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War by Candlelight

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3.96  ·  Rating details ·  747 ratings  ·  100 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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3.96  · 
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 ·  747 ratings  ·  100 reviews


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Will Byrnes
Aug 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jacob
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007, short-stories
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
Oct 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
LindaJ^
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
AC
May 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Alarcón is a talented writer. But there is something just a touch off here. A bourgeois son of two Peruvian (meaning coastal) physicians, who was raised in Alabama and studied anthropology at Columbia, he has chosen to write about much rougher characters in Harlem and in the war torn jungles of Peru. He writes very well, but the artifice does show through.
Carl R.
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jim
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, peru
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
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
Fabiola Barral
Dec 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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!
Vanessa Hua
Sep 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. Lasting images, compelling conflicts, lifetimes summed up in a few pages.
Wray F
Jul 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I bought this book before our trip to Peru and I read most of it in lodgings in Cusco, Puerto Maldonado, Arequipa and, finally, Lima. I knew most of the stories were based in Lima, where we would end our trip. The stories were small slices of life that involved humble characters trying to make their way in life. Early stories involved criminals and later ones involved people in relationships of different sorts, trying to get by. I didn't really connect with the characters much. I appreciated the ...more
McKenzie
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
These short stories are mostly set in Peru, taking place over the last several decades, in times of war and poverty and inequality. Daniel Alarcón finds many different angles to explore in each new story, but they all share themes of struggling. Many of his characters struggle financially and emotionally, but the most harrowing struggle with whether their lives have any purpose. These are difficult stories to read, but helpful to understanding some of what contemporary Peruvians may have faced i ...more
Elaine
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another winner from Daniel Alarcon. These engaging short stories provide a fascinating view of Peruvians in the capital and in the countryside as well as Peruvian immigrants in New York. They are poignant, but not sentimental, funny (sometimes only in hindsight), and the author is so compassionate towards his characters.
Rhonda
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
A few stories left an impression on me... a few I could have taken or left. Overall, a solid collection.
Pickle Farmer
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Steven Buechler
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Gadi
Aug 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I was running down my to-read list in the library yesterday and found this book, read that the author was Peruvian, and immediately hunted it down in the fiction aisle, seeing as I'm leaving for Peru the day after tomorrow. I'm glad I did -- Alarcón really gives you a feeling for the varied experiences of Peruvians and Pervuian-Americans and their complicated history as a people, as well as for the country's manifold physical settings, and the stories here do seem to establish a human context fo ...more
Gerard Tarpey
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
  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 an
...more
Graham Oliver
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
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
Patrick McCoy
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Tonymess
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Paige
Mar 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
First of all - this is Daniel's first book - and I was lucky enough to actually meet a teaching colleague of his that passed it to me at the hostel in Montana where I spent time out of Oregon in 2003. This was before the book was actually published. It was an unedited paper bound piece that he had shared with his colleagues. I didn't get to keep it - but was able to read it in the short time I had available - and it's a remarkable "statement" of life in modern day war torn Peru - which Daniel is ...more
Kirsten
Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Tom Mayer
Aug 19, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Katherine
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
*3.5 stars.
“It was, they decided, the city’s darkest nonbasement apartment” (59).
“Still, the simplicity of her desires gave her an air of satisfaction that others spend their lives chasing” (132).
“Then there was the bus that took Fernando to Lima. It was the kind of contraption held together by ingenuity, built from salvaged parts with the practiced art of making do” (137).
“Repairs were cruel surgeries of convenience, and the bus grew hardened, indifferent, and ran from spite and disgust, crossi
...more
Betsy
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Apr 21, 2007 rated it liked it
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
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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