1 minute read

Alejo Carpentier: 1904-1980: Writer

Early Writing Led To Political Activism

Carpentier grew up in an affluent household and spent many boyhood hours in his father's private library, where he read the works of Balzac, Flaubert, Zola, and other European writers. Because he had asthma, Carpentier often stayed inside, amusing himself with writing, reading, and playing the piano. At age 15 he began to write, contributing music reviews to El Heraldo de Cuba and La Discusion. After attending Colegio Mimo and Candler College, Carpentier enrolled at the Universidad de la Habana as an architecture student, but in 1922 he quit his studies to help support the family after his father disappeared. Within two years, he became chief editor of the experimental weekly magazine Carteles.

During the 1920s Carpentier became involved with the student movement to depose dictator Gerardo Machado y Morales. The young writer helped to found the radical magazine Revista de Avance, and signed a manifesto calling for sweeping reforms in culture and politics. The document called for an end to U.S. imperialism and the rule of dictators in Cuba, and also advocated reforms in art, education, and economics.

At a Glance . . .

Born on December 26, 1904, in Havana, Cuba; died on April 24, 1980, in Paris, France; son of Jorge Julian Carpentier y Valmont, an architect; married Eva Frejaville (second marriage), divorced 1939; married Lilia Esteban Hierro, 1941.

Career: Author, 1933-80; commercial journalist, Havana, Cuba, 1921-24; Cartels, Havana, editor-in-chief, 1924-28; Foniric Studios (radio), Paris, France, director and producer, 1928-39; CMZ radio, Havana, writer and producer, 1939-41; Conservatorio Nacional, Havana, professor of history of music, 1941-43; Cuban Publishing House, Havana, director, 1969-67; Embassy of Cuba, Paris, cultural attaché, 1966-80.

Awards: Priz du Meilleur Livre Etranger (France), 1956, for The Lost Steps; Cino del duca Prize, 1975; Prix Medici, 1979.

For these activities, Carpentier was sentenced to seven months in prison in 1927. While in prison he began work on his first novel, Ecue-Yamba-O!

After his release, Carpentier was banned from traveling outside of Cuba. But his political involvement nevertheless continued. With his friend, composer Amedeo Roldan, he organized a concert series and promoted Afro-Cuban and Afro-Caribbean movements. The pair collaborated on the Afro-Cuban ballets El milagro de Anaquille and La Rebambaramba, with Carpentier contributing the scenarios and Roldan writing the music.

Additional topics

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