'a real revelation.'
'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.'
'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'
'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.'
'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.'
'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
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 mentors death, Miguel scours the life, charting Salvadors 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 peoples 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 Syjucos 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 ownone 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