Sunday, January 24, 2010

Magic-Realism began as a natural accident.

A thought occurred to me about the birth of magic-realism in Latin American literature. Obviously it was an accident.

Certain authors had an interest in anthropology, especially as a means to explain their own cultural roots. Their meztiso-blood determined that they would need to take two avenues in their research. The European half of their heritage was very well documented and easy to trace back in scrupulous detail at least 1,500 years. Ok, no problem.However, researching their indigenous roots was going to be quite more arduous.

First of all, any random information that they could have gleaned from deciphered sun calendars, excavations of ruins, and partial integration into the lives of actual living descendents of full-blooded indigenous people, was going to leave many gaps in the big picture. There was going to be a lot of unknown elements. That which was known would ring true as factual & realistic. Piecing together that which was not entirely known or understood would actually smack of magic or fantasy because of the many unexplained details.

Latin American writers took upon themselves the task of creating works of fiction in order to abstractly explain their modern culture's origins. Thanks to either a fertile imagination or short-sightedness, the results were abstract, ambiguous & enigmatic. However it came about, these works proved to be an interesting read and spawned a new genre that in itself became a reflection of the identity that was initially being sought.

Now, of course, the academic world has analysed and dissected ad nauseum the works of Asturias, Carpentier, Garcia-Marquez, et al., to the point of mass exploitation.

Although I believe we live in a "Three minute world" where people in general, (and especially young, over-worked undergraduate students!), have only an iota of the previous capacity for maintaining a reasonable span of attention, it is possible that with a healthy commitment of time & energy, the initial profound fascination that gripped the international readership can once again be regained!

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