The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata
Gina Apostol. Soho, $27 (360p) ISBN 978-1-64129-183-5
Filipino writer Apostol (Insurrecto) revises her playful 2009 novel, winner of the Philippine National Book Award and appearing in the U.S. for the first time, to highly entertaining effect. Framed as the expansive, postmodern memoir of the visually impaired Raymundo Mata, the book combines Mata’s reminiscences of the 1890s revolution against Spanish colonial forces and his involvement with the secret revolutionary Katipunan society with references to revered real-life 19th-century nationalist Filipino writer Jose Rizal. In a note commenting on the new edition, Apostol describes the book’s eccentric intricacies by noting how it was “planned as a puzzle: traps for the reader, dead end jokes, textual games, unexplained sleights of tongue.” The narrative is studded with hilarious argumentative footnotes between an editor, a translator, and a scholar of Mata’s work, producing dueling Nabokovian narratives: Mata’s diaries and the conflicting commentaries, all suffused perfectly with Apostol’s dense, demanding style. As the story of the revolution faces off with literary histrionics, all is resolved with a gut-punch conclusion. Apostol’s unique perspective on facts versus fiction would make for a perfect Charlie Kaufman movie. (Jan.)
Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated this edition was the book's first time appearing in English, and it misidentified the title character an ophthalmologist.
Reviewed on: 10/26/2020