countdown boutiques-francophones Learn more vpcflyout home All-New Kindle Music Deals Store sports Tools Registry

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Format: Hardcover|Change
Price:$34.00+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on May 8, 2010
I''ve waited a long time to get my hands on Ilustrado after learning it won both the Man Asian Prize for Literature and the Philippines' Palanca award in 2008 . When I finally got it, after prying a copy from a local bookseller before its official release date, I could not put it down.

The story revolves around two characters: Crispin Salvador, a giant in Philippine literature, and Miguel, his young student. Syjuco weaves many themes in Ilustrado. The lives of Crispin and Miguel are set in the context of a multi-generational Filipino gothic tale of family, country, politics, corruption, crime, literary intrigue, love and post-colonial identity. Syjuco carries the voice of the Filipino expatriate with deep insight and wit. (Disclosure: I am a Filipina expatriate and, while I was born and raised there, I''ve lived in Canada longer than any other place.) Through Miguel''s youthful ramblings and Crispin''s erudite pronouncements, one gets a sense of their brooding and conflicted thoughts about life, alternating between the country and families they have left, and their temporary present lives. And, as if to remind us that Filipinos are not all angst, he provides glimpses of the humour, shallowness and the smut that are equally a part of this culture.

But that''s not all. In the end, it' is Syjuco''s writing that got me. After finishing the book, I went back and re-read passages just to savor the beauty and strength of his prose. From the descriptions of his fellow Filipinos - "'the splay-toed, open-hearted'", "'slope-shouldered we are, freighted by absence" - t''o the natural and rhythmic dialogue he captures between Miguel and his Manila friends to display their hip but feckless lives, to the profound literary musings of Crispin, Syjuco delivers with style.

Ilustrado is a demanding read for a number of reasons. John Barber of the Globe and Mail describes the book''s structure as a shattered mirror. The shards of glass represented by the various viewpoints in the book - the young Miguel, Crispin, through various excerpts of his writing, news clippings, and interviews, a narrator who pops up here and there, the fragments of text messages and jokes that provide cultural context - leave you with many impressions, not all contemporaneous or related. This might bother some readers looking for linear plot lines but it is truly an elegant and effective way of presenting the intertwined layers of Ilustrado. Syjuco sometimes lets big words invade his writing, rather like an angler being pulled by a big fish, but he quickly finds his way back to clear and flowing prose. As in any book whose context is culture-specific, the references to things Philippine may perplex or elude the reader. If so, I recommend finding a Filipino friend who will explain to you what a dwende is, what the traffic in Manila really feels like, or why Filipinos are particularly skilled in the silly alpha-numeric language of text-messaging.

There are lots of reasons to read this book. If you' are a Filipino expatriate, or an expatriate of any nationality, dive into Syjuco''s world and listen to the echo of your own thoughts about country, identity, why you left and why you live where you are. If exploring other cultures through literature is your thing, learn about Filipino culture beyond the tired clichés assigned to it and look into its modern kaleidoscopic personality. If you enjoy authors whose use of language is infused with the sounds, structures and nuances of their global settings, get to know this superb young multicultural writer. I cannot wait for his second book.
0Comment| 8 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 2, 2010
Unfortunately this first novel did not work at all for me. I made it through the first third, and I even did a bit of research on Filipino history to see if it wouldn't help, but it was hopeless. I have to say I did not expect such a highbrow, postmodern, fragmented, and ultimately pretentious book. It felt to me the author was trying too hard to be clever with the form and ended up neglecting very basic aspects of story-telling like dramatic structure, narrative structure, and pace.

As a result, I was over one third of the way in the novel and did not care one iota for any of the characters, nor was I curious about the so-called "literary mystery." The only thing that could've kept me going was if I really cared about the setting: Filipino history and culture. And I didn't. As for the form--a blend of newspaper clippings, excerpts from novels, blog posts, interviews, and straightforward narrative--it is interesting enough at first, but once you realize it completely stifles any kind of progress in the novel, it quickly becomes an annoyance. At some point I thought I could just read diagonally through half of these fragments and not miss any important element of the plot.

In the end I'd say it might be a good read for people who are very interested in Filipino history and culture, and are very patient with how that history and culture is delivered.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 19, 2010
Quite simply, this is one of the best books of the decade!

Already, Syjuco has been compared to writers like Salman Rushdie & David Mitchell and it is easy to see why; he challenges our concept of what a novel can be. As another review has stated, this is a difficult book to review. Using disparate sources (jokes, traditional linear narratives, interviews, diary entries and book excerpts), Syjuco fashions a tale of a young writer's search to find the missing manuscript of his mentor and friend, Crispin Salvador, and to uncover the truth behind the death of the Philippines' greatest writer. Along the way, we learn much about our protagonist (Miguel Syjuco), his mentor (Salvador) and the tumultuous history of the Philippines.

