One of the first things you see as you pass into the hallway of the Fundación Alejo Carpentier, in the elegant Havana suburb of Vedado, is a photograph of Carpentier with his arms around his two great protégés, Carlos Fuentes to his left and Gabriel García Márquez to his right. The photograph underlines that Alejo Carpentier is not only one of great figures of twentieth-century Latin American literature, but arguably its father figure.
As mentioned by Catherine Hobbs in an earlier post on this blog, from the ICA Conference in Mexico City, the collections of literary archives in the Fundación Alejo Carpentier – as well as comprising over twenty linear metres of outstanding literary heritage – present a remarkable story of collection unification.
The Fundación holds Carpentier’s personal libraries, photographs and personal effects; his literary archive, presenting an impressively complete record of his literary work (including manuscript materials for all his novels); biographical and family papers; papers relating to his journalism and musicology; and a wide ranging correspondence collection, including letters from authors such as Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortázar, Miguel Ángel Asturias and Raymond Queneau, among many others.
The archival collection now includes (1) all those archival materials previously held by the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí – including Carpentier’s own donations; (2) all the papers found in the house of Carpentier and his widow Lilia (Andrea Hortencia Esteban Hierro) – now the principal property of the Fundación; (3) the smaller collection previously housed in the Fundación’s first property, in La Habana Vieja; and (4) the suitcase full of Carpentier papers, from the attic of a rural French house, where it was hidden by Carpentier’s mother on the advance of the Nazis in 1940, and transferred to Cuba in 1989.
This unified collection is one of the world’s great literary archives, and the transfer of archives away from the national library to the non-profit literary foundation is internationally exceptional. The website of the Fundación Alejo Carpentier can be accessed here.