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The Haitian Revolution in Interstices and Shadows: A Re-reading of Alejo Carpentier's The Kingdom of This World

From: Research in African Literatures
Volume 35, Number 2, Summer 2004
pp. 114-127 | 10.1353/ral.2004.0052

Abstract

Alejo Carpentier's The Kingdom of this World (1949), the only sustained literary rendering of the Haitian Revolution in the Spanish Caribbean, is known both for its fictional treatment of Haitian history from a slave's perspective and for the preface that claimed for that history the distinction of epitomizing marvelous realism in the Americas. This reading of the text's approach to one of the salient foundational narratives of Caribbean history looks at how, despite the "minute correspondence of dates and chronology" of the events narrated in The Kingdom of This World, the version of Haitian history offered by Carpentier is a fractured tale whose fissures may be read as subverting the adherence to the facts of Haitian history and its primary sources that the author claims for his text. It looks specifically as how the erasure of the leaders of the Revolution from the text, particularly that of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, reveals Carpentier's hopelessness concerning the Haitian land and its people.