Summary and book reviews of At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon

At Night We Walk in Circles

A Novel

by Daniel Alarcon

At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon X
At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2013, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2014, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

Book Summary

The breakout book from a prizewinning young writer: a breathtaking, suspenseful story of one man's 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 and moved to the United States, 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 Nunez, 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.

1.

During the war — which Nelson's father called the anxious years — a few radical students at the Conservatory founded a theater company. They read the French surrealists, and improvised adaptations of Quechua myths; they smoked cheap tobacco, and sang protest songs with vulgar lyrics. They laughed in public as if it were a political act, baring their teeth and frightening children. Their ranks were drawn, broadly speaking, from the following overlapping circles of youth: the long-hairs, the working-class, the sex-crazed, the poseurs, the provincials, the alcoholics, the emotionally needy, the rabble-rousers, the opportunists, the punks, the hangers-on, and the obsessed. Nelson was just a boy then: moody, thoughtful, growing up in a suburb of the capital with his head bent over a book. He was secretly in love with a slight, brown-haired girl from school, with whom he'd exchanged actual words on only a handful of occasions. At night, Nelson wrote out the ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Set in an unnamed South American country, At Night We Walk in Circles explores concepts of identity and loss, among others, in a soulful story that confirms Alarcon’s status as one of America’s most dazzling fiction writers...continued

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(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Much of the book reads like a needlessly protracted warm-up for Nelson’s coup de théâtre, 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.

Library Journal
This is an involving and dramatic story in a vague yet realistic landscape.

Kirkus Reviews
Though the book is low on lyricism, Alarcón successfully merges themes of art, love and politics.

Author Blurb Yiyun Li, author of Gold Boy, Emerald Girl and The Vagrants
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.

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Beyond the Book

Yuyachkani

The theater group Diciembre, in At Night We Walk in Circles, sounds a lot like Peru's award-winning independent theater collective, Yuyachkani. Launched in 1971, the group's essential pillars have been political performances, theatrical experimentation and performances steeped in indigenous culture.

YuyachkaniYuyachkani is a Quechua word that means "I am thinking/I am remembering." The company is at the forefront of Latin American theater, and makes education and community issues the cornerstones of its work. One of Yuyachkani's principles is the belief that "an evaluation of the past makes us understand the present." To that end, Yuyachkani has focused its action around one main objective: to contribute to the development and strengthening of ...

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