Alejo Carpentier
The Lost Steps

The Lost Steps is considered the most autobiographical of Carpentier's works. In fact, one of Carpentier's main critics, Roberto González Echevarría, calls The Lost Steps a "novela autobiográfica" ("autobiographical novel"). Under this classification, the concept of Author becomes of major importance to understand the work. Other critics such as Roland Barthes bring out some of the problems derived from such classification:

"The Author is thought to nourish the book, which is to say that he exists before it, thinks, suffers, lives for it, is in the same relation of antecendence to his work as a father to his child. In complete contrast, the modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text, is in no way equipped with a being preceding or exceeding the writing, is not the subject with the book as predicate; there is no other time than that of the enunciation and every text is eternally written here and now" (Death of the Author, 144)

Barthes takes the spotlight from the Author and places it on Language itself, so that the Author's intentions are of no importance and the text speaks directly to the Reader. In light of these comments, Can you explain how the concepts of Author, Language and Text are problematized in the following quotes?

"It was at this very moment that I accepted the considerable sum offered by the newspaper that had arranged my rescue forthe exclusive rights to a pack of lies - fifty pages of them. (...) I had in my suitcase a famous novel by a South American writer, giving the names of animals, trees, native legends, long-forgotten events, everything needed to lend a ring of authenticity to my narration" (The Lost Steps, 242-43)

"I endured [Mouche's] company that night for the sake of having someone to talk to, not to be alone in my dimly lighted room, walkingfrom wall to wall amidst the reek of margarine. And as I was determined to frustrte her attempts at seduction, I let myself be led to the Venusberg, where my credit was still good. In that way I would not have to confess that I was completely broke, and I would take care not to drink too much. But in spite of everything, the liquor maliciously managed to undermine my firm intentions, and before long I found myself in the studio for astrological consultations, whose paintings were now finished. (...) She said that what I did now would not compromise me in any way, and she used her body to such advantage that I gave in with a lack of protest caused in large measure by several weeks of unwonted abstinence". (The Lost Steps, 260-61)

back