Philippines: History and Postmodernism

When I researched the web regarding Filipino literature I found a few books I decided I most definitely wanted to read. I also asked my Filipino friend for some recommendations. However, due to having problems getting hold of the books, I ended up reading Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco, which I had not even thought about reading. In many ways I can understand that I had not chosen this book. It is not a book for casual readers, but it definitely has its perks.

I thought I was going to read about a mystery, maybe not the most traditional kind of mystery, but still… Indeed, the book starts off with Crispin Salvador’s body been found in the Hudson river. He was about to publish a book which would have revealed secrets about the Filipino elite. Salvador’s student, named after the author of Ilustrado, Miguel Syjuco, does not believe that it was a suicide, and he goes back to his native Philippines to investigate.

So far it makes sense, but then the book starts mixing and matching. Sometimes I like it, mostly when it makes sense, but at other times I just want to be done and close the book for good. The ending gives the reader some sort of an explanation, which is a good thing, since totally open ended books is usually never satisfying. I believe this is a book most readers either love or hate, I fall just in the middle. I am happy I read the book, but I would not read it again. My favourite parts of the book has to do with the Philippines and its complicated history. Definitely something I would like to read more about!

It is a postmodern book, which already says that it is not an easy read for everyone. Ilustrado mixes many techniques; jokes, emails, blog posts, pieces of texts from novels and so on. It makes it a challenging read. After about twenty pages I nearly gave up. It just did not make sense to me, and I kept on losing focus. I did continue, I finished the book, and I am delighted about it. However, Ilustrado is not by far one of my favourite books, but it is worth a read.

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