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Ilustrado [Hardcover]

Miguel Syjuco
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
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Book Description

4 Jun 2010
Winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (4 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330510002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330510004
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 83,105 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'a real revelation.'
--Independent

'Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Prize before it was even published, this dizzying and ambitious novel marks an auspicious start to Syjuco's career. The apparent suicide of famous, down-on-his-luck Filipino author Crispin Salvador sends narrator Miguel Syjuco home to the Philippines to come to terms with the death of his literary mentor, research a biography he plans to write about him, and find the author's lost manuscript. With flair and grace, Syjuco makes this premise bear much weight...Though murky at times, this imaginative first novel shows considerable ingenuity in binding its divergent threads into a satisfying, meaningful story.' --Publishers Weekly

'From the ruckus of rumors, blogs, ambitions, overweaning grandparents, indifferent History, and personal crimes, Miguel Syjuco has innovatively re-imagined that most wonderfully old-fashioned consolation: literature. Ilustrado is a great novel.' --Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances.

`Ilustrado is a fantastic literary mystery that draws from the politics and poetics of Manila. It's written in a smart pastiche of fictional newspaper clippings, interviews and novel excerpts, and in the captivating voice of Miguel, a young writer who, far from Manila in his new Manhattan home, wants to piece together this puzzle of his hero's death. Ilustrado is global in all aspects of the story, and frank and unpretentious in every right-on detail. With originality and insight, Syjuco writes of romance and ambition between grad students and lit stars who connive to form a literary island of their own--one that threatens to distract and estrange Miguel from a deeper responsibility to his literary father and their shared past.' --Lee Henderson, author of The Man Game

`Vulnerable and mischievous, sophisticated and naïve, Ilustrado explores the paradoxes that come with the search for identity and throws readers into the fragile space between self-pursuit and self-destruction. A novel about country and self, youth and experience, it is elegiac, thoughtful and original.'
--Colin McAdam, author of Fall and Some Great Thing

`This is an author who is exhilarated by the creative process and provoked by rage at injustice, corruption and hypocrisy . . . The novel fizzes with his expertise in language . . . In Ilustrado, Syjuco uses the potency of words to illuminate the reality of the world that both inspires and disappoints him. His novel, written from the heart, will excited and delight you.'
--WBQ

'A dazzling and virtuosic adventure in reading... The narrative is organised with immense confidence and skill... The book soon becomes a kind of meditation on the possibilities of fiction. Frequently terrifying words, some readers will feel; but the author's post-modernist bag of tricks also contains a whip-crack narrative skill that's as reminiscent of Dickens as it is of Roberto Bolaño... It fizzes with the effervescence a large book can have when its author is in total control of the material. This isn't a story; it's the unfolding of an entire world, a mirror-land that seems familiar but is always ineffably strange. Syjuco is a writer already touched by greatness, but his truly uncommon gifts delight all the more when they are permitted to emerge subtly, without overture. This is a remarkably impressive and utterly persuasive novel. Its author, unlike Crispin, may one day succeed with the Nobel committee.' --Guardian

'writing that bristles with surprising imagery... An unruly and energising novel, filled with symmetries and echoes that only become apparent in its closing pages, Ilustrado pushes readers into considering matters of authenticity, identity and belonging. Despite its various comic turns, it is ultimately a tragedy - a raw reminder of the fact that we can never, really, find our way back home.' --Financial Times

'This is a big, bold, cunning, impassioned, plangent and very funny book.' --Sunday and the Scotsman

'Ilustrado is built like a carousel, revolving between first- and third-person commentary, news reports, interviews, extracts from Salvador's work and a Crispin Salvador biography the narrator is writing. Nonetheless it is all held tightly together, focused on the returning son's difficulties with his family and his efforts to acclimatize. Manila is conjured as a dystopian black hole. Civil unrest crackles at the edge of the narrator's vision as he explores the metropolis, reaching critical mass when a typhoon hits the city near the novel's climax.' --Times Literary Supplement

