Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Challenging the borders and limitations of ‘freedom’ and ‘righteousness’, Rasholnikov, the paradoxical protagonist of this novel, is a student in 19th century poverty-ridden St. Petersburg who rationalizes that a single evil deed could be justified if the betterment of the many is the main motive. Thus he murders an old pawn-broker and her peasant sister, robs the old woman of her possessions and deems himself as another Napoleon who could bring about drastic change upon the society through a single unacceptable deed and as such, is deserving even of a commendation.

Probing upon the dark recesses of the mind, this book gnaws upon the murky possibilities that whirl in the human subconscious and all the logical explanations that one could afford to weave for the sake of rationalizing a thing or a deed that is otherwise wicked and impermissible in reality. One of the Russian classics published during the later half of the 19th century, Crime and Punishment winds upon the dismal void of the mind, the propriety of being a person who yields to the rules of society and the indistinct line through which a person treads when he is in the brink of deciding whether to follow such rules or elude them.

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Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco

A dead body from the frozen Hudson River. A lost manuscript of a long anticipated novel. Trails of unrest, struggle, and the unthinkable angle of suicide.

The story starts upon Crisostomo, a deranged writer who became the mentor of young Miguel, an aspiring writer budding upon the walls of American Universities. Dissatisfied with suicide as the evident explanation for the death of his mentor, Miguel goes back to the Philippines to dig and unravel the true reasons behind the mysterious death of his dear teacher.

This book will lead you back to the labyrinthine outskirts of society in the Philippines, from the chivalrous era of the 1800’s until the oppressive epoch of of the Martial law and the evidently masked corruption and venality of the past administrations. Woven into the intricate patterns of nationalistic sentiments are the sardonic realities of modern day social castes and the bitter actualities of families and the acrimonious fate that befalls a daughter who never had a glimpse of the man who fathered her.

A winner of the Man Asia Literary Award, this book ends with the subtle taste of mystery and rhetoric that, like Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, leaves readers contemplating about the realities of being a Filipino and what could possibly be done about the bitter aftertaste of the truth.