Maybe the judges of the Man Asian Literary Prize are amazed by how Miguel Syjuco’s version of telling a real story in a fictional manner. The trend of “fiction-tied-with-facts” style of writing has been the greatest advantage for Dan Brown. But I have never felt so close to reality while reading a book until I Syjuco’s “Ilustrado” meets my eyes.
The story is about Miguel (incidentally the author himself) who investigates the death of his literary mentor and friend, Crispin Salvador. Throughout the novel, Miguel narrates his travels in different parts of the country while searching for the ultimate reason why Salvador died. Miguel – with CSI-style of investigation – is also finishing the Salvador’s biography. At the same time, Miguel is looking for some information on Salvador’s last book entitled “The Bridges Ablaze.”
Salvador’s character was so realistic that I Googled his name on the net, and just like the others who became curious about his life. The novel is very brave as it almost cited names of actual personalities in the Philippines – the real ilustrados, trapos and artistas. Towards the end, the story opens you up in the realization that the story is as real as the controversial Arroyo administration.
Some of my favorite high-impact lines include:
·Honesty before glory – the apt motto for all politicians
·Compromise is when nobody is happy – a harsh reality
·..I know that when I one day earn my PhD, instead of being proud, he’ll instead remark: “Oh, I have four, even if they are all honoris causa from provincial schools – another harsh reality. What a shame for provincial schools who are giving away honoris causa like candies.
I was a bit confused at times while reading the novel. A mixture of excerpts from novels, some poetry lines, even text messages makes it complicated. On the other hand, its complexity heightens the interest of readers. It is also a documentation of how real Filipino ilustrados live from Syjuco who is an ilustrado himself.
Congratulations to Syjuco for introducing a new style in writing novels.