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The Lost Steps

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  1,259 ratings  ·  93 reviews
A composer, fleeing an empty existence in New York City, takes a journey with his mistress to one of the few remaining areas of the world not yet touched by civilization-the upper reaches of a great South American river. The Lost Steps describes his search, his adventures, and the remarkable decision he makes in a village that seems to be truly outside history.
Paperback, 296 pages
Published February 13th 2001 by Univ Of Minnesota Press (first published 1953)
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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...more
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
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.
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...more
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...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...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
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...more
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
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
I thought this book was disgusting and horribly written. It frustrates me that some authors feel in order to convey a point, they need to be vulgar and inappropriate. It was a vain attempt to be artistic and different that was immensely disappointing.
Philip Lane
I didn't telly get on with this one. I found it quite difficult to read and can see it is possibly a book which requires a more careful and thoughtful approach. I didn't really empathise with the main character from the start and the way he treats women. In the main this is an adventure story similar to Heart of Darkness, a Jules Verne or Rider Haggard novel but with an obsession for musical instruments and a penchant for going off into theory about the origins of music. At times it read like an...more
Sin duda alguna una de las mejores novelas que he leído. El lenguaje de Carpentier es vasto y delicioso. Las descripciones de las ciudades, pueblos y la selva son excepcionales.

Por otro lado, la instrucción musical de Carpentier es notable a lo largo de toda la novela, Referencias a instrumentos, piezas musicales, ritmos, acompañan al personaje principal -a quien nunca conocemos por su nombre- en la búsqueda de unos instrumentos musicales, así como a la formulación de un esbozo de teoría sobre e...more
Paşii pierduţi este un roman construit în jurul unei teme deloc originale: decăderea civilizaţiei Occidentale, incapacitatea omului vestic de a se bucura de ce are, lipsa de perspectivă artistică, ruperea conexiunilor cu originile, cu tot ce înseamnă autentic. Occidentul încrâncenat, care nu mai ştie nici măcar să râdă. Automatismele care îl guvernează. Semnificaţiile uitate ale vieţii, ale lucrurilor esenţiale. Ritualurile pe care omul le pune în practică doar pentru că face parte dintr-o turmă...more
Mi primer acercamiento fué una decepción menor, al no encontrarme de lleno en el calor de la jungla, con la piel pegajosa y llena de mosquitos, como prometía la portada, y por el contrario, verme envuelto en una narrativa limpia, cristalina, muy europea para mi gusto, que no se atrevia a ensuciarse ni un poco.
Conforme avanza la novela, y vemos al personaje sumergiendose en esa America ancestral, primitiva, de la que en algún momento del viaje se traspasa la existencia de la cultura y se arriba...more
About halfway through this novel I came to the conclusion that the narrator (the main character) is one of those people you would have met in New York City during the 1980's and would have regaled you with their adventures into the primitive wilderness sometime during the 1960's and of which they've been spending the past 4-5 years re-acclimating themselves to 'The Modern World' for whatever excuse.

Ok, that is a very specific generalization I'm making, but it fits the stereotype of all those hip...more
Un libro de párrafos larguísimos repleto de referencias culturales a las que no siempre llegan mis conocimientos de música, arte o literatura, pero un libro que merece la pena leer.

"Los pasos perdidos" guarda la búsqueda de uno mismo, de la vida que cada uno quiere vivir, el sentido de levantarse cada mañana y ponerse en marcha, simplemente para vivir de un modo elegido, libre, sin convenciones, sin posturas preconcebidas o intentando lo que los demás quieren que seas.

También es un libro sobre l...more
Francesca Wilson
I thoroughly enjoyed _Los Pasos Perdidos_ by Alejo Carpentier. It was very interesting traveling with the narrator on his physical, psychological and spiritual journey from New York to the remote forests of the Orinoco River in Venezuela. I think that what I liked best about this book was the adventure I was able to embark on with the narrator. At first I was a little bit overwhelmed and thrown off by the huge amount of description in the text, but over time I found that many of the most beautif...more
Anne Byrd
Los Pasos Perdidos, by Alejo Carpentier, is a challenging but rewarding novel. It follows the travels of a bored hispanic male living in New York to the most primitive areas of South America. Already in the middle of an existential crisis, he is now forced to choose between the industrial and natural worlds, and to find his purpose within one of them. Structurally, it is a difficult novel to read. Written in an almost stream of consciousness format, it can be tedious and tangent-driven at times....more
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
Claire Higginbotham
Reading this novel was such an experience. To be honest, I really did not enjoy reading the first half of the book as I struggled to ingest Carpentier's lengthy descriptions page after page. To me, the multitude of musical and classical references seemed tedious and the diction and syntax also contributed to the novel's difficulty. However, once our narrator reached South America, my opinion of the novel began to change. As he began to describe sights, wonders, people, cultures, etc. that I had...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
Los Pasos Perdidos is an overwhelming novel -- sweeping in its scope, it attempts to say a great deal about culture, love, religion, existentialism, and myriad other themes. For the most part, it succeeds. It's hard not to be completely overtaken by the descriptive flood that Carpentier unleashes in the first hundred pages. I was taken aback, because the novel started out in a somewhat pedestrian way: the main character takes off to Latin America with his French lover. But the narrator and the a...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
This is supposedly the best work of one of Cuba's best (the best?) novelists. So I was really disappointed not to like it. I'm being generous in giving it 2 stars rather than one, because it grated on me the entire time I was reading it.

Again, I fell prey to an introduction that should've been saved until after the book was read. J. B. Priestley, besides calling it a masterpiece and a work of genius (thereby setting unreasonably high expectations), also gave away the entire plot in the process o...more
Ashley Craddock
En un mundo obsesionado con la tecnología y la modernidad, Los pasos perdidos provee una perspectiva que pone en duda nuestras ideas típicas sobre la civilización y la barbarie. Esta historia me hace considerar sobre lo que es verdaderamente importante y ha cambiado mi perspectiva sobre la sociedad moderna. Además de iluminar la sociedad moderna, esta novela sirve para retratar toda Latino América de una manera nunca vista antes cuando el protagonista anónimo viaja a las profundidades de Latino...more
Los pasos perdidos fue una de las obras más difíciles que he leído en mi vida, y me frustró de vez en cuando al leerla. Sin embargo, fue una de las novelas más poderosas que he leído, y es sin duda una que nunca voy a olvidar. En la novela, el narrador sin nombre embarcó al azar en un viaje a la selva en que se encontró literalmente las raíces de su existencia. Carpentier le dirige con habilidad la mente del lector en una búsqueda de sus propias raíces, permitiendo que cada lector llegue a su p...more
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this book 2 22 Dec 17, 2011 11:58AM  
  • El astillero
  • Three Trapped Tigers
  • Paradiso
  • Marks of Identity
  • The President
  • Los ríos profundos
  • Tiempo de silencio
  • I, the Supreme
  • The Obscene Bird of Night
  • The Green House
  • Doña Bárbara
  • The Death of Artemio Cruz
  • El cuarto de atrás
  • El juguete rabioso
  • Journey to the Alcarria: Travels Through the Spanish Countryside
  • Boquitas pintadas
  • La Regenta
  • Here's to You, Jesusa!
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
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.” 6 likes
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