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Allegory, History and Fiction in the Works of Alejo Carpentier and José Saramago

Gloria Alicia Caballero-Roca, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The current study is a proposal that heads towards the vision of a polyphonic accompaniment of the evolution of allegory, journeying from a cavern, to the soul and out into the spheres of knowledge and representation. It examines the evolution of allegory from antiquity and goes deep into the study proposed by Walter Benjamin in his The Origin of German Tragic Drama, allowing for the analysis that allegory falls into two fields of interpretation: first that of representation, and second that of the articulation. With its articulatory power of expression of a convention, allegory transgresses limits and spaces, becoming a tool of expression and verification of the past through the process of investigation and of research. So being, allegory, a discursive material for the laying out of the past, redirects the reader’s view towards a forgotten, ruined and decadent past that awaits its redemption and incorporation within the historicist discourse. With this in mind, I would argue that allegory in the works of Carpentier and Saramago, far from being a stylistic device seen by critics as a way of escaping censorship, is a poetics resulting from repositioning history through the displacement of what is already signified, bringing forth, as a crucial component of History the decadent, the displaced, the ruins and the marginalized. Allegory is a way of disrupting, transforming and subverting—through the very archival work carried out by both authors—, the temporal and territorial vocality of definitive histories and official languages, mythologies and the politics of inherited Manichean allegories that typify the rhetoric of nationhood and nationalism. Works such as El arpa y la sombra, Los pasos perdidos and “Viaje a la semilla” of Alejo Carpentier and Memorial do Convento, A Jangada de Pedra and A Caverna of José Saramago examine a circular vision of life and history and its discontinuities, the decadent phases of history that beg to be exposed in the decadent ruins of its reality. Allegory, in my analysis, is the means through which man and history are only saved by exposing the past, failures, and decadence from the time of the lost Paradise.

Subject Area

Latin American literature|Romance literature

Recommended Citation

Caballero-Roca, Gloria Alicia, "Allegory, History and Fiction in the Works of Alejo Carpentier and José Saramago" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3325267.