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Ilustrado: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Miguel Syjuco
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $7.59
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Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

Garnering international prizes and acclaim before its publication, Ilustrado has been called “brilliantly conceived and stylishly executed . . .It is also ceaselessly entertaining, frequently raunchy, and effervescent with humor” (2008 Man Asian Literary Prize panel of judges).

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. Gone, too, is the only manuscript of his final book, a work meant to rescue him from obscurity by exposing the crimes of the Filipino ruling families. Miguel, his student and only remaining friend, sets out for Manila to investigate.

To understand the death, Miguel scours the life, piecing together Salvador’s story through his poetry, interviews, novels, polemics, and memoirs. The result is a rich and dramatic family saga of four generations, tracing 150 years of Philippine history forged under the Spanish, the Americans, and the Filipinos themselves. Finally, we are surprised to learn that this story belongs to young Miguel as much as to his lost mentor, and we are treated to an unhindered view of a society caught between reckless decay and hopeful progress.

Exuberant and wise, wildly funny and deeply moving, Ilustrado explores the hidden truths that haunt every family. It is a daring and inventive debut by a new writer of astonishing talent.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Syjuco's novel investigating the mysterious death of a beloved writer is crammed full of quotations, letters, found documents, and all sorts of devices and flotsam that translates better on the page, where it can be read or skimmed, than in audio, where everything must be given equal attention. William Dufris does his best with this material, but he cannot prevent the addenda from bogging down the flow of the narrative. Dufris gamely tries to navigate his way through the thickets of Syjuco's prose, but the constant interruptions and stylistic embroidery does not lend itself to fruitful listening. A Farrar, Straus, and Giroux hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 1).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for Ilustrado

“Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize while still in manuscript form, Ilustrado is a hip and secure first novel about the urgency of art and regret. Confident and quirky, with passages that recall early Phillip Roth and a structure not unlike the best M. Night Shyamalan films, the book actively seeks to provoke its audience with bathroom humor and sexist stabs at superficial melodrama. Such scenes are bookended by passages of profundity that somehow manage to always say something about life as well as literature.” —Roberto Ontiveros, The Dallas Morning News

“Ambitious . . . In a daring literary performance, Syjuco weaves the invented with the factual . . . Ilustrado is being presented as a tracing of 150 years of Philippine history, but it’s considerably more than that . . . Spiced with surprises and leavened with uproariously funny moments, it is punctuated with serious philosophical musings.” —Raymond Bonner, The New York Times Book Review

“A dazzling and virtuosic adventure in reading . . . The narrative is organised with immense confidence and skill . . . 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 . . . There’s a capaciousness that makes the book richly attractive to wander into . . . [This] novel . . . 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 . . . This is a remarkably impressive and utterly persuasive novel. Its author . . . may one day succeed with the Nobel committee.”—Joseph O’Connor, The Guardian

“An exube...

Product Details

  • File Size: 503 KB
  • Print Length: 319 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0330513893
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003H4I436
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,013 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Elbow's Lebensraum. March 27, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I guess this is sort of an epistolary novel, and as I'm already struggling with what to say, I'm also going to go with "hard to describe".

The story begins with the death of a Filipino author (Crispin), and our narrator and pupil of the dead author (Miguel) decides to write his biography. The story is definitely more about Miguel and his journey, and about the Philippines, than about Crispin.

The tale is told in a number of different ways. There's the biography of Crispen, snippets from Crispin's writings and interviews, the narrator's story, narrative about the narrator, but not told by the narrator, and some random blogs and other errata.

For me, the book gets extra points for the way in which it told the story. In many ways, it reminded me of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, where a modern day tale is told, but facts of the history and politics of a country are woven in. In Oscar Wao, the historical bits were told in dull, excruciating detail, in microscopic print, via footnotes. This book definitely approached the history and politics in a more interesting fashion. Even still, at times it got a bit wearying.

