The Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies (CCWLS), in cooperation with the UST Department of Literature, held “Writing in Exile: A Conversation with Filipino-Canadian Fictionist Miguel Syjuco” last May 4, 2016 at the Theater Teresita Quirino, G / F Benavides Building.UST Publishing House Director John Jack Wigley served as a moderator during the tete-a-tete. CCWLS Assistant Director Ralph Semino and Mr. Galan Chuckberry Pascual opened up the conversation and discussed the writer’s thoughts in crafting his award-winning novel, Ilustrado. Later on, the floor was given to the audience, composed of Thomasians and also local writers, to interact with the guest writer.When asked if he were thinking of a postmodern novel or a post-colonial novel while crafting Ilustrado, Syjuco regarded his work as a contemporary novel rather than a postmodern one, noting that his book was a collection of literary forms; it is a collage of essays, poetry, excerpts from novels, and short stories.Citing the playfulness of postmodernism, he wanted his readers to have an “A-ha!” Moment in which they should participate in exploring the story. “I want the reader to realize himself as a person rather than just being a voyeur, rather than just watching the action,” Syjuco said.According to him, the book was written the way it was, not just for the postmodern tendency to be, or simply to be different. He had clear goals, according to him, which he wanted to address as a Filipino writer. “I wanted to write a book that reflected the way we see today are reality,” he said.Syjuco also said that there were different literary forms, which were didactic, “Essays, interviews, blog entries … so why do not I use those literary tools that are in the writer’s toolkit which are inherently didactic to explain these things?”Using a unit from his novel as an example to discuss the role of humor, “If you can explain the humor in the culture, you’re able to explain so much about the culture, all their frustrations, their obsession about,” he continued .Being a Filipino writing in English, Syjuco discussed the trade in the publishing industry. “If I wanted to make a living as a writer, I needed to sell abroad,” he said.In Canada, where Syjuco resides, people do not recognize him much, which, in turn, allowed him to devote more time and pay more attention to writing.“Fiction is great; it allows you to examine a lot of people living and it also allows you to examine yourself, “he said.The event is part of the CCWLS ‘International Writers and Scholars Series, which consists of formal lectures and informal conversations. Past speakers include Filipino writers based abroad, such as Ninotchka Rosca, Sabina Murray, Gina Apostol, Manguerra Cecilia Brainard, R. Zamora LINMARK, Marivi Soliven, Lara Stapleton, M. Evelina Galang, Fidelito Cortes, Nerissa Balce, Amalia Well, Robert and Nery.Foreign writers have also taken part in the series, such as Tim Tomlinson, Dennis Haskell, and xuxi.Syjuco is the grand prizewinner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize for his debut novel “Ilustrado,” which also won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. “Ilustrado” was also a finalist in the Amazon First Novel Award, Grand Prix du Livre de Montreal, Prix Jan Michalski, Prix Courrier International, PremioVon Rezzori and Commonwealth First Book Prize for the Canada and Caribbean region. It has been translated into more than 15 languages. His second novel, “I Was The President’s Mistress !! A Celebrity Tell-All Memoir, “is forthcoming.
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