Don’t be alarmed if you consider yourself a literature buff and don’t recognize this title! Noli me tangere was written by José Rizal (free at Project Gutenberg), the national hero of the Philippines. It was originally written in Spanish and was later translated into Tagalog (language of the Philippines) and English. In English it’s called “The Social Cancer” but its translation from Latin is “Touch me not”.
The story begins with Ibarra returning to the Philippines after studying in Europe for several years. The consequences of his father’s death are at first unclear but then it becomes obvious that Padre Dámaso not only in effect murdered him by turning the entire community against him (for allegedly being a heretic), but defiled his memory by dishonoring his corpse. Dámaso continues to belittle Ibarra’s father and tries to turn the community against him as well.
What I find so interesting about reading Noli (as it is often referred to) is how modern it sounds, despite being written in 1887. Rizal was so forward-thinking, he was able to satirize a society that no one really seemed to think to question before his time. And I suppose that’s why he’s our national hero, and why it’s studied by every child in the Philippines (unfortunately I left the Philippines before starting grade school).
Here are a few great quotes:
“Do not forget that if knowledge is the heritage of mankind, it is only the courageous who inherit it…” (Location 973-74)
in life it is not the criminal who provokes the most hate but the honest man. (Location 4270-71)
“If God hears my prayers and my hopes are fulfilled, I’ll say to Andoy, ‘Son, take away all our sins and send us to Heaven!’ Then we shan’t need to pray and fast and buy indulgences. One whose son is a blessed Pope can commit sins!” (Location 4413-15)