Magically strategized belonging: magical realism as cosmopolitan mapping in Ben Okri, Cristina García, and Salman Rushdie
Sasser, Kimberly Danielle Anderson
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Since literary magical realism exploded out of Latin America and into international critical attention in the mid twentieth century, the limbs of its narrative genealogy continue to be sketched in both lower and higher than the branch bearing the immense impact of el boom. Perhaps the most often cited figure from magical realism’s pre-Latin American and pre-literary phase is Franz Roh, who deployed the term in 1925 to describe the German painting movement Magischer realismus, as critics such as Irene Guenther, Kenneth Reeds, Wendy Faris, and Lois Parkinson Zamora have shown. After having migrated transatlantically, magical realism mutated formally in the process whereby it came to be embodied in Latin American literature. Following the boom of the 1950s and 60s magical realism began to be recognized as a global phenomenon. Literary magical realism has now been written by authors from innumerable countries of origin and thus is not the sole property of Latin Americans, as Alejo Carpentier might have us believe. Erik Camayd-Freixas, who himself contends for the delimitation of a distinct Latin American magical realism, still concedes that the mode is “today’s most compelling world fiction” (583). In addition to Carpentier, Miguel Ángel Asturias, Gabriel García Márquez, and Isabel Allende, among other significant Latin American magical realists, key contributions to the mode’s corpus have since been recognized in the works of Jack Hodgins, Louise Erdrich, Robert Kroetsch, and Toni Morrison. Beyond the American continents, Wenchin Ouyang points out: “[Magical realism] is in Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Italian, Japanese, Persian, Portuguese, Spanish, Tibetan, and Turkish, to name but a few languages”. One recent example of magical realism is Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Enchantress of Florence (2008), analyzed in this study. Considering this novel in conjunction with the landmark 1949 publication of Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World (El reino de este mundo), including its famous prologue, these two magical realist texts represent a significant development in magical realist authorship among East and West Indies. Furthermore, they form two temporal poles between which there is a nearly sixty-year time span, a figure that does not include texts preceding the Latin American boom.