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Alejo Carpentier: El recurso del método (Reasons of State)

Satire on dictators is a sub-genre in itself in Latin American writing and this is Carpentier’s contribution, telling the story of a dictator’s attempts to keep hold of power back home while he whiles away his time in Paris. A clear distinction is made by the Latin American approach and the European one. For the dictator, Europe is the home of Enlightenment while back home there is only barbarism and the only response is a barbaric one. Carpentier, as other Latin American writers writing about dictators, pokes fun at even the nastiest aspects of his rule. Corruption, of course, the opposition, cruelty to the native population, all are subject for Carpentier’s sardonic criticism. When, inevitably, the dictator is overthrown, it soon becomes apparent that his successor is no better, even though democratically elected. And the dictator becomes a simple old fool, living out his days in the attic of his mansion in Paris while his former servant takes over the rest of the house.

Publishing history

First published in 1974 by Siglo Veintiuno, Mexico City
First English translation 1976 by Knopf
Translated by Frances Partridge