The broken illusions of a Peruvian university student in the U.S.
The second novel by Peru's Jeremías Gamboa addresses the fundamental issues of our time, such as migration and culture shock.
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A student arrives at a Colorado university in the United States in search of the American Dream through academia. The promise of the campus as a sanctuary where the problems of the West — origin, race, and class — have all been solved, succumbs to a nighttime reality. The students wander the city's outskirts in search of everything that the day denies them — light, company, tenderness, certainties.
In Animales luminosos (Luminous Animals, Anagrama, 2021), Peruvian writer Jeremías Gamboa explores stories that thread together during an endless night for the protagonist. Some themes touched on include — the obsession for South America as a romantic, sexual and political destination; parallel and toxic loves; the need to erase the signs of identity to create new ones; literature as a shelter; the future in the form of a darkness barely illuminated by some distant and alien stars.
Animales luminosos is an intimate novel inspired by personal experiences of the author himself, who studied for a master's degree on a campus in Colorado, in the United States, where the fundamental issues of our time, such as migration and culture shock, are addressed. But also the small great dramas of a group of friends who live their doubts with a deep vitality, one in which love becomes a refuge and perhaps, also an answer.
"The beauty of a campus is that it brings together people from different backgrounds. They are all part of a generation of different idiosyncrasies," he explained to RPP noticias upon the novel's publication in October 2021. "You can see that, even in the U.S., Peruvian themes can be reflected."
On the other hand, Gamboa also takes advantage of the novel to pay homage to North American literature, although with the addition of a Latin American character who brings "the terrors of his country" to the story, he told RPP noticias. The different characters that appear are marked by the problems that persist today, such as colonialism, racism and discrimination, which are a constant threat to social coexistence.
Unlike his previous books, written in the first person, Animales luminosos is written from the narrator's point of view, in the third person, allowing him to focus on his personal experiences from the purest fiction.
Animales luminosos is a novel "brief, evening rather than twilight, that meddles with the American dream and issues such as the past, identity, the history that constitutes us and builds us at every step," writes literary critic Diego Gándara in the Spanish newspaper La Razón. "A small nocturnal serenade that, without telling it, tells it all."
Gamboa is a writer, journalist and professor. He is the author of the book of short stories Punto de fuga (Alfaguara, 2007) and the novel, Contarlo todo (Literatura Random House, 2013), winner of the Tigre Juan Award 2014. He is also co-author, along with Javier Sinay and Joselo Rangel, of the book of chronicles Cuba Stone (2016). Animales luminosos is his second novel.