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Bites from the Bearded Crocodile

G. Cabrera Infante, 4 June 1981

... of party propaganda. The one they have now is the National Printing House where, under the rule of Alejo Carpentier (more later), 100,000 copies of Moby Dick were published – slightly abridged. The Cuban publishers had cleverly rewritten Melville. You had Ishmael, you had Queequeg, you had Captain Ahab, of course, you even had Father Mapple: but you ...

The Fishman lives the lore

Elizabeth Lowry: Carpentaria, 24 April 2008

by Alexis Wright.
Constable, 439 pp., £16.99, March 2008, 978 1 84529 721 3
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... It’s a method that owes something to the magic realism of such writers as García Márquez or Alejo Carpentier. The effect is of a heightened reality in which elements of the marvellous appear without seeming unnatural or forced; as here, in the book’s first few sentences: The ancestral serpent, a creature larger than storm clouds, came down from ...


Michael Wood, 23 March 1995

The Stone Raft 
by José Saramago, translated by Giovanni Pontiero.
Harvill, 263 pp., £15.99, November 1994, 0 00 271321 7
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... people who do not believe in coincidences.’ Saramago’s epigraph is taken from the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier: ‘Every future is fabulous.’ It sounds like a prescription for magical realism, and indeed Carpentier is the author of the now threadbare phrase ‘the marvellous real’, lo real maravilloso. But ...

A Show of Heads

Carlos Fuentes, 19 March 1987

I the Supreme 
by Augusto Roa Bastos, translated by Helen Lane.
Faber, 433 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 571 14626 0
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... Julio Cortazar, Venezuela’s Miguel Otero Silva, Colombia’s Gabriel García Marquez, Cuba’s Alejo Carpentier, the Dominican Republic’s Juan Bosch and Chile’s José Donoso and Jorge Edwards (one of them promised to take on a Bolivian dictator). When the project fell through, three of these authors went on to write fulllength novels of their ...

Clean Sweep

Philip Horne, 10 May 1990

Love and Garbage 
by Ivan Klima, translated by Ewald Osers.
Chatto, 217 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 0 7011 3362 7
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The Storyteller 
by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Helen Lane.
Faber, 246 pp., £12.99, April 1990, 0 571 15208 2
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The Chase 
by Alejo Carpentier, translated by Alfred Mac Adam.
Deutsch, 122 pp., £9.95, March 1990, 0 233 98550 6
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by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Lysander Kemp.
Deutsch, 88 pp., £9.95, April 1990, 0 233 98470 4
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... is that the Machiguenga, in The Storyteller, emerge for the reader as such a poignant reality. Alejo Carpentier’s powerful, oppressive, bewildering novella The Chase, published in Spanish in 1956 and now translated, is elaborately hailed on the back by Carlos Fuentes as the work of the inventor of ‘magical realism’, ‘our father’. It ...

Its Own Dark Styx

Marina Warner, 20 March 1997

The Nature of Blood 
by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 224 pp., £15.99, February 1997, 0 571 19073 1
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... novelists. In its shadowed and unreliable depths Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Leonardo Sciascia, Alejo Carpentier have searched out their material, reflections of ourselves; and from A State of Independence his second novel (1986), to The Nature of Blood, Caryl Phillips, too, has been scrying for glimpses of troubled histories. The Nature of Blood opens ...


D.A.N. Jones, 5 November 1992

Death in Chile: A Memoir and a Journey 
by Tony Gould.
Picador, 277 pp., £15.99, July 1992, 0 330 32271 0
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Some write to the future 
by Ariel Dorfman, translated by George Shivers and Ariel Dorfman.
Duke, 271 pp., £10.95, May 1992, 0 8223 1269 7
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... but he asserts that all his characters are Latin Americans – like the characters of Asturias, Carpentier and Garcia Marquez, searching ‘through violence for the sign of their own essence or of the order of the universe’. Latin American writers, he suggests, are different from Europeans, separated from the literary tradition which Borges claims to ...


Lorna Scott Fox, 24 November 1994

Mea Cuba 
by G. Cabrera Infante, translated by Kenneth Hall.
Faber, 497 pp., £17.50, October 1994, 0 571 17255 5
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Before Night Falls 
by Reinaldo Arenas, translated by Dolores Koch.
Viking, 317 pp., £16, July 1994, 0 670 84078 5
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... undeniably fascinating about Manichaean ranting; Mea Cuba also offers some vicious gossip about Alejo Carpentier in his last years, and a readable piece on that fine but little-known writer Calvert Casey. Cabrera does praise Reinaldo Arenas, ‘the chronicler of a country ruled not by the already impotent Fidel Castro, but by sex’. He has to, because ...

Infante’s Inferno

G. Cabrera Infante, 18 November 1982

Legacies: Selected Poems 
by Heberto Padilla, translated by Alastair Reid and Andrew Hurley.
Faber, 179 pp., £8.75, September 1982, 0 374 18472 0
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... the marvelous’ – is the best translated of the poems. The marvel-trackers are the followers of Alejo Carpentier, deceased, therefore Castro’s favourite Cuban writer. These camp-followers believed that the fiddler on the roof is the emblem of a new aesthetic credo and not a fauxnaif painting by Chagall, good enough to entitle a Broadway musical where ...

Memories of a Skinny Girl

Michael Wood: Mario Vargas Llosa, 9 May 2002

The Feast of the Goat 
by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Edith Grossman.
Faber, 404 pp., £16.99, March 2002, 0 571 20771 5
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The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City: Latin America in the Cold War 
by Jean Franco.
Harvard, 323 pp., £15.95, May 2002, 0 674 00842 1
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... of dictator novels, a minor genre with major members: Augusto Roa Bastos’s I the Supreme (1974), Alejo Carpentier’s Reasons of State (1974), Gabriel García Márquez’s Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), and now Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Feast of the Goat (2000). The time lag is probably significant, since the latest book is the most literal and least ...

From Progress to Catastrophe

Perry Anderson: The Historical Novel, 28 July 2011

... there is little doubt where meta-historical fiction began. It was born in the Caribbean with Alejo Carpentier’s El reino de este mundo (The Kingdom of This World), which appeared in 1949, followed by his Siglo de las luces (Explosion in a Cathedral) of 1962. Settings: Haiti, Cuba, French Guyana. Five years later came García Márquez’s One ...

No Magic, No Metaphor

Fredric Jameson: ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, 15 June 2017

... it to the bin in which we keep such worn-out epithets as ‘surrealistic’ and ‘Kafkaesque’. Alejo Carpentier’s original version is that the real itself is a marvel (the ‘real maravilloso’), and that Latin America is in its paradigmatic unevenness – in which computers co-exist with the most archaic forms of peasant culture and on up, through ...

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