(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The principal action of Manhunt, a short novel which takes place during the span of one night in Havana, recounts the unnamed protagonist’s flight from his former political comrades, who are trying to murder him for having turned informer. The protagonist, the typical “young man from the provinces,” has come to the capital to pursue his studies at the university. Once in Havana, he takes up residence in a boardinghouse owned by an old black woman who had been his wet nurse. Shortly after his arrival in the city, he joins the Communist Party but is soon disenchanted with it and opts instead for direct political action in the form of terrorist acts against various government officials. These acts include one murder for which he is directly responsible and involvement in a second. As a result of his terrorist activities, he is arrested; terrified by the threat of castration, he “sings” and is released back into the streets. Most of these events, however, are narrated in the form of flashbacks, for when the novel begins the protagonist is already in the streets, fleeing from his pursuers. His pursuers finally catch up with him at a concert hall where a symphonic orchestra has just finished performing Ludwig van Beethoven’s Eroica symphony. In ironic counterpoint to Beethoven’s work, the unnamed protagonist dies an unheroic death when he is murdered while hiding in a balcony seat. The incongruity of his death is enhanced by the fact that it...

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(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Echevarria, Roberto Gonzalez. Alejo Carpentier: The Pilgrim at Home. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1977. Explores what seems like a radical disjunction between Carpentier’s fiction and nonfiction. Echevarria finds unity, however, in certain recurring themes, which he illuminates by discussing Carpentier’s debt to writers such as José Ortega y Gasset and Oswald Spengler. The novelist’s penchant for dialectical structures and for allegory is also explored. Includes a bibliography and index.

Harss, Luis, and Barbara Dohmann. Into the Mainstream. New York: Harper and Row, 1966. Includes a chapter often cited as a succinct introduction to Carpentier’s work up to the early 1960’s.

Janney, Frank. Alejo Carpentier and His Early Works. London: Tamesis, 1981. An introductory survey that is still useful.

Kilmer-Tchalekian, Mary. “Ambiguity in El siglo de las luces.” Latin American Literary Review 4 (1976): 47-57. An especially valuable discussion of Carpentier’s narrative technique and handling of point of view.

King, Lloyd. Alejo Carpentier, Caribbean Writer. St. Augustine, Fla.: University of the West Indies Press, 1977. Often cited for its perceptive introduction to Carpentier’s work.

Shaw, Donald L. Alejo Carpentier. Boston: Twayne, 1985. Chapters on Carpentier’s apprenticeship, his discovery of the “marvelous real,” his handling of time and circularity, his fiction about the Antilles, his explorations of politics, and his last works. Includes chronology, notes, and annotated bibliography.

Souza, Raymond D. Major Cuban Novelists: Innovation and Tradition. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1976. Should be read in conjunction with Harss and Dohmann.