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336 pages, Hardcover
First published November 13, 2018
"The story Magsalin wishes to tell is about loss. Any emblem will do: a French-Tunisian with an unfinished manuscript, an American obsessed with a Filipino war, a filmmaker’s possible murder, a wife’s sadness. An abaca weave, a warp and weft of numbers, is measured but invisible in the plot. Chapter numbers double up. Puzzle pieces scramble. Points of view will multiply. Allusions, ditto. There will be blood, a kidnapping, or a solution to a crime forgotten by history. That is, Magsalin hopes so."
It is an insurrection against the novel form! It’s especially an insurrection against the form of the political novel.The resulting form is very Borgesian or Nabakovian, even if the politics certainly isn't. From another interview:
Sometimes I get the sense that if we are interested in radicalism — and my work, in my view, is polemical; layered and multi-tonal as it is, it is nakedly staking political ground — we are expected not to play as much, not to have as much fun with our art. Or as Asian, people of color writers, or whatnot, we’re expected to write certain kinds of novels, sad realist family sagas or something, while narrative play is for Donald Barthelme or Don DeLillo or some other don.
I love Nabokov, and also Borges—I think those two are art-twins. (They were actually born in the same year, 1899—which was, coincidentally, or maybe not, the year the Fil-Am war began.) But my aims are different. .... But reading both Borges and Nabokov so deeply, I end up with aims that are anti-colonial, anti-racist, anti-patriarchy—three terms that would make Nabokov vomit because politically he was nutty.If this sounds like a difficult read, particularly given the unfamiliar, to most UK/US readers, setting, the quote from the novel that opens my review is key to approaching the novel. From the same interview:
Q: What is the ideal way to read Insurrecto? And what’s the ideal way to re-read it?Overall, a wonderful novel - one that should have been on the Booker list, and surely must feature on next year's Women's Prize For Fiction. 4.5 stars.
Gina Apostol: A lovely question. The ideal way is to read with pleasure. I wrote it with pleasure; my hope is that it can be read with pleasure. I’d say read the book also with acceptance of not-knowing. The book is meant to be a puzzle. Sadly, destabilization is part of the journey. But so are one’s own wits, modesty, and instincts. Anyone with generosity can read this book.
If you re-read, do it according to your desire. Of course, despite this caveat, I do have a cheat sheet website! For those interested, I’d suggest reading it afterward. https://www.praxino.org/
How many times has she waded into someone else's history... and she would know absolutely nothing about the scenes, the historical background that drives them, the confusing cultural details, all emblematic, she imagines, to the Irish or the Russians or the French, and not really her business—and yet she dives in, to try to figure out what it is the writer wishes to tell... She gets stuck in the faulty notion that everything in a book must be grasped.