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War by Candlelight: Stories

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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  525 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Something is happening. Wars, both national and internal, are being waged in jungles, across borders, in the streets of Lima, in the intimacy of New York apartments. War by Candlelight is an exquisite collection of stories that carry the reader from Third World urban centers to the fault lines that divide nations and people -- a devastating portrait of a world in flux -- a ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 11th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 2005)
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Jacob
July/August 2009

All dead men don’t fall from the sky. They don’t all float down the Hudson and come to rest against smooth moss-covered rocks at the water’s edge. Some of them are your fathers, your uncles. Some of them lose the battle slowly. Some die hating the world.
(“A Strong Dead Man,” p. 184)


A man proposes to his former girlfriend once a year on their daughter’s birthday. A reporter for the newspaper mourns his father as he writes a story on the city’s clowns. Children go to war on enemy s
...more
jeremy
much as with lost city radio, the novel that followed this debut collection of short stories, i find something lacking in daniel alarcón's writing. the nine stories that make up war by candlelight are interesting enough, many with compelling plots even, yet his style of prose, perhaps best characterized as passionless, sterile, or overly restrained, detracts greatly from his storytelling. his writing nearly seems clinical, as if too many writing workshops have eroded his natural voice. that alar ...more
Larissa
I picked up War by Candlelight as part of my new project: To find contemporary (possibly American?) authors whose work wouldn’t immediately turn me off with snarky postmodern pyrotechnics and faux quirkiness, with concepts and plotlines that outstrip the prose, with the constant I-Get-It-Do-You-Get-It? nudge-nudging that seems to be the currency in which so many contemporary writers traffic in. This is not, of course, to say that all self-aware, reflexive, fanciful writing is garbage—simply tha ...more
David
The stories in this debut collection are extraordinary. Daniel Alarcón was born in Lima, raised in Alabama, spent time in Peru as a Fulbright scholar, and now lives in Oakland. Most of the stories in "War by Candlelight" are set in Peru; three take place in New York City. Whether writing about political instability in Lima or emotional turmoil in Manhattan, Alarcón writes with a kind of unobtrusive brilliance that is astonishing. I'd finish one of these stories, marvel at how awesome it was, onl ...more
César
I will admit my not-so-secret crush on Daniel Alarcón. His "City of Clowns" still haunts me, while "Third Avenue Suicide" brings back so much pain and sadness... War by Candlelight remains a close, meaningful favorite.
Will Byrnes
In War by Candlelight, Daniel Alarcon shines a flickering light on a piece of modern Peruvian history. On, and it’s 1989, with two fighters in the jungle, one about to die; off, then on again, and it is 1966 where the father of one of those fighters is proudly sending his son off to university; off, then on, and it is 1983 and Fernando, the doomed fighter, is returning from a tour in the insurrection and pestering his wife to have another child. Flick off then on and it is 1973 when the fighter’ ...more
Jim
Daniel Alarcón is a young Peruvian-American author whose short stories in War by Candlelight straddle both worlds, Peru and Los Uniteds. I am always somewhat abashed when I pick up a book at the library not expecting much and find I have made a discovery. People don't read short stories as much any more. I do: I've even read a new Haruki Murakami in the new Yorker during lunchtime. I suspect that, like Murakami, Alarcón has the stuff to write good novels as well.

For one thing, he has a turn of p
...more
Linda
Daniel Alarcon, author of this book, was one of the 2010 The New Yorker's 20 under 40 authors list. I have been sampling the works of these authors since the list was published. This year I am making an effort to read at least one book by each of them. War By Candlelight is my first completion of the year. I enjoyed this book of short stories very much.

