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Lost City Radio

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  2,208 ratings  ·  343 reviews
“Daniel Alarcon writes about subterfuge, lies, and the arbitrary recreation of history with a masterful clarity. By accepting the premise that war is senseless, he goes on to make sense of the lives that are destroyed in its wake. Lost City Radio is both ambitious and resonant.” — Ann Patchett, bestselling author of Bel Canto and The Dutch House

In his critically acclaimed
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Harper Perennial (first published January 30th 2007)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  2,208 ratings  ·  343 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
“Please help us. Attached find our list of lost people.
Perhaps one of these individuals will be able to care for the boy. We listen to ‘Lost City Radio’ every week. We love your show”...
“Your biggest fans,
Village 1797”

Once Victor’s village had a *name*. When the war ended, the government confiscated the old maps- cut out textbooks and burned them.

Norma, Radio Host, didn’t know the boy who says he came from the jungle, ( the boy is too young to remember the war - as Norma does),
Norma ‘feels’
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spanish-american
Real But Not Really

Seemingly trivial events have profoundly decisive consequences: A thirteen year old gets a little drunk and thereby becomes a terrorist. A young woman attends a party and falls for the terrorist. A boy’s mother makes a misstep while doing the laundry in a jungle river and drowns; the boy is launched into an entirely alien world of the woman who longs for the terrorist. This is the hopeless desolation of a sort of Thomas Hardy country in Peru. Hapless tragedy with a Spanish acc
This story of Peru’s civil war (1980-2000) is startling in what it reveals about humans—how thin the skin of our civilization and how remarkably base our instincts. I would have plunked the whole story under the rubric ‘science-fiction’ except for the acknowledgements in which Alarcón cites debts from his long period of research.

After twenty years of war, teenagers are like newborns, having no institutional memory. Towns were designated by number, not name. Both sides so distrusted and despised
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020, modern-lit
I read this book for a discussion in the 21st Century Literature group, which is still in its early stages, so I don't want to preempt the discussion too much at this stage.

Alarcón is a Peruvian living in America, and this book must have been at least partly inspired by events in his own country (in his acknowedgments he says "... many people have shared their stories of the war years with me", but the book deliberately steers clear of labelling places and political factions (and personal loyal
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I liked the general premise of this book and the setting. What I didn't like was that there was a constant back and forth in time, for different characters, to different time periods. A civil war is chaotic; perhaps this is what the author was trying to convey. But sometimes the time regressions and back were in the same paragraph. It was very tiring reading and by about halfway I didn't really care much any more. I was perfectly happy reading the last page, not because I liked the ending which ...more
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcón takes place in an unnamed South American country in the aftermath of a civil war. The population continues to experience disappearances, curfews, unlawful imprisonment, and torture. In the hope of reconnecting with the missing, people tune in every week to hear Norma, the host of Lost City Radio. She reads the names submitted to her of missing relatives, friends, and loved ones in an attempt to reunite them with their families. When a young boy arrives at the ra ...more
I am not a subscriber. Alarcon has talent and I sympathize with his politics; but something was missing from "Lost City Radio." Perhaps the characters were just a bit too similar; perhaps the all-pervasive traumatized vacancy offered too little traction or perhaps everything was knit together just a bit too tightly. The novel needed to surge somehow, in some direction or around something; but it lingered and reminisced; at most, it brooded.

