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The Kingdom of this World by Alejo…

The Kingdom of this World (1949)

by Alejo Carpentier

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559None17,829 (3.84)38
Recently added bydouglasvilela, Nyappy, hazzabamboo, private library, teeney, Lui1313, fitakyre, DrCaxcan, neelypeel
Legacy LibrariesGraham Greene, Ernest Hemingway
  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 38 mentions

English (8)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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 |
Through the eyes of a slave, Ti Noel, we see the traumatic and brutal evolution of Haiti's history after liberation from the colonial French rule, when the black regime of King Henri Christophe, at first so promising, sinks into the same morass of social injustice as the former rulers.

For many years, the blacks suffered from white oppression. Social order was based on the exploitation of the natives for the comfort of the white masters. Through folk wisdom, voodoo,and ancestral worship, a charismatic leader, Macandal whips his followers into an uprising, drums beating across the island as machete-bearing slaves overran the sleeping plantations, slaughtering all in their path, masters, livestock, women and children. The uprising is put down, Macandal is eventually captured and burned before the eyes of the slaves.

When Ti Noel returns years later to Haiti as a free man, the island is now ruled by King Henri Christophe, a black kingdom. The freedom from previous enslavement, however, so dearly purchased, has merely opened the way for the reestablishment of slavery under the mulatto controlling class. The unthinkable has happened: the enslavement of people of African descent by people of African descent.

A short yet sweeping novel based on historical events, Carpentier writes with power and brilliant imagery. I enjoyed this book immensely, and it goes to my list of top reads for the year. ( )
  deebee1 | Nov 2, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:47 -0400)

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