Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) Biography » Alejo Carpentier: 1904-1980: Writer Biography - Early Writing Led To Political Activism, Exiled In France, Return To The Americas, Works Proliferated With Voluminous Knowledge

Alejo Carpentier: 1904-1980: Writer - Works Proliferated With Voluminous Knowledge

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In addition to his acclaimed fiction, Carpentier produced a prolific array of essays and criticism on a broad range of themes, from music and visual art to literature and politics. His book on the history of Cuban music, La musica en Cuba, was published in 1946. In a 2001 review in Americas, Mark Holstein hailed the book as the "definitive work on the history of Cuban music" through the mid-twentieth century. Carpentier published another book on music, America Latina en su musica, in 1974. A three-volume work, Ese musico que llevo dentro, was published posthumously in 1980. Indeed, Carpentier's early musical training was a strong element not only in his nonfiction but in his fiction as well. His novel The Chase, for example—as Christy Post pointed out in The Review of Contemporary Fiction—is constructed "in the form of a sonata, and the action unfolds in exactly the amount of time it takes to perform Beethoven's Eroica Symphony—forty-six minutes."

Carpentier's writing became known not just for its engagement with political and historical themes but also for its encyclopedic scholarship. Carpentier's knowledge of anthropology, history, geography, natural sciences, music, visual art, folk traditions, and literature was on prominent display in his novels. Many critics admired this quality, while others suggested that it contributed to his relative lack of recognition among North Americans audiences. Nevertheless, Carpentier remained extremely popular in Latin America. In 1974, the Cuban government declared his birthday an occasion for official celebration, and awarded him an honorary doctorate from the University of Havana. Carpentier also received the Alfonso Reyes Prize in Mexico and the Cerro del Duca Prize. He was elected in 1976 as an Honorary Fellow of the University of Kansas. In 1979 he was awarded the Prix Medici.

When Carpentier died of cancer at his Paris home on April 24, 1980, he had just published Consagracion de la primavera, the first novel of a planned trilogy. He was buried in Cuba in the Necropolis de Colon.

Selected writings

Ecue-Yamba-O! (title means "Praised be the Lord"), Espana, 1933.

La musica en Cuba, Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1946.

El reino de este mundo, Ibero Americana, 1949; translated by Harriet de Onis as The Kingdom of This World, Knopf, 1957.

Los pasos perdidos, Ibero Americiana, 1953; translated by Harriet de Onis as The Lost Steps, Knopf, 1956, Gollancz, 1956.

El acoso, Losada, 1956; translated by Alfred Mac-Adam as The Chase, Farrar, Straus, 1990.

Guerra del tiempo, General, 1958; translated by Frances Partridge as The War of Time, Knopf, 1979, Gollancz, 1979.

El siglo de las luces, (title means "The Century of the Lights"), General, 1962; translated by John Sturrock as Explosion in a Cathedral, Little, Brown, 1963, Gollancz, 1963.

El Recurso de metodo, Siglo XXI, 1974; translated by Frances Partridge as Reasons of State, Knopf, 1976, Gollancz, 1976.

America Latina en su musica, UNESCO, 1975.

La consagracion de la primavera (title means "The Consecration of Spring"), Siglo Vientiuno, 1979.

Ese musico que llevo dentro, edited by Zoila Gomez Garcia, Letras Cubanas, 1980.



Contemporary Authors, Gale, 2000.

Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, Gale, 1996, pp. 177-180.

Gonzalez Echevarria, Roberto, Alejo Carpentier: The Pilgrim at Home, Cornell University Press, 1977.

Janny, Frank, Alejo Carpentier and His Early Works, Tamesis, 1981.

King, Lloyd, Alejo Carpentier, Caribbean Writer, University of the West Indies Press, 1977.

Shaw, Donald, Alejo Carpentier, Twayne, 1985.


Americas, October 2001, p. 60.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, Summer 2001, p. 174.

—Elizabeth Shostak

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about 8 years ago

The title of La consagración de la primavera is usually translated in
English as "The rites of spring" per the Stravinsky ballet from which the title is drawn. In addition, the first edition came out in 1978 with Siglo Veintiuno.