The Kingdom of This World is my favorite novel by Carpentier. I much prefer it to his more famous Los pasos perdidos. It is the product of Carpentier's experience of what he called "Lo real maravilloso" [the marvelous real]. The straighforward believing tone of the narrator about the abilities of Ti Noel and Macandal in the supernatural (e.g. becoming a goose at will) is evidence of the style that some would later call Magic Realism, where the magical is normal, but the real is considered magical (the classic example is José Arcadio's reaction to ice in One Hundred Years of Solitude).
The novel also deals with the brutality of absolute power, and how Haiti has suffered at the hands of those in power, no matter the color of their skin. The novel's brevity is amazing given the rich narrative and imagery Carpentier uses. A less gifted writer might have needed another hundred pages to accomplish the same effect. I can't quite figure out how to explain that I find the novel to be memorable, even well above-average, until the end, when it becomes one of my all-time favorites. This is the passage that moves me to the point of tears and makes the novel just plain perfect at the end:
Ti Noël had squandered his birthright, and, despite the abject poverty to which he had sunk, he was leaving the same inheritance he had received: a body of flesh to which things had happened. Now he understood that a man never knows for whom he suffers and hopes. He suffers and hopes and toils for people he will never know, and who, in turn, will suffer and hope and toil for others who will not be happy either, for man always seeks a happiness far beyond that which is meted out to him. But man's greatness consists in the very fact of wanting to be better than he is. In laying duties upon himself. In the Kingdom of Heaven there is no grandeur to be won, inasmuch as there, all is an established hierarchy, the unknown is revealed, existence is infinite, there is no possibility of sacrifice, all is rest and joy. For this reason, bowed down by suffering and duties, beautiful in the midst of his misery, capable of loving in the face of afflictions and trials, man finds his greatness, his fullest measure, only in the Kingdom of This World. (Trans. Harriet de Onís)
It is our ability to be altruistic as we struggle and toil through life that brings us closer to the divine. That is why this life, the kingdom of this world, is when we must prove ourselves.
Man, Carpentier was talented.