Synopses & Reviews
The breakout book from a prizewinning young writer: a breathtaking, suspenseful story of one mans obsessive search to find the truth of another man's downfall.
Nelson's life is not turning out the way he hoped. His girlfriend is sleeping with another man, his brother has left their South American country, leaving Nelson to care for their widowed mother, and his acting career can't seem to get off the ground. That is, until he lands a starring role in a touring revival of The Idiot President, a legendary play by Nelson's hero, Henry Nuñez, leader of the storied guerrilla theater troupe Diciembre. And that's when the real trouble begins.
The tour takes Nelson out of the shelter of the city and across a landscape he's never seen, which still bears the scars of the civil war. With each performance, Nelson grows closer to his fellow actors, becoming hopelessly entangled in their complicated lives, until, during one memorable performance, a long-buried betrayal surfaces to force the troupe into chaos.
Nelson's fate is slowly revealed through the investigation of the narrator, a young man obsessed with Nelson's story and perhaps closer to it than he lets on. In sharp, vivid, and beautiful prose, Alarcón delivers a compulsively readable narrative and a provocative meditation on fate, identity, and the large consequences that can result from even our smallest choices.
"In Alarcón's (Lost City Radio) novel, Nelson is a young actor living in a nameless Latin American country. He is happy to learn that he has been selected to join Diciembre, a guerrilla theatre troupe. He will be performing in a politically incendiary play called The Idiot President. Accompanying him is the playwright, Henry Nuñez, who was jailed for the original production. Nelson says goodbye to his widowed mother and his girlfriend, Ixta, and embarks on his theatrical journey. In one town, Henry pays a visit to the family of his former cellmate and lover, Rogelio, and commits an incredible faux pas, which presents Nelson with the opportunity to play the part of a lifetime. He eventually returns to the city, where he finds that Ixta is pregnant by his 'rival,' Mindo. What follows is a series of misunderstandings that leads to the book's final, ironic act. Nelson's story is told by an unnamed narrator whose intrusions telegraph that the protagonist's story might not end well. Much of the book reads like a needlessly protracted warm-up for Nelson's coup de theatre, and what follows is too melodramatic for the reader to take entirely seriously. Still, Alarcón recreates the tense atmosphere of what it is like to live in a country where words have consequences. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Alarcón's purpose here is to disorient us, stripping away markers of place and identity, until we have to see the world on different terms.” Los Angeles Times
“Alarcón is a young, talented writer who is on the cusp of a breakthrough, a state of mind perfectly captured by the compulsively energetic voice of At Night We Walk in Circles…[a] gripping story.” The Daily Beast
“Nabokov says that imagination is a form of memory, and this novel is a perfect example of this claim. In writing about a place, its people and its history, Daniel Alarcón's memory catches the evanescent details of everyday life, while his imagination, never for a moment blurred, creates a powerful story with so many intricate characters. This is a novel written with extraordinary vision and wisdom.” Yiyun Li, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl and The Vagrants
“This is a devastatingly good novel and a masterful work by a gifted storyteller. Via the tangled lives of a small group of Peruvian actors, and in clear, compelling prose, Daniel Alarcón weaves a suspenseful tale about illusion and longing, love and denial — about all the kinds of human exile.” Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life and The Fall of Baghdad
About the Author
Daniel Alarcón is the author of War by Candlelight, a finalist for the 2006 PEN-Hemingway Award, and Lost City Radio, named a Best Novel of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle and The Washington Post, among others. His writing has appeared in McSweeney's, n+1, and Harper's, and he has been named one of The New Yorker's 20 under 40.” He lives in Oakland, California.