REASONS OF STATE by Alejo Carpentier


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The hero of this elaborate farce is the Chief of State, fin-de-siecle ruler of a nameless Latin American country. His preferred residence is Paris, where he sleeps in a hammock, drinks rum from a special ten-flask Hermes case, and shows a classic madonna-whore disposition toward sex. Having bribed and maneuvered himself past one general's coup against his rule, he meets a subsequent mass uprising with a slaughter headlined in the international press. When he returns to Paris, he is ostracized by the Verdurin salon (the Proustian references are almost too explicit) and can barely buy himself a favorable journalist; only the Distinguished Academician supplies fawning rationalizations for the massacre, and it takes WW I--""Now we can have a rest""--to rejuvenate the hero. He exploits the war with an amusing if overextended mobilization of the Latin spirit against Wagnerian barbarism, but the caudillo and Paris never recover. Unlike Lezama Lima or Goytisolo, Carpentier (a Cuban) uses Spanish object-fixations and baroque trills for satiric effect, but the actual object of his satire is not Spanish culture but French formalism. Carpentier himself identifies too much with the Belle Epoque and Francophilia to make the work devastating, but it is an accomplished tour de force far from the primitivism of such works as Lost Steps.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1976
Publisher: Knopf