The Lost Steps Revisited: The critique of Western modernity and the search for authenticity


  • Eugenia Demuro Australian National University


Latin American Literature, Latin American Cultural Studies, Postcolonialism


Alejo Carpentier’s novel The Lost Steps (1953) explores the relationship of Latin America and the West, presenting Latin America as a viable antidote to the endemic problems of a corrupted Western civilisation. This critique of Western modernity is made by proposing Latin America as a repository of ‘authenticity’, and from an assumption of Latin America’s exalted reality. In this gesture Carpentier attempts to elevate Latin American culture to a level of universality, with the aim of challenging its position on the periphery of the West. In quite explicit terms, the novel expresses the failure of the West and presents Latin America as a tabula rasa from where to begin anew. What this paper argues, however, is that inherent in Carpentier’s critique to Western modernity, and the assumption of Latin America as ‘authentic’, there is a reification of the myth of modernity (Quijano) and the fallacy of developmentalism (Dussel) inherent in a Eurocentric account. Carpentier’s novel relies thoroughly on the binary structure of Western knowledge in the respective values accorded to the West and to Latin America as centre/periphery, modern/traditional, civilised/primitive, and developed/undeveloped.

Author Biography

Eugenia Demuro, Australian National University

Eugenia Demuro was awarded her Ph.D. from the University of Sydney, Australia. Her interdisciplinary approach situates literature within historical, social, political and cultural contexts of production. At present, she is working on decolonial approaches to literature and literary criticism, and on decolonial aesthetics. Dr Demuro is a Visiting Fellow in the School of Language Studies at the Australian National University.



How to Cite

Demuro, E. (2013). The Lost Steps Revisited: The critique of Western modernity and the search for authenticity. A Contracorriente: Una Revista De Estudios Latinoamericanos, 10(3), 279–301. Retrieved from



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