Daniel Alarcón was only three years old when his family left Peru to settle in Alabama.
But he’s been returning there in his imagination ever since, examining the aftermath of the war he and his parents missed. He’s set his last three books in an unnamed city in a South American country that closely resembles Lima, the home he and his parents left behind.
His latest novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, concerns the revival of a piece of political theater, “The Idiot President,” that landed its playwright in prison.
The novel’s main character, Nelson, is a young actor who reveres the playwright, and lands a starring role in the revival. The story’s narrator is a reporter whose interest in the story goes past journalism into something like obsession.
It wasn’t originally designed that way, he says.
“I think of it almost like billiards,” Alarcón said. “You break up the balls and see where they start hitting.”
Alarcón supposes he’ll eventually leave his imagined city, but he’s not sure where he’ll go. There's one place, though, he says he probably won't be going: his adopted home.
“I’m drawn to the dangerous, the sordid,” he admits, “as opposed to writing about the YMCA and membership at the pool of Hoover, Alabama.”