The King Is Always Above the People: Stories - Daniel Alarcon

Staff Pick

Whether a compact three pages or an expansive fifty, each of the ten stories in Daniel Alarcón‘s accomplished second collection, The King is Always Above the People (Riverhead, $27) unfolds with the economy and power of a fable. Most take place in an anonymous “town,” “city,” or “capital” of an unnamed country, the setting conveyed in the broad strokes of a stage set. The dramas that play out are mainly political and familial. After a long period of stability—“autocracies are nothing if not stable”—an unsettling crime wave engulfs the nation. But people aren’t helpless. In “The Thousands” they build settlements from the detritus of their society, and will not be moved. Family dynamics prove more complicated. Brothers deny one another. A father apprentices his son to a blind beggar. Throughout, Alarcón explores the elusiveness of truth and identity. From the man mistaken for his brother so often he stops correcting people to the lawyer who snaps and is a “different person” each time his son visits the asylum, to the traveler whose “real work was pretending I wasn’t lonely,” these characters play a dizzying number of roles, pretending, acting, lying, conning, and not always sure themselves who they are. At bottom, what’s authentic is the compassion and care with which Alarcón depicts these people. For all his sure-footed literary technique, these are some of the most richly emotional stories around.

The King Is Always Above the People: Stories By Daniel Alarcón Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594631726
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Riverhead Books - October 31st, 2017