Nob 24, 2001

"Ha! I scent life!"
-Shelley

"The Lost Steps" by Alejo Carpentier is a profound member of the illustrious line of works under the proud genre of Latin American Realism. Or what them Northerners call "Magical Realism."

Carpentier struck me deep. Third world readers, I think, must make some space for Latin American Literature. Garcia-Marquez among fictionists, Neruda among the poets, and numerous more have great substance and written in the baroque style. Just like the Filipino, the Latino is haunted by horror vacui and it shows in their writing. Their art lies there.

Carpentier, with interests ranging from music to diplomacy, has an "affect" all his own. When I read "The Lost Steps," Carpentier removed me from my time, my milieu, my situation. He made allowances for me to carry the luggage of youth, love, and ideology. Gradually though, I shed each bag from my shoulder, enticed by the abandon that his work demanded. I felt too free. Somewhere in that freedom, I sensed the ephemerality of this abandon, this escape that his work fabricated for me. It would come back to me, I know. And this illusory state of primal paradise will be lost sometime in the course of the "journey."

I felt not the need to delay the inevitable. When I read it, I stayed up all night. Finishing at dawn, I found my sense of time severely disoriented. Maybe, I was luckily deprived a denial stage.

Or maybe, everything until this novel were stages of denial. I finished feeling like an Atlas reburdened by this Carpentier-Hercules. Everything seemed heavier after I was temporarily freed of my bearings. Then the author's justice came, just as I anticipated. Everything was restored. I felt enraged, feeling again the coziness of the prison cell, of living in this age. Haunted again by the zeitgeist that I never really escaped after all. And never could, as the novel stressed in its sadistic way.

With a wrath that I never previously imagined three pages could achieve, I was whipped back to what I was. But what I was cannot now be unstained with what I briefly became.

"And what you call dying is finally dying, and what you call birth is beginning to die, and what you call living is dying in life."
Quevedo: The Dreams