Feature

Novel of the week: At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón

Daniel Alarcón manages to sneak deep questions about identity and performance into a plot “with all the twists and turns of a luge run.”

(Riverhead, $28)

Don’t think of Daniel Alarcón’s “gorgeously nuanced” new work as a novel about Peru, said Ana Menéndez in The New York Times. The unnamed nation where it’s set resembles Alarcón’s native country, but the story’s concerns “resonate far beyond its imaginary borders.” Nelson, a young actor who came of age in a time of war, is now touring the provinces performing a radical satire that once landed the leader of the small troupe in prison. But the journey puts the actors on a collision course with the past, and by the time Nelson is forced to impersonate a dead man to soothe a mother’s heart, “the line between art and reality, already perforated, is torn clean through,” said Anthony Marra in the San Francisco Chronicle. Alarcón manages to sneak deep questions about identity and performance into a plot “with all the twists and turns of a luge run.” As Nelson careens toward a grim fate, we’re left to wonder if the narrator is giving shape to the events of Nelson’s life—or if we are.

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