"The war had bred a general exhaustion. It was a city of
Book Concierge
In an unnamed city in an unnamed South American country, Norma is the beloved on-air host of “Lost City Radio,” where the nation’s lost and tormented souls try to reconnect with loved ones they’ve lost track of. It is ten years since the most recent civil war ended – at least officially. But people still live in fear of reprisal and even Norma’s show isn’t immune to the sort of self-censorship that comes from self-preservation. Norma’s husband is among the missing, and she daren’t read his name ...more
Mar 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
like a friendship that would otherwise be a great romance, this novel has everything but the spark. intelligence, imagination, beauty, empathy, promise, even poise, yet swoon i could not (despite attempts to convince myself that i should have enjoyed it more than i did). alarcón is clearly quite talented, and, considering his relative youth, perhaps lost city radio is but a harbinger of the many exceptional, more finely honed works he seems capable of creating.
Jun 02, 2008 marked it as left-unfinished  ·  review of another edition
I've gotten 56 pages into it so far and have nothing to complain about, which is unusual for me. I don't think of it as having a sci-fi atmosphere, as some readers suggest. Though it does have the dystopian bearings of books like 1984 and We, those worlds are all too recognizable and easy to identify with. No flying cars or talking robots here. What the book does have is clean, evocative language that creates a vivid and foreign landscape. And no, Alarcon doesn't sprinkle in Spanish words to rem ...more
Apr 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
So beautiful and sad. The main character, Norma, lives in the capital city of an unnamed Latin American country experiencing an uneasy peace after the end of a decade-long civil war. Norma--or rather, her voice--is a kind of national icon because of her radio show, to which listeners call and tell her about their friends and family who have disappeared in the war, in the hopes that they're alive and will hear. Norma is somewhat disillusioned with the show, but continues partly out of her own una ...more
Oct 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Daniel Alarcon does a remarkable job of putting the reader in the environment of a country that has been at war with itself for so long that the people have lost touch with themselves. What happens to a man when a teenaged prank is mistaken as revolutionary action and alters his life forever? What happens to a newsperson who goes on the air each week but can't report the news? How are people changed psychologically when they never know where the next blow will come from, when there is no logic t ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a vivid story, intensely described. I love the way the same forward narrative direction is proceeding simultaneously from two times a decade apart. For a random selection, this turned out to be a very good choice.
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to get past my preconceptions of what this book was supposed to be in order to appreciate it for what it was. I **thought** it was going to be sort of a liberal chick-historicaromance, where I'd get to learn a few facts about Peruvian geopolitics in the 1980s and 1990s, and get swept along by tales of lost love, and maybe vicariously participate in a brave resistance movement. Instead, what I got was a much quieter tale of the aftermath of terrible upheaval, the sort of moral grey fog that ...more
Jul 15, 2020 rated it liked it
I kind of stumbled with this novel and couldn't adapt to the author's literary style. I kept catching myself trying to edit the prose in my mind rather than reading the prose and trying to understand and appreciate what the author wrote. I would restucture a sentence when the author placed an effect before a cause, or start erasing material that seemed irrelevant to the story line, trying to impose how I wanted the narrative to be written. We often blame the author in these situations and I can ...more
Carl R.
Not far into Daniel Alarcon’s Lost City Radio I began to have negative thoughts. I’d been so impressed by the brilliance of his debut short story
collection War by Candlelight (see my comments from April 25, 2007) that I wanted more brilliance and was not finding it. The tale seemed to wander, seemed to lack the taut focus of most of Candlelight’s stories. I wondered if this wasn’t another example of a short story craftsman defeated by the demands of the novel form. Though disappointed, I forged
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Norma is a popular radio announcer renowned for a program called Lost City Radio, which tries to match up the many, many missing people of the country with those still living and within listening range. One of the places that listens to her show is a town by the name of 1797, where Norma's own husband disappeared, and which determines to send a emissary to Norma with the names of all their missing - a list which includes her husband's name. The emissary is a young boy, who's very recently lost h ...more
Francisco Cardona
One of the best things I've read in years. A story not of missing people, but of missing pieces in people's lives. How does a country continue when there has been so much death and destruction that has devastated their lives? Lost City Radio is testament of what people will do to imagine something to fill those holes that have been created. It's a tragic work of art, not because of the disappeared, but because of the world where imagination fails us. The living are the missing, like a character ...more
Tom Mayer
Aug 19, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of good fiction
I remember reading this in early bound galley form so there may have been changes between my edition and the final, published version. I initially soght out Alarcón's work because I learned that he was friends with friends from school who now lived in San Francisco. His short stories -- from the NYer, Tin House, etc. -- are taught and vivid (cf. WAR BY CANDLELIGHT). This first full length novel is about Norma, who hosts a radio program hoping to reunite those uprooted and disappeared in an unnam ...more
Liz Murray
Sep 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An author I'll definitely be keeping up with. In this novel Alarcon deftly moves between time periods, often with no breaks besides a new paragraph. The chronology of the war could be a bit confusing but you always knew where you were and in the end the chronology isn't as important as what actually happened. I felt the book lost energy towards the end and I wasn't so keen on how the plot turned. The 'revelation' for some reason felt forced to me. I felt it let air out of the balloon and I'm not ...more
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book emphasizes the meaninglessness of war. Those who fight as well as those left behind are all tragic victims who suffer. This is a thought provoking book, esp in our present days of Arab spring, conflicts, revolutions & threatened uprisings. Some favorite quotes: "What does the end of a war mean if not that one side ran out of men willing to die?"....."a man handsome and vapid enough to be elected senator"....."The soldiers had spread about the room like ivy"....."In the local dialect, t ...more
The book takes place in a nameless war-torn country in South America where the country is in a sense, united by those they have lost. In Alarcon's novel, neither faction is strictly right or wrong, rather he writes about the senselessness of war and the lives that are affected.

