Book Review : War by Candlelight by Daniel Alarcon (2005)

Author: Daniel Alarcon
Publisher: New York: HarperCollins Publishers
Year: 2005

War by Candlelight: Stories is a collection of short stories by Peruvian writer Daniel Alarcon. I first heard of Alarcon in my Creative Writing class last semester, we had to read a couple stories from this very collection. I have to admit that they were some of my absolute favourite pieces of reading I had to do for that class. These past few weeks considering I commute daily to Rabat, I am usually too tired by the time I get home to read one of the big books on my summer reading list (I’ve only read two so far. Oh shame on me!) and I can’t have the luxury of carrying huge scripts in my bag so I figured why not read those collections of short stories? Starting with, obviously, Daniel Alarcon’s War by Candlelight.

The thing about these short stories is that they all leave me craving for more. From Dave to Wari, not forgetting Fernando, Pintor and Chino. The characters in each one of those stories is fighting a battle. Sometimes the battle is against a whole system, they’re being a rebel. Other times the fight is merely personal, an internal struggle that both seems foreign and familiar. From the confines of Peruvian forests to the oh-so-infamous New York and the backstreets of Lima, the stories offer a panoply of settings that are both enchanting and haunting.

Daniel Alarcon is one of those writers who start their stories slowly but surely, giving off just enough information to captivate you, but leaving a few things for later, making sure you will carry on reading. His descriptions, sometimes vivid and often illusive, are nothing compared to the way his sentences carry the narration. Often times, I felt like each story was made with just one word put in the right place, had it been any different, the story not only would be different but even nonsensical. In short, I find all of these stories, these fragments of the lives of different people, hauntingly beautiful.

I think that what I loved most about this collection is that it did not feel like a collection of stories but rather fragments of a novel with so many different, rich and complex characters carrying plots on different levels, universes and times. All those characters, all those stories I feel were linked by the same sense of self-growth, self-discovery, rebellion, revolution and drama, all sorts of intimate, personal drama and national level catastrophes. I don’t think I can talk any more about this collection without spilling vital information, therefore I will just invite you to read them and share your opinions in the comment section. If you have already read this collection or other similar works you are also invited to share your opinions and suggestions!

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