Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not)
By Jose Rizal
For the novel that I have chosen to review, I had my doubts, as it’s a novel of Jose Rizal. In school, my teacher assigned us to memorize Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere that was written in Tagalog. Now, I realized that the undertaking is a challenge if I lack the interest in reading the novel. It worried me more, as the front cover didn’t satisfy me—it’s not attractive, but you’ll probably will think otherwise. After reading the novel, I couldn’t believe the emotion that it stirred in me.
Just a little background, Rizal wrote Noli Me Tangere in Europe from 1882 to 1887 and published it in Berlin, Germany. Jose Rizal, son of a prosperous family in the Philippines, is educated in the best schools and universities in Manila and Europe. During that time his country is under the Spanish colonization; and so, the novel is set during those times where people are experiencing oppression from Spain—or at least the imperfect government they had back then.
Noli Me Tangere tells a story of Crisostomo Ibarra, the son of the wealthiest man Don Rafael Ibarra, who just came from Europe. Although a righteous man in a country dominated with Christianity, Ibarra faces challenges—like those of his own country caused his arch enemy Father Damaso.
Father Damaso is a Franciscan friar who talks too much with a great deal gesticulation. Throughout the whole plot, this friar makes things complicated for Ibarra, his novel undertakings, and his love the friar’s goddaughter, Maria Clara.
Maria Clara, on the other hand, is the paragon of beauty and purity. She is loved by many—especially her godfather is fond of her. I almost imagined butterflies and Sampaguita petals around her when the name Maria Clara is mentioned. She was arranged to be married to the heir of Don Rafael Ibarra.
In this translated version, Harold Augenbraum managed to show the masterful command of the language. Noli Me Tangere is detailed in telling a story. But with the profound intellect of Jose Rizal, I somehow had to slow down my phase of reading to prevent overlooking some important details. Also, the novel is littered with foreign and unfamiliar words that might somehow confuse you, the reader. Fear not, though, as there are notes at back for further explanations of these terms used during that time.
The pages of this novel are filled with hatred, hate, and torture which led the disadvantage people to unite against tyranny and oppression. Also throughout the plot, the indios, a derogatory term for the inhabitants of the Philippines, are portrayed to be abused—physically and emotionally—by its colonizer.
Finally, the message that I got from Noli Me Tangere is that a country is like an organism, and the government is the vital part: State, Territory, Government, and People. This gargantuan organism suffers from a cancer that slowly deteriorates and weakens the strength of its organization. It may require a treatment to sustain, yet it deteriorates its vitality.
You may or may not disagree on my opinion about this book, but truly this novel leaves a lot of room for interpretation. If you wanted to read a book rich in history, culture, wisdom, legends and maybe a little bit of romance—Maria Clara made me cry on the later part, then I recommend this book for you