Filipino Fiction in Review: Empire of Memory

June 2, 2020 Uncategorized 2 ★★★

Filipino Fiction in Review: Empire of MemoryTitle: Empire of Memory
Author: Eric Gamalinda
Source: Bought

Summary: A decent story, but I think it would have been better if I’d had more prior knowledge about the Philippines.

“Two friends are hired by Marcos to rewrite Philippine history. Their mission: to make it appear that Marcos was destined to rule the country in perpetuity. Working from an office called Agency for the Scientific Investigation of the Absurd, they embark on a journey that will take them across a surreal panorama of Philippine politics and history, and in the process question all their morals and beliefs.” (source).

Honestly, I’m not certain what to make of this one. I enjoyed reading it pretty well. I was curious to find out what would happen next, both to our narrator and in the history he’s researching. At the end, though, I found myself wondering what the point was. That made me ask myself what sort of “point” I expect a book to have. I think what was missing for me here wasn’t a moral or some message from the author, but a clearer narrative arc. The narrator’s circumstances didn’t change at all during the book and I didn’t feel like there was much character development either. This felt like a random snippet of our narrator’s life during which nothing much of consequence happened to him personally. He also didn’t have much agency to shape the world around him.

To be fair, I think part of the problem here is probably my lack of prior knowledge about the cultural and historical context to which this book refers. I expect part of my feeling that something is missing comes from the fact that I am, in fact, missing things. It’s possible that the author’s intended point with this book was social commentary that simply went over my head.  This could be a good book to revisit after reading some relevant nonfiction, but as a novice to Philippine history, I didn’t find it to be a good introduction.

2 Responses to “Filipino Fiction in Review: Empire of Memory”

    • DoingDewey

      That’s right! I think I’m more at the stage of needing to read some nonfiction to learn Philippine history than at a stage where I can appreciate satire on that topic.

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