The nine stories are set in either Lima, Peru or NY, NY. Many of those in Peru have a war focus that has me looking at the history of Peru. I hav
...more
Robbie Bruens
“I have the same attitude toward a plot of the usual type as a dentist to teeth.” - Viktor Shklovsky. Daniel Alarcón opened the class he taught at Cal that I was lucky enough to be a part of with that quote. It's curious then that Alarcón's first book generally eschews the kind of peculiarity that comes to (my) mind in thinking about what Shklovsky means by approaching a plot of the usual type like a dentist. That's not to say his plots are structured in an overly conventional way - there are a ...more
Carl Brush
In the best collection of short stories I’ve read in years, Daniel Alarcón has purchased himself a place among the leading young American authors. His well-reviewed new novel Lost City Radio may erase the word “young” from that phrase, though. I haven’t read it yet. I think the guy’s got it all and that we’re in for years of delicious reading.
Alarcon’s background is unique in that it is so unremarkable for a guy who writes about such exotic locations and subjects Yes, he was born in Lima (Peru
...more
Fabiola Barral
A phenomenal collection of short stories. Each are simple in plot but rich in imagery and emotion. One of my favorite lines is: "It came upon him all at once, a summer storm brewed from a cloudless sky, and rendered him-- in a quick and cold fashion-- a ghost, a negative image, weak and formless, a fourth cup from a single bag of tea". Alarcón shifts his settings between Peru and the United Sates in his tales and manages to make each feel the pain and beauty of home. Definite reccomendation!
Tonymess
Before I landed on a Mario Vargas Llosa ‘s “Death In The Andes” as my book to represent Peru, I had already purchased “War By Candlelight” by Daniel Alarcon, a collection of his short stories. Once I learned that Alarcon had moved to the Untied States as a three year old I thought a better representation of the nation would be the Nobel Prize winner. But not to let a book go to waste I made my way through the his stories. My edition (published by Harper Perennial) contains a meaty section on the ...more
Gerard Tarpey
The nine short tales in this terrific collection each stand tall on their own, are easy to read and enjoy, and impossible to put down. Simply put, they grab you at the opening sentence and refuse to let go. These are stories of hope and despair, of love and loss, and of the human spirit at its best and worst.

I bought this book to introduce myself to Daniel Alarcón before attempting to read his new novel, "At Night We Walk In Circles" and am very glad I did. His knowledge, understanding and des
...more
Julie
A nice straightfoward collection; basic literary realism. I liked the stories set in New York the most. I think the sentence that most made me LOL was the one that described backpackers wearing "pants that unzip to become parachutes or inflatable rafts" (153) Ha ha ha! I also liked this passage a lot: "Americans always feel bad. They wander the globe carrying this opulent burden. They take digital photographs and buy folk art, feeling a dull disappointment in themselves, and in the world. They b ...more
Kirsten
Really, wow. I am a bit impressed. I did not really enjoy Lost City Radio, but I gave the stories a chance, because I really liked what I read in Granta. I'm glad I gave it that chance.

From Absence:

"Leaving is no problem. It's exciting actually; in fact, it's drug. It's the staying gone that will kill you. This is the handed-down wisdom of the immigrant. You hear it from people who wander home, after a decade away. You hear about the euphoria that passes quickly; the new things that lose their
...more
Steven Buechler
There is a certain thread of malaise that link the stories in Daniel Alarcon's War by Candlelight. It is a sort of discomfort or despair that is really never defined but exists. And it makes this book a great read.

Page 6-7 flood

Everywhere there was water and the muddy remains of the flood. The clouds broke but the water stayed. A pestilent odor hung in the streets. Summer came on heavy. Some people moved their furniture outside to dry, or set their dank carpets on the roof to catch the sun. The
...more
Patrick McCoy
War By Candlelight (2005) is the second book I've read by Daniel Alarcon, however, this a collection of short stories and leads me to believe that short fiction might be his forte. In fact I discovered Alarcon through his short stories that were included in a few editions of The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Perhaps, the thing that I think separates his stories from his novel, Lost City Radio, is that these stories are grounded in reality and specific places like Lima and New York City. I t ...more
Graham
I love reading books like this - preambles to other works that I've fallen in love with. Like Lipsky's Three Thousand Dollars and Debra Monroe's Source of Trouble, War by Candlelight is a portent of things to come. That's not to say the collection doesn't hold up on its own. After all, it includes lines like the following, which knocked me over:

"I should call Elie and tell her I'm dead."
--
"I'd be a good father," he said.
"For how long?" she asked.

