Cuba: Macho Realism in Latin America

I was not expecting much when I started reading The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier. I have a simple reason; no matter what, I just dislike magical realism. However, I decided to give it another go. Apparently Carpentier is known as the ‘father’ of magical realism. I didn’t feel its presence in the book as strongly as I usually do while reading magical realism. Admittedly, I try to stay away from the genre as much as possible, but I have read my fair share of books in this genre.

A composer living in New York City leaves for the jungles in South America with his mistress, to find himself. I don’t know if Carpentier was a macho Latino himself, but at least his 50s hero, the protagonist with no name, has no problem with abandoning women. None of the women are too likeable but neither is the composer.

I feel torn about the book. There were definitely some positive sides to it, but the same can be said about negative sides. It is an extremely descriptive book, but it did not bother me. I felt like it gave a lyrical flow to the story. Indeed, the protagonist is a musician, and so was the author. Music has a strong presence in the book.

Magical realism is a confusing genre in my honest opinion, making no sense most of the time with the time changes and other confusing material. Even though it was not a full fledged magical realism trip the book still leaves a lot to the imagination, and I am pretty sure there are as many interpretations of the book as there are readers. In a way this is fantastic, since every time we read a book we read it the way no one else ever have or will. To me that’s all the magical realism I need.

When reading reviews of this book you’ll know that you’re about to read something different. When people really like a book, really dislike it, and some say it’s ‘good’, there must be something to it. Usually I end up really enjoying the book, or really disliking it. This time I am right in between. It has its problems and its strengths, so in my mind they even each other out. Unfortunately these books tend to be forgotten the minute I start reading the next book.

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