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The Stars at Noon is the third novel by American author Denis Johnson, published in 1986.


We follow a nameless woman in Nicaragua. She's from the United States. It is possible that she was once a journalist; it's possible that she still is. That's all irrelevant except insofar as it informs the present: she earns money prostituting, she's resigned to the state-of-affairs. She's trapped in the country, unable to get out - or possibly, unable to get out her money to which she's tied herself - forever hampered by the unseen will of others.

She is damned in the true sense of the word. Surely she is being punished for some crime, and the world impedes her as a portion of its own penitence.

Chance knocks her against a British man working for some petroleum company. He is fleeing the company, he has let slip some unforgivable secret. Together they run away, and in their own way fall in love. They must try to make it to the border of this forsaken land.


Johnson spent some time in Liberia as a journalist - see his essays in Seek - reporting on the war and its associated absurdities. There is an unusual hatred that seeps through in some of those writings, but not here, not in The Stars at Noon. The essays suggest that Johnson was disgusted by what he saw, and not because of the violence, but because it seemed to all be done for nothing. There's no doubt that the story and Johnson's experiences in Liberia are linked intimately, but for what? Perhaps atonement, but for whom?




The following quote was the only one I copied down while reading this novel. I love it for mixing space and time, and trying to grasp that liminal experience of lonely hours in foreign lands.

I could walk through the hours like doorways in the middle of the night, if only the middle of the night would last hours [...] (Pt.One)

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