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 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.
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In this exquisite collection, Daniel Alarcón takes the reader from Third World urban centers to the fault lines that divide nations and people. Wars, both national and internal, are waged in jungles, across borders, in the streets of Lima, in the intimacy of New York apartments. These are lives at the margins of the globalized and not-yet-globalized worlds, the stories of those who shuttle between them and never quite feel at home in the cities where they were born: an unrepentant terrorist remembers where it all began, a would-be emigrant contemplates the ramifications of leaving and never coming back, a reporter turns in his pad and pencil for the inglorious costume of a street clown.
War by Candlelight is a devastating portrait ofa world in flux, and Daniel Alarcón is an extraordinary new voice in literary fiction, one you will not soon forget.