Alejo Carpentier (Cuba, 1904)
"El Reino de Este Mundo/ The Kingdom of This World" (1949) +
"Los Pasos Perdidos/ The Lost Steps" (1953) ++ displays the writer's fluent narrative instinct and supernatural attention to detail at their peak. Both the city and the jungle are depicted with such hyper-realistic power that they become living beings, perhaps the real Manichean protagonists of this metaphysical tale, fighting each other on a battlefield that happens to the be the life of the protagonist. The first part is simply the story of an alienated and lonely man who lives a sordid life. The second part is his journey into the belly of civilization, back in time, away from his real life. Here tragedy becomes epics. Then the epics turns into comedy when he is rescued and finds himself an unwilling celebrity. Finally, the novel becomes another tragedy, the tragedy of a man who fights his roots to become something else, and it becomes a meditation on life and art, as his destiny is ironically decided by his need for art. The tale explores the human condition while mocking the Bible and the Odyssey, but, ultimately, carving its own vein of existential tragicomedy.
At this point Yannes leaves the group, determined to find his diamonds. The Adelantado, instead, has a differenmt goal: he founded a city in the jungle. That's the secret he confided to the protagonist. The Adelantado had used his gold to buy the materials he needed for the city. He was not interested in the gold anymore, but in his legacy. The protagonist is disappointed to find out that the "city" is just a group of primitive huts, but that's how the first cities got started in Mesopotamia. The friar will be the first bishop of the city. The protagonist decides to stay and help to build the church. Rosario, who grew up at the edge of the jungle, is excited at their new life. The protagonist only has to acquiesce his conscience: he finds a way to send the precious musical instruments to the museum, so that the curator would not get in any trouble. He is told of the legend of the flood: when the waters of the river flooded the plains, a man survived and saved animals too. He realizes that each place has its own version of Noah's legend. History has started moving forward again, from Eden towards the first cities and agriculture. When the rains keep them confined to the city, the protagonist rediscovers his passion for music and starts composing the threnody he always dreamed of. Unfortunately, there isn't enough paper in the city for a composer to write his music, and he soon runs out of it. Meanwhile, the friar intimates to him that he should get married to Rosario to set the Christian example to the Indios. He is reluctant to betray Rosario (he is already married) but then eventually he proposes to her: to his surprise he rejects him, revealing a strong feminist ideology. They also meet Nicasio, an old gold hunter who lives in a cave dying of leprosy who comes around to beg for food. Later Nicasio tries to rape a child and the protagonist is charged with gunning him down. The protagonist cannot pull the trigger, but the Adelantado's son Marcos does it, and the first execution is thus carried out in the new city. A plane appears amid the rains: it turns out that the protagonist has become famous, that rescue missions have been organized, that rewards have been offered to aviators. The plane is a sight never seen before by the people of the village. The protagonist is determined to stay and ignore civilization but then realizes that civilization has paper and ink, the tools that he needs to complete his threnody. He tells Rosario that he will be gone just a few weeks, just the time to buy what he needs and come back. Rosario does not believe him and starts walking towards their home in the mood of a widow.
To his surprise, the whole world is waiting for his return. Not only the media went berserk over his life's story, but his wife became a heroine too, fueling the media frenzy. He has been made a modern Ulysses, returning to his Penelope. Ruth has decided to quit the theater and just be a wife; in fact, a mother, because she announces her pregnancy. After a grandiose reception attended by all sorts of dignitaries and acquaintances, the protagonist is alone with his wife and about to confess that he wants a divorce when she finds a newspaper that just came out with the story of her husband's illicit affair with Mouche, deliberately spun out by the vindictive Mouche. The protagonist finally has a chance to tell his wife not only about Mouche but also about Rosario, and to ask for a divorce. Throughout this excruciating homecoming ritual his wife (who, it turns out, is not even pregnant) displays the skills of the tragic actress. The result is that the protagonist is suddenly transformed from hero to villain. His wife sues him, his old employer fires him, and he soon is reduced to poverty. He cannot find the money he needs to go back to Rosario, while he is battling Ruth in courts. One night he meets Mouche and sleeps with her mechanically, and she shows him an article about the tragic death of the old friar, massacred by the Indios. This news causes him to leave everything behind and set out with what little money he has. He reaches the remote country again and embarks on the same trip. He fails to reach the hidden city because the river has risen and erased the familiar markers. He meets Yannes, who has found the diamonds he was looking for and can't wait to register his new mine. Yannes would know how to get to the city, but Yannes has news for the protagonist: Rosario did not wait for him, she is married to the Adelantado's son and is even pregnant. The protagonist is devastated. He realizes that this was just a vacation from what his real destiny is. What caused the failure of his dream was his passion for music: the paper and ink that he needed to finish his masterpiece. He belongs to the race that has invented art and that is doomed to sacrifice everything for it.
"El Siglo de las Luces/ Explosion in the Cathedral" (1962) +
"Concierto Barroco" (1974)
"El Recurso del Metodo/ Reason of State" (1974)
"La Consagracion de la Primavera/ The Rite of Spring" (1978) +
"El Arpa y la Sombra" (1979)