At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel AlarcónNelson’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 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 Nelson out of the shelter of the city and across a landscape he’s never seen, which still bears the scars of the civil war. With each performance, Nelson grows closer to his fellow actors, becoming hopelessly entangled in their complicated lives, until, during one memorable performance, a long-buried betrayal surfaces to force the troupe into chaos.
Book Review: Daniel Alarcón’s “At Night We Walk in Circles”
Our protagonist lives in the capital city of a South American country still reeling from civil war that raged when Nelson was a boy. This story mainly takes place during the time when most families had already recovered from the war. Nelson joins a three-man touring acting troupe called Diciembre December and undergoes the trials and tribulations of a young man discovering himself. After his brother moves to the United States, he feels frustrated to have lost contact with him. Nelson is also caught in a rut in his a romantic relationship.
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The story unfolds in an unnamed South American country, but its concerns resonate far beyond its imaginary borders. His men have abandoned him: his father is dead, and his older brother long ago emigrated to the United States. His women, meanwhile, seem to have wandered in from a telenovela. Not surprisingly, Nelson is at first energized by the camaraderie of his all-male touring company. His acting improves, even as he seems to vanish further and further into character.
Give in to it.
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An epigraph contains a clue, however. Debord, a key figure in the Paris uprising against the French government, was grounded in the Marxist, anarchist, surrealist movement he founded, the Situationist International. The composer, Carla Kihlstedt, has said that trying to explain dreams during waking hours is like plugging a phrase into translation software. It yields confusing, even absurd results. As a child, Nelson had been transfixed by a jailhouse production of the play, broadcast on the radio.