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At Night We Walk in Circles

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  2,569 ratings  ·  380 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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Juan La edición en español está traducida por Jorge Cornejo Calle, que también tradujo algunos cuentos de "El rey siempre está por encima del pueblo". No s…moreLa edición en español está traducida por Jorge Cornejo Calle, que también tradujo algunos cuentos de "El rey siempre está por encima del pueblo". No sé si Alarcón revisa las traducciones o a que profundidad, sin embargo.

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Ron Charles
Oct 22, 2013 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
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Nov 11, 2013 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
When I first read Alarcón’s recent collection of stories, The King is Always Above the People, and realized I had discovered a hugely consequential writer, I tried to find other work by Alarcón. His debut novel, Lost City Radio, is spectacular, about the Peruvian civil war.

This second novel, published some six years later, was more diffuse and talky, harder for me to enter into. It has a wandering beginning, and appears to feint away from that to the larger subject of broken family and societal
Jan 09, 2014 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.
Natalie Serber
Oct 15, 2013 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
Spencer Orey
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The legacy of South American civil war told through two generations of actors struggling with their ambitions, old expectations,and cycles of violence that change without ending
Sep 12, 2013 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
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book has many brilliant passages and characters who are so real they linger in my mind. If Shakespeare is right, and he usually is, then "all the world's a stage and the men and women merely players." Daniel Alarcon employs the idea of to beautiful effect in this novel. The prose is sparse yet lush in a way that reminded me of John Steinbeck.
This is the second book I have read primarily by listening to the narration, in this case by Armando Durán. Havng read the first 100 pages, I felt th
Chris Blocker
Aug 14, 2013 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
Oct 12, 2013 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
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
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
Jan 22, 2014 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
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
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

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
Liz Murray
Nov 04, 2013 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
Daniel Alarcon does foreshadowing very well. Unfortunately it's works a bit too well, and the end does not come soon in off for the pay-off to feel as big as it was meant to be. The book is about a young man named Nelson, who has had a few setbacks in life, who finally lands a role in a play written by a hero of his called Henry Nunez. Now Henry was imprisoned for performing the very play, and has only now made a small overture towards getting back to the life that he'd long since left off. The ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Dec 10, 2013 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
"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
Well-written, but excessively long. There was a lot of build up and foreshadowing with an unsatisfying outcome that didn't make up for all of the pages and pages of unnecessary details/events that you have to page through.
Robert Wechsler
This is another novel that shouldn’t work but does. Alarcon is best at movement rather than form or structure or characterization. His greatest skill is to turn slow-moving stories just before they run into a wall. The uninteresting narrator is difficult to fathom, and he becomes more important as the novel moves on, but not more interesting. And yet he is a singular narrator, and interesting for that reason. There is nothing that special about the prose, although there are some very special mom ...more
Carl R.
Nov 28, 2013 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
Nov 03, 2013 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
Feb 25, 2014 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
Sep 30, 2013 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
Oct 02, 2013 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 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
I loved this book at the very beginning. It was so refreshing to read something that seemed original, but as the book went on and on the whole thing started to fall apart. I think most of the problem was the author making such a big deal of this "event" that changed everything, that left this huge impact on all the characters lives. There was a LOT of foreshadowing that was very intriguing at first, but got to be too much after awhile. After all the hoopla over the ending I was extremely disappo ...more
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At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcon 1 31 Feb 12, 2014 04:39PM  

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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

Articles featuring this book

The Peruvian novelist follows a guerrilla theater troupe's exploits in At Night We Walk in Circles and recommends five gifted peers.
12 likes · 3 comments
“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.”
“That morning, he was afraid of becoming old, and it was a very specific kind of old age he feared, one which had nothing to do with the number of years since your birth. He feared the premature old age of missed opportunities.” 9 likes
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