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Miguel syjuco is a Canadian based Filipino writer ,this is his debut novel ,it won the Man asian  Literary prize in 2008 .He got a degree in manilla and mfa in America .The book follows a fictional Miguel Sjyuco as he tries to discover what happened to the last and maybe most important book of a famed Filipino  writer Crispin Salvador ,the writer was one of the most famous commentators on the changing face of his homeland but also the experience of ex pat Filipinos in europe and round the world .the book falls into three different formats a selection of Salvador’s writing ,in these he comes across as a bit of a south asian version of Lawrence Durrell.

These are the broad themes : enigmas , dreams , mythologies , the tyranny of absence , the shortcomings of language , deciduous memories ,ending as beginnings .

from autoplagiarst (page 188) by Crispin Salvador .

The second part of the book is a fictional Biography of Crispin Salvador by the fictional Miguel Sjyuco  the two writers grow close over the time they do the interviews the younger enjoying the elders life and his place in society,also the history he has seen in his homeland and around the world .the lion as he is called grows into a living breathing writer through these interviews and extracts .

The communist party of the Philippines had a very strict agenda ,which Salvador quickly learned was vastly different from that of the foot soldiers actually waging the protracted people’s wat the time in the hills was as he called it “my schooling in the best and worst of humanity “.

extract from the Eight lives lived by Miguel Sjyuco

Now the final strand of the book is set after Salvador mysterious death  in the Hudson river in the new york state his last great novel a look into the politics of the Philippines and the corruption within it ,this book has vanished into thin air ,he meets family and gets drawn into a great story and the political situation in his own country .

These three strands are interwoven as past present and future are spun before your eyes in what is a wonderfully clever work of meta fiction .Syjuco has manage to encapsulate the politics and life of Philippines during the second part of the twentieth century of course the names have been changed but the experience are the same ,there is also a small part of a mystery novel here .Crispin Salvador leaps of the page and you wish he was a writer ,The quotes from his novels are wonderfully written in a different voice than the Sjyuco piece showing the writers ability to use different styles and voices ,this is as good as Bolano ,Borges and even Tom McCarthy’s c .He also makes use of modern communcation including e -mail and blog postings splattered through out .As a debut it works a writer showing his portfolio of styles ,I hope he maybe isn’t so varied in future novels as it works for a single novel but may tire after that ,but we’ll have to see .

Jackie also reviewed this

20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carin B.
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 20:01:32

    Sounds like an interesting book. I am really interested in Filipino literature and experience. Chachic sometimes features Filipino writers on her blog (She is from The Philippines and runs the Filipino Book Blogger network). I’ve found some good Filipino blogs through her site and the Filipino Blogger Network. I like to read Asian writers as well so I’ll keep this one in mind when I can finally get my TBR down a little bit!


  2. Eva
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 22:25:00

    This sounds really neat! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book by a Filipino author.


  3. Jackie (Farm Lane Books)
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 22:53:49

    I would love to read a Crispin Salvador book! I think it would be far better than this one, which came across as a book which was trying too hard to be clever. Sjyuco is clearly a talented author, but I think that less is often more.


  4. Mel u
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 23:22:15

    For what it is worth-there are factual errors in his descriptions of Modern Manila-


  5. amymckie
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 00:41:01

    Sounds really different Stu, as do each of the three sections. Which was your favorite?


  6. Rise
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 01:13:27

    Open the floodgates, Stu! Metafiction is not the usual fare in Philippine fiction so Syjuco did something unique. If I may suggest some titles: The Woman Who Had Two Navels by Nick Joaquín, America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan, Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal, You Lovely People by Bienvenido Santos, and A Season of Grace by N. V. M. Gonzalez.

    Have fun reading,


  7. parrish
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 07:18:41

    Durrell,Borges,Bolano and McCarthy’s C, BLIMEY this is definitely a book I want to find . With that list of names what is there not to like & having recently finished C & thoroughly enjoyed it, am looking for more new (to me) writers.
    Thanks, Parrish


  8. parrish
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 10:39:30

    Ps. just found it at the online section of my library, Yeh!


  9. savidgereads
    Nov 11, 2010 @ 16:27:58

    You have saved this from being a book that was going to be given to some relatives this coming weekend and I shall now keep for myself as it sounds like its really rather unusual and interesting, thanks Stu!


  10. Trackback: Novenber round up « Winstonsdad's Blog
  11. parrish
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 08:27:59

    Absolutely loved this Book & would pick up another book by Syjuco in a second. Thanks for the heads up


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November 2010


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