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The Lost Steps

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  1,408 ratings  ·  110 reviews
A disillusioned musician leaves his home in search of different surroundings and companions and a new existence in the Amazonian jungle.
Paperback, 278 pages
Published December 31st 1989 by Noonday Press (first published 1953)
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Alejo Carpentier é considerado pelo crítico Harold Bloom como um dos 100 Génios da história da literatura.

Os Passos Perdidos é o diário da viagem de um músico, que sobe o rio Orinoco, com o objectivo de encontrar instrumentos musicais. Nessa missão, no interior da selva venezuelana, convive com povos primitivos e encontra as origens do Homem e da Música.

É um romance muito rico e complexo, que contrapõe a nossa civilização actual com a primitiva; a oposição entre a nossa forma de vida - que orig
These were the days for the accumulation of humus, the rotting and decay of the fallen leaves, in keeping with the law decreeing that all generation shall take place in the neighborhood of excretion, that organs of generation shall be intertwined with those of urination, and that all that is born shall come into the world enveloped in mucus, serum, and blood--just as out of manure comes the purity of the asparagus and the green of mint. p. 229
This was my first exposure to Carpentier and I was im
Mar 28, 2012 Dusty rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dusty by: Cesar Salgado
This book, considered by many to be Alejo Carpentier's masterpiece, certainly has its problems. The foremost of these is its unabashed machismo: The story follows a European man, a failed musician, who journeys into the South American jungle on an anthropological mission in what becomes a quest for his own recovered history -- his own authenticity. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly given the novel's 1953 date of publication, Carpentier invokes a trio of roundly-unlikeable females to exemplify hi ...more
A composer journeys to the South American jungle ostensibly to find some primitive but seminal musical instrument. He takes his mistress, not his wife. He finds the forest primeval, life shorn to its most elemental, and experiences something of a spiritual reawakening. He finds new love and the instrument in question and begins to compose again, finding his inspiration in the fundamental sounds of nature. Of course, he screws it all up.

The protagonist is unlikable and his chauvinism hearkens bac
Carpentier is one of the most extraordinary writers I've ever encountered, the equal of Borges, Faulkner, or Lowry. His prose is savage and elegant, the worlds he creates as convincing as they are fantastic. He needs to be Big News, a Household Word, he should enjoy a reputation commensurate with his genius.
The narrator's voice began to grate on me halfway through. That said, this novel is full of descriptive wizardry.
This novel was written in 1953 but is really timeless and not dated. It is included in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die in 2008 edition.
Alejo Carpentier was born in Switzerland but grew up in Cuba and is identified as a Cuban author. He was also a musicologist. His writing is a fusion of literary and music themes. He is considered the first practitioner of magical realism, though is his work is more limited to that later developed by Gabriel García Márquez and was not difficult to re
The Lost Steps is a work that makes you appreciate the journey; not only the manner in which Carpentier presents the journey of the protagonist from bustling metropolis to foundling jungle village, but also his intimate approach and truly unique style inevitably tangles the reader in a journey of his or her own.

quotes: "wearing the same old frock coats with new sweat added to old" 4
"author's right on time, imposing the measure of motion and emotion on future men"14
"amorous anarchy"19
"how hard it
I read this book for the OEA Book Club, and really did not enjoy the book. But the discussion we had at the Book Club was among the best. Stewart (who chose the book) in particular had a very nice interpretation of the book -- one which bordered on the question of "What is Art?" -- which gave me an enhanced appreciation for the book. All the same, I still didn't enjoy the process of reading this book. One take-away lesson is that a book can be about a great topic with a great message, and still ...more
Advanced vocabulary overflows with existentialism and anthropological wisdom. Alejo Carpentier deserves accolades but every sentence was too heavy and lavish, to absorb as a narrative. His messages are highly worthy. However, the most fleeting thoughts I have ever seen were accepted as a novel! An educational resource might not need to entertain. Grandiose concepts can be built into enjoyable presentations but in storytelling, he failed. There were ceaseless, analogous segues in place of dialogu ...more
Andrea Siso
Update: March 2013
Though I read this a year ago, this second time gave me the chance to savor Carpentier's language in its original form. Though my opinion of the novel essentially remained the same, I feel that I was able to gain further appreciation for it as a truly valuable work in the Latin American canon.

