Los enigmas de Alejo Carpentier: La presencia oculta de un trauma familiar

Victor Wahlström

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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Alejo Carpentier (1904-1980) is one of the most distinguished writers in Latin American literature and numerous studies have delved into his literary works. However, very little is known about his private life and family background apart from the facts that he chose to reveal about himself. Indeed, several of these “facts” have turned out to be false. This thesis sets out to examine whether a hidden, non-literary level, characterized by repeated references to a family trauma, can be identified in the literary works of Carpentier, and to ponder how such a level should be understood in relation to the psychological dimension of the author’s biography. The traces of this trauma have been almost impossible to detect until the recent publication of several private documents written by the author: letters, a diary and an unfinished autobiography. Starting with a methodological discussion about the many problems facing this kind of psychobiographical study of a novelist’s work, the thesis then turns to the task of filling in the gaps of the biography of the author. Apart from presenting new information about Carpentier’s early life and family, a biographical sketch is drawn with regards to fundamental aspects of Carpentier’s character and relationship with his parents. This then forms the background to the analysis of the literary works, which is divided into two parts. In the first part, the focus is on conscious or intentional references within the literary text to a traumatic family history that Carpentier never alluded to in public. The examples given show that the novels and short stories contain, not only numerous puns and other conscious allusions to the author’s father who abandoned his family when Carpentier was 17, but also traces of a deep introspection concerning specific key events that the author never referred to openly. The second part of the analysis deals with an underlying structure of the works, implied by textual correspondences which suggests that Carpentier’s writing process was characterized by a violent and unconscious inner conflict with strong oedipal connotations. However, this hidden structure also implies that the creative writing process itself can be seen as Carpentier’s solution to this conflict.
Translated title of the contributionLos enigmas de Alejo Carpentier: La presencia oculta de un trauma familiar
Original languageSpanish
Awarding Institution
  • Spanish Studies
  • Enkvist, Inger, Supervisor
Award date2018 Apr 7
Place of PublicationLund
EditionÉtudes romanes
ISBN (Print)978-91-88473-68-4
ISBN (electronic) 978-91-88473-69-1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar 9

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature

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