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The collective nature of character is a defining aspect of magical realism in the Americas and arguably the mode’s most notable departure from the conventions of literary realism. Magical realist authors aim to express communal realities, whether political, historical and/or cultural. To this end, they create 'insubstantial' characters who are not individualized or given complex interior lives. Rather, their identity is relational and based in collective structures, whether family, class, culture and/or ideology. Given magical realism’s greater investment in political and cultural selfhood, characters tend toward archetype and their lives toward allegory. The magical realist strategy of minimizing individuality in favor of collective experience allows authors to foreground politics over personality. As readers, we are asked to focus not on single selves, but on the political arc of entire continents and cultures. The authors discussed are García Márquez, Carpentier, Allende, Borges, Donoso and Erdrich.
Magical realism is a concept that has proved stubbornly resistant to processes of naming and definition. In the narrow sense in which the term is used by literary critics, magical realism refers to a mode or a style – sometimes a genre – of writing in which magical elements are presented alongside realistic ones as if there were no difference of kind between them. A magical realist text will treat supernatural occurrences as if they were perfectly natural. It will incorporate, without surprise, fantastic elements into the realm of history and objective materiality.
Magical realism can lay claim to being one of most recognizable genres of prose writing. It mingles the probable and improbable, the real and the fantastic, and it provided the late-twentieth century novel with an infusion of creative energy in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and beyond. Writers such as Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri, and many others harnessed the resources of narrative realism to the representation of folklore, belief, and fantasy. This book sheds new light on magical realism, exploring in detail its global origins and development. It offers new perspectives of the history of the ideas behind this literary tradition, including magic, realism, otherness, primitivism, ethnography, indigeneity, and space and time.
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