25 February 2015

Alejo Carpentier

The Road to Santiago

I have been reading (and writing on) the work of an amazing but little-known Cuban writer called Alejo Carpentier. He was active in the European modernist and surrealist movements in the 1920s and 1930s, and was appointed Ambassador to France by Fidel Castro in 1967. He coined the term 'magical realism' to describe the mixture of fantasy and realism that characterises much of modern Latin-American literature. To give an example, his short story Journey Back to the Source describes a man's life - but with time going backwards. It begins with his death and the demolition of his house, then ends with his birth. His novella Baroque Concerto is a musical extravaganza that starts in eighteenth century Mexico, where a rich burger travels to Europe. He attends a concert given by Scarlatti, Handel and Vivaldi, and ends up in La Fenice opera house listening to Louis Armstrong. These links take you to tutorials and study guides on his writing.