Magic realism

I have used and cited this article a couple of times and it is also part of a book the author published later, so I don’t need to keep the journal issue. Except that perhaps I do, for another article, on paternal anxiety.

Anyway: this is Moreiras’ critique of the ideology of mestizaje/transculturation (where difference vanishes in mixture, as opposed to in whiteness as in US) and also of “‘magic realism'” as a literary device of transculturating representation in which the resolution of contradictions takes place” (LaRubia-Prado 3). AM says both of these end in Arguedas’ novel, in which European and indigenous backgrounds do not get reconciled. We get pessimism and irrationality instead of rational optimism, so modernism’s “process of appropriation and defiance” (Franco) becomes a “defiance of disappropriation” … and the end of signification.

Very well. What can I use from this whole article, which I like for other reasons? My piece is about being tired of magic realism, tired of having Latin American literature defined this way, and tired of having so many uses of the fantastic and so much folklore called this.

Moreiras 84: MR is part of a utopian ideology according to which the LA continent is a yet to be realized historical project. “Ethnographical surrealism joins a Latin American will to difference; this leads to the creation of the semiotic practice called magical or marvelous realism: examples are the early work of Césaire, Asturias, and Carpentier. But there’s more to it: MR is complicated. In the social body where magical-real objects are created, there is always a disparity between two or more modes of economic production. Chiampi: in it, the nonsynchronous contradiction wants to be mediated, and to disappear as a contradiction. In MR the is no disjunction between modes; it endorses the ideologeme saying LA a site of transculturation and so on, where difference does not operate according to Aristotelian logic (85).

Moreiras 85: Magical realism allows for the simultaneous textualization of both A and non-A without contradiction. Chiampi says it is the conciliation of the disjointed, but Moreiras says it is a writing of disjunction–even if it, or its practitioners, do not think so.

In RAMA’s use (Moreiras 86), literary transculturation is a form for the promotion of cultural survival undertaken as a reactive response to modernization. The LA subject is a transculturated one and it resists whitening. It is a technical device for the integration of external influences into an enterprise of cultural preservation and renewal, says Rama (Moreiras 87).

Moreiras’ essay is about the limits of transculturation. Rosaldo: the problem with hybridity is that there is a polarity behind it. Within transculturation, the divided subject can organize this indeterminate space, recompose a discourse from previous material. But what if that is a space of incoherence, as Lomnitz-Adler has said? What if transculturation is not a path to meaning, but to its implosion? (89) For Rama, transculturation could mean overcoming modernization, but what if it does the opposite?


100 años isn’t about triumph over modernization but submission to it. Note also how monological it is (92). Moretti (according to AM) points out that magical realism tries to capture non-synchronicity and heterogeneity through the incorporation of the periphery’s “reserves of magic” into a global enterprise of world re-enchantment . . . which then serves as an ideological justification of the world-system. Innocence and modernization are conflated.

LOS ZORROS undoes magical realism . . . and perhaps, transculturation.


5 thoughts on “Magic realism

  1. Cut: The presentation of ice as a magical object on the first page of One Hundred Years of Solitude is one famous example, and the fact that the Western and non-Western characters [Here i was going to give the example of Mackandal’s death in REM] … don’t even say the same thing…

  2. I have for now cut out the sentence with the word contestatory, but this word seems useful. Is MR contestatory or not?

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