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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Kingdom of this World (1949) by Alejo Carpentier

Henri Cristophe, first Emperor of Haiti and subject of The Kingdom of this World by Alejo Carpentier

Book Review
The Kingdom of this World (1949)
 by Alejo Carpentier

 Man would you take a look at the Wikipedia entry for this novel? It's kind of insanely detailed.  I get it though- The Kingdom of this World is a compelling work of historical fiction, early "magic realism" about the slave revolution in Haiti, which is itself one of the more interesting historical events from the western hemisphere in the last thousand years

   But the hook for The Kingdom of this World is that it is, I think, the first novel you can properly describe as magical realism.  Magical realism is one of the most significant developments in 20th century literature, and its authors would rise to world wide fame from the 1960s onward.    Magical realism is interesting in that it combines the well known (and century old in 1949) tradition of "realism" with a magical perspective that transcends the tired tropes of Dadaism and Surrealism.  In this way, magical realism creates a more convincing, compelling narrative then Surrealism ever could.  Magical realism doesn't reject narrative convention like the more radical outgrowths of modernism in the early 20th century. 

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