Gina Apostol’s latest novel, Insurrecto, reminds me of what my Russian translator said: "Not to read Dostoevsky is a crime, but to read him is punishment." Reading Insurrecto is difficult, but to read it is to be rewarded with knowledge and insight not usually available in much of Filipino contemporary fiction.
The narration of the story is not linear, but it is a very clever way of juxtaposing the past with contemporary events, and Gina’s prose crackles all over the place with its freshness and cleverness.
Her characters appear opaque in the beginning, but since every chapter is a revelation they develop solid surfaces. It is obvious that a lot of research went into this book, but the rendition of contemporary happenings also proves that the author is grounded in the often sordid and gruesome realities of this country today.
This book might not be popular primarily because it is not interesting in the manner that contemporary fiction – and its plots – are often satisfying and predictable. But it should be read precisely because it illustrates what an excellent writer can achieve not just with the imagination but also with language.
Insurrecto is a commentary, too, on our relationship with the United States and the suffocating influence of American culture on the Philippines. The historical roots of this influence and the love-hate relationship that Filipinos have with America gives Insurrecto its meaning and significance. But, as Gina concludes, Insurrecto is a misnomer and Revolution is a dream.