This is not a quick (or easy) read, but the rewards are well worth the investment. Like all great books, Ilustrado asks as many questions as it answers, and it leaves you wanting/needing to reread it immediately. Luckily, thanks to Syjuco's beautiful prose, that is sheer pleasure!
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 27, 2012
Miguel Syjuco's novel is large, ambitious and very postmodern. I bought the audiobook and was disappointed in the actor who read the novel (and the producer) who didn't even bother to figure out what a Filipino accent should sound like. Place names and Filipino words were badly mangled and made me cringe.
There should have been a Filipino consultant to this audio production!
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
At the Ottawa launch of this, his first novel, Miguel Syjuco invited the audience to join him on a journey of discovery. ILUSTRADO *)is indeed a multi-layered meandering journey that, while exploring the complex life of one writer, delves deep into the mind and life of another, their common culture and the history of their conflicted country, the Philippines. The novel, however, should not be understood as confined to these somewhat localized themes. Syjuco explores in often humorous and satirical language the idiosyncrasies of today's societies that see the younger generations set against the older, where traditions are easily thrown overboard and where communication is no longer straight forward, informative or honest. And where, on the broader political platform, evolving post-colonial struggling democracies are torn between imitation of the ways of the western superpowers and the need to find radical new ways for their own identity and development.

The novel starts simply enough: the body of Crispin Salvador, a well-known Filipino writer, now living in exile in New York, is floating in the Hudson river. Suicide our foul play, that is only one of the questions that preoccupy the victim's young follower and friend, Miguel Syjuco, himself an aspiring Filipino writer living in exile. Why the possibility of foul play? Crispin's manuscript of a novel that "will reveal all" has gone missing... to find the answer to the mystery of Salvador's death and to write a definite biography of his mentor and idol, the young Miguel sets out on a travel of discovery back in Manila.

Constantly blurring the lines between reality and creatively imagined fiction, we, as the readers, must wonder what is "real": where is the fine line between literally described facts and deeper truth, even if fictionalized. Furthermore, Syjuco challenges us by applying any number of narrative streams that complement Miguel's first person account: ranging from tweets, emails and phone transcripts to excerpt from Crispin Salvador's novels, short stories, interviews and, last but not least, Miguel's own biographical research into the life of his mentor. Not satisfied with one narrator, Syjuco resorts to several others, especially one who appears to be observing the primary narrator...

If this sounds confusing, yes, at the beginning it may well be until we can distinguish the different threads - often made easier by the use of different typefaces - that are developed to form the whole portrait(s). "Don't make things new, make them whole..." the older writer advises the younger. In the Prologue, Miguel (the narrator) puts the reader on notice: " The facts, shattered, are gathered, for your deliberation, like a broken mirror whose final piece has been forced into place." Advice that should not be forgotten as we follow the meandering flows as well as the storm surges in this novel. At times, ILUSTRADO resembles a multidimensional jigsaw puzzle as it moves without warning through timelines and real (in the novel) and fictitious characters emerging from the quoted story excerpts. Did Crispin Salvador exist in real life? Is Miguel a portrait of Miguel Syjuco, the author? It is up to the reader to discover... It is a game that Syjuco evidently enjoys to play with any reader willing to join this journey. The end of the novel is as surprising as it is effective... it made me, for one, rethink some of my assumptions and see the novel in a different, more convincing, light.

The publication in 2010 of ILUSTRADO, which went through a more than ten-year gestation period, is the result of a personal roller-coaster journey of the young Filipino-Canadian author, in itself worth fictional treatment. In 2008 Syjuco won the prestigious Man Asian Literary Prize with the manuscript(!) of the novel. While one can pick on weaknesses in style and criticize a possible overuse of gimmicks and pastiche jokes, ILUSTRADO is a major achievement in opening new ways in the realization of a contemporary novel that is entertaining while at the same time provocative in raising fundamental issues and concerns. Syjuco aims to be recognized (as does his protagonist) as an "international writer who happens to be of Filipino descent". He has made great strides in reaching his goal. [Friederike Knabe]

*) " The term "ilustrado", Syjuco explains in an interview, "refers to a group of young Filipinos in the late 1800s who left their country and studied abroad, leaning all they could to later return to the Philippines and contribute to our revolution against the Spanish colonisers."
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on June 1, 2010
This is a uniquely written tale by Miguel Syjuco about a search for details into his mentor's life after a gruesome death that becomes a journey into his own life. Interspersed in the narrative are bits and pieces of his mentor's works (novels, essays, etc.) that highlight the things that are happening during his own quest. Full of information about the Philippines and the people who leave to make their lives elsewhere, I found this book insightful and seemingly personal for the author. As a reader, you are left wondering whether this is a biography or an imagining of the author (in fact, I had to Wikipedia it to make sure!) and it makes the story all the more intense. Well done, Mr. Syjuco.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Need customer service? Click here