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It's about time this book was reprinted. Written by one of the heroes of the Philippine revolution, this book is a semi-autobiographical account of Philippine society during its days as a Spanish colony. "Noli Me Tangere," roughly translated as "Touch Me Not," reflects the hypocrisy and corruption present in that time. Former translations have aptly titled it, "The Social Cancer."
Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, the protagonist, returns to his country after being educated in Madrid, and seeks to marry Maria Clara, a young woman who had been betrothed to him when they were children. He tries to use his education to help the townspeople, but his efforts are thwarted by the clergy. It is these priests who prevent him from learning the true cause of his father's death, and he is eventually labeled as a heretic and is excommunicated from society. He escapes being assasinated and flees, vowing to revenge himself, his father, and Maria Clara.
There is an incredible amount of detail in this novel, and the translation is superb. The characters are vivid -- who can forget Sisa's tragedy and the eerie Father Salvi? You don't have to be a historian or a student to enjoy this novel, and knowing nothing about that place or time period will not affect its intensity and pathos.
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This is a must-read for those interested in South-East Asian or colonial history/literature. The story of the writing of this novel is just as fascinating as the novel itself. "Noli Me Tangere" was written by the brilliant Dr. Jose Rizal--physician, historian, poet educator, philosopher, naturalist, novelist, artist, and one of the first nationalists of Asia. Rizal was a young Filipino student in Europe when he wrote "Noli," during the time that the Philippines was under Spanish rule. Rizal worked on the manuscript in between the hours he spent poring over his schoolbooks. He was only 26 when the book was published on borrowed money in Berlin in 1886. Unapologetically anticlerical, this satirical portrayal of 19th century colonial Philippines blended philosophy, irony, humor, and tragedy. The novel was banned from the Philippines because of its subversive content, but contraband copies found their way to Manila, awakening the disparate Philippine islands to unity and nationhood. "Noli Me Tangere," its sequel "El Filibusterismo" (1891) and Rizal's other essays and poems were part of the core of nationalist literature that inspired both Rizal's co-reformers--a group of European-schooled young Filipinos--and the more militant revolutionaries. In 1896, the militant groups in the Filipinos launched a revolution against the Spanish crown, the first nationalist revolution in Asia. Rizal had no direct part in the insurrection; he had even advised the militant group that the country was not yet ready for an armed revolution and he had pushed instead for nonviolent reform. Nevertheless, the Spanish military arrested Rizal on sedition charges and brought him to trial. He was found guilty.Read more ›
this book is amazing not only due to it's content, but the impact it had on the world. Unfortunately, virtually no Americans have ever even heard of Rizal. (I am an American who grew up in the Philippines) This book is nearly single-handedly responsible for the overthrow of the 500-year Spanish regime there. He merely stated the truth, and as a result was executed a few years later. This man has greatly influenced my life. I only wish America could claim as great a hero as Rizal. Filipinos are rightfully proud to call him the Father of Independent Philippines. His saying "There are no tyrants if there are no slaves" is a truth that I teach to my students. Get this book, read it, then find out about Filipino history and get a biography of Rizal (Austin Coates had a great one, but I can't find it.) You will be astounded!!!
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The story of "Noli Me Tangere" is one of bitter ironies. It is the first major Filipino novel and one of the first novels in Asia written outside China and Japan. Yet it is written in a European language (Spanish). It is one of the first novels of anti-colonial rebellion, written by a man who was executed by the Spanish just as the country began its fight for independence. In many ways the Philippines more resembles Latin America than its Asian neighbors. Both colonial Philippines and colonial Latin America were dominated by a corrupt, bigoted and dogmatic Catholicism. Both were colonized (more or less) by Spain and both regions had the same tensions between Spaniards, Spaniards born in the colonies, "mixed blood" and the indigenous majority. Both had to suffer the cruelties of a foreign country who looked down at the colonies with contempt. But Spanish never became the vernacular of the Philippines and after the United States' brutal conquest, only a tiny portion of Filipinos can read the founding novel of their own literature. To make things worse, the translation of the novel has been cursed with political malice. As Benedict Anderson pointed out in "The Spectre of Comparisons" the main translation by Leon Guerrero was compromised in a variety of ways. For a start Guerrero, like most of the Filipino ruling class collaborated with the brutal Japanese invaders. Afterwards he was a player in the corrupt, clientele ridden dependent pseudo democracy of the post war years. Rather hostile to the United States, Guerrero's translation subtly and not so subtly bowdlerizes the novel, blunting not only its fierce anti-clericalism and contempt, but also mangling Rizal's unique, cutting tone. This translation is an improvement, though as Anderson points out, it is by no means perfect.Read more ›