Gabriel Garcia Marquez/Talk

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While I have left the original reference to Magic Realism in, however this really is becoming a vexed term in the field of lit.crit.

There are 2 distinct origins for the term, one German post-surrealist, the other widely abused as a large catch-all for South American literature. It is the latter which is in debate here; many people see it as problematic on the grounds that it imposes an unecessary and unworkable categorisation.

In an interesting article at http://www.qub.ac.uk/english/imperial/india/Magic.htm , by David Mullan a neat summation of the problem is set out:

However, Anglo-American critics have given the term the definition most commonly associated with it, i.e. it is a mixture of the quotidian and the fantastic, both in terms of content and technique. Yet this is to impose a certain paradigm on non-Anglo-American literatures (especially the Spanish-American since the term is most closely associated with it). Essentially, to describe a work of fiction as "magic realist" is to impose a system of order in much the same way a colonial power imposes its idea of order on a subjugated social system. The problem here is that anything which seems uncanny or unfamiliar to Western eyes becomes "magic", while to a native of that culture the events or ways of thinking so described are "real". For the Anglo-American critic, the term becomes a tool which does little more than 'other' the culture a text describes. Additionally, the binarism of magic/realism sets magic as the lesser term when applied by a humanist thinker.

We really ought to be trying to avoid these cultural and ethnocentric shorthands in Wikipedia... sjc


I guess that's what I get for leaving the academic world for a couple of years. I had no idea this debate was going on. When I was in school, it was common to refer to Marquez as the founder of Magic Realism, which was not limited to the South American authors (for example Toni Morison, and Kurt Vonnegut were considered part of the genre). I don't know what happened to turn the term into a culturally charged debate, but it is unfortunate.

Your above paragraph implies that Marquez would have actually thought he was describing "real" events when a corpse's blood flows out of the house, down the stairs, across town and up through the murder's door to his room. This is uncommon behavior for blood, and comes from a literalization of the "trail of blood" metaphor. To pretend that this is not an intentional mixture of the quotidian and the fantastic, and that it is the reader who imposes this "colonial and oppressive" order on the text seem to me absurd.

On the other hand, if the term is actually being understood by a majority of academics (not just American academics either) as a derogatory remark, we should certainly acknowledge that and change the article accordingly. Prejudice and real cultural imperialism are social practices which we need to strongly discourage in the wikipedia and in the world at large. --MRC