A dead body floating in the Hudson River kicks off the action in Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado. The corpse belongs to the late Filipino writer-provocateur, Crispin Salvador. And the search for the late author’s much-rumored unfinished masterpiece, The Bridges Ablaze — 20 years in the making — inspires the protagonist on a dizzying literary treasure hunt. The protagonist, by the way, also goes by the name of Miguel Syjuco. Ilustrado, Syjuco’s first novel, won the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize as an unpublished manuscript.
The Guardian notes that
The novel has earned comparisons to with Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell and Roberto Bolaño
which, only after cutting and pasting it, do I notice that little grammatical boo-boo. I’m leaving it in there.
I’m only a short way into my reading of it, but once again we have a book that is obviously aimed at a certain sort of reader (might as well have shoehorned “and Paul Auster’s NEW YORK TRILOGY” in between the Murakami and Mitchell name-drops) with its comparisons, which in turn elevate my anticipation of a great read, which then triggers the realization that every time I walk down this “Murakamimitchellauster-like” path, I end up bitterly disappointed, which makes me simultaneously weary of all fiction and also, like an inveterate gambler, unable to resist rolling the dice again. (“The Amnesiac”? Fail. “The Raw Shark Texts”? Fail. Pretty much every “fans of Murakamimitchellauster will experience paroxysms of delight”-promising new book? Fail.)