(11/8/00 9:22:02 am)
|Magical realism and Fairy tales -- |
I am interested in discussing connections between fairy tales (in particular the colored fairy books of Andrew Lang) and modern magical realists (particularly Paulo Coelho, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Ursula Le Guin.) This work is part of my doctoral dissertation.
(11/8/00 10:46:39 am)
|Magic in the world|
One seemingly obvious connection between the two forms would be the way the fantastic co-exists with the "real" in the world in both. It's not a fantasy world, it's our world, but with extra...I don't know, surfaces, textures, which we're not all privileged to see. (Well, he's off in la-la land again.) That's always been one of the defining traits, as I've understood them, of true magic realism, and of course it's the way things are in fairy tales where the magic simply is part of the world.
Do you plan to make a case for magic realism being a direct descendent of the fairy tale?
(11/8/00 5:18:27 pm)
I notice you don't mention Rushdie in your list of magic realists- would you be looking at his work as well? Also, Angela Carter is often classified as a magic realist.
(11/9/00 2:48:02 am)
This topic is an interesting one. But I have two questions first, in order to understand the direction you're going with this:
1.) How are you defining "magical realism"? I assume broadly, since you include Le Guin in the list. So do you consider modern American mainstream works such as Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic or Louis Erdrich's The Antelope Wife to be Magical Realism? Or works by British writers like Angela Carter, A.S. Byatt, Sara Maitland? And other writers who come out of the fantasy genre besides Le Guin, such as John Crowley, James P. Blaylock, Lisa Goldstein?
2.) I'm curious why you've chosen the English Victorian versions of fairy tales (the Lang books) specifically?
Edited by: Terri at: 11/9/00
(11/20/00 1:56:26 am)
Maria, have we lost you...? It's an interesting topic. Shall we keep the ball rolling until Maria returns?
(11/22/00 10:21:00 am)
I'll throw something in to see if the pot simmers.
I just taught a class at the U of Penn on building fantasy worlds, during which someone asked for a definition of magical realism, because I'd referred to it a few times. So I gave her both a limited definition--that technically it's Central and South American fiction which mixes Catholicism and folk tale elements; and the broader one resulting from so many other writers in other cultures capitalizing on the magic realist aesthetic of introducing fantastic elements into "normal" events as if they were just part of the landscape.
By this latter definition magic realism then becomes identifiable according to how people in the fiction respond to the fantasy element when it appears. Enter Calvino ("Baron of the Trees" was one example I used), T. Boyle, et. al.
There was a woman in the class *from* South America, and my impression was she didn't like the idea that other cultures were lifting what she perceived as a fictional treasure of her own culture (which made me glad I'd thrown out the narrower definition first--thus averting a small war).
(11/22/00 11:50:40 pm)
|Re: Classroom definition|
Yeah, I've been attacked in the past for using the term "magical realism" for fiction other than Latin American fiction, but personally I think that's ridiculous. Latin American writers like Marquez, Borges, Cortezar, etc. have certainly used the form extensively and beautifully, and deserve much of the credit for the degree of literary respectability MR enjoys today, but writers in other cultures have long used a similar mix of realism and "magical" elements from folklore and religion -- African writers, Asian writers, even European writers who were never exposed to the Latin American branch of the form. So while I think that the Latin American branch is the one that has flowered most distinctively and beautifully in recent decades and deserves full credit for doing so, it's still just one branch on a very old tree.
I've also heard people say that it's impossible for North Americans to write magical realism, because proper magical realism has to be grounded in a culture where the "magic" (the religious and folk beliefs) are an accepted part of everyday life. But there are plenty of cultures in the stew that makes up America in which this is the case, and I see no reason why MR grounded in Native American lore (Louis Erdrich's The Antelope Wife or Thomas King's Green Grass, Running Water), Mexican-American lore (Ana Castillo's Talking to God or Pat Moya's House of Houses), Asian-American Lore (Heinz Fenkl's Memories of My Ghost Brother), or even European-American lore (Pat McKillip's Stepping from the Shadows) is any less valid than fiction
from South America. I don't want to denigrate the importance of Latin American magical realist fiction -- but to say that no other form of MR counts (or that works by Latin American MR writers may inspire young writers in their own countries but not young writers from any other country around the globe), is something I disagree with. But hey, that's just a personal opinion and I don't want to start a war here either!
Edited by: Terri at: 11/22/00
(11/24/00 11:51:49 pm)
|fairy tales and magical realism|
Oh god, I've heard so many classroom arguments over what is and isn't magical realism....ugh. Let's just agree that we're defining the term broadly for the sake of this discussion, as Maria clearly does above. Maria, can you throw out some of your ideas about the relationship between Lang's collections of fairy tales and the North & South American writers you've listed, just to get us started?
(11/27/00 11:02:14 am)
|Norte Americano Magic Realism|
"I've also heard people say that it's impossible for North Americans to write magical realism,"
They were probably thinking of Mark Helprin's "Winter's Tale", which for me anyway is guilty of precisely the disconnected "I think I'll just borrow some stuff" attitude that gives the critics fuel. That it got lots of attention and acclaim (for doing what had been done for years much better within the cloak of fantasy--can we all say "John Crowley"?) didn't help.
(2/15/01 11:57:23 am)
|magical realism and fairytales|
For those of you who responded thanks! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I suppose you could say that I am defining magical realism broadly, or in a new way. I challenge notions of magical realism as a somewhat recent Latin American invention. In fact, I find it quite ancient. In response to Gregor9, yes, I am making a case for magical realism emanating, or having been conducted through fairy tales.
In response to Karen, Rushdie is certainly a magical realist. But he won't form a major part of my study.
In response to Terri -- Alice Hoffman, Louise, Erdrich, and Angela Carter are presently in the margins of my study. Also, why the Lang fairy tales and the Victorians? I think that Lang's fairy tales come close to forming an encyclopedia of sorts -- well, an imperfect one, I suppose. At first Lang didn't take the enterprise seriously at all, but then, book by book, color by color, he fell under the spell of the tales. I find the British Isles an area ripe with magical realism -- or real magic.
To Gregor: About Magical realism being a Latin American invention and hurt feelings -- South American magical realism has a flavor, like a Latin American dish -- it's usually indentifiable by the spices. Alejo Carpentier pronounced it a Latin American invention and claimed that European attempts at it were forced, artificial... I stand in complete opposition to that statement. Even Isabel Allende has seen magical realism as a worldwide phenomena -- in addition to that, I assert its ancient roots, connection to genuine magical texts and quantum physics. I am currently writing a novel -- half of my dissertation. It has fairies in it -- and real people -- and mobsters and a northeastern American landscape.
To Jenna: In Northern European magical realism fairies seem to take the place of angels. I've yet to find a fairy in the Latin American mix.
To All: Impossible for North Americans to write magical realism? I can't even be the test case since there are so many before me -- as with any recipe from any region, place or time, the mix will differ, as will the end product.
If you would like to write to me my school e-mail is Jacketti_M@spcvxa.spc.edu --
Thanks for your comments and suggestions. I will ask my mentor to join the conversation and see if he is game.