A Luminous Republic
Audio Sample

A Luminous Republic

By:  Andrés Barba

Narrated by:  Jonathan Davis

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"Wholly compelling.” —Colm Tóibín

A new novel from a Spanish literary star about the arrival of feral children to a tropical city in Argentina, and the quest to stop them from pulling the place into chaos.

San Cristóbal was an unremarkable city—small, newly prosperous, contained by rain forest and river. But then the children arrived.

No one knew where they came from: thirty-two kids, seemingly born of the jungle, speaking an unknown language. At first they scavenged, stealing food and money and absconding to the trees. But their transgressions escalated to violence, and then the city’s own children began defecting to join them. Facing complete collapse, municipal forces embark on a hunt to find the kids before the city falls into irreparable chaos.

Narrated by the social worker who led the hunt, A Luminous Republic is a suspenseful, anguished fable that “could be read as Lord of the Flies seen from the other side, but that would rob Barba of the profound originality of his world” (Juan Gabriel Vásquez).

Narrator Jonathan Davis is a critically acclaimed and award-winning narrator and voiceover actor who has earned accolades for his narration from The New York Times, Publisher's Weekly, AudioFile Magazine, and USA Today. In 2017, he was inducted into Audible’s Narrator Hall Of Fame.

Jonathan's work as a narrator includes film and programming for National Geographic Television, NOVA, and PBS. He has narrated a variety of bestselling and award-winning titles in all genres for major publishing houses and national audio divisions. He is a four-time recipient and sixteen-time nominee of the celebrated Audie Award, presented by the APA for excellence in audiobook narration/production

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  • Format: Audiobook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780358311218

  • ISBN-10: 0358311217

  • Price: $19.95

  • Publication Date: 04/14/2020

Andrés Barba

Andrés Barba

ANDRÉS BARBA is the award-winning author of numerous books, including Such Small Hands and The Right Intention. He was one of Granta's Best Young Spanish novelists and received the Premio Herralde for Luminous Republic, which will be translated into twenty languages.
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Lisa Dillman

LISA DILLMAN translates from Spanish and Catalan and teaches in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Emory University. Some of her recent translations include Signs Preceding the End of the World, by Yuri Herrera, which won the 2016 Best Translated Book Award; Such Small Hands and Rain Over Madrid, by Andrés Barba; Monastery, co-translated with Daniel Hahn, by Eduardo Halfon; and Salting the Wound, by Víctor del Árbol.
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  • reviews

    Winner of the Premio Herralde 

    A Wired Must-Read Spring Title 

    A Millions Most Anticipated Title of 2020 

    A Lit Hub Most Anticipated Title of 2020 

    A Lit Hub Best Book of April 

    A Tor.com Best Book of April 


    "One pleasure of the novel derives from the way its eerie events are addressed in such a matter-of-fact tone...At the same time, allusions to fairy tales and folklore are an essential part of the picture, making the book something much more otherworldly than an issues-centric social critique. Translator Lisa Dillman captures both the docudrama tones and anarchic threats of the story with perfect facility...The final moments of revelation make for a highly cinematic set piece, but they’re seriously rivaled by the pleasures throughout the book of being steeped in the way its narrator’s mind works...A Luminous Republic, in addition to being a captivating piece of storytelling, is a primer on the manner in which we perceive and create our own realities. Barba is especially beguiling as he ponders the way that playfulness, performance, and social conformity create our sense of who and what we are." 

    Boston Globe 


    "Barba has displayed an enviable gift for conveying, through an inventively abstract style, the strange worlds of childhood and early adolescence." 

    New York Times 


    A Luminous Republic has all the stark power of a folk-tale or a fable. It also raises concerns that are pressing and contemporary—about the function and source of language, about pu"blic paranoia and hysteria, about the idea of community and how information spreads. At the book’s center is a moving personal story about memory and loss. The narrative is engaging, at times playful, wholly compelling.” 

