The Outsider Inside: Retracing Carpentier's Lost Steps in the Eastern Caribbean

  • Ian Craig
Keywords: Carpentier, intercultural, race, colonialism, Barbados


This reading of Carpentier's four 1958 chronicles on Barbados analyzes how they rhetorically enact the skills of intercultural self-positioning that Carpentier had acquired by this mature stage of his journalistic career as an expert Caribbean chronicler but first-time visitor to Barbados. Furthermore, whilst these chronicles at least partially vindicate autochthonous Caribbean cultural expression, this analysis identifies the conspicuous absence therein of any direct engagement with social realities such as the continuing colonial status of Barbados and interrogates these omissions through other critical readings of Carpentier's approach to race and political engagement, and through his response to the Guadeloupian poet St. John Perse. Though Carpentier's fictional oeuvre repeatedly confronts the claims of humankind's theoretical perfectibility through historical progress with those of the subjective ego, his Barbados chronicles exemplify a countervailing tendency to erase sociopolitical contexts from his travel writing in a manner that can be regarded as problematically apolitical.