Reading Ilustrado is like gazing through a kaleidoscope. The story zooms in on an unreliable narrator, Miguel Syjuco, shifts toward a mysterious figure who refers to him as "Our protagonist," then shifts again all while being spliced with an ongoing, one-man investigation into the circumstances of Salvador's death, as well as scenes of unrest in the Philippines. The text is further enriched by snippets from blogs; interviews; excerpts from stories, novels, and a memoir by Crispin Salavador; portions of Miguel's biography-in-progress; a running joke about a Filipino student; recollections of Miguel's former romantic relationship; references to the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during the Second World War; and a glimpse at the literati, among other topics.
Such an ambitious whirlwind could dissuade some readers, but far more intriguing than the book's ...
Useful to Know...
The author's last name is pronounced see-hoo-coh.
Karen describes Ilustrado as a work of metafiction featuring an unreliable narator - for a brief explanation of both these terms see the backstory to The Long Song.
Ilustrado, which translates from Spanish as "enlightened," is a term first used to describe the elite of late 19th century colonial Philippines, who were sent to Europe to be educated. These expatriates returned to their homeland and helped oust their Spanish colonial masters in 1896.
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