Saturday, May 29, 2010

Screwing Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado

"... with literature, at least we can create, revise. Try better next time. If we fail, we only screw ourselves." Miguel Syjuco, Illustrado

So I bought this book after I'd read about it in Time.

Prior to that, I made a search in the Internet trying to find what readers said about Miguel Syjuco's Ilustrado, if it's any good, if I'll not be wasting money and time reading it.

I found almost nothing except that it won an award or something, which was already mentioned in Time (Thus this blog for anyone who seek for information about a novel written by a Filipino author). I bought the book anyway.

After work in the office, I went straight to Powerbooks in SM. The book cost me P282. The back cover says it's P385 for Philippine edition. I don't know what that means. I'm just thankful they sell it P103 less.

The Time article says something about the expatriate author, Miguel Syjuco, trying to portray a life of a modern-day Ilustrado, and his first novel of the same title is all about that, showing us, pinoy readers most especially, what it is like to be one.

I fixed a cup of 2-peso coffee without sugar, settled in my little nook, and read the prologue (pshit I hate prologues, why don't authors just go straight to the fricking story?), hit the first, second and a bit of the third chapter. Apparently, this is not my type of book and started not to like the author, yes, I now hate you Miguel Syjuco for making me read your hateful prologue.

Hemingway said something about books that are great to read after work. Ilustrado is not one of those books.

The novel opens with the death of Crispin Salvador, an imaginary Filipino literary heavyweight, whose anticipated book The Bridges Ablaze is supposedly somewhere. But where? That's the question that serves as a catalyst of the story.

The main character, Miguel Syjuco, yes, same name with the author, can’t reconcile to the idea that his friend and mentor committed suicide by jumping off the Hudson River. And he can't find the manuscript, too.

He investigates the past of his mentor leading to his tragic death, which brings him back to the Philippines, “my first country, my Third World”, and to a labyrinth of literary and personal complexities that is the life of Crispin Salvador.

I was several times tempted to just put down the book, filed it with the other books that I’d put down halfway in my reading. But I promise to deliver a review of some sort about a latest published novel written by a Filipino. And the author had been featured in Time Magazine, and I’ve great respect for Time Magazine. And now I hate Time too.

But I did find it taxing to finish the book. And Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer and American Idol were not too helpful to make me pick up Ilustrado again.

The book contains cliches and corny jokes that got on my nerves. I thought I'll puke if I continue and read another one of those cliches and corny jokes. So I pick a book by Henry Miller to calm down my upset stomach.

I said terrible terrible things about this book because I am an evil reader. Imagine me not happy in my little nook thinking of those hours (and money) wasted. Also I need a good drink.


  1. What about it did you specifically not like?

  2. There are some bits in the novel I like actually. But his staggering fragmented style of storytelling plus the fonts just put me off, plus the cliches and predictable and corny jokes..., cripes! Have you read it?

  3. Hi there! Different strokes for different folks, I guess -- I loved Ilustrado :) I've added you to my blogroll.

  4. Appreciate it a lot Blooey. Maybe I should give Ilustrado a second try.