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Alejo Carpentier Biography and Review of 'The Journey Back To The Source'

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1511 words Published: 9th Sep 2021

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Alejo Carpentier was the leading Cuban novelist as well as a treasured musicologist during his generation. Carpentier as well had a powerful influence in Latin-American letters. Alejo Carpentier was a versatile scholar and novelist; he infused his work in connection with history, science, politics, art, music, and the tradition of primitive indigenous cultures. Alejo Carpentier both initiated and advocated the growth of the Latin-American anti-novel or new novel, which is an avant-garde form that has no traditional narrative systems. The new novel advocated by Carpentier is characterized by vaguely recognized characters, indifferently arranged chronology, as well as ambiguous meaning (Donald, 16).

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Alejo Carpentier also practiced magic realism, which is a feature of Latin-American narration in which ordinary experience is explicated in extraordinary terms. Although Carpentier’s work is very pedantic and complex, its dense composition is a vital element of his art. Alejo Carpentier is best known for the short stories which are recognizable for their stress on fantasy and distortion of time (Donald, 110).

Alejo Carpentier was born in Havana. His parents are of Russian and French lineage; Carpentier went to the University of Havana and was later employed as a freelance journalist till he became the editor of the magazine Cartels in 1924. Carpentier was imprisoned for a short time in 1927 after signing a policy opposing the administration of the Cuban totalitarian known as Gerardo Machado y Morales; he afterwards fled to France in 1928. While in Paris, Alejo Carpentier discerned the surrealist workings of Louis Aragon and André Breton moreover he contributed articles to the periodical known as Révolution surréaliste. Alejo Carpentier worked at Foniric Studios, whereby he directed and produced arts courses as well as audio recordings between 1928 and 1939 (Donald, 29).

Alejo Carpentier published ¡Ecue-Yamba-Ó, a novel he had started writing in prison which was an account of Afro-Cuban political efforts and folklore. He also wrote “Tale of Moons” which featured in the periodical Cahiers du Sud. Alejo Carpentier was employed in a local radio station, after returning to Havana in 1939, where he authored and produced radio programmes, furthermore he taught history in music at the National Conservatory till 1943, the time when he left Cuba again. He lived in self-imposed exile during the 1940s and 1950s, roaming to Haiti, the United States, Europe, and South America (Donald, 63).

Alejo Carpentier published The Kingdom of This World in 1949; a historical novel which is based on the career of Henri Christophe the early nineteenth-century leader of Haiti next followed his stunning success the novel The Lost Steps, in 1953. While in exile, Carpentier as well wrote the volume of his short fiction, as well as the novella Manhunt, the story “The Fugitives”, which was published in the periodical El nacional, and the story compilation The War of Time. After Fidel Castro revolution in the year 1959, Alejo Carpentier returned to Cuba. He held a managerial position at the Cuban Publishing House from 1960 to 1967, where he issued Explosion in a Cathedral, another highly praised historical novel as well as Tientos y diferencias, which is a collection of essays concerning literary and cultural themes. In 1966 Alejo Carpentier while serving at the Cuban embassy in Paris, was pronounced the cultural attaché to France, until his death in 1980 (Donald, 74).

Alejo Carpentier started his literary activity within the 1920’s; moreover he was a member of the Group of the Minority. Carpentier also edited the progressive magazine Revista de avance. Additionally, he lived as an expatriate in Paris from 1928 to 1939 and later in Venezuela from 1945 to 1959. After the conquest of the revolution in1959, Alejo Carpentier took part in Cuba’s cultural and social life.

Alejo Carpentier early writing is linked to “Afro-Cubism,” which is a literary movement that exploited the dual African and European sources of the Cuba’s culture. Alejo Carpentier’s first story was Afro-Cubist: in 1933, Ecue Jamba-o naturalistically portrayed the religious rituals of the Negroes. Within the 1940’s Alejo Carpentier made comparisons between Western Europe and Latin America in his workings, noting ordinary features of cultural and historical development. The historical short story Earthly Kingdom deals with the revolt in Haiti at the twirl of the 19th century as well as the mythological aspect of the Negro collective realization.

Alejo Carpentier’s story Lost Traces demonstrates the concurrent existence of different phases of history within Latin America. Carpentier’s multilevel historical story The Age of Enlightenment addresses the problem of the extraordinary character of the record of Latin America’s development. Having this intrinsic admiration of music and an enthrallment with Cuban identity, Alejo Carpentier began exploring the origins of Cuban music within an academic sense. Alejo Carpentier issued the ethno-musicological study called La Música en Cuba in 1946, which shows how European music, shifted African music as well as the indigenous music of the isle all merged together to form Cuban music. Alejo Carpentier took interest particularly in Afro-Cuban themes.

Alejo Carpentier’s literary style is a magnificent combination of dazzling images as well as a rich language, which is full of the nominal jargon of whatsoever subject he addresses be it music, painting, architecture, history, or agriculture. To sum up, Carpentier is in general considered amongst the fathers of the modern Latin American literature. Carpentier’s compound, baroque style has been an inspiration to many.

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In the Journey back to the source also known as Viaje a la semilla by Alejo Carpentier, explains the life of Don Marcial starting from his death all the way to his birth. It commences with the impending obliteration of his house a short time after his death. Inside twelve more parts, which are noted by roman numerals, the audience is escorted backward throughout the stages in Don Marcial’s life. Every section gives details that characterize these stages (Roberto, 25).

Don Marcial has already passed on when an old manservant factually opens the door to the house moreover the time frame shifts to Marcial’s funeral. Still moving backward in time, the narrative tells about his existence as an old man, an adult and as a youth all the way to his birth.

In the Journey back to the source by Alejo Carpentier, there was the theme of freedom. The Journey back to the source shows how freedom could be explored for through mores of marriage furthermore it shows how liberty was truthfully obtained when Marcial communicated in his own language. Moreover, like time, this narrative distorts pain but presents it as a way of pleasure. The Journey back to the source resembled a melancholic chronicle in view of the fact that there were moments of pleasure which originated from freedom or from pain; however there was never any factual mention of happiness. Additionally, there are many characters in this narrative, yet the central character seemed to have lived a life of perfect solitude (Roberto, 247).

Alejo Carpentier totally restructures gothic dualities particularly the connection between life and death, through reversing time. The outcome is particularly striking in his representation of the residence, which grows whereas Don Marcial shrivels backward through existence into death.  The house develops after the destruction to set the arena for Don Marcial’s life.  Marcial’s movement into babyhood is marked by bizarre animation and personification of the house that reveal his changing viewpoint.  However everything is overturned again when Don is reabsorbed into the womb.  The audience wonders if he lived or died. The house reveals the question within its re-demolition. The Ceres sculpture, which is the Roman goddess of everything that lives and grows, connects the entire process.  The Ceres gains youth just like the house, connecting it to the organic world.  However it is uncertain whether her being sold as soon as the house is gone signifies the completion or distraction of the life-death cycle. Since a cycle is never complete given that for every life there is a death waiting to occur (Roberto, 174).

In conclusion, Journey back to the source is a story that is extremely clever and can be recommended to people of all ages. The audiences just love how within this novella, the language is succeeding, conversely, the events are as well moving back in time. In my opinion, it is absolutely incredible that Carpentier managed to produce this piece of work. He actually did research with language, furthermore in a way; he is trying to make the audience aware that there is a different way of examining certain situations other than the manner individuals normally view it.


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