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3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,070 ratings  ·  216 reviews
Histories and personalities collide in this literary tour-de-force about the Philippines' present and America's past by the PEN Open Book Award–winning author of Gun Dealer's Daughter.

Two women, a Filipino translator and an American filmmaker, go on a road trip in Duterte’s Philippines, collaborating and clashing in the writing of a film script about a massacre during the
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Soho Press
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Average rating 3.55  · 
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Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kaleidoscopic metafiction in the Philippines

Towards the beginning of Insurrecto there is a reference to Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, an early 20th century artwork inspired by stop-motion photography, which depicts a figure in motion using overlapping abstract forms. This is a clue (one of many) to the book’s approach: if Insurrecto was a painting it would be a cubist one, the narrative broken apart and reassembled in highly stylised, abstract, dimensional form. It is disorienting at fi
lark benobi
Insurrecto gives me faith that the root meaning of 'novel', nouvelle, something new—will continue to be true for a long time to come. Every sentence here was a revelation. Manila—so perfectly captured. The strange, very strange layer of popular American culture that paints itself over the Philippines—perfect. The strange, very strange way that Tagalog becomes the language of choice for ‘strange’ in English-language movies set in far-off friend from the Philippines had never stopped b ...more
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019, modern-lit
This is a complex book full of allusions both cultural and historical that I feel hopelessly unqualified to review, though I enjoyed reading it. There are three or possibly four parallel stories, and the chapter numbering is eccentric and rather confusing. The cast is introduced before the story starts, and key players and events also get little potted summaries at the end.

The historical part of the story centres on America's war in the Philippines in the early 20th century, and an atrocity that
Katia N
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel reminded me Möbius strip. Reality flips into fiction and back without noticeable stitches. There is multitude of historical times and narratives spliced within its canvas.

Everything doubles in the novel. The first part deals with the Philippines immersion into certain elements of the American popular culture. It shows how subtle the colonial influence could be; how the culture is appropriated notwithstanding the politics.

Then, the characters. They double too. It is not a coincidence
Paris (parisperusing)
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
Initial thoughts: Girl, bye.

Well. This was definitely not the book I believed it was going to be. Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto, a novel of two women — one a translator, the other a filmmaker — forever bumping heads as they scribe the infamous and continuous brutalities of the Philippine-American War, had a promising foundation but was marred by the hands of its own creator.

Getting through the first 50 pages of Apostol’s writing was, in itself, a chore, let alone its entire 300 pages. What's more, I
Paul Fulcher
At times, she feels discomfort over matters she knows nothing about, and Magsalin hears rising up in her that quaver which readers have, as if the artist should be holding her hand as she is walked through the story. 
But she rides the wave, she checks herself.
A reader does not need to know everything.

How many times has she waded into someone else’s history, say the mysteries of lemon soap and Irish pubs in Dedalus’s Dublin, or the Decemberists plot and Dostoyevsky’s The Devils, Or Gustave Flaube
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[4.5] Insurrecto puzzled, taught, entertained, and amazed me, its labyrinthine structure ensuring my engagement from the beginning to the end (the feeling of “at what point is anything going to make any sense?” persisting throughout). It’s maybe a tad too meta for a pure 5-star rating, but I still adore Apostol’s novel a lot. Feminist to the core, unabashedly literary, and illuminating a period of history I knew too little about (the Philippine–American War).
(4.5) In Quezon City, a translator named Magsalin meets an American filmmaker, Chiara Brasi – the daughter of the famous director Ludo Brasi, who shot his Vietnam War film The Unintended in the Philippines in the 70s. The Unintended took inspiration from the 1901 Balangiga massacre, part of the Philippine-American War, and now Chiara wants to make her own film about it. She's intent on visiting Balangiga and wants Magsalin to accompany her. Though Magsalin agrees to help, she has other ideas too ...more
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing, skilfully written book. Apostol uses repetition, alliteration, multiple perspectives, and shifts the narrative back and forth in time, all to wonderful effect. In fact, after finishing this book, I feel it’s much deeper than I first thought and think I have only paddled over the surface. The narrative in its simplest form is about a massacre that took place in Balangiga in 1901. A terrible historical clash of cultures. Both cultures are represented by the two protagonists. Ma ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A polymath's lyricism is woven with post-colonial tristesse. A deft and labyrinthine depiction of our helpless condition of ever-revolving insurrection, Gina Apostol has created an elegant mise en abyme wherein the colonizer and the colonized reflect themselves over and over and yet over again.


i found this site quite helpful :

post scriptum & nota bene : found this passage in apo
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
How far can you push a labyrinthine meta-fictional, meta-cinematic novel complete with linked film scripts that takes on US imperialism and the troubled Philippine–American relationship and history? Exactly this far. Loved it. Reminded me of THE SYMPATHIZER but was even more dizzying. I’m happy to work for my fiction if it’s this good.
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best novels of the year.
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
gina apostol is a brilliant writer and a polymath. the book is as lovely at the sentence level (so. much. beautiful. writing) as it is mindblowing in its conception. the layering is not discreet, but let me try:

- a filipino translator is trying her hand at writing a mystery
- which involves a famous director who is shooting a film
- this director is using the translator because the movie is set in the philippines and the director is italian-american
- the novel you are reading is partly the myster
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
A book of three’s

Three interleaved time settings: It will be set in 1901, or maybe 1972, or maybe 2018” - the Balangiga massacre of 1901, a film shoot in 197- and two women visiting the Philippines in 2018.

