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Literature / Dead Stars

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A 1925 short story by Filipina author Paz Marquez Benitez, and one of the first of that country to be written in English. (As a recently acquired U.S. colony—previously of Spain—literature was just transitioning into English from Spanish then.)

Mainly deals with a lawyer in his late youth named Alfredo Salazar, who—even as he's engaged to a woman named Esperanza—meets a new, more vivacious girl named Julia Salas, who triggers all sorts of strange feelings in him that conflict with whom he's supposed to love.

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The full story can be read here.


"Dead Stars" features the following tropes:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Alfredo falls victim to this when he first thought Julia Salas was Judge del Valle's sister and thus kept calling her "Miss del Valle" upon their first meeting. She relates well to this because she once kept calling a young man "Manalo" until he managed to correct her that his surname was really Manalang.
  • Absent-Minded Professor: A judge in this case. Judge del Valle often goes out with mismatched socks or forgets his collar—in this era, detachable shirt collars were still common.
  • Betty and Veronica: Respectively, Esperanza and Julia Salas. Alfredo is obviously the Archie.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: It's the colonial-era Philippines and the Spaniards have been out less than a generation, so of course—Alfredo encounters Julia Salas during Holy Week (which gives his family an excuse to go down to the provinces), and there's a fiesta and procession dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, with all the Baroque ceremony that implies.
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  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: Set (presumably) in The Roaring '20s, smack in the middle of American colonial rule proper, between the misery of the Philippine-American War and the horrors of World War II.
  • The Judge: Dionisio del Valle, Julia Salas' brother-in-law.
  • Latin Land: Hot tropical summers, very Hispanic character names, families with aristocratic demeanours, a Spicy Latina-of-Asia (if a mild one) in the persona of Julia Salas, Gratuitous Spanish greetingsnote , Catholic holidays and fiestas … what do you expect, it's less than three decades removed from Spanish rule, which ceased in 1898. To quote Julia, there aren't even any Americans around their provincial summer home.
  • Name's the Same: Narrowly averted; also mitigated by the examples being of different genders—Don Julian Salazar (Alfredo's father), and Julia Salas.
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  • Purple Prose
  • Spicy Latina: Julia Salas. It's never specified what actual ethnicity/ies she is—she could be mostly if not all native-Filipino, or she could have quite some Spanish blood (or even Chinese, considering the upper-classes were statistically likelier to have Chinese heritage than Hispanic per se)—but in a heavily Latin culture, even if on the "wrong" side of the world, she certainly comes across as vivacious and passionate compared to Esperanza.
  • The Stoic: Alfredo Salazar isn't terribly openly emotional, the opposite of hot-blooded.
  • Time Skip: Several years pass through the story; in part 3, Alfredo appears to have been married to Esperanza for some years now (when the first two parts deal with the approaching wedding), and time has wrought a few changes on Julia Salas when next he sees her.
  • Title Drop:
    "So all these years—since when?—he had been seeing the light of dead stars, long extinguished, yet seemingly still in their appointed places in the heavens."

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