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At Night We Walk in Circles

3.63  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,704 Ratings  ·  269 Reviews
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 legen ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 31st 2013 by Riverhead Books
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Ron Charles
Nov 13, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
On the last page of Daniel Alarcón’s new novel, someone asks the narrator, “Do you understand?”

The narrator replies, “I do.” Honest readers may have a different response.

But a touch of bewilderment won’t keep you from being entranced by this story, which is so full of bait-and-switch that someone should alert the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Alarcón is one of those rare writers getting away with doing exactly what he wants. He’s an Iowa Workshop graduate, a Fulbright scholar, a Guggenheim fello
So, The New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2013 came out today, and I would quibble with some of the choices (Amity Gaige's not-"Lolita," "Schroder," Amy Bender's dated before delivery "Color Master," Dave Eggers' appealing but thin and rather too preachy and obvious dystopian "The Circle"). Plus, as usual the editors chose inclusion over a picture of this particular moment in fiction. But I was happy about all sorts of choices: Jonathan Lethem's "Dissident Gardens"; Meg Wolitzer's domestic ep ...more
Nov 11, 2013 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: arc-edition
This is one of those books that makes me feel ignorant, like everyone else who reads it “gets” it and I just don't. It has received quite a bit of acclaim, and it's not like I don't like that vague genre of “literary fiction.” I don't need an especially strong plot when there is great character development and beautiful writing. I read lots of popular fiction, too, and don't need a lot of wondrous navel-gazing when there is an exciting storyline.

This one – well, I kept expecting to like it, want
Kelly McCoy
Jun 08, 2015 Kelly McCoy rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
I was close to leaving this book unfinished. There’s really no denying that it’s slow with long detailed descriptions of scenery, and each character, no matter how minor, has their life story told. At first the format of the book is confusing. There’s a narrator speaking in first person, but the story he tells is not his own. He briefly met a twenty-three year old actor in his home town, and through old journal entries and interviews with the actor’s friends the narrator tells the story of Nelso ...more
Jan 31, 2014 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Very skillfully done, but I never got emotionally involved. The plot is well executed, and the difference between modernizing city and brutal dying peasant country in our unnamed South American country is a fascinating glimpse of another (unwritten) novel. But the main character (and the narrator) are too enigmatic. I never cared for either (especially the narrator). Default 3.
Sep 12, 2013 jeremy rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
accolades can be as much a curse as a blessing for a young writer, given that expectations for literary output of increasing merit run high. peruvian/american author daniel alarcón has received a slew of honors for his fiction, including fulbright and guggenheim scholarships, a lannan fellowship, a pen/hemingway nomination, and a whiting prize, in addition to being named to the prestigious bogotá39, granta "best young american novelist," and the new yorker's "20 under 40" lists - all before reac ...more
Natalie Serber
Dec 10, 2013 Natalie Serber rated it it was amazing
The narrator of Daniel Alarcón's "At Night We Walk in Circles" is an outsider obsessed with uncovering the story of Nelson, a naïve and somewhat snobbish young man whose unhappy fate propels the narrative. Love, identity, the borders between art and reality are all examined in this highly readable novel.

Growing up in an unnamed Latin American country emerging from the shadow of war, Nelson dreams of becoming an actor and playwright like his hero, Henry Nuñez. During wartime, Henry was the founde
Chris Blocker
Aug 01, 2015 Chris Blocker rated it really liked it
While I was reading At Night We Walk In Circles, I caught my ten year old staring at the book cover. “What?” I asked. “That's a weird title,” he said. “Why is it weird?” I asked. He said he didn't know, that it just was. I brushed it off. The next day, while I was reading, my wife interrupted me: “At Night We Walk In Circles—that's an odd title.” “What's so odd about it?” I demanded. She had no answer, but then turned the unanswerable question around on me. “What's the relevance of the title?” s ...more
I have been reading At Night We Walk in Circles off and on for the last month. The novel tells the story of two men, Henry a playwright who will be imprisoned for a play that he wrote and Nelson an actor who will be part of the revival of that same play 20 years later. Throughout the book you know that something horrible is going to happen to Nelson, but when it finally arrives on the last 6 pages it is rather anticlimactic and left me feeling huh?

I did enjoy the sense of time and place that Al
a brilliant story set in alarcon's novelistic country (here too in his first novel Lost City Radio ) and the bad old days of weird elected dictators is over and growth baby is the new goal, for rich developers, for rich black economy, for the disappeared middle class too. that is where most of the characters come from, a middle class born and bred to take it. take crazy elected dictators, take their economy, their country, their hope shredded and stolen right before their eyes. and they can just ...more
Nov 06, 2013 Judy rated it liked it

When I read Daniel Alarcon's first novel, I knew I had found a writer I would follow, that I would read every novel he would write. It has been a long wait, five and a half years to be exact, since I read the last page of Lost City Radio.