For the most part, the writing is stellar. Though I certainly felt that the author suffered a bit from 'new-author-itis' where they want to convey every idea they've ever had in their first novel. We start the book with Crispin's bibliography and that goes on for several uninteresting pages, and there's another point in the book where Miguel is flipping through the television channels and describing what's on every channel. 3 1/2 pages worth.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Humdrum and not up to the marketing April 21, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This novel just doesn't work for me. It is one of those intentionally kaleidoscopic, hypermodern riffs that provides multiple snapshots on an enigmatic figure, in this case a Filipino author/political activist and all-around out of his skull nomad, whose death is equally enigmatic. It is very hard to make such a style build a coherent narrative. It's not enough to be hip in the writing. Here, kaleidoscopic becomes just episodic. The multiple snippets of scenes, voices and settings do not build to anything. At the end of the book, I felt no more connection to the mysterious Salvador Crispin nor to his narrator-disciple who is searching to reconstruct his life than at the start. The scattershot mixing of styles - blog snippets, in-the-narrator's head commentary, reminiscence, history summaries, press clips--are initially intriguing but in the end tiresome.

An attraction for me in trying out this unfamiliar author was that the book was the winner of the Man Asia prize. I assumed that this had a stature comparable with the Booker Prize and that it signaled the recognition of literary achievement. Without in any way wanting to be dismissive of this worthy initiative, it needs to be placed in context. It is a small competition aimed at bringing attention to new Asian writers, ones with promise that may become sustained achievement. It is sponsored by the Man Group plc, a Hong Kong investment management company. It has a limited number of submissions and is very much for the unpublished to get attention in "literary circles" (its specific target). So this is a book by a new young author. That's it. It is very much a nifty first novel and that is reason enough to try it out. There are some good points to raise. The author is smooth with words but words are not enough to compensate for lack of cohesion, thematic structure and characterization. It's OK-ish but not at all a major work.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Literary exhibitionism May 27, 2010
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The book is not that great and neither not that bad
The author is very linguistic and used so many words in this book. That's okay but some are becoming redundant already. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Otakore Literantadodist
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the initial time need to get into the story of stories
I have no doubt why it got Man Asia prize. The only point where it falls little short of expectations is the way in which story ends. But form is awesome, especially those jokes!!
Published 2 months ago by Kiran
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Just not my kind of book. Did not find it funny or interesting or sad. Just not my type-giving it away.
Published 10 months ago by Joan L. Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book for an airport delay
Going nowhere fast this helped more than pass the time by transporting the mind to the places and characters in Illusrado. Changed my flight to there after the first 100 pages.
Published 15 months ago by Bain
5.0 out of 5 stars A courageous first novel
When writer Crispin Salvador's body is found in the Hudson River, his student Miguel goes looking for answers. Read more
Published 20 months ago by G. Dawson
5.0 out of 5 stars challenging, raunchy, musical
the book, at first, seems to lack focus (quoting the other reviewers) owing to the intermingling of other narratives, blogs, excerpts from stories, e-mails, etc. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Erning Isip
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly conceived
I could not (though I really made the effort) force myself to get into this book. The writing style is so pedantic, and so forced, that one cannot get past this blockade. Read more
Published 24 months ago by bigboppar
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I bought it coz i saw the author on Time magazine a couple of times and saw the video of him reading excerpts. Read more
Published on September 2, 2012 by Marianne
3.0 out of 5 stars I had to drag my feet
Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize, Ilustrado talks about the return of Miguel Syjuco, also the authors name, to the Philippines, to find more about the deceased Crispin... Read more
Published on July 22, 2012 by eugene17
2.0 out of 5 stars puzzling
This was a recent winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize. In awarding that prize, the judges called this novel "brilliantly conceived, and stylishly executed." Stylishly executed? Read more
Published on May 14, 2012 by Donald E. Gilliland
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More About the Author

Miguel Syjuco received the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize and the Philippines' highest literary honor, the Palanca Award, for the unpublished manuscript of Ilustrado. Born and raised in Manila, he currently lives in Montreal.


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