Explosion in a Cathedral

by Alejo Carpentier

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 384

Explosion in a Cathedral is a historical novel set in the eighteenth century and touches upon the effects of the French Revolution in Latin America.

Quotes from the novel include the following.

Ah, qu’à notre secours à propos vous venez! Encore un jour plus tard, nous étions ruinés.

These lines, taken from the works of Jean-François Regnard, translate to: "Ah! May we help you! Another day later, we were ruined." Victor says these lines to the Executor Don Cosme, suggesting that the latter's earnestness in fulfilling his duty towards the young Carlos and Esteban is to allay any suspicions that might come from later mishandling their finances.

Even music has been rationalized.

Martinez de Ballesteros utters these words to Esteban. De Ballesteros is bemoaning what he considers to the be the hijacking of the French Revolution by everybody, including music composers—who were churning out patriotic pieces in order to be seen as being on the right side of the revolution.

Go to the Intendant’s office and wait for my orders.

Victor Hugues instructs Esteban with these words when the two meet after a considerable period. The tone and choice of words signifies the change in the relationship between the two. Esteban feels that Victor is now a leader of men, and his demeanor therefore suggests an aloof and impartial approach to relationships.

Anyone who is disloyal to the Jacobins is being disloyal to the Republic and to the cause of liberty.

Victor Hugues says this to Esteban, praising the latter's commitment to the French Revolution. However, the comment leaves Esteban distraught because he has seen people take advantage of the revolution in order to settle personal scores and commit acts of terrorism. Additionally, the above quote is a favorite of Collot d'Herbois, an ex-actor and drunkard; Esteban cannot reconcile the idea of this man being connected with the basis of the revolution's morality.

Words and blood go together.

Esteban says this when he realizes that the contraption that the workers are assembling on-board the ship is a guillotine. The ship is headed toward America, and, according to Victor, the three most important items it is carrying are a printing press, the guillotine, and a cannon. The three items symbolize the power of the pen and the sword in furthering a revolution.

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