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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kingdom of this World
Not long after Haiti's liberation from French colonial rule, King Henri-Christophe reigned through an era of chaos, violence, superstition and socio-political upheaval.
Carpentier details the story of this era, and the eventual overthrowing of Henri-Christophe's black regime, through the narrative of slave Ti-Noel.
For me, the interesting thing about this book...
Published on June 7, 2000 by hannah1350n

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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Do You Believe In Magic?
This was the first book by Carpentier that I have read, and I was surprised by how little I connected with the story line and characters. It felt a little sketchy for the scope of the narrative, which involves slave rebellions, voodoo, the extravagances of colonialism, all set in the tropical heat of Haiti. Perhaps its charm lies in hinting at possibilities, and yet I...
Published on June 24, 2009 by Chris Bruce


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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kingdom of this World, June 7, 2000
Not long after Haiti's liberation from French colonial rule, King Henri-Christophe reigned through an era of chaos, violence, superstition and socio-political upheaval.
Carpentier details the story of this era, and the eventual overthrowing of Henri-Christophe's black regime, through the narrative of slave Ti-Noel.
For me, the interesting thing about this book was the way in which Carpentier shows how the black regime failed on the same sort of grounds that caused the French regime to become corrupt, outwardly oppulent and inwardly self-destructive. I find it very reminiscent of the sort of dialogue popularized by Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" where he explains how, in an effort to overthrow an oppressive system of education (but this has to work, to some extent, for politics, culture, etc) the rebels end up instituting essentially the same sort of system---only with themselves at the top instead of bottom.
The novel also deals convincingly with issues of cultural patrimony, the occult, and obviously with historical and political scenario. As with many of his books, Carpentier combines a strong dedication to the factual or realistic history with allegory, metaphor and allusion.
The writing style is fairly dense and I did find it difficult to read the novel straight through. However, I found the read very rewarding and also enlightening.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and haunting, January 10, 1998
By A Customer
This is Magical Realism at it's best. As in Alende's The House of Spirits, magic and unearthly powers are commonplace in the world of this novel.
Dead men rise from the ashes and the reader believes this is so.
Carpentier paints a vivid portrait of colonial Haiti, depicting the racial strife and class wars that are par for the course in such a world.
The protagonist, Ti Noel, is a product of this colonial system: no longer African, but not exactly French. Where, Carpentier seems to ask, does Ti Noel beling? And to whom?
Carpentier's prose is beautiful, his images are vivid and stiking: one can picture the vast plantation, so far from the city....the row of powdered wigs on their stands...the look on Ti Noel's face when he realizes revolution does not add up to personal freedom.
A near perfect novel, Ti Noel and his story will stay with you long after you've read it.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Latin-American novel of them all, November 18, 1998
By A Customer
The Kingdom of the World is truly extraordinary, exquisitely crafted and overwhelming in its human implications. In it historical fiction and magical realism come together to produce a masterful work of art and an unforgettable story about the triumph of human dignity in the midst of destruction and senseless horror. Using as a setting one of the most bizarre episodes in history (the Haitian independence and its aftermath), Carpentier tells a mesmerizing story that reveals human beings in all their complexity, contradictions and pervesity, but also in their extraordinary power of survival and redemption. A literary masterpiece of the highest order.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Kingdom of This World, July 28, 2004
By 
Damian Kelleher (Brisbane, Australia) - See all my reviews
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The Kingdom of This World loosely traces the life of Ti Noel, a solitary Negro who is a slave first under the yoke of a heartless white man, then under the infinitely more brutal reign of a former Negro slave, and finally, upon attaining old age and discovering the voodoo magic that is inherent in all Haiti men, he becomes a slave to his own flesh, to the ideals of humanity, and to the artificial thoughts and designs of man.

Carpentier's writing evokes an older time, we can practically feel the sun-drenched lakes and the harsh yellow earth of Noel's homeland. The French are the masters here, they herd Negroes about as cattle, using them to build, to tend, to feed, to nurture. Unmarried French men have no problem with using a Negro woman for a 'bed-warmer', and even less with throwing her to the meanest and darkest jobs available once their marriage is secured. Uprisings are common, and carry the hint of the magical about them, but eventually, the French always seem to prevail. Until the one armed insurgent, Macandal. Using ancient magic, he poisons the French, killing hundreds in an unseen storm of death that spares no-one, not the women, not the children. When he is finally apprehended, he uses magic to escape and the Negroes laugh at the hopeless French, while the white men look on, puzzled, at the 'callous black men' laughing as their leader dies.

Noel manages to secure freedom from slavery when he is an old man, and he returns to the place where he was first a slave, where he first met Macandal, to see what has become of this place. There, King Henri Christophe, a self-proclaimed Negro king who does little more than imitate court-life of the Europeans, is building a towering citadel with the blood of other Negroes. Noel is horrified that a black man would enslave another black man, and what is worse is that the King's dealings with the slaves are much more severe and unforgiving than the white men ever were. It is here that a mirror is placed up to the Negroes, Noel does not like what he sees.

