Interview with Miguel Syjuco

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  • Published 20150804
  • ISBN: 978-1-922182-90-6
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

BORN IN 1976, Miguel Syjuco is a freelance writer from Metro Manila in the Philippines. Since finishing a Bachelor of English literature in Manila, Miguel has lived in Adelaide, where he completed his PhD in literature; in New York City, where he completed a Master of Fine Arts at Columbia University; in Paris, where he studied photography; and in Montreal, where he worked at a newspaper before writing full-time. Most recently, Miguel was a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University (2013–14) and a writer-in-residence at NTU in Singapore (2014–15), where he completed his imminent second novel, I Was The President’s Mistress!! A Celebrity Tell-All Memoir. He currently lives in northern Italy.

In 2008, Syjuco’s debut novel Ilustrado (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010) won the Palanca Grand Prize – the Philippines’ top literary prize, given only every three years – and the Man Asian Literary Prize. In Ilustrado, Syjuco delves into the psyche of the Filipino wealthy, following a self-inspired character named ‘Miguel’ on his return to Manila to investigate the death of one Crispin Salvador, ‘the great lion of Filipino letters’. Salvador’s life is animated by Syjuco with an aesthetic he has dubbed ‘récollage’: using a bricolage of realistic reference material, Salvador’s own preoccupation with Filipino society becomes a window for readers into Philippine political history and its tradition of literature in English. In his essay, ‘Beating Dickheads’, Miguel shows that democracy remains a distant vision for contemporary Filipinos while political power stays fixed in the hands of a ruling elite. Strict curtailments on freedom of speech, coupled with the ridiculous excesses perpetrated by the rich and powerful, have pushed political critique into the genres of humour, rumour and satire – and into the forums of internet media and breakfast table banter. Miguel would like to see fiction writing become another space for Filipinos to practice peaceful, meaningful dissent.

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