The Dance of the Trees: the backward flight of time in The Lost Steps

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 25 January

12.00-1.30pm in Room 3.411

We are very pleased to announce that Dr Leon Burnett, founding and former Director of the Centre for Myth Studies, opens our discussion of Trees & Forests with a session on Alejo Carpentier’s The Lost Steps


Max Ernst, La grande forêt (The Great Forest) (1927), Oil on canvas, 113.8 x 145.9 cm., Kunstmusuem, Basel © ProLitteris, Zürich

The material for the first meeting of the Myth Reading Group this term is taken from Chapter Four of Alejo Carpentier’s novel, The Lost Steps (1953), a reverse Odyssey which invokes European archetypes such as Prometheus and Faust yet remains resolutely Latin American in technique and temperament.

In it, the first-person narrator undertakes a journey into the interior of a South American jungle, retracing the path of humankind in a series of steps to its point of origin: the world of contemporary civilisation is displaced by a succession of receding historical vistas, which are, in their turn, supplanted by what one may categorise as the “mythical sublime” – marvellous landscapes of increasing strangeness that seem to negate time itself.

Selected passages [sections 19-20 (pp. 143-151) & 22-24 (pp. 160-168)] are taken from Alejo Carpentier, The Lost Steps; translated from the Spanish by Harriet de Onis (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968).

Los Pasos Perdidos appeared in 1953 and the English translation was first published by Victor Gollancz in 1956.


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One Response to The Dance of the Trees: the backward flight of time in The Lost Steps

  1. Pingback: Rings & Ripples: A Mythic Structure of Growth in Denise Levertov’s ‘A Tree Telling of Orpheus’ | Essex Myth

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