The combination of sweet baklava, tottering stacks of “War by Can-dlelight” and an intimate crowd of students and faculty produced a lively mood in Persson Auditorium on Thursday, October 4. The third living author to visit campus this fall, Daniel Alarc??n, who was sporting a graphic t-shirt and wild curls, immediately garnered the affections of his audience.
Following an impressive introduction by Thomas A. Bartlett Chair and Professor of English Jane Pinchin and Associate Professor of English Jennifer Brice, Alarc??n began with a reading from his upcoming collec-tion of short stories. He read “The King is Always Above the People,” a tale illustrates the author’s innate connection to his native South America’s politics and culture. The Peruvian-born 35-year-old is well-known, and respected as a “literary border-crosser” among his contemporaries. As he spoke to Colgate students, Alarc??n explained that his stories have always come from his desire to better understand Lima, and that living there for eight months was “one of the most important experiences of his life.”
The author’s most popular work, “War By Candlelight,” deals with the effect that a relentless mix of violence, corruption and nat-ural disasters had on the people of Manhattan and Peru. Sharing his book and background with the audience of Persson Auditorium, Alarc??n stated how privileged he feels to be part of both Peruvian and American literary conversations.
The author’s experience as a Fulbright Scholar in Peru is just one of the many accomplishments that attest to his incredible skill as a mul-ticultural writer. Best known for his story collection, “War by Candle-light,” which was a finalist for the 2005 PEN-Hemingway Award, and his novel, “Lost City Radio,” Alarc??n is also the associate editor of the award-winning Peruvian magazine “Etiqueta Negra.” His Spanish radio program, “Radio the Ambulante,” which narrates stories from Latin America and the United States, showcases his use of language in ef-fectively linking the Spanish and English speaking worlds. The recipi-ent of a Whiting Writers’ Award in 2004, Alarc??n is a Distinguished Visiting Writer at UC Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies. His writing has appeared in various publications, including McSweeney’s, Harper’s and n+1.
Answering Colgate students’ questions at the end of his visit to cam-pus, Alarc??n talked about his ever-changing list of favorite authors – the current group including Tobias Wolff, Junot Diaz and Joseph Roth – and reflected on his revision process, which he declared to be “long!” As a final piece of advice, Alarc??n asserted that writing about what one already knows is useless, and encouraged all burgeoning writers to instead write about what they want to know.
What does an award-winning author concede inside the Eng-lish classrooms of Lawrence Hall? In the case of Daniel Alarc??n, it would be the secret that in order to stop himself from getting distracted, he sometimes ties himself to the chair.
Contact Leah Robinson at [email protected]