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Ilustrado Hardcover – 4 Jun 2010

3.3 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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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: 15.8 x 2.9 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,073,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'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'
--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

Winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize, Ilustrado is a critically acclaimed International Bestseller --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on 26 May 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
From an outline description, there's a story here - the murder or suicide of a once famous Philippine writer, Crispin Salvador, found dead, floating in the Hudson River, murdered or perhaps a suicide. His final novel, one that he has been working on for twenty years, an exposé that is going to blow apart the whole corrupt system in his home country in literary and critical circles as much as political ones, has disappeared. His closest friend, the author Miguel Syjuco, is given access to his notes and documents of this fictional writer, attempts to build up a picture of the brilliant and controversial writer but in the process of interviewing friends and colleagues for a biography of Salvador, Miguel discovers that he never really knew him.

That's the premise in outline anyway. What else there is of this book is somewhat random and smothered in words and irrelevancies. Short biographical incidents are related of the fictional author's life, illustrated but not illuminated, by seemingly random paragraphs from his fictional works, imaginary interviews, stories related to his brilliance, his notoriety and his exile. Between this and the author's singularly uninteresting reminiscences on his own bourgeois US émigré background, his journey back to the Philippines, dropping in the odd blog posting and running joke along the way, there is of course an attempt to consider in a very post-modern way modern notions of the role of the author, of fiction, of nationality, one's background and the influences of place of birth and family that make a writer singular and potentially a revolutionary.

All of this is all so very literate and clever, and all of it so much deeply tedious rambling.
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