However, it doesn't quite have the full-fledged vo
...more
Tom Mayer
People are expecting a lot from Daniel Alarcón. He's a New Yorker darling, beloved by Colm Toibin, and now one of Granta's top young writer's in America. This collection, which I read mostly at Long Beach on Long Island in the summer of 2006, has some very fine pieces in it. My friend Aaron reminded me of "City of Clowns" last night, about a young boy who helps his father remodel the houses of his rich schoolmates while simultaneously casing them for robbery. I also liked "lima, peru, july 28, 1 ...more
Betsy
I'm not sure I'd recommend this book to a parent who wants to learn more about Peru because her kid is living there (which is why I picked it up) - not because it doesn't give you a window into that world but because it does and it's kind of disturbing. There's stories with poverty, violence, terrorism, bus crashes that make for interesting reading but not exactly comforting (even though I tried to remind myself that the stories often are set decades ago and in neighborhoods unlike the one my so ...more
Michael
my favorite short story collection i have read. i mean, SAD...like really sad but incredibly interesting. Amazing how Alarcon can draw and move you (or at lest me) to tears so quickly in only a few pages. "City of Clowns" was my favorite and hands down my favorite short story I've ever read. Beautiful, sad, haunting.
Leila
I bought this book for a work trip to Peru and started reading it after spending a day in Lima, where many of the stories take place. That, and the fact that one story takes place in NYC a block from my childhood apartment, may have enhanced my sense of connection to the book. But I think anyone reading it would feel the same sense of immediacy and intensity. Alarcon's writing is honest and clear, like a modern Latin Hemmingway. An interview in the back reveals that he left Lima as a child and w ...more
Gabriel Oak
Really powerful debut collection of short stories by Alarcón. They alternate between stories of internal migration in Peru and stories of transnational migration to the US. Really sobering reminders of the complex ways that individuals experience the effects of global forces.
Veronica Richter
This is the kind of book that rings true if you've lived and experienced the subject at hand or at least have some interest in it. Alarcon writes about Lima, Peru, and its people in a beautiful way, he doesn't sugarcoat the truth of circumstances in Peru but rather has a deep understanding that only come from someone who experienced the country as "kind of" an outsider. For what's written on the page, it's perfect. My only qualm with it is that his narratives lack a female perspective.
Michael
Honestly, I wasn't thrilled with this one. I read Alarcon's 'Republica and Grau' in the The New Yorker a few months ago and enjoyed his realism, his way of portraying extreme poverty in an unsentimental manner. All of the stories in this collection are solid, but none of them really deliver in the end. 'City of Clowns' is the most memorable - the story of a journalist travelling through Lima - his hometown - and seeing it an whole new lot, behind the anonymous guise of a clown. Alarcon's revolut ...more
Dan Keating
An excellent collection, Daniel Alarcon really shows the diversity of his influences - both the urban-American New York and urban/suburban Lima. He mixes the rhythm and flow of classic Latin American authors with the structure of the contemporary minimalist in a way that is both appropriate and enjoyable.

On the other side of the coin, Alaracon does have a tendency to lose himself here and there, and while the diction is very good it still just misses the mark of greatness set by Junot Diaz, who
...more
Christiane Williams
I loved these collections of short stories, even though most of them are set in Peru it still reminded me of Santa Barbara Chih.MX. The reference to the 1973 murder of students in Chile floored me.
Lille
Alarcón lacks a voice as passionate as the stories he tells. At times his writing so monotonous and clinical, his messages lose power. There is always something missing, I can't pinpoint what.
Liz Janet
I don't know what to say, this is an amazing collection, I will definitely read more of Daniel Alarcón. Spanish, English, French, it does not matter! Whatever I can get my hands on!
Susan
Another intense book that I would not have picked myself if I weren't reading it for Colgate's online class. Not exactly my cup of tea, but interesting exposure.

From Goodreads: Something is happening. Wars, both national and internal, are being waged in jungles, across borders, in the streets of Lima, in the intimacy of New York apartments. "War by Candlelight" is an exquisite collection of stories that carry the reader from Third World urban centers to the fault lines that divide nations and pe
...more
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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...
Lost City Radio At Night We Walk in Circles The Secret Miracle: The Novelist's Handbook Bogota 39 Ciudad de Payasos (City of Clowns)

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