This month’s Book Tip is brought to you by Adrian Nathan West, translator of International Booker-shortlisted When We Cease to Understand the World and author of My Father’s Diet, coming from And Other Stories in 2022.
Recently I was bellyaching on Twitter about publishers’ reluctance to send review copies to me in Spain, and Soho Press’s solicitous PR person messaged me asking for my address to send me Gina Apostol’s new-old novel (first published in 2009, re-released earlier this year), The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata.
A book within a book, a purported memoir by a blind Filipino revolutionary with spurious forewords, afterwords, and footnotes by a translator and two scholars who at times parody but at times exemplify in thought-provoking ways the insights of psychoanalysis, historiography, and identity theory, The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata gives Pale Fire a run for its money in terms of erudition, complexity, and linguistic virtuosity. I cannot find enough words of praise for Gina Apostol, who I think must be one of the three or four cleverest novelists now writing in English. I wanted to review this book in print, but there are so many layers of truth and falsehood and such a density of historical and literary references that I finally felt I just wasn’t the guy to do it. I am just too busy to do it justice. But I am sure I will continue to read everything she writes.
I have adorned my photo with a wind-up plastic figure of an officer from the Guardia Civil, a Spanish police force that tormented the Philippine population when it still formed part of the empire, and a target of the ire of José Rizal, whose works Apostol examines at length in her book.