Miguel Syjuco's debut novel, Ilustrado, opens with Crispin Salvador, lion of Philippine letters, dead in the Hudson River. His young student, Miguel, sets out to investigate the author's fatal departure from his encroaching obscurity and the suspicious disappearance of an unfinished manuscript—a work that had been planned to not just return the once-great author to fame, but to expose the corruption behind rich families who have ruled the Philippines for generations.
To understand the death, Miguel scours the life, charting Salvador's trajectory via his poetry, stories, interviews, novels, polemics, and memoirs. The literary fragments become patterns become stories become epic: a family saga of four generations tracing 150 years of a country's history forged under the Spanish, Americans, and Filipinos themselves. In the end, the story twists, belonging to young Miguel as much as his lost mentor, and readers are treated to an unhindered view of a tropical Third World society caught between reckless decay and hopeful progress. In this astonishingly inventive and bold novel, Syjuco explores fatherhood, regret, revolution, and the mysteries of lives lived and abandoned.