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, 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, Alarcon delivers a compulsively readable narrative and a provocative meditation on fate, identity, and the large consequences that can result from even our smallest choices.
Daniel Alarcon's debut story collection, War by Candlelight, was a finalist for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Award. He has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and has been named by Granta magazine one of the Best American Novelists under thirty-five. He is the associate editor of Etiqueta Negra, an award-winning monthly magazine published in his native Lima, Peru. He lives in Oakland, California.
Praise for Daniel Alarcon
"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 Alarcon'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."
"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 Alarcon weaves a suspenseful tale about illusion and longing, love and denial -- about all the kinds of human exile."
--Jon Lee Anderson
"A prodigious talent."
--The Washington Post Book World
"One of the most exciting and ambitious writers to emerge in recent years."
"Alarcon, like the best storytellers, reveals to us that the world we have secreted in our hearts spins in a bigger universe with other hearts just as good and just as bad as our own."
--Edward P. Jones
"Reading Alarcon feels like witnessing the arrival of a John Steinbeck or Gabriel Garcia Marquez."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune