Sunday, February 7, 2010

A quick glimpse at magical realism so far...

Hesitancy in accepting the reality of events is the very reaction that fantastic literature, including magical realism, induces in its readers, who always act as secondary witnesses of sorts. This response should not be understood so much as an unwillingness to acknowledge the “poetic singularity” of the event, but as a readiness to keep an open mind toward several—often even contradictory—ways of perceiving and understanding.
--From “Writing the Vanishing Real: Hyperreality and Magical Realism” by Eugene L. Arva

For one thing, this annotated bibliography has also helped to clear up the idea of what exactly IS magical realism. It has helped me to take this big idea and contain it. This particular quote that I found while reading summed up how I felt when I was reading Leyendas. And I can say that I definitely felt that there wasn’t one single way at approaching the book, and more than anything maybe all I needed to do was to relax and adjust to being unsure of how to interpret the text. I highly recommend Arva’s article, too, especially if you’re feeling like you need a different approach towards the concept of magical realism. For example, I found it really interesting in the way that Arva used Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle to help to explain magical realism. It also really gave me a better understanding of the purpose and the advantages of the use of magical realism in literature as a means of representing reality.

Another thing I’d like to add that I found very helpful, was the distinction between lo real maravilloso and realismo mágico. As a note, I feel that it’s pretty obvious after having read Carpentier’s preface to El Reino de este Mundo, however this article put it plain and simple:

…realismo mágico has a more universal connotation while Carpentier's lo real maravilloso is more criollista in the sense that it is magical realism that pertains solely to America.
-- From “Realismo Magico: True Realism with a Pinch of Magic” by Lee A. Daniel

So as skeptical as I was of this class in the beginning, I think that this Wikipedia project is filling in any existing gaps that I had (or that I felt that I had) with the readings. The research component paired with the examination of magical realist works first hand is shaping up to provide a very comprehensive coverage of the topic of literary magical realism in Latin America.

Monday, February 1, 2010

El Reino de este Mundo, round two

El Reino de Este Mundo turned out to be pretty good, I’d say.

Firstly, I didn’t foresee the events of the novel to progress as they did (from bad to worse), which kept me reading to see how the groups would balance out (what I expected to happen). This expectation was greatly based on the negative attitudes expressed towards the Europeans in the early parts of the novel; so, when a black dictator more malicious than the white colonists comes into power, the scale of “whites versus blacks” are completely thrown off as was my original prediction. I was expecting the novel to follow the “whites versus blacks” blueprint, but as we learn in the end of the novel, the message goes beyond race.

…el hombre nunca sabe para quién padece y espera. Padece y espera y trabaja para gentes que nunca concerá, y que a su vez padecerán y esperarán y trabajarán para otros que tampoco serán felices, pues el hombre ansía siempre una felicidad situada más allá de la porción que le es otorgada. Pero la grandeza del hombre está precisamente en querer mejorar lo que es.

To clarify (I feel that this part is essential because its basically the culmination of the novel, so please correct me if I’m wrong), Carpentier continues to say that in el Reino de los Cielos, greatness is not something that can be conquered or needs to be conquered because existence in el Reino de los Cielos is infinite and, more or less, perfect, with a sense of hierarchy already set in place. But in el Reino de este Mundo, the best a man can do for himself is to seek greatness to rise above struggle. (?)

Overall, after finishing the novel, I have thought many times at how successful the use of the character Ti Noel was in telling the story of the Haitian Revolution, staying true to the historical facts of the story, but also using his perspective as a slave to bring another dimension of reality to eye-level with the reality of the white colonist/ European. I think that this is why Carpentier’s explanation was much more easy to understand and interpret (than Asturias’s incorporation of magical realism in Leyendas de Guatemala – yes, I know that lo real maravilloso and magical realism are two different animals); he presents both perspectives at the same time, rather than only presenting one. In Asturias´s Leyendas de Guatemala, I think I was taking my own “European” point of view for granted and forgetting to take that into account. Thoughts?