My first impression of El Reino de Este Mundo took root in the prologue, in which Alejo Carpentier lays the groundwork for the novel. I will say, after my confusion with Leyendas, I feel that I owe him a thanks. In a few short pages, Carpentier takes the reader through an explanation of ‘lo real maravilloso,’ and how it was created and changed over time through the different works of artists and writers. In particular, I liked his opinion regarding ‘lo real maravilloso’ in reference to the Americas in comparison with Europe. It starts:
Pero pensaba, además que esa presencia y vigencia de lo real maravilloso no era privilegio único de Haití, sino patrimonio de la América entera, donde todavía no se ha terminado de establecer, por ejemplo, un recuento de cosmogonías.
Then he continues with this idea for another page and a half until he comes to one key idea that I turned over while reading:
Y es que, por la virginidad del paisaje, por la formación, por la ontología, por la presencia fáustica del indio y del negro, por la Revolución que constituyó su reciente descubrimiento, por los fecundos mestizajes que propició, América está muy lejos de haber agotado su caudal de mitologías…
…todo resulta maravilloso en una historia imposible de situar en Europa…
If I think about El Reino de Este Mundo alongside Leyendas de Guatemala, it is clear to see the use of the exoticized non-European in order to create a sense of magic in these novels. In the case of Alejo Carpentier, the magical element in the novel is still attributed to the voodoo magic of the Haitian people, but is presented in a much more real way than I felt that it was in the case of Leyendas. From what I’ve quickly gathered from other sources, El Reino de Este Mundo tells the story of the Haitian Revolution, which I really don’t know anything about to be quite honest. This is where I could see the magic realism coming in: how are events portrayed? In particular, because the novel is told from the standpoint of Ti Noel, a slave and believer in voodoo magic, how does that affect the standpoint from which how things unfolded and what was the cause? In the prologue, Carpentier specifically says:
…el relato que va a leers ha sido establecido sobre una documentación extremadamente rigurosa que no solamente respeta la verdad histórica de los acontecimientos…sino que oculta, bajo su aparente intemporalidad un minucioso cotejo de fechas y de cronologías.
So I guess that statement leads me to question if in this story, reality and magic can be separated? Like I said, I’d like to know more about the history of Alejo Carpentier and his experience in Haiti, because I think it might uncover a bit of where he’s coming from.
As a quick side note: I am also intrigued by the quotes that start off the prologue and the parts of the book. I feel that Carpentier really tried to get some strong ideas in regards to the colonization of the Americas across, and specifically in the opening quote in part one by Lope de Vega, he did a great job of getting these ideas across. Once again, he gives us another frame through which we can read this interpretation of the Haitian Revolution. Personally, I really appreciate these additional quotes that he provides because I feel that he narrows the scope and lets his readers know more specifically what he's getting at.