'Bristling with comic verve, metafictional playfulness, and an undertone of expatriate nostalgia that belies Syjuco's age (he's all of 33), Ilustrado is an impressive, vibrant mix of Borgesian literary labyrinth and acerbic émigré comedy.' --Sunday Times

'In less capable hands, self-referential, multi-layered narratives can irritate and distract, but Syjuco proves their worth with a finale that transmutes the novel's many strands into a magical, dreamlike whole. Fusing a cynical sense of humour with an original take on the universal struggle for salvation, he vindicates the idea that individuals and nations alike can, whatever their faults, become once again illustrious.' --Time Out

'For many, the Philippines and its pulsing energies remain a blank space on the map. No longer, after this seethingly ambitious debut. The death of a literary mentor in New York and a lost manuscript thrust its narrator into a phantasmagoric Manila, a city of clashing media and languages as well as a corrupt, cornucopian tropical metropolis. US critics have cited 'Bolano' as an obvious comparison; others may think of 'Midnight's Children'-era Rushdie.' --The Independent

'This dizzying mix of fictions and fact, salted with Syjuco's seductive descrpitive skills, pulls in many directions. But it pays dividends for those with patience.' --Metro

'émigré comedy, set in the Philippines, that's bristling with comic verve'
--Sunday Times

'At one point Syjuco describes the white sky over Manila bay as a blank page waiting for its first mark - but anyone who reads Ilustrado is likely to feel that the skyline has been richly inscribed and illuminated.' --Observer

'A forceful debut by Filipino novelist Syjuco...A humourous denunciation of his country's vacuous literary elites, it is also a bittersweet reflection on diasporas and uprootedness.'
--Financial Times

'Ilustrado is a daring, challenging novel, not in the sense of it being unreadably difficult but because it keeps the reader in a continuing state of unbalance. By a multiplicity of forms and beautiful writing, it portrays the bitter after-taste, depravity, abuse, identity-theft, hopeless - and hopeful - legacies of post-colonialism...This award-winning novel needs, and deserves to be read more than once.'
--Morning Star

'Miguel Syjuco's first novel, Illustrado, is a virtuosic adventure in reading. The narrative is organised with immense confidence and daring, but Syjuco's postmodernist bag of tricks also contains a whip-crack storytelling skill that's as reminiscent of Dickens as it is of Roberto Bolaño. It's a remarkably impressive and persuasive novel that fizzes with the effervescence a large book can have when its author is in total control of the material.' --Joseph O'Connor, Irish Times

Book Description

It begins with a body. On a clear day in winter, the battered corpse of Crispin Salvador is pulled from the Hudson River – taken from the world is the controversial lion of Philippine literature. Missing, too, is the only manuscript of his final book – meant to rescue him from obscurity by exposing the corrupt roots of power behind the Filipino ruling families. His student, Miguel, investigates, journeying home from a city still in shock from terrorist attacks to a country caught between reckless decay and desperate progress. To understand his mentor’s death, Miguel scours the life, charting Salvador’s trajectory via his poetry, stories, interviews, novels, and memoirs. The literary fragments become patterns become stories become epic: a generations-long saga of revolution, familial duty, political intrigue, and a people’s enduring struggle against their own worst tendencies. This is a clever, bravura, and exuberant debut novel from a new literary sensation. ‘Brilliantly conceived, and stylishly executed, [Ilustrado] covers a large and tumultuous historical period with seemingly effortless skill. It is also ceaselessly entertaining, frequently raunchy, and effervescent with humour’ Judges of the Man Asian Literary Prize ‘Miguel Syjuco’s dizzyingly energetic and inventive novel views his native Philippines with a merciless yet loving eye, its chorus of voices illuminating the many facets of this chaotic, complicated country. An ambitious and admirable debut.’ Janice Y. K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher ‘Vulnerable and mischievous, sophisticated and naïve, Ilustrado explores the paradoxes that come with the search for identity and throws readers into the fragile space between self-pursuit and self-destruction. A novel about country and self, youth and experience, it is elegiac, thoughtful and original’ Colin McAdam, author of Fall and Some Great Thing ‘From the ruckus of rumors, blogs, ambitions, overweening grandparents, indifferent History, and personal crimes, Miguel Syjuco has innovatively re-imagined that most wonderfully old-fashioned consolation: literature. Ilustrado is a great novel’ Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances ‘A fantastic literary mystery that draws from the politics and poetics of Manila . . . Ilustrado is global in all aspects of the story, and frank and unpretentious in every right-on detail. With originality and insight, Syjuco writes of romance and ambition between grad students and lit stars who connive to form a literary island of their own—one that threatens to distract and estrange Miguel from a deeper responsibility to his literary father and their shared past.’ Lee Henderson, Author of The Man Game ‘Ilustrado now suddenly reminds some of . . . the best of Roberto Bolaño; and many readers will soon be able to marvel, as I did, at the richness and depth of human experience it reveals’ Pankaj Mishra, Guardian ‘Through virtuoso use of language and a dazzling array of fictional techniques, it achieves all of its lofty objectives . . . It deserves all the accolades it has won. It is among the finest novels written by a Filipino. Perhaps, even, by any writer’ Antonio A. Hidalgo, chairman of judges of the 2008 Palanca Award for the Novel

