When I Die, Play Cumbia for Me: The Lives of Young Criminals

Cristian Alarcón


Based around the legend of Frente Vital, this book explores a chapter of recent Argentine history that is coloured by violence and betrayal but also solidarity and principles. Writing in pacy, precise prose in the best reportage tradition, Cristian Alarcón heads into the unsettling world of the slums in the company of young criminals to try to understand the schizophrenia of a society that both condemns and beatifies his protagonists.

«The poignant cumbia requiem of a kid from the slums. A social and political panorama. It makes visible the little people, the normal people, it tells our world. Bang bang!»

Bookstore Decitre Grenoble


«Cristian Alarcón's book is so good that reading it almost feels like a sin. He brings out the full humanity of the survivors of addiction, drug dealing, theft, and murder who live in Buenos Aires's shantytowns, and his magic with words makes you become enchanted by and forgive completely unforgivable characters. The world would be a better place with more writers as talented as Alarcón, who can render human suffering so beautifully.»

Philippe Bourgois, writer


«Dance for Me When I Die is a multifaceted marvel: part investigation, part eulogy, and a nuanced, subtle description of a culture steeped in violence and fatalism. Cristian Alarcón is a masterful writer and an intrepid, sensitive reporter, and this book is a must-read. You'll emerge from its spell with a new understanding of youth and violence at the margins of Latin American society.»

Daniel Alarcón, writer


«... Alarcón's work appears to renew a long tradition of artists and writers from the center of Buenos Aires seeking insights about the nature of modern Argentina by exploring its ragged outskirts and their sordid but authentic forms of popular culture.... Much to think about indeed.»

Brian Bockelman, American Historical Review


The book's appeal lies in the fact that it is a crossover between genres - at once a well-researched reportage and a literary portrait of society.

Monika Pilath, Das Parlament


Despite his closeness to his subjects, Alarcón manages to avoid the traps of idealization, of sentimentality. A multifaceted picture of the criminal youth is assembled.

Eva Massingue, LiteraturNachrichten


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