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The Kingdom of this World by Alejo…

The Kingdom of this World (1949)

by Alejo Carpentier

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6181215,758 (3.77)54
  1. 00
    La Pyramide by Ismail Kadare (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: The scene with the building of the Citadelle in Carpentier's work reminded me very much of the building of the Pyramid.

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» See also 54 mentions

English (9)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
In the forward, Edwidge Danticat says "Alejo Carpentier allows us to consider the possibility - something which his own Cuba would later grapple with - that a revolution that some consider visionary might appear to others to have failed." And so it is that a successful slave rebellion against French colonial rule leads to a brief but brutal regime led by a former slave, which in the end, leads to the emergence of mulattoes as the ruling class. Carpentier blends magical realism with historical events in a believable way and takes the reader to the darker side of Haiti.

Macandal had not foreseen this matter of forced labor. Nor had Bouckman, the Jamaican. The ascendancy of the mulattoes was something new that had not occurred to Jose Antonio Aponte, beheaded by the Marquis of Someruelos, whose record of rebellion Ti Noel had learned of during his slave days in Cuba. Not even Henri Christophe would have suspected that the land of Santo Domingo would bring forth this spurious aristocracy, this caste of quadroons, which was now taking over the old plantations, with their privileges and rank.

Try as he would, Ti Noel could think of no way to help his subjects bowed once again beneath the whiplash. The old man began to lose heart at this endless return of chains, this rebirth of shackles, this proliferation of suffering, which the more resigned began to accept as proof of the uselessness of all revolt.
( )
  nittnut | Feb 16, 2015 |
It was a short read. ( )
  Kirmuriel | Sep 19, 2013 |
To be paired up with [b:Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution|69835|Avengers of the New World The Story of the Haitian Revolution|Laurent Dubois|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1170713032s/69835.jpg|67662].
  beabatllori | Apr 2, 2013 |
Amazing how he managed to squeeze such a story into so short a book. Beautiful, yet brutal & tragic also. ( )
  K_Fox | Nov 22, 2012 |
I read this deceptively simple novel about the Haitian revolution, the first and only time enslaved Africans liberated themselves in the Americas, and its aftermath in almost one setting. Through the eyes of Ti Noël, who is a young slave at the beginning and an old free man at the end, and with lush but spare prose, Carpentier portrays a period of great harshness and turmoil, from the period of slavery through revolution and upheaval to the reign of Henri Christophe who effectively re-enslaved the people and to his overthrow and beyond.

The reader first meets Ti Noël as he picks a new stallion for a his master, a horse bought for breeding, and then accompanies his master to a barber, staying outside and observing wax heads with wigs in the barber's windows and skinned calves' heads in a neighboring shop. What a preview of some of the themes of this novel in just the first two pages: sex and violence, and the interactions of animals with humans. Needless to say, although Ti Noël's master, a French plantation owner, respects his skill in selecting horses, he considers him a work animal, just like the horses.

Soon, Ti Noël is working with Macandal, a slave who remembers and tells others about the wonders of former African kingdoms (the Africans enslaved in Haiti come from a variety of places and a variety of tribes) and the powerful gods there. After a horrific accident in which he loses an arm, Macandal flees to the mountains where the plot is set in motion: he gathers plants, both healing and poisonous, studies with a witch, and secretly plots with slaves on plantations around the country. And so the revolution begins.

For the most part, there are few historical characters in this novel, with the exception of Henri Christophe, who later crowns himself the first king in the western hemisphere, forces Haitians with cudgels and whips and overseers to build his palaces and his supposedly impregnable citadel high in the mountain clouds, and emulates Europeans until he recognizes the powers of the African gods, transmuted into voodoo, just before his death. Nevertheless, Carpentier's research into Haiti, his imagination, and above all his gorgeous writing bring to life Ti Noël, Macandal, and the other fictional characters, the often harsh but nevertheless beautiful landscape of Haiti, the vivid reality of the the African gods, the barbaric treatment of the slaves and attitudes of their owners, the sexual sleaziness of some of the French, and the thrill and horror of the revolt. Not all is "real" in this book: one of the characters, when burned at the stake, transforms himself into a variety of animal forms and lives on in the Kingdom of This World, for example. But this is so interwoven int the novel that the reader, at least this one, accepts it.

To cover a span of probably 40 years in less then 200 pages in a way that seems full and complete is remarkable enough. To do so in such a vivid, entrancing, compelling, and complex way is Carpentier's gift.
8 vote rebeccanyc | Feb 6, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alejo Carpentierprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Danticat, EdwidgeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Onis, HarrietTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
栄一, 木村Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
渡, 平田Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Of the twenty stallions brought to Cap Francais by the ship's captain, who had a kind of partnership with the breeder in Normandy, Ti Noel and unhesitatingly picked that stud with the four white feet and rounded crupper which promised good service for mares whose colts were coming smaller each year.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374530114, Paperback)

A few years after its liberation from the brutality of French colonial rule in 1803, Haiti endured a period of even greater brutality under the reign of King Henri-Christophe, who was born a slave in Grenada but rose to become the first black king in the Western Hemisphere. In prose of often dreamlike coloration and intensity, Alejo Carpentier records the destruction of the black regime—built on the same corruption and contempt for human life that brought down the French while embodying the same hollow grandeur of false elegance, attained only through slave labor—in an orgy of voodoo, race hatred, madness, and erotomania.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:40 -0400)

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