Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Ilustrado" by Miguel Syjuco

I just finished the book “Ilustrado” by Filipino writer, Miguel Syjuco. The book, published last year, won the Man Asian Literary Prize.

I admire people who pack a big dictionary in their brain. Syjuco’s writing is rich with the intricacies of expression that can only be found in free-thinking and well educated minds. The style is scattered and hard to catch at first, but the book ends with a grand twist that draws two lives together as one. It is a striking portrait both of the Philippines and man’s enduring battle with age and relevance.

Filipinos living abroad may find the book particularly poignant. Those living here in the Philippines will be jealous that an overseas Filipino can be so incisive, profound and unrestrained, and they are likely to come up with the standard excuses as to why Syjuco should be dismissed as irrelevant. After all, he lives in Canada and writes in English, fer crissakes. No cred . . .

Never mind that he is a world class artist who thinks in layers of subtlety and intricacy that would make Hemmingway’s square jaw drop.

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