His new novel is similar in location, an unnamed South American country, but later in time. The civil war that had displaced and separated so many people in the first book has been over for almost a decade and the evidences of war have been built over until the
Feb 24, 2014 Okey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really interesting experiment in narrative... but it's also incredibly frustrating! I really wanted the plot to move faster, especially towards the end: there's a lot of built-up anticipation but I honestly didn't feel it was justified in the end. We keep being told that something bad is going to happen, but when it does I got the sense that Alarcon didn't really know what it was when he began writing; and although I think it's fine for writers not to plan meticulously, when a lack of ...more
Liz Murray
Nov 13, 2013 Liz Murray rated it it was amazing
I feel blessed that this year has seen new work out by Edwidge Danticat, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I could almost throw in Junot Diaz even though that was last year, and now Daniel Alarcón. I feel that each author brings something new to the page and that their craft is only getting better and better. I loved this story and the way it was told. It has the bare bones of a mystery but it goes deeper. It spins around what can happen if we shut our eyes for just a moment, or make what might seem lik ...more
Sep 15, 2014 Jen rated it really liked it
Nelson is a young, naïve and somewhat dreamy man who joins a touring theatre troupe that is reviving a play from its revolutionary heyday. The other two members were part of the original troupe - Nelson is the newcomer and is under the spell of lead actor Henry. They travel through various Andean towns and both humorous and unsettling events unfold.

That is just the surface of the premise. There is a great deal more going on here, not least an exploration of the line between performance and reali
Feb 25, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing
“At Night We Walk in Circles,” the latest novel from Daniel Alacón, begins with the story of Nelson, a young man exploring the world outside his unnamed South American country’s capital city for the first time: (“He’d always been taught it was two different countries: the city, and everything else”). However the novel quickly evolves into a complex tale showcasing the lives of those dearest to Nelson and those on the periphery of his life who, thanks to a suspenseful and surprising turn of event ...more

There's just something about South American literature that I like and find unique. It's almost a surreal, dream-like quality to the writing and the storytelling and I certainly felt that again with Daniel Alarcon's At Night We Walk in Circles. While the title of the novel is briefly explained, it does a good job of summing up the book. It has a meandering and circular nature to it, or at least "full circle" moments when it comes to the fates of different characters -- both literally and figurat
"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 ...more
Nov 03, 2013 Dana rated it it was amazing
Note: I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My first impression is that At Night We Walk in Circles is the type of multilayered book that an English major could painstakingly dissect and then gleefully churn out pages and pages exploring literary device use and the underlying purpose and meaning of every story element. I will admit that I am a former English major, but, currently in the midst of writing research papers for grad school, I don’t h
Oct 14, 2013 Kristine rated it really liked it
Original review found at
*I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review*
I will admit that I wasn't entirely sure about this book when I first started reading. It was a little confusing and I wasn't sure where it was heading. Who was the mysterious narrator and why was he so obsessed with Nelson's story? It was clear that something terrible happened to Nelson but what?
As I continued to read I began to understand a littl
Kasa Cotugno
Dec 10, 2013 Kasa Cotugno rated it really liked it
Literature arising out of South America is like no other. There is a hallucinatory quality which crosses borders, blending the magic realism of gabriel garcia marquez with politically charged horrors. In this book, as in works such as Death and the Maiden and Bel Canto, the country is unnamed since the political uprisings share similarities. This novel focuses on Nelson, a young actor seemingly unable to get his career in gear, and the nameless narrator who finds himself presenting Nelson's stor ...more
Feb 11, 2014 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Recommends it for: drama and backstage junkies
Shelves: 2014
A lot of complex themes are addressed in this book but I couldn't help but think that the theater was the focal point. We're in an unspecified Latin American country with a narrator whose identity is not revealed until well over half way through the book. In fact, this book is really about patience, there's an immense amount of setup and at times I struggled with this build.

We meet Nelson at first. He's young, mixed up, an actor in the play, The Idiot President. His love life is a mess. Than th
Apr 25, 2014 Garry rated it really liked it
At Night We Walk in Circles has a gentle meandering tone. Many reviews suggest that the title gives a hint to the content - a story that swirls around in circles but doesn't really get anywhere. I disagree. Whilst perhaps not completely linear, the story does march relentlessly towards its finale. If I had to draw a picture of the narrative it'd be like an ice-cream cone.... you start with your finger at the top and trace downwards in ever tightening spirals until you reach the pointed conclusio ...more
Hermano Cerdo
Jun 27, 2014 Hermano Cerdo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novela
De Daniel Alarcón había leído uno El rey está siempre por encima del pueblo, un extraordinario conjunto de relatos publicado en España por Alfaguara. De aquella lectura salí tan entusiasmado que en cuanto me topé en la mesa de novedades con esta novela, ahora en Seix Barral, me la llevé sin pensarlo. Solo puedo decir que mi idilio con este autor continúa.

