“What does a car bomb say about poverty, or the execution of a rural mayor explain about disenfranchisement? … The war had become, if it wasn’t from the very beginning, an indecipherable text. The country had slipped, fallen into a nightmare, now horrifying, now comic, and in the city, there was only a sense of dismay at the inexplicability of it.”
– Lost City Radio
Daniel Alarcón’s first novel, Lost City Radio, is set in an unnamed Latin American country ten years after the conclusion of a bloody period of state-sponsored violence. Though the dirty civil war has ended, thousands of people are still missing, displaced by the war or fallen victim to political violence. Among these “disappeared” is Norma’s husband Rey, a university professor who vanished at the end of the conflict.
Norma hosts the country’s most popular radio show, the titular “Lost City Radio”; a program dedicated to the country’s disappeared. Although she has facilitated numerous reunions of missing loved ones, Norma is still searching for her own answers, trying to piece together the circumstances surrounding her husband’s disappearance. When Victor, a young boy, arrives at the radio station with a list of his village’s missing, Norma realizes the answers may be closer than she thought.
Shifting back and forth through time, Lost City Radio eloquently explores the grim realities of war and its far-reaching aftermath. Despite the novel’s content, the focus of Lost City Radio is not political; Alarcón chooses instead to concentrate on the senselessness of violence on both sides of the conflict. After finishing the novel, one is left with the impression that the casualties of war aren’t confined to the dead, but include the survivors and the displaced, the ones left scrambling to make sense of it all after the conflict has ended.
By: Brianna Low
Brianna is currently a junior double-majoring in Spanish and English with a concentration in Creative Writing.