El Reino de Este Mundo by Alejo Carpentier (♦♦♦♦)

Ti Noel, a young slave in Haiti in the late eighteenth century, adores a mandinga slave named Mackandal.

Mackandal is strong and can command forces to do his bidding; he can summon thunder and metamorphose into animals. Tired of being a slave, he flees the hacienda of Monsieur Lenormand de Mezy and hides in a cave in the mountains. Four years later, after many metamorphoses, he summons slaves from all over the Northern Plains and leads a rebellion that ends up crushed.

Years later, the Haitian revolution is under way and Ti Noel embarks in a ship towards Santiago of Cuba, where he makes enough money to buy his freedom. Upon his return to Saint Domingue, he can no longer recognize his land for the French are gone but Henri Christophe, a black man who used to be a cook in a tavern, has proclaimed himself king and has enslaved his own race worse than the French did before him. Henri Christophe is dethroned by his own people and his family forced into exile. Then, a new form of tyranny is installed again.

I liked this book. I first read it as a high school assignment and loved it. I’ve re-read it over the years but I guess it never—except its ending—made much sense to me as it does now. El Reino de Este Mundo is at its core, a fable that describes the repetitive cycles of tyrannies brought on by social revolutions. I have discussed several times in this forum that revolutions start with high ideals and most of the times with the best intentions, and end up betraying the mere ideals they supposedly stood for in the beginning; not only ideals are betrayed, so are its followers, and that has been the case in every social movement in the world, secular or religious, except perhaps the American Revolution.

Well, El Reino de Este Mundo goes on about how Ti Noel became disappointed with human race and decided to metamorphose into animals. And the truth is, even in the animal kingdom he found disappointing human traits.

El Reino de Este Mundo is a fast read. It was written in 1948 and its message is as current as it was back then. Steeped in magical realism and voodoo rites, El Reino de Este Mundo requires a big leap of imagination to make sense of the story but it’s worth it.

Favorite quotes:

  “Por más que pensara, Ti Noel no veía la manera de ayudar a sus súbditos nuevamente encorvados bajo la tralla de alguien. El anciano comenzaba a desesperarse ante ese inacabable retoñar de cadenas, ese renacer de grillos, esa proliferación de miserias, que los más resignados acababan por aceptar como prueba de la inutilidad de toda rebeldía.” Page 138

   Se sintió viejo de siglos incontables. Un cansancio cósmico, de planeta cargado de piedras, caía sobre sus hombros descarnados por tantos golpes, sudores y rebeldías. Ti Noel había gastado su herencia y, a pesar de haber llegado a la última miseria, dejaba la misma herencia recibida. Era un cuerpo de carne transcurrida. Y comprendía ahora, que el hombre nunca sabe para quién padece y espera. Padece y espera y trabaja para gentes que nunca conocerá, y que a su vez padecerán y esperarán y trabajarán para otros que tampoco serán felices, pues el hombre ansía siempre una felicidad situada más allá de la porción que le es otorgada. Pero la grandeza del hombre está precisamente en querer mejorar lo que es. En imponerse Tareas. En el Reino de los Cielos no hay grandeza que conquistar, puesto que allá todo es jerarquía establecida, incógnita despejada, existir sin término, imposibilidad de sacrificio, reposo y deleite. Por ello, agobiado de penas y de Tareas, hermoso dentro de su miseria, capaz de amar en medio de las plagas, el hombre sólo puede hallar su grandeza, su máxima medida en el Reino de este Mundo.” Pages 142-143

Comments

  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog. The Last Original Wife was a great read.

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting, Elizabeth. I always enjoy your posts.
      Regards.

      Delete

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