Alejo Carpentier Additional Biography


Alejo Carpentier (kahr-pehn-TYAYR) was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1904. His father was French and his mother was of Russian origin, and they had emigrated to Cuba two years before their son’s birth. Carpentier was bilingual in both French and Spanish, but people who knew him say that he pronounced Spanish with a very strong French accent and that he felt more comfortable communicating in French, which was the language spoken in his household. His parents were wealthy; they had a spacious house with an excellent library where their son studied. He went to private schools in Cuba but he also spent long periods in Paris, which helped him compare and contrast Latin American and European cultural values. Carpentier wanted to continue his father’s business and he started studying architecture, but after his father unexpectedly abandoned the family, Alejo quit the university and went into journalism. He turned out to be an excellent writer and a very talented editor. During those years he also showed great interest in Afro-Cuban culture, especially music, and soon wrote and produced several ballets, comic operas, numerous conference articles, stories, and poems.

The 1920’s in Cuba were turbulent. It was the youngest of all Latin American republics; only in 1898 had it gained independence from Spain. That same year, however, the United States occupied Cuba; this occupation lasted until 1902. Thereafter, the United States regularly intervened in Cuban affairs and in 1925 it strongly supported the rise of President Gerardo Machado, a dictator.

Carpentier became involved with the opposition, and in 1927, he was put in jail for more than a month for signing an antigovernment manifesto. After that experience he escaped from Cuba using a friend’s documents, flew to Paris, and stayed in the French capital for the next eleven years. Between 1928 and 1939 he...

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Alejo Carpentier’s work is about the search for what it means to be Latin American. Western ideas of the linearity of history and “progress” in music, literature, and philosophy are juxtaposed with African and pre-Hispanic cosmogonies that favor a circular path in history and an oral tradition. In spite of all the steps that Carpentier’s protagonists take toward freeing themselves, in the end they are unable to escape the artificiality of their Western existence.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Alejo Valmont Carpentier (kahr-pehn-TYAYR) is a seminal figure in the development of twentieth century Latin American literature. A perennial nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Carpentier ranks with Miguel Ángel Asturias and Jorge Luis Borges as one of the major influences on the emergence and international recognition of the Latin American novelist in the second half of the twentieth century. Carpentier was born in Havana, Cuba, on December 26, 1904, the son of Jorge Julian Carpentier, a French architect, and Lina Valmont, a Russian language teacher. His parents had emigrated from France to Cuba two years earlier. They were convinced that Cuba, independent as a result of the Spanish-American War, was a place to create a...

(The entire section is 1177 words.)