A Luminous Republic (translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman) is the fifth of Andrés Barba’s books rendered into English — and is quite nearly flawless. Recipient of the prestigious Premio Herralde, Barba’s new novel is a tense, foreboding, and unforgettable work. The unease and dread that so characterized his previous book, Such Small Hands, is even more abundant, making A Luminous Republic easily his finest outing to date. Dark and dismaying, Barba's allegorical tale of violence, terror, neglect, and turmoil exposes both a social fragility and the ever-unintended consequences of dehumanization and disregard. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A new novel from a Spanish literary star about the arrival of feral children to a tropical city in Argentina, and the quest to stop them from pulling the place into chaos.
San Cristóbal was an unremarkable city — small, newly prosperous, contained by rain forest and river. But then the children arrived.
No one knew where they came from: thirty-two kids, seemingly born of the jungle, speaking an unknown language. At first they scavenged, stealing food and money and absconding to the trees. But their transgressions escalated to violence, and then the city’s own children began defecting to join them. Facing complete collapse, municipal forces embark on a hunt to find the kids before the city falls into irreparable chaos.
Narrated by the social worker who led the hunt, A Luminous Republic is a suspenseful, anguished fable that “could be read as Lord of the Flies seen from the other side, but that would rob Barba of the profound originality of his world” (Juan Gabriel Vásquez).
“A Luminous Republic has all the stark power of a folk-tale or a fable. It also raises concerns that are pressing and contemporary — about the function and source of language, about public paranoia and hysteria, about the idea of community and how information spreads. At the book’s center is a moving personal story about memory and loss. The narrative is engaging, at times playful, wholly compelling.” Colm Tóibín, New York Times-bestselling author of Nora Webster and Brooklyn
“A Luminous Republic is a terrifying masterpiece. To lay bare with such stunning precision the nature of self-obsession – the viciousness with which any one of us might respond to that which we don’t understand – marks Andrés Barba as a writer of extraordinary talent. He has created a small, simple story and within it buried immense complexity and truth.” Omar El Akkad, bestselling author of American War
“One of the best books I’ve ever read... There is an air of magic, black and white, lingering around every page of this epic novel of 192 pages, like gun smoke after a shootout. I say ‘epic’ because it feels as full, as dense with duration, as if it were 1,000 pages long, but can be read in an evening... This is a book at once heavy and light, Caliban and Ariel, somber and comic. It will open your eyes.” Edmund White, from his foreword to A Luminous Republic
“A fever dream of a novel with sharp-as-knives insights; deft and cutting.” Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters
“Disturbing and melancholy, disquieting without tricks and beautiful without artifice, A Luminous Republic is an engrossing tale of unusual moral precision. It could be read as a Lord of the Flies seen from the other side, but then we would be robbing Andrés Barba of the profound originality of his world, which is unlike anything the reader might have encountered. A triumph.” Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Sound of Things Falling and The Shape of the Ruins
“Barba conjures the primal impulses of childhood with terrifying precision. In its questioning of violence as both threat and seduction, A Luminous Republic is both a rapturous fable and a ruinous forecast of the havoc that comes from civic inaction.” Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew and Ways to Disappear
“At first this book will scare you, but after that you feel something much deeper, disturbing and luminous.” Samanta Schweblin, author of Fever Dream and Mouthful of Birds
“Andrés Barba has written a Spanish novel that seems Latin American and that is nourished by the best Anglo-Saxon tradition: a wicked fable on childhood that is also a suspense novel that plays with the mechanisms of fantastic literature. Highly enjoyable and profound.”
Juan Pablo Villalobos, author of Down the Rabbit Hole and I’ll Sell You a Dog
About the Author
Andrés Barba is the award-winning author of numerous books, including Such Small Hands and The Right Intention. He was one of Granta's Best Young Spanish novelists and received the Premio Herralde for A Luminous Republic, which will be translated into twenty languages.
Lisa Dillman translates from Spanish and Catalan and teaches in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Emory University. Some of her recent translations include Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera, which won the 2016 Best Translated Book Award; Such Small Hands and Rain Over Madrid, by Andrés Barba; Monastery, co-translated with Daniel Hahn, by Eduardo Halfon; and Salting the Wound, by Víctor del Árbol.