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By PB TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The first few chapters of Ilustrado promise so much. Syjuco writes with panache, verve, a wry sense of humour and brilliant skill. Not long into the book, I was starting to see parallels between Syjuco's writing and that of Salman Rushdie - an author who I regard as the best of his generation. However, I eventually struggled to complete the book, with the final hundred or so pages requiring a strength of will I should not have had to extend.

However, the positives first: Ilustrado is a book about the power of literature. Syjuco is a man of words; he understands their importance. He draws lines between inspiring literature and inspired actions. The book is at its heart, a love for language and the written word in particular. I sympathise with that. And all of my issues with the book aside, Syjuco is a hugely talented writer with great mastery of prose construction.

And now the negatives: the framework for Ilustrado is the personal mission of a young writer to uncover a final, unpublished masterpiece by his recently deceased mentor. The plot revolves around the protagonist's search for this manuscript and his return to the land of his birth, the Philippines.

Syjuco writes about the political history of the Philippines and I admit that I knew very little about this nation other than the horribly corrupt Marcos regime and my personal experience of meeting Filipinos - some of the nicest, happiest people around. If only Syjuco wrote about the Philippines with the same love he shows for literature. The author betrays little respect towards his people and the main protagonist is no more than a Poor Little Rich Boy. Such a character is hard to like, even in the classic Catcher in the Rye.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unenlightening 19 Oct 2010
By Donald Thompson VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a book which generated some lengthy internet debates and discussions. Having read it, I am wondering why, the story rambles, and style changes are abrupt and unsettling. Ostensibly the attempt of an ex-patriot Fillipno to make sense of the life of the countries greatest living writer it takes on a rambling ride from New York to Manilla and the surrounding countryside. The characters we meet along the way are, almost without relief, thoroughly unpleasant, or unbelieveable. In the end what we thought we were reading is not what it seemed at all. Another confusing level which will only alienate and annoy the casual reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Mark Meynell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a book on a huge scale - about people in a part of the world that I knew precious little about. To that extent it is a fascinating. Delving into the lives of several generations of Filipinos, focused on the life and family of a famed writer Crispin Salvador found dead in New York's Hudson River.

It is however frustrating to read at times - an episodic, scrapbook approach to novel-writing - and while the genre has an appropriateness to the subject matter (and protagonist's quest), it doesn't necessarily relate to a satisfying read. So it is perhaps not going to appeal to the casual reader, but will provide remarkable insight for those seeking to understand the culture and history of a world on the other side of the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling, but with nothing really to say 27 July 2011
By C. Moorby VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Anyone that picks up this book will be unable to deny that the writer is clearly exceptionally talented. The literary aspects of the book are stunning; the devices the author uses and the language selected are extremely mature, but not suitable for anyone wanting a bit of light reading! The story combines all forms of literature to tell the story of a deceased writer and his enigmatic final manuscript, all told from the perspective of the writer's young student.

