Review of The Social Cancer / Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal (translated by Charles Derbyshire)

Three Stars

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I posted some background information and opinions on The Social Cancer (Noli Me Tangere) in my Backlist books post on Asian Books Blog.

Below are some quotes from the book and explanations for why I chose them.

Quotes from The Social Cancer (Noli Me Tangere)

Sharp Humor

Too much bitterness can ruin the tone of a book, but once in a while it’s fun to laugh at things that are not very nice.

Like an electric shock the announcement ran through the world of parasites, bores, and hangers-on, whom God in His infinite bounty creates and so kindly multiplies in Manila.

Here, on a raised platform, stands a grand piano of great price, which tonight has the additional virtue of not being played upon.

They moved along for some time in silence. The elder seemed to be in deep thought and to be seeking inspiration from his goatee, which he stroked continually.

Plants grow on plants in Singapore, too.

The tropical vegetation spreads out luxuriantly in thickets and underbrush, while curtains of interwoven vines hang from the branches of the trees and twine about their roots or spread along the ground, as if Flora were not yet satisfied but must place plant above plant. Mosses and fungi live upon the cracked trunks, and orchids—graceful guests—twine in loving embrace with the foliage of the hospitable trees.

Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.

“What’s this?” he at length asked, picking up the book and turning its leaves.
“The Wheel of Fortune, a book of games,” replied Leon.
“Don’t you know that it’s a sin to believe in these things?” he scolded, tearing the leaves out angrily. Cries of surprise and anger escaped from the lips of all.
“It’s a greater sin to dispose of what isn’t yours, against the wish of the owner,” contradicted Albino, rising. “Padre, that’s what is called stealing and it is forbidden by God and men!”

I couldn’t agree more. What kind of holy man rips books apart?!?

Pithy Truths

“The people consider madmen those who do not think as they do.”

“Nobody loves the naked truth!”

“He who attempts many things succeeds in none.”

Run, run, run away! Live to fight another day.

“To stoop as the bullet passes is not cowardly—it is worse to defy it only to fall, never to rise again.”

Missing the point, much?

The younger men… gazed at him in admiration and took him for a model; but, as it nearly always happens, when we wish to imitate great men, that we copy only their foibles and even their defects, since we are capable of nothing else, so many of these admirers took note of the way in which he tied his cravat, others of the style of his collar, and not a few of the number of buttons on his coat and vest.

Laugh all you want about those buttons, but even when we’re not dressing in imitation of our idols, we’re guilty of similar behavior. There are scores of books written by successful people about how they made their millions (or published their novels, or won their gold medals, or what have you), which yet-to-be-successful people buy, expecting to maybe somehow achieve the same results.

Bad Government

“It will soon be fifteen years since the towns have had their Civil Guard…. Robberies continue and the perpetrators are not hunted down; crime flourishes, and the real criminal goes scot-free, but not so the peaceful inhabitant of the town. Ask any honorable citizen if he looks upon this institution as a benefit, a protection on the part of the government, and not as an imposition, a despotism whose outrageous acts do more damage than the violent deeds of criminals. These latter are indeed serious, but they are rare, and against them one has the right to defend himself, but against the molestations of legal force he is not even allowed a protest, and if they are not serious they are nevertheless continued and sanctioned.”

Corruption makes my blood boil.

Liberty via education or via revolution?

“I will never be the one to lead the multitude to get by force what the government does not think proper to grant, no! If I should ever see that multitude armed I would place myself on the side of the government, for in such a mob I should not see my countrymen. I desire the country’s welfare, therefore I would build a schoolhouse. I seek it by means of instruction, by progressive advancement; without light there is no road.”

These are the author’s sentiments, spoken by his mouthpiece, the protagonist of the novel. Sadly, the author was made the figurehead of a violent uprising and was ultimately executed for treason. History is often rough on optimists.

When and Why I Read The Social Cancer (Noli Me Tangere)

I am reading this Filipino novel for my Backlist books column at Asian Books Blog.

Genre: Fiction (historical)
Date started / date finished: 16-Nov-2017 / 09-Dec-2017
Length: 392
ISBN: Gutenberg 6737
Originally published in: 1887
Gutenberg link: The Social Cancer (Noli Me Tangere)