Alarcón, hijo de peruanos emigrados a Estados Unidos, escribe en inglés, lengua en la que, según confiesa, se expresa mucho mejor que en españ
Dec 08, 2013 Carrie rated it really liked it
I love the serendipity of the books you happen to read together, books that have no relationships whatsoever, but then suddenly they do. I read this right after The Human Stain and loved the shared themes of role-playing, aliases, creating new identities and lives and losing the originals or forgetting which is real. And the role of the writer who finds himself pulled into the story, as a character, and then as an investigator. Is he doing a service? Or is he a thief, hiding his own aims under t ...more
Steven Buechler
Oct 07, 2013 Steven Buechler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: soon
I received this book in advance of publication as part of a Goodreads promotional competition.

There have been many comparisons to the actions on the theatrical stage to the actions that occur in real life. Shakespeare's line of 'All the world's a stage' has been quoted and analyzed on so many fronts that it has become tiresome. But in Daniel Alarcon brilliant novel At Night We Walk in Circles, the actions of the members of a theatre troupe come alive to give us a story about obsessions and the r
Set in an unnamed Latin American country in 2001, I eventually figured out this was Peru. The NY Times review said " this ... is set in a country that if not quite the author’s native Peru is at least a first cousin". This is not a spoiler because if you look up the writer's bio, you read he was born in Lima, Peru in 1977. I loved his first book Lost City Radio, and this, his second novel, did not disappoint me. The story centers on the revival of a traveling theater troupe, made up of only 3 me ...more
Carl R.
Nov 28, 2013 Carl R. rated it it was amazing
It's been a while since I read Daniel Alarcon's fantastic War by Candlelight and Lost City Radio, seeing an occasional something from him in The New Yorker or elsewhere and wondering when the next big one was coming. I was passing by my favorite neighborhood bookstore a couple of weeks ago, and, lo! A window full of At Night We Walk in Circles, along with a notice about a soon-to-come reading by my favorite local author.

I presented myself at the affair early enough to buy a copy and grab a seat
John Pappas
Apr 09, 2014 John Pappas rated it really liked it
The myriad roles we play and the repetitions and habits that make our individual characters, as well as the character of our culture or nation, are the focal points of Alcaron's fantastic new novel. Set in an unnamed South American country, Alcaron's book features a small band of revolutionary actors (one of whom, a playwright, has served time in prison for charges of terrorism-by-literature) who reunite to resume an aborted tour from years ago. Joined by the young Nelson, an actor who worships ...more
Jan 22, 2014 Julie rated it it was ok
And by day we talk in circles
Slow getting nowhere.

The narrative was drowning in words, coming up for air only to gulp more words. There was more than a little self indulgence ... oooh look ... my navel! ... a shame, as there were some vibrant pieces of writing. It just laboured too much as a novel.

The main character, who joins a travelling theatre company taking a politically charged play on tour, lets life lead him by the nose. Like a tsunami, it all washed over him and sweeps him away in its d
Nov 19, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Anyone who knows me and has read my other reviews knows that just because I got this for free doesn't mean that's why I liked it so much.

This is the kind of book I'll tell everyone about. Oftentimes, I find myself stating that a book was *either* character-driven *or* plot-driven, but this book is truly both. I wanted to keep reading both to learn more about what makes these characters tick, as well as to find out what was going on. I was impressed with the way that the characters were truly 3-d
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At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon 1 25 Feb 12, 2014 04:39PM  
  • El espíritu de mis padres sigue subiendo en la lluvia
  • Hill William
  • The Sound of Things Falling
  • Ways of Going Home
  • The Polish Boxer
  • Quesadillas
  • Kind of Kin
  • The Hired Man
  • Long Division
  • Silence Once Begun
  • Fools: Stories
  • Conversations
  • The Tuner of Silences
  • At the Bottom of Everything
  • The African Shore
  • The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle
  • Abril rojo
  • El caso Neruda
Daniel Alarcón’s fiction and nonfiction have been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, Virginia Quarterly Review, Salon, Eyeshot and elsewhere. He is Associate Editor of Etiqueta Negra, an award-winning monthly magazine based in his native Lima, Peru. His story collection, War by Candlelight, was a finalist for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, and the British journal Granta recently name ...more
More about Daniel Alarcón...

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“The city was lovely. There could be no place in the world to which he belonged so completely.
That was why he'd always dreamed of leaving, and why he'd always been so afraid to go.”
“Nepotism is the lowest and least imaginative form of corruption.” 3 likes
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