‘The Provincials’ by Daniel Alarcón

Alarcon, Daniel 2012

The Provincials by Daniel Alarcón, 2012

The magic trick:

Revealing passion through a cold set of details

Alarcón hints at the notion that all the world is a stage several times throughout the story. Still his abrupt switch from prose to script more than halfway into the story is jarring. It’s also very effective. I guess it could be seen as a gimmick, too, but whatever, I like it. The technique encourages the reader to really dig into the script and determine which lines are genuine and which merely reflect social custom. And that’s quite a trick on Alarcón’s part. 

The selection:

NELSON (eagerly, wanting to prove himself – to the men? to Celia?): I’d like to buy a round. If I may.

COCHOCHO: I’m afraid that’s not possible. (slips Celia a few bills) Go on, dear.

Celia lingers for a moment, watching Nelson, until her mother shoos her away. She disappears offstage. Meanwhile the conversation continues.

ERICK: You’re the guest. Hospitality is important.

SANTOS: These things matter to us. You think it folkloric, or charming. We’re not offended by the way you look at us. We are accustomed to the anthropological gaze. (this last phrase accompanied by air quotes) We feel sorry for you because you don’t understand. We do things a certain way here. We have traditions. (to Manuel) How much does your boy know about us? About our town? Have you taught him our customs?

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