Carpentier, Alejo (1904–1980)

views updated

Carpentier, Alejo (1904–1980)

Alejo Carpentier (b. 26 December 1904; d. 24 April 1980), Cuban novelist and short-story writer. Carpentier was born in Havana and studied music with his mother, through whom he developed a love of music that became central to his life and work. In 1921 he studied architecture at the University of Havana and that same year began writing for local newspapers and magazines. Together with the noted Cuban composer Amadeo Roldán he organized concerts of new music, bringing to Cuba the works of Stravinsky, Poulenc, Satie, and Mali-piero. He also wrote the librettos for two ballets with music by Roldán.

In 1928, with the help of Cuban poet and then-diplomatic official Mariano Brull, Carpentier moved to Paris, where he met André Breton, Paul éluard, Ives Tanguy, Arthur Honegger, and Pablo Picasso, among others. With the 1933 publication of his first novel, ¡Ecue-Yamba-O!, in Madrid, he traveled to Spain, where he met the celebrated Spanish poets Federico García Lorca, Rafael Alberti, Pedro Salinas, and José Bergamín. In 1937, along with fellow Cuban writers Juan Marinello, Nicolás Guillén, and Félix Pita Rodríguez, he represented Cuba at the Second Congress for the Defense of Culture, held in Madrid and Valencia.

In 1939 Carpentier returned to Cuba to work for the Ministry of Education and to teach the history of music at the National Conservatory, where he later conducted research that led to the rediscovery of neglected Cuban composers Esteban Salas and Manuel Saumell. In 1945 he moved to Venezuela to work in radio and advertising. While there, he traveled extensively in 1947–1948 through the Amazon region, an area vividly evoked in his novel Los pasos perdidos (1953; The Lost Steps, 1956). After the Cuban Revolution in 1959 Carpentier returned to Cuba, where he was appointed vice-president of the National Council on Culture. He was also a vice-president of the powerful Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC) and from 1963 to 1968 the director of the Cuban National Publishing House. He traveled widely as a representative of the Cuban government on both cultural and political missions. In 1968 he was named Ministerial Counsel for Cultural Affairs at the Cuban embassy in Paris, a post he occupied until his death in 1980.

Carpentier's novels and short stories have been greatly acclaimed both in Cuba and abroad. He received many national honors as well as the international prizes Cino del Duca and Alfonso Reyes (1975). His work frequently evokes a particular historical period and is characterized by an ornate, meticulous, and rhythmical prose in which his love of music and architecture is evident. Among his other well-known works are El reino de este mundo (1949; The Kingdom of This World, 1957); El siglo de las luces (1962; Explosion in a Cathedral, 1963); and El recurso del método (1974; Reasons of State, 1976).

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America .


Roberto González Echevarría, Alejo Carpentier: The Pilgrim at Home (1977) and Alejo Carpentier: Bibliographical Guide (1983).

Araceli García-Carranza, Bibliografía de Alejo Carpentier (1984).

Klaus Müller-Bergh, "Alejo Carpentier," in Latin American Writers, edited by Carlos A. Solé and Maria Isabel Abreu (1989), pp. 1019-1031.

Simon Gikandi, Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature (1992).

Barbara J. Webb, Myth and History in Caribbean Fiction (1992).

Additional Bibliography

González Echevarría, Roberto. Alejo Carpentier, el pere-grino en su patria. Madrid: Biblioteca románica hispánica, 2004.

Padura, Leonardo. Un camino de medio siglo: Alejo Carpentier y la narrativa de lo real maravilloso. México, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2002.

                                 Roberto Valero

About this article

Carpentier, Alejo (1904–1980)

Updated About content Print Article