Saturday, January 25, 2014

Three of the best books on the Philippines

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka named three of the best books on the Philippines. One title on the list:
Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco

Syjuco's exuberant debut novel begins with the suspicious death in New York's Hudson river of a self-exiled Philippine literary legend, Crispin Salvador. A controversial figure at home, Salvador attracts as many enemies as fans. The manuscript of his final work – an expose of corruption among the Filipino ruling elite, which is also an attempt to settle scores with his critics – has vanished.

His acolyte, Miguel, decides to find out what really happened to his literary mentor and to track down the missing manuscript. The quest takes him back to his home town, Manila – also home to Salvador's greatest triumphs and tragedies.

Syjuco's evocative tale of modern Manila, spiced with philosophical musings and wry humour, leaps around Philippine culture, history and politics. The story is told through a multi-layered and dizzying array of sources: blogs, newspaper cuttings, extracts from Salvador's books, Miguel's own writings, and jokes.

The sprawling structure and style is sometimes overwhelming, but those who persevere will find the trip worthwhile.

Syjuco, born and raised in the Philippines, now lives in Canada. Illustrado won the Man Asian literary prize in 2008 while it was still an unpublished manuscript.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue