Alejo Carpentier: The Pilgrim at Home is a thorough analysis of the Cuban writer’s fiction up to and including Concierto barroco. In the first chapter, “Preamble: A Post-Carpenterian Reflection,” the critic details his fear of interpretations tainted by spurious syntheses or false cohesiveness, and his coming to terms with an approach to Carpentier’s entire work in the aftermath of the structuralist critical climate that had liquidated the author as origin and questioned conventional practices of literary analysis. Nevertheless, his experimental, post-structural approach is, to our delight, a rather traditional, astute, eclectic investigation. He relies heavily on philosophical underpinnings (Spengler, Sartre, Hegel) as well as on biography, clues provided by the writer himself, sociological and historical studies (Guerra y Sánchez, Ortiz), and vanguard ideologies and aesthetics (surrealism). In his “recharting” of Carpentier’s fiction, this critic delves into the problematics common to much of modern Latin American literature: the “marvelous real,” mythical synchronic time versus linear diachronic time, and the search for identity in culture, country, and author. Regarding his careful discussion of the oft-misused term “marvelous real” (“magical realism”), I disagree with his conclusion (p. 128) which seems to ignore his own assertions about the writer’s metaalienations (p. 30).

The “Preamble” clearly demonstrates the present dilemma of many Latin American literary critics torn between pre-structuralist, structuralist, and post-structuralist methodologies. Roberto González Echevarría, despite his desire to avoid a unified interpretation of the evolution of the Carpentier oeuvre (pre-structural), despite his caution concerning authorial extra-textual intrusion (structural), and despite his indebtedness to the Yale School’s misprisions, achieves creative possible “readings,” valuable for conserving the heterogeneity of Carpentier’s world while indicating reiterative notions of exile, return, and restoration. Afro-Cubanism, thus, can be seen as schism between black and white cultures or ritual within cyclical nature; history, as a disdain for chronological precision or a penchant for historical detail or revolution and dissolution from a future perspective; and identity can focus on cultural or historical roots or on an authorial search.