The writing is very illustrative; scenes and times are painted in our mind's eyes with ease. The narrator manages to place himself very far away from the narration, unwilling to pass judgment on either the black men or the white, instead reserving this to the reader. Noel himself is never used as a mere mouthpiece for the author's ideas, instead he is the observer, from youth to old age, from sadness to sadness. When he discovers magic and tries to introduce himself into the animal's way of life, he does not succeed, and is instead forced to learn how to be a human living amongst humans, no matter how unfair, how violent, how short-sighted they may be.

But this distance hurts the novel, too. Since the narrator never really enters the minds and hearts of the characters, we are left with largely ambiguous motives. Also, the voodoo of the Negroes is something that was lost on me, and I was unable to ascertain whether this extensive witchcraft was used as a writing tool to display good, evil, or neither. The shortness of the novel is actually a hindrance, as too little time is spent fleshing out scenes that might benefit from it. However, in the end, this novel serves as a wonderful fable of what it is to be a man living in a world that he may not agree with, as well as illuminating some of the darker periods of history that we have experienced.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "In overthrowing me, you have cut only the trunk of the tree of liberty.", May 20, 2006
This review is from: The Kingdom of This World: A Novel (Paperback)
The crux of the novel is the traumatic and brutal evolution of Haiti's history after liberation from the colonial French rule, when the black regime of King Henri Christophe, at first so promising, sinks into the same morass of social injustice as the former rulers. For years the blacks suffer the yoke of white oppression, clinging to their African gods, ritual superstitions the only balm to a tortured existence: "Oh father, my father, how long is the suffering?" The social order is built upon exploitation of the many for the comfort of the few, the servant class treated as beasts of burden, beaten, beheaded and used to slake the intemperate urges of white masters. A verdant jungle of natural beauty, Haiti has the appearance of paradise and, for the blacks, the reality of hell, the indulgence and decadence of the plantation owners in counterpoint to the misery of the enslaved.

History is revealed through the eyes of a slave, Ti Noel, and through him the social duplicity is exposed. Drawn to the tribal wisdom and ancestral stories of Macandal, Ti Noel reflects the yearning of the slave population for a release from long injustice. Resorting to folk wisdom, voodoo ceremonies and ancestral worship of ancient animus, Macandal whips his followers into a revolt that comes to fruition one fateful night, the drums of bloody opportunity beating across the island as machete-bearing slaves overrun the sleeping plantations, slaughtering all in their path, masters, livestock, women and children. Once the uprising is put down, the search for Macandal proves fruitless, although he is eventually discovered, captured and burned before the downcast eyes of the slaves. The believers see only Macandal's spirit rise from the flames, knowing he will return in other forms to guide them.

Having survived the treachery, Ti Noel's master escapes with him to Santiago de Cuba, where the he embarks on a life of decadence, the slave finally lost in a card game. Years later, returning to Haiti a free man, Ti Noel is confronted with a changed island, now ruled by King Henri Christophe, a black kingdom, the black royalty inflicting the same pain as the white masters, the natural enslavement of the powerless, Christophe's every achievement purchased on the backs of the oppressed. Ti Noel despairs this "endless cycle of chains", convinced that freedom is but an idea, a despot forever hovering in the wings of history. In brilliant imagery and bloody prose, Haiti's drama unfolds, the pomp and grandeur of the new regime constructed from the same contempt for human life as the French and destined fro the same destruction: insurrection fueled by madness and the slaughter of the oppressor. Luan Gaines/ 2006.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding greatness in this world, December 22, 2009
By 
W. Wedenoja (Springfield, MO) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Kingdom of This World: A Novel (Paperback)
The Haitian revolution is the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world. It is an incredible story, which has been told well by many great authors. This is one of them. Carpentier's novel traces the history of the conflict through the eyes of TiNoel, a slave on the estate of the French planter Lenormand de Mezy in the Plaine du Nord on the fertile north of the French colony of Ste Domingue. The first historical character we meet is Francois Mackandal or Macandal, who attempted to kill the planters with poison and create a free black nation. Next we meet Dutty Boukman or Bouckman, who launched the revolution at a Vodou ceremony at Bois Caiman in August 1791. We learn about the terror, the struggle, and the flight of the French as TiNoel accompanies his master to Cuba. We are introduced to the French General Leclerc, who is sent to Ste Domingue with an army and fleet to reestablish French control, and also meet his wife Pauline Bonaparte and her masseur Soliman. TiNoel returns to Ste Domingue and journeys to the palace of Sans Souci, where he is forced to work on the construction of Le Citadelle La Ferriere and takes part in the sacking of the empire of Henri Christophe, the black king of northern Haiti. The book ends with the flight of Henri's Queen and daughters, as well as Soliman, to Italy. The main omission in this story is Toussaint L'Ouverture, who is barely mentioned, and he is the most important character in the revolution. The book is ultimately about life, about struggles to achieve greatness, whether it be a plantation or an empire, and about suffering and ruin. Carpentier ends his story by noting that "In the Kingdom of Heaven there is no grandeur to be won", therefore "man finds his greatness, his fullest measure, only in The Kingdom of This World". It would be good to read up on the Haitian Revolution before starting your read. The Wikipedia account will suffice.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liberty mocked, July 20, 2006
The crux of the novel is the traumatic and brutal evolution of Haiti's history after liberation from the colonial French rule, when the black regime of King Henri Christophe, at first so promising, sinks into the same morass of social injustice as the former rulers. For years the blacks suffer the yoke of white oppression, clinging to their African gods, ritual superstitions the only balm to a tortured existence: "Oh father, my father, how long is the suffering?" The social order is built upon exploitation of the many for the comfort of the few, the servant class treated as beasts of burden, beaten, beheaded and used to slake the intemperate urges of white masters. A verdant jungle of natural beauty, Haiti has the appearance of paradise and, for the blacks, the reality of hell, the indulgence and decadence of the plantation owners in counterpoint to the misery of the enslaved.

