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The Descartes Highlands


The American debut novel by the winner of the National Book Award of the Philippines.

$15.95 $11.96

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

One of the Philippine Daily Inquirer‘s Top 10 Books of 2014

A NewPages Book Stand Editor’s Pick

“Darkly spellbinding . . . With a keen eye for splendor amid the grotesque, Gamalinda writes with a poet’s heart and a philosopher’s mind, while enthralling readers with emotional, gritty storytelling.”

“A mesmerizing story full of mystery . . . intricate . . . beautiful writing.”
Publishers Weekly

“It’s Gamalinda’s best and most accessible novel yet, deserving to be read by as many people as possible.”
Philippine Daily Inquirer

“It felt so easy to get swept up in this novel. The language is beautiful . . . . a beautifully written book.”

“The wait for Gamalinda’s first US based publication was well worth [it] . . . An indispensable, powerful portrayal of broken families trapped in the centripetal forces of transnational capital and postcolonial politics.”
—Asian American Literature Fans

“Gamalinda . . . does indeed write fearlessly . . . in rich, unflinching prose. This storytelling stayed with me . . . I was compelled to keep reading by the strength of the writing (it’s not for nothing that Gamalinda is the recipient of the Philippine National Book Award, a Palanca Memorial Award, and a Philippine Centennial Prize).”
Galatea Ressurects #24

“I recommend this book to those with large, giving hearts, who can afford to spend the emotional capital demanded here.”
Basso Profundo

The Descartes Highlands is a psychologically taut drama that unravels right in front of you . . . I guarantee that you will be richly rewarded.”
Zachary Mule

“Behind Eric Gamalinda’s jagged, ice-pick prose is an urgent need to connect and to understand. Are we more than the sum of our histories? What is this accident of being? Why is there anything at all? Written at the edge of a sinkhole and determined to resist its pull, The Descartes Highlands is about nothing less than the whole bewildering dream that is human consciousness.”
—David Hollander, author of L.I.E.

“No one writes like Eric Gamalinda, though we wish we all could. The Descartes Highlands, an amazing work of brutal candor girded by a philosopher’s calm, entwines our present despair with the horrific pasts we will not escape. One of the most dazzling novelists writing in America today, Eric Gamalinda has an almost classical Greek faith in the redemptive power of art. This novel delivers a commitment to beauty as unflinching as the bleak truths it tells—about globalization, about colonialism, about our human madness—offering in turn what seems our only, paradoxical hope: the pained telling of our story—a gorgeous and bitter feast.”
—Gina Apostol, author of Gun Dealers’ Daughter

“Gamalinda’s characters are both struck by the curse and graced by the blessing of their cosmopolitan condition. The story wraps together distant places, seemingly different from one another but all contaminated by the same evil: human solitude and our inability to engage in love and genuine relationships. Gamalinda would not say it out loud, but it seems there is hope for this world after all.”
—Diego Marani, author of New Finnish Grammar and The Last of the Vostyachs

“Like Walt Whitman, Gamalinda contains multitudes—but with a better sense of humor.”
—Barry Schwabsky, art critic of The Nation

“Eric Gamalinda’s attention and spirit are vibrant.”
—Michael Burkard, Guggenheim Fellow and Whiting Award winner


Two men, each unaware of the other, share a common family secret: they were sold for adoption by their American father shortly after their births in the Philippines. Three alternating stories interweave the experiences of father Andrew Breszky and the two sons who try to connect and piece together the puzzle of their reckless, impulsive father. One lives in New York and the other grows up in the south of France, later traveling all over Asia as a documentary filmmaker. Both will discover that their relationships somehow echo that of the young man whose history eludes them.

Celebrated Filipino writer Eric Gamalinda’s international debut novel is a contemporary work of ideas that combines mystery, film noir, and existential philosophy. Highly intricate and written in a style reminiscent of the maverick narrative techniques of such filmmakers as Andrei Tarkovsky and Béla Tarr, and with some of the philosophical underpinnings of Michel Houellebecq or Javier Marías. Named after the region of the moon where Apollo 16 landed in the same year these men were born, The Descartes Highlands demonstrates that for lives marked by unrelieved loneliness, the only hope lies in the redemptive power of love.

Check out these features on Eric Gamalinda and the Philippine Literary Festival at Inquirer.net.

Read excerpts from The Descartes Highlands at Granta and Shelf Unbound.

Read interviews with Eric Gamalinda at Spot, the South China Morning Post, the Halo-Halo Review, and Smile.

Check out a podcast featuring Eric Gamalinda at Great Writers Steal.

Read a feature on Eric Gamalinda at Rappler.com.

Eric Gamalinda’s poem “Canzone II” is featured in The Margins, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s online magazine. Read it here.

See below for a video of Cinco Puntos Press‘s Pan Dulce web series featuring Eric Gamalinda:


Book Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Published: 11/4/14
  • IBSN: 9781617753046
  • e-IBSN: 9781617753244


ERIC GAMALINDA has previously published, in the Philippines, a collection of short stories, three poetry collections, and four novels, including My Sad Republic, winner of the Philippine Centennial Prize in 1998. Born and raised in Manila, where he worked as a journalist covering everything from politics to rock music, Gamalinda currently lives in New York City and teaches at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Columbia University. The Descartes Highlands is his latest novel.

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