Carpentier's vivid, detailed descriptions of the natural world in the "lost steps" that delve into edenic Latin America overshadow the lack of development in the protagonist's secondary wo
Hank Ingram
Los Pasos Perdidos by Alejo Carpentier chronicles the adventure of a nameless narrator as he embarks on a journey to South America in search of ancient musical instruments, and in many ways, in search of his true self. Yet, even though he has found paradise, through completely his own actions he is unable to find happiness and is left in no better a situation than from which he began. From a stylistic standpoint, Carpentier sets his work apart by telling the whole story through first person jour ...more
Sarah Stiefvater
Los Pasos Perdidos, while clearly an important work – as evidenced by almost every review on this page – was very difficult for me to get through. While I appreciate Carpentier's extraordinary talent as an author, I can't say I enjoyed the novel. Descriptions that, in my opinion, could have been made in a paragraph or two were drawn out over pages and pages, and I often found myself losing focus before reaching the end of a passage. I also found fault with virtually all of Carpentier's character ...more
Nora Perlman
I personally did not enjoy The Lost Steps. For me, it was a very hard book to follow and fully understand. Carpentier's unique writing style is something to be respected, however, I wouldn't say I have a preference for it. His writing is filled with incessant descriptions of the Venezuelan landscape and culture that I truly believe didn't help me in understanding any important theme within the work. I did enjoy the protagonists search for identity which I was able to relate to. I also liked the ...more
Virginia Young
The Lost Steps is a beautifully crafted book filled with religious and classical symbolism that reaffirms the statement, "Focus on the journey, not the destination," said by Greg Anderson. It is full of vivid descriptions about Latin American land and lifestyle and deals with the struggle of a lost protagonist in searching for his identity and home. The book is very artistic and well-written. However, I did not enjoy this book. I think from a writer's point of view, this is a masterpiece. Howeve ...more
I wonder if most people here have read this book in English. I only know the Spanish original, and its style, while beautiful in its own way, is extremely dense, with the additional problem that modern editions skip most of the original paragraph breaks, which makes its reading even more exhausting. It's a mammothly conceived work; I'm pretty sure it's not meant to be an easy summer reading. One may object that its points could have been made with half of the words, half of the average sentence ...more
I read this book in Spanish. The lost steps is a very good book. At the beginning this book is a little bit confusing. But, after 20 pages the story began to take meaning. A listen about this book in a latinoamerica literature class and I began to read it because the music story. But, after read more I realized that it book has more that music. It has a short life story around 6 month. that maybe it time is a complete life. It book is really "Magic Realism". I enjoy a lot the part went Rosario ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
The language is poetic with lots of historical, literary and musical allusions (no wonder, the author was a Cuban teacher of music and cultural history). The principal narrator here is a guy married to a stage actress who accepts a commission to go to a jungle somewhere in South America and get a primitive musical instrument. He goes there with his mistress, and ditches the mistress later for an exotic jungle woman. Lots of introspective musings about the modern and primitive life, with the narr ...more
Nunca había batallado tanto para darle una puntuación a un libro, no merece tres estrellas, no merece cuatro, no merece cinco, no merece dos, no sé que se merece!!! Para empezar es un libro escrito muy barroco y por esto con palabras muy difíciles que tenía que estar consultando el diccionario muy seguido, por otro lado el tema, su viaje al pasado donde encuentra el nacimiento de la música:
"Ante la terquedad de la Muerte, que se niega a soltar su presa, la Palabra, de pronto, se ablanda y desco
Is it possible to have an authentic experience of a foreign culture? Carpentier answers this question in the negative, and I am beginning to think he might be right. It's especially true of vacation sites these days, which increasingly resemble Disneyfied recreations of foreign cultures. But Carpentier suggests that even total immersion into a foreign culture doesn't make you a native -- you can't leave home even if you try.