History is revealed through the eyes of a slave, Ti Noel, and through him the social duplicity is exposed. Drawn to the tribal wisdom and ancestral stories of Macandal, Ti Noel reflects the yearning of the slave population for a release from long injustice. Resorting to folk wisdom, voodoo ceremonies and ancestral worship of ancient animus, Macandal whips his followers into a revolt that comes to fruition one fateful night, the drums of bloody opportunity beating across the island as machete-bearing slaves overrun the sleeping plantations, slaughtering all in their path, masters, livestock, women and children. Once the uprising is put down, the search for Macandal proves fruitless, although he is eventually discovered, captured and burned before the downcast eyes of the slaves. The believers see only Macandal's spirit rise from the flames, knowing he will return in other forms to guide them.

Having survived the treachery, Ti Noel's master escapes with him to Santiago de Cuba, where the he embarks on a life of decadence, the slave finally lost in a card game. Years later, returning to Haiti a free man, Ti Noel is confronted with a changed island, now ruled by King Henri Christophe, a black kingdom, the black royalty inflicting the same pain as the white masters, the natural enslavement of the powerless, Christophe's every achievement purchased on the backs of the oppressed. Ti Noel despairs this "endless cycle of chains", convinced that freedom is but an idea, a despot forever hovering in the wings of history. In brilliant imagery and bloody prose, Haiti's drama unfolds, the pomp and grandeur of the new regime constructed from the same contempt for human life as the French and destined fro the same destruction: insurrection fueled by madness and the slaughter of the oppressor. pp Luan Gaines/ 2006.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Carpentier, October 20, 2009
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This review is from: The Kingdom of This World: A Novel (Paperback)
I am an unabashed fan of Alejo Carpentier, so of course I liked this book. It is much shorter and easier to read and follow than some of his later creations, but it is interesting both as historical fiction and as an early example of magical realism. As other reviewers have pointed out, this book deals with the Haitian rebellion and overthrow of the French and their subsequent subjugation by King Henri Christophe, a former slave who turns out to be even more despotic than the French were and who, in spite of being black himself, continues the odious practice of black enslavement. There are numerous characters, but the principal character is Ti-Noel, and elderly slave who becomes free after being lost by his master in a card game. Read together with Carpentier's later "Explosion in a Cathedral," this book provides an excellent insight into the tumultuous and violent history of the Caribbean.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Latin American Essential, and a Cornerstone of your Library on Haiti. Lush, Exquisite Writing:, July 11, 2014
This review is from: The Kingdom of This World: A Novel (Paperback)
This book is written by Alejo Carpentier, a master of Latin American literature, and an early pioneer of the writing style that would become known as magic realism. Written in a lush, poetic but spare style, this slim novella brings you the history of Haiti, through the eyes of a peasant who watches the French colonialists as they are driven out of their mansions in the 1803 slave uprising that made Haiti the second independent republic, after the United States, in the hemisphere. Our peasant narrator, Noel, watches as former slaves take power, and rule the island, changing its history, and awakening the hopes of Noel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Haiti's History, April 16, 2014
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This review is from: The Kingdom of This World: A Novel (Paperback)
This book offers the reader an image of Haiti's history, albeit with fantasy and illusion. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth reading.
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The Kingdom of This World: A Novel
The Kingdom of This World: A Novel by Alejo Carpentier (Paperback - May 16, 2006)
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