In terms of readability, the book is like wading through treacle. It is almost like someone has opened a thesaurus and is picking words at random. It takes an immense amount of willpower to continue reading and not put the book down immediately, and the more you progress through the book, the more you realise it doesn't really have much substance to it and appears to be more concerned with showing off how many big and clever-sounding words the author knows!

The academic style of the writing, combined with the ramshackle plot, makes it difficult to read and keep up with, and the impressive parts of the book do not make up for the lack of coherence overall.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kaleidoscopic - but maybe tries too hard 25 May 2010
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
When the dead body of Filipino writer Crispin Salvador is found floating in the Hudson River, apparently having committed suicide, his student and fellow Filipino, Miguel is suspicious that darker forces may have been behind his death, particularly when there is no sign of Salvador's latest manuscript that threatens to dish the dirt on the sleaze and corruption of the rich and powerful in his native Philippines. In order to investigate further, Miguel decides to write a biography of his teacher and mentor. That's the premise of this book, but it tells you almost nothing about the experience of reading it. This is no straightforward narrative of a regular crime fiction. It's a kaleidoscope of sometimes apparently disjointed writing that gradually comes together to create a story that only starts to come into focus about half way through, but it's not until the final pages where the true picture is brilliantly revealed.

This is not a book to dip into casually before you drop off to sleep at night. Quite simply, if you try to, you won't have the foggiest idea what's going on. The story is told in a wide variety of short `voices'. There is the narrator's story, extracts from his biography of Salvador, extracts of Salvador's writings, blogs by a Filipino literary critic, a series of Filipino jokes, extracts from an interview with Salvador and, most confusing of all, meta-narrative that comments on the narrator's actions. For this reason, it's not the easiest of books to get into and some commitment is demanded of the reader. Persistence is rewarded later on though and it starts to make a lot more sense.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars wierd good!
it took abit of getting into but persist and its really an interesting book I ended up not wanting it to finish!
Published 15 months ago by kindleaddict
2.0 out of 5 stars Quite disappointing
Judge by this: I find it extremely difficult sitting here now to explain what exactly this book is about. A writer has died; his last book in manuscript has disappeared. Read more
Published 22 months ago by emma who reads a lot
3.0 out of 5 stars Just too clever for its own good...
My reaction to this book is very personal, but its the only one I can give!

It is easy to love the writing and be seduced by it - intelligent, fast, witty, etc. Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2011 by stevieby
2.0 out of 5 stars Trying too hard
It sounds interesting - Crispin Salvador, ex-pat writer from the Phillipines, is found dead in the Hudson River. How did he get there? Was he murdered, or did he commit suicide? Read more
Published on 9 Jan 2011 by A. M. Hendry
5.0 out of 5 stars Book - Illustrado
This book was shipped overseas for Christmas so I have not seen it. The Shipment to Canada was excellently executed - thank you
Published on 3 Dec 2010 by Brian
3.0 out of 5 stars A Promise Unfullfilled
The talk surrounding"Illustrado" gives rise to high expectations. Whenever the words "winner of.." appear in the publicity text one instantly has expectations of something a... Read more
Published on 31 Oct 2010 by pjr
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant vignettes!
Sometimes a novel requires too much empathy on the part of the reader. Ilustrado is brilliantly written in parts: hilarious, fantastic wordplay, incredible dexterity. Read more
Published on 16 Oct 2010 by F. R. Lewis
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh, the effort required!
Some books force you to read them don't they? Urging you on to find out what is at the heart of the book. Read more
Published on 6 Oct 2010 by robotfish
3.0 out of 5 stars Philippine patchwork
This story of one man's quest to find a manuscript of a seeming masterpiece after his mentor's mysterious death starts very promising only to devolve into a very uneven account of... Read more
Published on 31 Aug 2010 by Barto
4.0 out of 5 stars Rather challenging read but worthwhile nevertheless
The books title comes from the Ilustrados (Spanish for 'erudite', 'learned', or 'enlightened ones') who collectively constituted the Filipino educated class during the Spanish... Read more
Published on 23 Aug 2010 by Robert O. Davidson
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