This isn't a perfect book - the characters tend to be a little stiffly d
Narra el viaje -- o la Odisea -- del personaje principal desde los Estados Unidos a un lugar en latinoamérica donde nació y se crió y de allí a las honduras de la selva. Busca instrumentos musicales primitivos encomendados por un museo. En su viaje, hace profundas reflexiones sobre la cultura y el modo de vivir contrastando el mundo "civilizado" con el supuesto "salvaje" de latinoamérica donde todo es mas primitivo quizás, pero también mas auténtico. Las descripciones de la selva y La Gran Saban ...more
Alejo Carpentier is a brilliant novelist, with engaging plot concepts and thought evoking characters. However, the narrator’s personality and writing style portrays him as a narcissistic, egotistical and misogynist man, with little realization that other individuals have feelings and opinions. In many ways the narrator (who remains unnamed throughout the story) lives the story entirely in his head: he tends to see every action or event as a personal issue, made to inconvenience him. This can of ...more
Zofia Levendowski
The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier is not the easiest piece of literature for some. Taking the book at face value, the book is difficult and incredibly complex to read. However, after rereading the book several times, I discovered the multilayered storyline to be fascinating and intricate. Carpentier's narrator, a depressed socialite, takes a trip to South America to find certain ancient instruments to bring back to his job. Upon arrival, he discovers that he fits in much more with the primal ae ...more
Samantha L.
Alejo Carpentier’s “The Lost Steps” was an astounding novel. Though it was hard to read at some points, and downright impossible to completely understand in only one read through, the book itself was a work of art. Through magical realism, Carpentier brings to the table a colorful rendition of life. He paints a picture in the reader’s mind that helps to understand the narrator’s perspective on life. The journey that the narrator takes us on bridges cultures and languages, giving the story a str ...more
Cortney Kostreba
The Lost Steps, for me, was a novel that missed the mark with its disorienting detail and mediocre storyline.
It was a challenging read as the plot was frequently broken up with narrator’s wacky descriptions of what is happening around him. Arguably, without these narrations, the novel, in length, would be half the number of pages.
While Carpentier, perhaps, included many hidden messages throughout the text, as a person who enjoys reading straightforward novels, I found myself struggling to keep
I based my review on the 5 following criteria: flow of the story, secondary characters, character development, writing style, and tone of the narrative. My review is generic to avoid spoilers.
The narrative itself was decent from a first person point of view. I found the twists of the story predictable, especially the end. There are series of flashbacks that break the linearity of the story, but without them I could draw a clear schematic map of where the narrator went and what major events happ
Erin Carey
While Carpentier’s disconcerting verbage may at times exasperate readers, this complex vocabulary is necessary to understand the somewhat narcissistic and undeniably obstinate mind of the enigmatic narrator. By revealing the narrator’s influences through labyrinthine dialogue and embellished verbage, Carpentier exposes his readers to the textual and environmental factors that have contributed to the narrator’s limited perspective. For example, after the narrator arrives in Venezuela, he delves i ...more
The Lost Steps while being a very good book is a very good book within certain constraints. For it to be understood enough to be understood it needs to be read in a class, book club, or with another person, it’s simply too dense with too much disorienting detail to be understood the first time and alone. Every single paragraph, page and chapter is covered with so much detail that only a good discussion can make sense of it. The disorienting detail is one thing to make through, but so much more i ...more
The Lost Steps was for me complicated book to understand with its heavy images and symbolism. Some of the paragraphs were packed with too many ideas that it was hard to follow along with the narrator’s journey. I was definitely a difficult book to follow along. However, there were times where the magical realism used by Carpentier to describe aspects of the journey really brought the story to life and made it even more relatable to the reader. I do have to say that I was repeatedly having to loo ...more
Adrianna Howard
The Lost Steps is indeed a book unlike others. I will admit that it is a difficult read, but it is also an enjoyable read. It is a work that takes quite a long time to read, and rightfully so, it deserves more than one read through.
One of the things that made this book difficult to read was its vocabulary. There were numerous times when I came across words that were unfamiliar, so it is important that you keep a dictionary nearby. In addition to that, at times, the text itself was too dense an
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this book 2 25 Dec 17, 2011 11:58AM  
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Cuban novelist, essayist, and musicologist who greatly influenced Latin American literature during its "boom" period.

Perhaps Cuba's most important intellectual figure of the twentieth century, Alejo Carpentier (1904-1980) was a novelist, a classically trained pianist and musicologist, a producer of avant-garde radio programming, and an influential theorist of politics and literature. Best known f
More about Alejo Carpentier...
The Kingdom of This World El siglo de las luces Concierto barroco (Biblioteca Juvenil) Viaje a la semilla El arpa y la sombra

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“The truth was much more beautiful.” 9 likes
“Un día, los hombres descubrirán un alfabeto en los ojos de las calcedonias, en los pardos terciopelos de la falena, y entonces se sabrá con asombro que cada caracol manchado era, desde siempre, un poema.” 7 likes
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