Bookends

Author Miguel Syjuco is here for the world literature workshops.
Author Miguel Syjuco is here for the world literature workshops.PHOTO: COURTESY OF MIGUEL SYJUCO

Who: Miguel Syjuco, 39, author

The Filipino received the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2008 for his debut novel, Ilustrado. It is a meta- fictional work about a oncesuccessful Filipino writer who tries to make a comeback, but mysteriously dies before he can do so. Syjuco is in town for a series of world literature workshops at The Arts House this weekend.

What are you reading now?

I'm reading novels for a course I'm teaching at New York University's new campus in Abu Dhabi, where I'm a visiting professor. The course is titled Novels That Changed The World. We're studying those that have had clear social effects beyond just literature because that's what every writer hopes to achieve.

So the pile of books beside me these days includes Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, which helped spur the American Civil War; Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not), which was instrumental in the Philippine Revolution that ousted Spain; Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, which galvanised the African nations' post-colonial unity; and Henry Miller's Tropic Of Cancer - art and censorship were never the same after the novel was published.


Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (2015, Vintage Publishing, $18.71)

What books would you save from a burning house?


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (2006, Penguin Classics, $21.05)

The books I most prize are by fellow writers with their personal dedications. The shelf beside my desk carries books by writers I'm so lucky to call friends: Tash Aw, Nam Le, David Mitchell, Madeleine Thien, Rawi Hage, Alberto Manguel, Colin McAdam, Elif Batuman, Andrew Sean Greer, Edmund White, NVM Gonzalez, Divya Victor, Barrie Sherwood, Tishani Doshi, Carlo Pizzati, Nicholas Jose, Brian Castro, Julie Orringer, Maaza Mengiste, Adam Gollner, DBC Pierre, David McKirdy, Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Dale Peterson, Vivek Narayanan, Salman Rushdie and many more. I would save their signed books. 


Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal (2006, Penguin Classics, $28.82)

  • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (2015, Vintage Publishing, $18.71), Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal (2006, Penguin Classics, $28.82), Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (2006, Penguin Classics, $21.05), Tropic Of Cancer by Henry Miller (2005, HarperCollins, $25.62) are available from Books Kinokuniya.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'Bookends'. Print Edition | Subscribe