23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Miguel Syjuco
© Hartwig Klappert

Miguel Syjuco

Miguel Syjuco was born in 1976 in the Philippine capital city Manila. Fleeing with his parents from the Marcos regime, he spent a decade of his childhood in Canada, but otherwise grew up in Manila. Against what his father, an active politician, hoped for, his youngest son already knew from early childhood that he did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps but wanted to become a writer. After completing his studies in English literature at the Ateneo de Manila University, he moved to New York City where he gained his Masters in creative writing at Columbia University in 2004. He wrote journalistic articles, reviews and short stories and worked at magazines like »The New Yorker«, »Esquire« und »The Paris Review«, but also worked as a barkeeper, eBay trader selling ladies’ handbags and as assistant to a bookmaker.

Once, while working for »The Paris Review«, he had to spend days checking the validity of information in a series of interviews with writers, going through biographies, memoirs, newspaper articles and other sources. While doing this, the idea came to him of writing a novel about a fictive author in the form of a literary collage. He worked on this first novel »Ilustrado« (2010) for four years and the unpublished manuscript of the book was awarded the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2008. This immediately thrust Syjuco into the literary limelight and his debut novel was published in many countries. The book deals with Crispin Salvador, a literature lecturer and Filipino author living in exile, whose body is found in the Hudson River. Syjuco’s alter ego Miguel, an up and coming Philippine author and a student of Salvador, returns to his homeland after trying to find out why his role model died. There he finds the traces of a missing last manuscript by his idol and he begins writing a biography about him, becoming deeply involved in the history and present of his home country, which has been influenced by the so-called »Ilustrado«, the privileged intelligentsia. In addition to the story of its narrator Miguel, the book contains a series of collage-like paragraphs from the Salvador biography, the blog entries of a critic, excerpts from Salvador’s work, jokes, interviews and the like, giving rise to a skilled potpourri of different genres made up of crime novel, historical novel and satirical social commentary. »Ilustrado« reminds one of some of the best works of Roberto Bolaños« (Pankaj Mishra), but also has similarities to »Midnight’s Children« by Salman Rushdie and David Mitchell’s literary collages can be recognised.

In addition to the Man Asian Literary Prize, the author has also received other accolades for »Ilustrado« such as the Philippine Palanca Award and the Canadian QWF Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. Miguel Syjuco lives and works in the Canadian city of Montreal.

© internationales literaturfestival berlin


Farrar, Straus & Giroux
New York, 2010

Die Erleuchteten
Stuttgart, 2011
[Ü: Hannes Riffel]