The Logic of Fetishism: Alejo Carpentier and the Cuban Tradition

The Logic of Fetishism: Alejo Carpentier and the Cuban Tradition

The Logic of Fetishism: Alejo Carpentier and the Cuban Tradition

The Logic of Fetishism: Alejo Carpentier and the Cuban Tradition


"Cuban author Alejo Carpentier (1904-1980) was a key figure in the foundation of contemporary Latin American fiction. By taking a critical position vis-a-vis the restitutionary current in Latin American studies (e.g., to focus on the myths of the noble savage, lost paradises, black legends, and good revolutionaries), James Pancrazio provides a highly innovative re-reading of Carpentier's work. Through a logic of fetishism, Carpentier's characters and narrators are always at the crossroads: they are self and other, Latin American and European, African and American, contrite and unrepentant, masculine and feminine. Literary fetishism, surprisingly, not only marks the space of representation, but also provides a powerful critical lens to examine Carpentier's fiction." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


En la Historia no hay retornos, porque todo ella es transformación y novedad. Ninguna raza vuelve; cada una plantea su misión, la cumple y se va.

[There are no returns in History, because it is all transformation and change. No race returns; each defines its mission, fulfills it, and disappears.]

—José Vasconcelos, La raza cósmica

Cuban director TOMÁS GUTIÉRREZ alea's 1976 film la ÚLTIMA cena portrays the attempt of an eighteenth-century Cuban slave owner to live according to his Christian standards during Holy Week. To fulfill his obligations he selects twelve slaves from among the field hands and invites them to participate in a reenactment of the Last Supper. Casting himself in the role of Christ, the slaves are baptized and the Master himself washes and kisses their feet before adjourning to the banquet table. While the African slaves relish feasting on a luxuriously prepared meal, the Master attempts to initiate and indoctrinate them into Christianity. His cosmo-vision differs little from that presented in Pedro Calderón de la Barca's morality play El gran teatro del mundo, in which life is represented as vast theater and all characters are obliged to perform their duties according to the role in which they have been cast. the Almighty is the author/director who selects his actors, who don their vesture as personified allegories of beauty, discretion, wealth, and poverty. Because their roles have been selected by Divine Providence, true happiness is not derived through struggling to change the social order but rather from accepting one's position in God's constellation and striving to perform that role effectively.

The scene in Gutiérrez Alea's film is replete with comic ironies that not only explore the ideological justifications for slavery, but . . .

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