Chapter

Beyond bongos in montmartre:

Emily A. Maguire

in Racial Experiments in Cuban Literature and Ethnography

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780813037479
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813042329 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5744/florida/9780813037479.003.0003
Beyond bongos in montmartre:

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This chapter explores the symbolic function of blackness in the work of Alejo Carpentier and Lydia Cabrera. In Carpentier's first novel, Ecué-Yamba-O, blackness stands in as symbolic of both exotic otherness and a rejection of western social norms, even as it is also portrayed as an authentically Cuban element that counters foreign threats to the national space. A similar (racialized) national anxiety is present but displaced in his later novel El reino de este mundo (The Kingdom of This World). In contrast, Cabrera's short stories Cuentos negros de Cuba (Afro-Cuban Tales) create a textual world in which race does not function allegorically by practicing a strategy of containment, turning the reader into a participant-observer of an environment in which blackness is not exceptional. Cabrera's emphasis on social boundaries ensures that this racialized strata of the popular is never confused with Cuban society as a whole.

Keywords: Alejo Carpentier; Lydia Cabrera; Ecué-Yamba-O; Cuentos negros; Cuba; blackness; symbolic function; race; allegory

Chapter.  17044 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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