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Catching Butterflies

Bringing Magical Realism to Ground


Maria Takolander

Magical realism was one of the most significant literary developments in the last century. It has become synonymous with the seductive fictions of writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, Ben Okri, Jeanette Winterson and Peter Carey. However, the genre has also become known for its theoretical indeterminacy. In fact, exoticist speculation, inspired by the links between magical realist literature and the world’s cultural or political margins, has thrown the category into critical disrepute.
This book rescues magical realism from misreadings and misdemeanours, tracing the historical development of the literary genre and analysing an original spectrum of magical realist texts from Latin America, Africa, India, Canada, the US, the UK and Australia. It asks such questions as: How did magical realism come to take over the world? What is the nature of its allure? Also, how does the marginal status of its authors inform the genre? Does magical realism have a political agenda?
This book uses postcolonial theory to investigate notions of cultural identity and post-structural theory to examine the narrative strategies of magical realism, presenting a comprehensive historical and theoretical overview of the genre and a politically urgent argument about its subversive potentialities.
Contents: Defining magical realist literature – The roots of the magical realist label in the European art world – The confusion of magical realist fiction with magical realist painting – Separating magical realist fiction from magical realist painting – The development of magical realist literature in Latin America – The nationalization of magical realism in Latin America (and outside Latin America) – Interrogating anthropological notions of magical realism (and exotic notions of cultural identity associated with magical realism) – The links and differences between magical realist literature and postmodern fiction – The marginal politics of magical realism – Magical realism’s contradictory interests in deconstructing and reconstructing history.