    —Colm Tóibín, New York Times-bestselling author of Nora Webster and Brooklyn 


    A Luminous Republic is a terrifying masterpiece. To lay bare with such stunning precision the nature of self-obsession – the viciousness with which any one of us might respond to that which we don’t understand – marks Andrés Barba as a writer of extraordinary talent. He has created a small, simple story and within it buried immense complexity and truth.” 

    —Omar El Akkad, bestselling author of American War 


    "[An] inverted-colors fairytale." —Wired 


    "A wonderfully creepy and authentically different example of Modern Weird, and admirers of John Langan, Paul Trembly, Laird Barron, and, yes, J.G. Ballard will find much to excite their affections here...[A] lulling, judicious, cerebral yet emotive first-person voice...We will be watching events long resolved, through the scrim of time. But as we shall soon learn, this does not diminish the horror, but gives it a clinical heft...The narrator takes time to sketch a portrait of San Cristóbal in bright details, making the place solid to our senses. Its river, the surrounding jungles, the indigenous tribal members, the architecture, the citizens—all are limned economically and with real substance. This allows the weirdness, when it comes, to stand out in vivid contrast...Barba’s prose relies heavily on rich and poignant aphorisms from its sensitive and self-doubting narrator. I could quote endlessly...And Barba’s precision in describing the weather of the psyche—both the narrator’s and those of the populace and the wild children—takes the reader on a rollercoaster of feeling...It’s this kind of forceful symbolic language embedded in action that imbues what might otherwise be a simplistic tale of bad-seed kids with haunting and haunted allegorical power." 



    "Much of the book's distinctive flair derives from the decision to tell an allegorical story in a drily discursive style...Barba wants the reader to question the seductiveness of comprehensive explanations—and to learn a lesson about the corrupting effects of fear...As a parable of the loss of faith in the 'religion of childhood' and the fetish of childish innocence, A Luminous Republic would be satisfying enough. But Barba also manages to conjure a denouement (faint intimations of which are seeded throughout the book) that the novelist Edmund White describes in his foreword, with some justification, as 'transcendent and beautiful.'" 

    Financial Times 


    "Its melancholic mood and contemplative tone are interesting, engaging, and lovely to read. Barba is clearly a gifted writer with a generous sensibility...A novel that thoughtfully and compassionately considers people and as a result feels utterly human as a whole." 

    Chicago Review of Books 


    "A hell of a little novel...While A Luminous Republic succeeds as a technically brilliant work of great storytelling that pushes the unraveling chain of events confidently through a maze of puzzling events, darkening moods, and supporting characters, at the same time the book competently engages its readers in thinking deeply about children and our attitudes toward them...To be sure, the story of the children whose language remains as much a mystery as their origins and whereabouts is in itself masterly told and easily captures the attention of the reader the way a Hitchcock movie entices us at times to identify with the perspective of the intruder. The real pleasure of the text, however, originates with the dense and elegantly woven net of cultural, sociological, and psychological references to our imaginations about childhood. It is simply fascinating to see how the author has the gang of the destitute children roam though the streets of the city while seducing the city’s own children and terrifying their parents, who begin to look at their own kids with different eyes. One needs to turn to the novels of José Saramago to find similarly empathetic, intelligent, and moving accounts of hysteria engulfing communities by a blight that they don’t understand, not because it is so very foreign, but instead so very close to them." 

    World Literature Today 


    “One of the best books I’ve ever read . . . There is an air of magic, black and white, lingering around every page of this epic novel of 192 pages, like gun smoke after a shootout. I say ‘epic’ because it feels as full, as dense with duration, as if it were 1,000 pages long, but can be read in an evening . . . This is a book at once heavy and light, Caliban and Ariel, somber and comic. It will open your eyes.” 

    —Edmund White, from his foreword to A Luminous Republic 


    “A fever dream of a novel with sharp-as-knives insights; deft and cutting.” 

