Insurrecto by Gina Apostol
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 Dealers’ 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 Philippine-American War. Chiara is working on a film about an incident in Balangiga, Samar, in 1901, when Filipino revolutionaries attacked an American garrison, and in retaliation American soldiers created “a howling wilderness” of the surrounding countryside. Magsalin reads Chiara’s film script and writes her own version. Insurrecto contains within its dramatic action two rival scripts from the filmmaker and the translator—one about a white photographer, the other about a Filipino schoolteacher.
Within the spiraling voices and narrative layers of Insurrecto are stories of women—artists, lovers, revolutionaries, daughters—finding their way to their own truths and histories. Using interlocking voices and a kaleidoscopic structure, the novel is startlingly innovative, meditative, and playful. Insurrecto masterfully questions and twists narrative in the manner of Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch, and Nabokov’s Pale Fire. Apostol pushes up against the limits of fiction in order to recover the atrocity in Balangiga, and in so doing, she shows us the dark heart of an untold and forgotten war that would shape the next century of Philippine and American history.
“A bravura performance in which war becomes farce, history becomes burlesque . . . Apostol is a magician with language (think Borges, think Nabokov) who can swing from slang and mockery to the stodgy argot of critical theory. She puns with gusto, potently and unabashedly, until one begins reading double meanings, allusions and ulterior motives into everything.”
—The New York Times
“Apostol is no mystifier or arid avant-gardiste. Rather, she's playful like Italo Calvino or Kurt Vonnegut. She dishes up funny riffs on everything from the 'Thrilla in Manila' and her countrymen's love of Elvis Presley to what the book terms the Filipino Chekhov Rule: If you mention karaoke in the first chapter, somebody has to sing it in the last one . . . It's Insurrecto's great achievement that it confronts us with dreadful things without ever turning into an accusatory, anti-American screed. See, Apostol is after more than recrimination. Steeped in the love-hate relationship with American culture she shares with most Filipinos, she actually seeks to transcend the gap between the two countries.”
—John Powers, NPR's Fresh Air
“Stunning . . . An arresting novel with a timely political message, Apostol’s Insurrecto dazzles with its inventive structure and superb portrayals of women as leaders of ingenuity, creativity and reason.”
—Los Angeles Times
Publisher: Soho Press