After El Dorado: Alejo Carpentier's The Lost Steps

Winter 1988

Silver reads Alain Carpentier’s novel The Lost Steps, published in 1953, for its approach to imperialism in its presentation of an attempt to form a perfect new world in the jungle, a combination of the El Dorardo myth with the Garden of Eden. He considers the role of European culture on the Latin American imagination and the ways in which Carpentier resists this pull, comparing the novel with Conrad’s works An Outpost of Progress and Heart of Darkness. Silver argues that it is Carpentier’s refusal of irony which ultimately exposes ‘breaches’ in the perfect vision presented in the novel, alongside the use of disquieting sexual violence in the background of the story as a semi-articulated metaphor for conquest. He considers in particular the figure of the Adelantado, an early kind of colonist, reading this character through works by Michel Foucault, Ariel Dorfman and Gonzalez Eccheveria.

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