    —Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters 


    “Disturbing and melancholy, disquieting without tricks and beautiful without artifice, A Luminous Republic is an engrossing tale of unusual moral precision. It could be read as a Lord of the Flies seen from the other side, but then we would be robbing Andrés Barba of the profound originality of his world, which is unlike anything the reader might have encountered. A triumph.” 

    —Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Soun...

  • excerpts

    When I’m asked about the thirty-two children who lost their lives in San Cristóbal, my response varies depending on the age of my interlocutor. If we’re the same age, I say that understanding is simply a matter of piecing together that which was previously seen as disjointed; if they’re younger, I ask if they believe in bad omens. Almost always they’ll say no, as if doing so would mean they had little regard for freedom. I ask no more questions and then tell them my version of events, because this is all I have and because it would be pointless to try to convince them that believing, or not, is less about their regard for freedom than their naïve faith in justice. If I were a little more forthright or a little less of a coward, I’d always begin my story the same way: Almost everyone gets what they deserve, and bad omens do exist. Oh, they most certainly do. 


    The day I arrived in San Cristóbal, twenty years ago now, I was a young civil servant with the Department of Social Affairs in Estepí who’d just been promoted. In the space of a few years I’d gone from being a skinny kid with a law degree to a recently married man whose happiness gave him a slightly more attractive air than he no doubt would otherwise have had. Life struck me as a simple series of adversities, relatively easy to overcome, which led to a death that was perhaps not simple but was inevitable and thus didn’t merit thinking about. I didn’t realize, back then, that in fact that was what happiness was, what youth was and what death was. And although I wasn’t in essence mistaken about anything, I was making mistakes about everything. I’d fallen in love with a violin teacher from San Cristóbal who was three years my senior, mother of a nine-year-old girl. They were both named Maia and both had intense eyes, tiny noses and brown lips that I thought were the pinnacle of beauty. At times I felt they’d chosen me during some secret meeting, and I was so happy to have fallen for the pair of them that when I was offered the opportunity to transfer to San Cristóbal, I ran to Maia’s house to tell her and asked her to marry me then and there. 


    I was offered the post because, two years earlier in Estepí, I had developed a social integration program for indigenous communities. The idea was simple and the program proved to be an effective model; it consisted of granting the indigenous exclusive rights to farm certain specific products. For that city we chose oranges and then charged the indigenous community with supplying almost five thousand people. The program nearly descended into chaos when it came to distribution, but in the end the community rallied and after a period of readjustment created a small and very solvent cooperative which to this day is, to a large degree, self-financing. 


    The program was so successful that the state government contacted me through the Commission of Indigenous Settlements, requesting that I reproduce it with San Cristóbal’s three thousand Ñeê inhabitants. They offered me housing and a managerial post in the Department of Social Affairs. In no time, Maia had started giving classes at the small music school in her hometown once more. She wouldn’t admit it, but I knew that she was eager to return as a prosperous woman to the city she’d been forced by necessity to leave. The post even covered the girl’s schooling (I always referred to her as “the girl,” and when speaking to her directly, simply “girl”) and offered a salary that would allow us to begin saving. What more could I have asked for? I struggled to contain my joy and asked Maia to tell me about the jungle, the river Eré, the streets of San Cristóbal .?.?. When she spoke, I felt as if I were heading deeper and deeper into thick, suffocating vegetation before abruptly coming upon a heavenly Eden. My imagination may not have been particularly creative, but no one can say I wasn’t optimistic. 


    We arrived in San Cristóbal on April 13, 1993. The heat was muggy and intense and the sky completely clear. As we drove into town in our old station wagon, I saw in the distance for the first time the vast brown expanse of water that was the river Eré and San Cristóbal’s jungle, an impenetrable green monster. I was unaccustomed to the subtropical climate and my body had been covered in sweat from the moment we got off the highway and took the red sand road leading to the city.

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: Audiobook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780358311218

  • ISBN-10: 0358311217

  • Price: $19.95

  • Publication Date: 04/14/2020

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