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Lost City Radio

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“Daniel Alarcon writes about subterfuge, lies, and the arbitrary recreation of history with a masterful clarity. By accepting the premise that war is senseless, he goes on to make sense of the lives that are destroyed in its wake. Lost City Radio is both ambitious and resonant.” — Ann Patchett, bestselling author of Bel Canto and The Dutch House

In his critically acclaimed debut novel, award winning author Daniel Alarcón vividly portrays an anonymous nation searching for its identity at the end of a war with no clear right or wrong.

For ten years, Norma has been the on-air voice of consolation and hope for the Indians in the mountains and the poor from the barrios—a people broken by war's violence. As the host of Lost City Radio, she reads the names of those who have disappeared—those whom the furiously expanding city has swallowed. Through her efforts lovers are reunited and the lost are found. But in the aftermath of the decade long bloody civil conflict, her own life is about to forever change—thanks to the arrival of a young boy from the jungle who provides a cryptic clue to the fate of Norma's vanished husband.

Stunning, timely, and absolutely mesmerizing, Lost City Radio probes the deepest questions of war and its meaning: from its devastating impact on society to the emotional scarring each survivor carries for years after.

ISBN-13: 9780060594817

Media Type: Paperback(Reprint)

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication Date: 02-05-2008

Pages: 288

Product Dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)

Series: P.S. Series

Daniel Alarcon's debut story collection, War by Candlelight, was a finalist for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Award. He has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and has been named by Granta magazine one of the Best American Novelists under thirty-five. He is the associate editor of Etiqueta Negra, an award-winning monthly magazine published in his native Lima, Peru. He lives in Oakland, California.

Read an Excerpt

Lost City Radio


By Daniel Alarcon

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Daniel Alarcon
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060594794

Chapter One

They took Norma off the air that Tuesday morning because a boy was dropped off at the station. He was quiet and thin and had a note. The receptionists let him through. A meeting was called.

The conference room was full of light and had an expansive view of the city, looking east toward the mountains. When Norma walked in, Elmer was seated at the head of the table, rubbing his face as if he'd been woken from a restless, unsatisfying sleep. He nodded as she sat, then yawned and fiddled with the top of a pill bottle he'd taken from his pocket. "Go for some water," he groaned to his assistant. "And empty these ashtrays, Len. Jesus."

The boy sat across from Elmer, in a stiff wooden chair, staring down at his feet. He was slender and fragile, and his eyes were too small for his face. His head had been shaved--to kill lice, Norma supposed. There were the faint beginnings of a mustache above his lips. His shirt was threadbare, and his unhemmed pants were knotted around his waist with a shoestring.

Norma sat closest to him, her back to the door, facing the white city.

Len reappeared with a pitcher of water. It was choked with bubbles, tinged gray. Elmer poured himself a glass and swallowed two pills. He coughed into his hand. "Let's get right to it," Elmer said when Len had sat. "We're sorry to interrupt the news, Norma, but we wanted you tomeet Victor."

"Tell her how old you are, boy," Len said.

"I'm eleven," the child said, his voice barely audible. "And a half."

Len cleared his throat, glanced at Elmer, as if for permission to speak. With a nod from his boss, he began. "That's a terrific age," Len said. "Now, you came looking for Norma, isn't that right?"

"Yes," Victor said.

"Do you know him?"

Norma didn't.

"He says he came from the jungle," Len continued. "We thought you'd want to meet him. For the show."

"Great," she said. "Thank you."

Elmer stood and walked to the window. He was a silhouette against the hazy brightness. Norma knew that panorama: the city below, stretching to the horizon and still farther. With your forehead to the glass, you could see down to the street, to that broad avenue choked with traffic and people, with buses and moto-taxis and vegetable carts. Or life on the city's rooftops: clothes hanging on a line next to rusting chicken coops, old men playing cards on a milk crate, dogs barking angrily, teeth bared at the heavy sea air. She'd even seen a man once, sitting on his yellow hard hat, sobbing.

If Elmer saw anything now, he didn't seem interested. He turned back to them. "Not just from the jungle, Norma. From 1797."

Norma sat up straight. "What are you telling me, Elmer?"

It was one of the rumors they knew to be true: mass graves, anonymous villagers, murdered and tossed into ditches. They'd never reported it, of course. No one had. They hadn't spoken of this in years. She felt something heavy in her chest.

"It's probably nothing," Elmer said. "Let's show her the note."

From his pocket, Victor produced a piece of paper, presumably the same one he had shown the receptionist. He passed it to Elmer, who put on his reading glasses and cleared his throat. He read aloud:

Dear Miss Norma:

This child is named Victor. He is from Village 1797 in the eastern jungle. We, the residents of 1797, have pooled our monies together and sent him to the city. We want a better life for Victor. There is no future for him here. Please help us. Attached find our list of lost people. Perhaps one of these individuals will be able to care for the boy. We listen to Lost City Radio every week. We love your show.

Your biggest fans,
Village 1797

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