Abstract / Resumen

JT Torres

Ethnographic Surrealism: Authorship and Initiation


This research examines the ways in which two writers, Alejo Carpentier and Lydia Cabrera, assume the roles of author and ethnographer to compose fictional works that also preserve elements of an oral tradition. That tradition is a literacy expressed by the Afro-Cuban drum. Both Carpentier and Cabrera incorporate percussive techniques within their prose to accomplish a mimesis that is just as important aesthetically as it is culturally. Relying mostly on primary sources—the works of Carpentier and Cabrera—and secondary criticism to expand and clarify their dual roles, this research explores how, as artists, the two gained initiation into the diasporic community of Afro-Cuban culture in order to transcribe the aural components they used as creative inspiration. The criticism that has been performed on these authors are usually restricted to formalist techniques from the viewpoint of a literary critic. This focus is on the relationship between an ethnographer bound by objective ethics and an author driven by imagination and invention. The research concludes with the idea that ethnography is as creative as fiction is itself research-based.