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Foreignness and Vengeance: On Rizal's "El Filibusterismo"


Philippine national hero Jose Rizal's (1861-1896) second novel, El Filibusterismo (1891) was written in Castilian, a language only 1% of the population could read, and published in Ghent. It is read in every school in the Philippines, but in an English translation, or is known by comic book or film versions. Much of its original nuance is simplified. In Spanish dictionaries, one of the definitions of filibustero is that of a pirate, hence a thief. But as one who, we might say in English, "filibusters", s/he is also one who interrupts parliamentary proceedings, smuggling his or her own discourse into those of others. In either case, we can think of the filibustero as an intruder, breaking and entering into where s/he does not properly belong, and doing so by surprise and often in disguise. Small wonder then that by the latter nineteenth century, "filibustero" was also glossed as "subversive," in the sense of a disruptive presence, a figure who by word or deed, suddenly and surreptitiously steals upon the social order.

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