It is hard to explain Alarcon’s style, and I think he’d probably be okay with that. I’ve read this and Lost City Radio, and they are both in the neighborhood of allegories (about Peru?), but are grounded in the stories of nuanced and complex characters who often intersect with others by accident. This intersection, then, re-directs their life’s direction.
What’s especially interesting and appealing about this novel is the way Alarcon’s different time periods intersect as well. As soon as we seem to be getting close to someone or something, Alarcon pulls back, without even the mercy of some white space, and we are reminded of the narrator (whose identity and then purpose are gradually revealed).
There is political commentary at play here, in the story of the traveling theatre troupe, going near and far to put on The Idiot President, but I don’t know enough about Peru’s history to know whether it’s any more pointed than that. But theatre meets reality in one small province and Nelson, the protagonist, is forced to take on a very different role.
The ending is thought provoking. I don’t want to spoil it. The storyteller and the subject of the story meet and, somewhat abruptly, there is an understanding – a shift in power. I’d be interested to hear from others about their opinion of this ending.
I’ll go in search of War by Candlelight. You go in search of this one or Lost City Radio.