At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón

Updated: 12 Mar 2014

Time Out says

Rating: 4/5
RM112.97, Riverhead Books

Nelson, the idealistic young protagonist of Daniel Alarcón’s new novel, is unable to emigrate from his nameless South American country to the United States. Fortunately for him he lands a dream job at home, as an actor: the aging members of a formerly rabble-rousing theatre troupe called Diciembre cast him in a touring revival of their controversial play ‘The Idiot President’. To commit himself to ‘the play’s constructed universe’ – as prescribed by Henry Nuñez, legendary political prisoner and the play’s solipsistic author – Nelson cuts ties with his mother, his lover and the desires of his past. When a new destination appears on the company’s itinerary, however, the trip becomes longer and stranger than anyone could have imagined.

The story begins simply enough, but eventually weaves in more and more elements of life in an unstable region. Subjects such as love, friendship, provincial politics, the drug trade, idealism in art and the penal system slip into the tale almost imperceptibly. Step by curious step, ‘Circles’ reveals itself as a detective story, complete with an unreliable narrator and a harrowing, unpredictable finish. While there are certainly awkward aspects to Nelson’s fall, the book’s rhythm and pacing smooth over any bumps. He’s drawn to his fate – as is the reader. Matthew Love

Tags: Books