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Magical Realism and

lo real maravilloso

 

Magical realism and lo real maravilloso (the marvelous real) are terms used to describe a specific literary genre.  “In magical realist texts [...] the supernatural is [...] an ordinary matter, an everyday occurrence” (Zamora and Faris 3).  The magical real is about accepting the extraordinary as commonplace while still acknowledging that it is indeed extraordinary.  Mainly identified with the Americas, Latin America for the most part, this genre arose from the blend of native and imported cultures.  Magical realism is the product of (at least) two distinct cultures trying to exist and survive in the same place, not always by choice.  Compromises have to be made and exchange takes place.  “Magical realism [...] creates space for interactions of diversity” (Zamora and Faris 3).   Native myths, legends, and magic are given the same importance and consideration as Western/European logic and reason.  Both are equally valid and “real.” 

Mater Salvatoris/ Erzulie Dantor (The Black Virgin)
Fig. 2 Mater-Erzulie

 

 

 

 

 

"Dambalah" by Sylva Joseph
Fig. 3  
Sequined Banner for Dambalah

 

 

 

 

Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier invented his own term to describe his style of work: lo real maravilloso americano (the American marvelous real).  It “does not imply a conscious assault on conventionally depicted reality but, rather, an amplification of perceived reality required by and inherent in Latin American nature and culture" (Zamora and Faris 75).  He uses this term specifically in conjunction with his novel about the Haitian Revolution The Kingdom of this World.  Macandal, the leader of the slave revolt in Haiti, turns himself into an insect to escape his own execution.  The slaves see his escape and know that he is saved, even while his discarded human body burns at the stake.  He gained his powers by becoming a Voodoo priest, a houngan.  The slaves never doubt Macandal’s powers or his escape—magic has always existed, back in Africa and here in Saint-Domingue; it does not live in the realm of the impossible and imaginary.  The European slave owners see the body burned and accept that as the end of things.  They are too tied to Europe and its logic and reason.  For them, magic simply does not exist.  According to Carpentier, “the fantastic inheres in the natural and human realities of time and place, where improbable juxtapositions and marvelous mixtures exist by virtue of Latin America’s varied history, geography, demography, and politics” (Zamora and Faris 75).

 

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