I enjoyed the book and thought it a good read, though perhaps not mind blowing. And although written about a South American country, the themes are relevant to our particular time and place.
Alex Fernie
Jun 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exceptionally well-written...The story revolves around three people in an unnamed South American country that was torn apart by a recent civil war. Alarcon uses the story of these three to show how war can continue to destroy lives even after the shooting stops.
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stories and parallel structure are great, narrative is fascinating.
A bit difficult to engage in the begining, but the shift in tempo from the present and future back and forth is very attractive.
I recommend this book.
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In an unnamed country in South America, struggling to heal after a civil war that seemed endless, a radio program called Lost City Radio gathers the nation together once a day. It is hosted by Norma whose voice both eloquent and empathetic, tells the news of the day interspersed with musical interludes, but most importantly Norma reads lists of names which people send her of those who have disappeared or are lost. They hope that by reading these names on the radio they will be able to find their ...more
Peruvian born Daniel Alarcon is a newer name in fiction (first full length book) and definitely one to keep an eye on after reading "Lost City Radio." The author tells the story of some unnamed S. American country in the midst of a guerrilla warfare -- between the government military and some freedom - based uprising group named the I.L. When he writes his prose is very beautiful, there's a fluidity to his style but still it lacked any sort of weight; also he asked too many rhetorical questions ...more
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lost City Radio was a lyrical and character-driven novel that I greatly enjoyed, and was my favorite novel that I read this semester in Latino-American Literature. I also got to see Daniel Alarcon read at my university, and much appreciated getting the additional perspective on him and his writing. He is a very interesting man, who has lived in Lima, Peru and writes often for journalistic outlets, including his own radio show "Radio Ambulante."

Norma, the central character of the novel, is also
Erin Van Rheenen
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been a fan of Latin American fiction since I discovered Gabriel García Márquez in the early 80s, and have tried to keep up with what's happening in that very broad category over the years, from Reinaldo Arenas in Cuba (Before Night Falls) to Chilean Roberto Bolaño and his The Savage Detectives (both of which I liked a lot). I like that Latin American authors are often more inventive and politically engaged than most North American writers.

But often I've been disappointed by pale imitations
What a brilliant book!

From the first pages where the famous radio host Norma meets the eleven-year old boy Victor, sent from the village of 1797 with a list of names of "The Disappeared" Alarcón creates a real page-turning mystery. Set in an unnamed Latin America country after a 10-year war raged on between a terrorist group (La IL) and the government, the characters are reveal how the war has affected them. The government was so affected by the war that they changed the names to numbers for al
Ryan Louis
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top25fiction
"She had been here just the day before, but this is what life does to you: things happen all at once, and your sense of time is exploded."

I wish someone gave me this quotation before I started reading this book. I paused before quoting it here...only because I feared it might be a philosophical spolier. When Alarcon writes it on page 245, it seems somewhat anticlimactic. I mean, I've now spent 97% of the novel whisking through time and space in a somewhat fictionalized, not-so-anonymous country
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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

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