt as though something was missing: “... in the vortices of his lungs and the orbits of his intestines was an enormous vacuum. No, not emptiness, not solitude, not loneliness: but silence.”.
The Professor then falls in love with one of his students, whose name he was not sure, and he finds within himself a passion he had not felt since the death of his wife: “he marveled at the renewal of life that she had given him.” (and: “ he stared at the strange, revenant creature under the sheets and in those mornings recalled with sadness and desire the instinctive passions from which he had sublimated all his words, all his fire.”) he attempts to profess his love for her, but she reveals that she has already been married.
The story vividly describes the professor’s sexual frustration in his feelings for her, after being rejected: “But every morning he still had his erections, and they became persistent that on certain days he had to go about his lecture tours with the uncomfortable explosion boiling over his loins.” And: “he pictured her in so many situations, alone in his room, tied up and spread-eagled under him, or curled to tight embrace. Always she would offer him her nipples for him to suckle and the sweet milk of her love would flow in teasing trickles.”
The professor wakes up one day, and realizes that he couldn’t remember his name .The angel then returns. Accepting his fate he goes with the angel, but asks the question: “what was she called?”, because he had not known her name. He is told that her name is Vida, and he repeats it to himself: “he kept saying it over and over like a mantra, and each time the syllables sputtered form his tired lips and fell on the ground and sprouted into small, wild flowers.” The story then ends with the Professor entering the “Realm beyond words”.