Kalpa Imperial Reader’s Guide

  1. Kalpa Imperial coverKalpa Imperial is subtitled “the greatest empire that never was.” Why do you think the author did not set this novel in a recognizable place and time? What consequences does that have for the reader? What correspondences does this novel have with the history of your country?
  2. Using an “unreliable narrator” is a popular method of adding another angle to a story. (For example: think of the way the story told in the film The Usual Suspects unfolds at the end of the film compared to how it unfolded while you were watching it. Which part did you enjoy more? Why?) In Kalpa Imperial how many narrators are there? Are they trustworthy? What is the author saying about stories? Do you think the author’s voice can be told apart from the narrators’?
  3. Kalpa Imperial was written during the 1970s in Argentina, which at that time was ruled by a repressive and somewhat brutal military dictatorship. Do you think it is the writer’s place in the world to put themselves in danger by protesting against their government in print? In the USA, the freedom of expression is seen as an inalienable right, yet in the past two years individuals have been held by the government without access to their families or lawyers. Are there any sequences or characters in Kalpa Imperial that are similar to those in the present-day USA?
  4. What do you think is the individual’s responsibility when working for a repressive or fascist government?
  5. Recently an article in The New York Times noted that very few translations are published in the USA each year. Why do you think this is? Why are translations different from other novels? Which are better? How are they the same?
  6. If you were to describe Kalpa Imperial in twenty words, could you?
  7. Is Kalpa Imperial magic realism? Or perhaps it is a historical novel, an alternate history, or a fantasy? Where do you think these classifications come from and are they useful to you?
  8. South and Central American writers have sometimes found it difficult to publish books in the USA that are not magic realist. Why do readers have the expectation that their books will be magic realism?
  9. What makes a book magic realist? Can a writer from Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, or Oceania write magic realism?
  10. George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Does this seem to any truth to you? Have you ever felt this way about your own life? How about for your government? How hard is it to recognize a mistake that is being repeated? What might stop a government from changing their behavior?