Weekend Reading

Recollections of books carried back and forth on the elevated train -- in a long-term, though belated, attempt to learn something about the world.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Jose Rizal : Noli Me Tangere

This is a rather densely written novel - with plenty of  minor characters whose only function appears to be local color.  So I was having some difficulty finishing it before the library wanted it back.

But as it turns out, it's a national treasure in the Philippines where every school child has to study it.  I feel kind of sorry for them - it can get quite tedious - but as a result it can be read online - and the intricate details of its plot have conveniently been summarized.

Rizal was a remarkable polymath and polyglot.  He was probably a role model for Pramoedya Toer, the Indonesian writer whose primary theme of his masterpiece, the Buru Quartet,  was also national independence from European colonialism.  But unlike Toer, Rizal could not sustain narrative tension. He  also could not survive the colonial backlash to his work. Toer spent most of his adult life in prison - but Rizal was shot by a firing squad at the age of 35.

Above is a picture of Rizal's girl friend who inspired the heroine, Maria Clara, of this novel.  Below is a statue of the Christian piety that also figures into the story.  Both were created by Rizal himself.  He was a very talented man!

By the way, I don't really get what was so heroic about Maria Clara.  She was beautiful, modest, chaste, and soft spoken.  But she does nothing good for anybody and eventually betrays her lover to save her own reputation.


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