Ilustrado, By Miguel Syjuco
Stylish mystery, played out in pieces
Sunday 29 May 2011
Miguel Syjuco's first novel, winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2008, is an astonishingly ambitious work full of avant-garde twists and metafictional turns.
The plot, such as it is, runs something like this: when his literary mentor and compatriot, the exiled novelist Crispin Salvador, is found floating face down in the Hudson River, a young Filipino writer resolves to discover the truth behind the great man's death. He leaves his New York home and returns to Manila to search for a missing manuscript that he hopes will illuminate the case. But the narrative is splintered and inchoate – in an aside, Syjuco describes his work as "shattered ... a broken mirror" – and it is up to the reader to assemble the fragments. We are presented with a bricolage of passages from Salvador's writings, texts and blogs from political commentators, and a picaresque tale of the protagonist's wanderings.
It is a compelling performance and with its juxtaposition of sources and vertiginous shifts in perspective, one feels Ilustrado is attuned to the internet age; the kind of book Jorge Luis Borges might have written if he'd lived long enough to Google himself.
There are flaws: Syjuco's running conceit that truth is merely a matter of perspective means his commentary on Filipino politics lacks authority, and his tendency to change tack weakens the book's dramatic force. Nevertheless, this uncommonly stylish and audacious debut deserves its accolades.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 3 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 4 James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
- 5 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts