In the years since its original publication, But for the Lovers has acquired an underground reputation as one of the most remarkable novels about World War II, doing for the Pacific war theater what Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 did for the European one. Set in the Philippines, But for the Lovers depicts the survival of a cross-section of Filipinos during the Japanese Occupation and the American Liberation.
The cast is enormous, including an old man who used to wander the countryside entertaining children, a young girl raped by Japanese soldiers, guerrilla messengers bringing word of the coming of the American army, and a Japanese major who views the war as the first step of the liberation of the Asian people from Western civilization.
This extraordinary novel is no less remarkable for the power and the beauty of its language than for the exotic and magical world it creates. Ranging from hallucinatory lyricism to documentary realism, from black humor sketches to scenes of horror and degradation, But for the Lovers is a rich and complex exploration of language, history, and mythology.
The hardcover edition (Dutton, 1970) was praised by the New York Times Book Review as “stunning.” This is the first paperback edition, for which novelist Robert Coover has written an appreciative foreword.