Three interleaved narrative streams: one the ostensible main narrative (which possibly includes an ex-pat Philippine author translating a film script for a character – the American daughter of a famous film maker – that she may have simply created), two
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books you want to start again immediately after finishing it - there is so much going on on so many levels I know my brain didn't pick it all up. It's a kaleidoscope of stories within stories, and spiralling ideas on colonialism, filmmaking, popular culture and more, but all anchored around the history of the US in the Philippines. This makes it sound like hard work to read, but it isn't - here are some samples to prove it:

In the audiece at an Elvis Presley concert in Las Ve
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
I found the audiobook of this on Hoopla, but the narrative of this book is complex so I would recommend reading a hard copy if one is available to you. This is a multi-layered story about two women traveling in the Philippines-a young American filmmaker and a translator. A central theme of the book is grief. Both women are dealing with personal grief, but there is also an examination of cultural/social grief in the face of colonialism and a particular massacre in the Philippines. There is a lot ...more
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
"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."

From INSURRECTO by Gina Apostol // 2018, Soho Press

I finished this book 2 days ago, and I'm still piecing it all together in m
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found the topic interesting and the writing strong but did not feel the metafictional style or obtuse structure enhanced my appreciation of the book. The material was so inclusive and stylized that content was obscured and diluted. Four stars rounded up.
3.5. I’m a sucker for a who-gets-to-tell-the-story theme. But this book is so much more than that alone - it’s stories within stories within stories, a complex and challenging work by a brilliant writer.
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
So complex and mind-boggling and incredibly meta, but so so worth it at the end.
Nick Klagge
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: filipino
I found this book a difficult read in more ways than one--both literarily and as a matter of reflection on national and family history. But I found it very worthwhile and recommend reading it, especially to Americans who know little about the Philippine-American war of the early 20th century (which, of course, is virtually all of us).

I read Gina Apostol's novel "Gun Dealers' Daughter" earlier this year and enjoyed it, although sometimes I found her complex writing style to be a challenge. "Insur
Joshua Delos reyes
It was good, until Apostol tried too hard :/
Aimee Dars
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, asia
Apostol, Gina - Insurrecto

Chiara Brasi, a director, has arrived in the Philippines to make a pilgrimage to Samar where her father, Ludo, also a director, filmed his Vietnam War movie, The Unintended. She hires translator and budding mystery writer Magsalin who grew up in the Philippines but relocated to New York to accompany her on the trip.

So that Magsalin might understand the purpose of her visit, Chiara sent her a copy of a script she planned on shooting in Samar herself. Magsalin took issue with the script and rewrot
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”It will be set in 1901, or maybe 1972, or maybe 2018”

In fact, it is set in all three of those years. Simultaneously.

Insurrecto starts in the present day Philippines. In this time frame, Chiara Brasi is an American film-maker visiting the Philippines to research the disappearance of her father, Ludo Brasi, a cult film director in the 1970s. The movies planned by both Chiara and Ludo hinge on the massacres at Balangiga in 1901 (this refers to real events when Filipino rebels killed 48 American so
Dec 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
About two contemporary women, a filmmaker and a writer, travelling around the Philippines with a duelling narrative about an uprising against the Americans in 1901, this book tried to do all of the things. What I liked: 1. The idea of the book. There is an important story in there somewhere. 2. The badassery of the Filipinx folks that disrupts the western narratives of sweetness, forbearance and whatever other lies we tell ourselves to justify the labour we demand in the west 3. Some of the comp ...more
Divine Anas
I reread this book three times before I finally finished it. Insurrecto won't be up for every reader's range especially that it's chock full of film references, historical anachronisms, creative literary plays, and its unconventional nonlinear structure. However, the patient reader that is willing to learn can truly appreciate this ESPECIALLY if you reread it :> This was the first book I read for the Ulahi Reading Circle (local book club in Bacolod) and while it was a fcking struggle it really w ...more
Sam Shaw
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
From the PEN Open Book Award-winning author of Gun Dealers’ Daughter, Gina Apostol, comes Insurrecto, a haunting tribute to America’s past and present for the people of the Philippines. Woven between the parallel storylines of Filipino translator Magsalin and American filmmaker Chiara emerges a brilliant narrative. While Chiara works on a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War in 1901, the reader gets an understanding of the cruelty of the American general and his garris ...more
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I received an advanced reading copy of Insurrecto from NetGalley and Soho Press in exchange for an honest review.

I was quite interested to read this as the Philippines is not an area of the world I am very familiar with and I was looking forward to gaining an insight into the culture and some of the country’s history and culture.

The book vividly describes the bustle, heat and culture of the Philippine setting. The characters initially seem compelling when we meet them, however, I did not feel l
Kathleen Gray
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this but I found it impenetrable at times. Apostol has used the stories of two modern women to tell the story of atrocities at Balangiga in 1901. There's a lot going on between Chiara the filmmaker, Magsalin who translates and rewrites her script, and the history of the Philippines. The language is dense at times and flowing at others, which made this a challenge. Ultimately and unfortunately, I DNF. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. Try this if you enjoy experimental fict ...more
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Contrary to the cover photo, this is a very modern or even postmodern novel. It exposes an important episode in Philippine-American history through the interactions two contemporary, strong-willed women, one a Filippina translator and one an American filmmaker. There's enough going on that the book deserves a second read, but I enjoyed the layered stories, the interaction of the two protagonists, the exploration of creativity, and the chance to learn more about the US's imperial history in the P ...more
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Play Book Tag: Insurrecto by Gina Apostol- 4 stars 9 25 Dec 04, 2018 02:39PM  

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Gina Apostol was born in Manila and lives in New York. Her first novel, Bibliolepsy, won the 1998 Philippine National Book Award for Fiction. She just completed her third novel, The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, a comic historical novel-in-footnotes about the Philippine war for independence against Spain and America in 1896.

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