Apostol (Gun Dealer’s Daughter) fearlessly probes the long shadow of forgotten American imperialism in the Philippines in her ingenious novel of competing filmmakers. Chiara Brasi, daughter of the director of The Unintended, a Vietnam War movie shot in the Philippines, comes to Manila to make her own film. She hires Magsalin, a translator, to take her to the Philippine island of Samar (near where Magsalin was born) and the town of Balangiga, site of a brutal American massacre of revolutionaries in 1901 during the Philippine-American War. Chiara and Magsalin craft two very different scripts for the film. One script focuses on Cassandra Chase, a well-connected photographer who travels to the Philippines to produce stereographs of the American military’s actions. She faces extreme hostility from the soldiers, including the inexperienced and devoutly Catholic Capt. Thomas Connell. The second script more elusively follows Caz, a Filipino school teacher, who mourns the death of an eccentric film director she had an affair with in the 1970s. This is a complex and aptly vertiginous novel that deconstructs how humans tell stories and decide which versions of events are remembered; names repeat between scripts, and directors suddenly interrupt what feels like historical narration. Apostol’s layers of narrative, pop culture references, and blurring of history and fiction make for a profound and unforgettable journey into the past and present of the Philippines. (Nov.)
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Praise for Insurrecto
“Gina Apostol—a smart writer, a sharp critic, a keen intellectual—takes on the vexed relationship between the Philippines and the United States, pivoting on that relationship’s bloody origins. Insurrecto is meta-fictional, meta-cinematic, even meta-meta, plunging us into the vortex of memory, history, and war where we can feel what it means to be forgotten, and what it takes to be remembered."
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer
"A book by Gina Apostol is always an event, and this latest one is no exception. Lush and vigorous, Insurrecto mines the Philippines' troubled past with a scholar's careful attention to detail and examines the enduring riddles of voice and identity, revolution and nation. The ghosts of history stalk the pages of this dizzying, stunning novel, their footsteps echoing in our fraught and uncertain times."
—F.H. Batacan, author of Smaller and Smaller Circles
“A searing and psychedelic road trip through the long, sordid history of Philippine-American relations, Insurrecto is at once a murder mystery, a war movie, and a moving exploration of all the ways grief lives on, both in a people and in a person. A masterful puzzle, in which, as Apostol writes, ‘one story told may unbury another.’”
—Elaine Castillo, author of America Is Not the Heart
“In Insurrecto, a polymath's lyricism is woven with sharp cultural study and 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.”
—Eugene Lim, author of Dear Cyborgs
"Insurrecto is an intricate fever dream of a novel. Gina Apostol’s sublime intellect, razor-sharp humor, and fierce moral conviction shine a powerful light on the Philippines’ violent history and present-day traumas. Through wildly inventive prose and richly layered plots, this book will provoke, unsettle, and ultimately transform the ways we read and remember the past."
—Mia Alvar, author of In the Country
"[A] magnificent book that begs for a second reading."
"Apostol fearlessly probes the long shadow of forgotten American imperialism in the Philippines in her ingenious novel of competing filmmakers . . . layers of narrative, pop culture references, and blurring of history and fiction make for a profound and unforgettable journey into the past and present of the Philippines."
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Shrewd . . . inventive . . . stinging . . . [Apostol] puts the "unremembered" Philippine-American War on display, deftly exposing a complicated colonial legacy through the unlikely relationship between a U.S.-educated Filipino translator and a visiting American filmmaker . . . Exceptionally rewarding."
—Booklist, Starred Review
"Dazzling, interlocking narratives on history, truth, and storytelling."
Praise for Gina Apostol
“[Apostol] weaves the complex tangle of Philppine history, literature, and languages (along with contemporary academic scholarship) into a brilliant tour de force of a novel.”
—John Barth, author of Lost in the Funhouse
“A daring, fever dream of a novel.”
—Alex Gilvarry, author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
“Brilliant . . . Apostol creates one of the most compelling characters in recent fiction.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Probes the hard truths of love, nationhood and exile . . . Apostol is a fearless, stylish writer of substance.”
—Jessica Hagedorn, author of Dogeaters
"Apostol's writing is marked by a fierce intelligence, uncommonly delicious language, and a dark undercurrent of humor. As others have observed, she is a master of delineating the personal with the political, and how they are inextricably entwined. Also—and this is no small feat—she seems incapable of writing an unimpressive sentence.”
—Luis Katigbak, The Philippine Star
Demanding, baffling, and ultimately exhilarating examination of a forgotten moment in U.S.-Philippine history.
Cinematic in its approach, Apostol's (Gun Dealer's Daughter, 2012, etc.) fourth book alternates between aerial shots, jump-cuts, and close-ups, moving backward and forward in time to get at a story of U.S.-Philippine relations by way of history, literature, language, and scholarship. It even opens with a six-page Cast of Characters, some historical, many from pop culture, a few fictional. While at first the book seems gonzo in its approach, the result is a portrait (though incomplete) of Casiana Nacionales, the insurrecto for whom the book is named, a woman whom "history barely knows." Nacionales was the only woman who actively participated in a rebellion against U.S. servicemen in 1901 after a period of occupation marked by cruelty on one end and breathtaking abandonment on the other. To be clear: The book is not explicitly about Nacionales. Her appearance, like an image emerging on film, serves as a metaphor for how the truth of history is repressed until something or someone brings it into the light. To anchor the novel, Apostol uses two characters: Magsalin, a Filipino writer/translator, and Chiara, a U.S. filmmaker. Their contrasting approaches and accounts of the rebellion ultimately get to what Magsalin and Chiara believe they failed at, of telling "a story of war and loss so repressed and so untold." Magsalin and Chiara may have failed, but Apostol did not. The U.S. may have "manufactured how to see the world," but it's the writers, artists, and other visionaries who speak outside the frame who can reveal the truth. The cast of characters and the out-of-order system of numbering chapters are best revisited after finishing the book.
Dazzling, interlocking narratives on history, truth, and storytelling.
Apostol (Gun Dealers' Daughter) offers a complex, nonlinear novel that centers on atrocities committed during the Philippine-American War, events little known to most Americans. These episodes are recounted through a multilayered story about Chiara, a filmmaker whose father directed a movie about the Vietnam War in Samar, Philippines, in the 1970s, and Magsalin, a writer and translator whom Chiara hires as a guide. As they travel together to Samar, Chiara and Magsalin present competing versions of a screenplay in order to confront the Balangiga massacre, and their own demons, directly or indirectly. Along the way, we encounter chapters numbered out of order; metacommentary about truth, fiction, and colonialism; and references to popular culture from Muhammed Ali to Elvis Presley. Within the novel itself, Apostol directly confronts anticipated criticisms about the confusing nature of the narrative and posits whether readers need to understand everything or pick up every reference. While the postmodern structure serves to distance (and at some points frustrate) readers, by the second half there's a forward thrust, and the chapter numbering begins to make sense.VERDICT Worthy of a place in collections strong in postcolonial and experimental fiction.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis