Lies That Tell the Truth: Magic Realism Seen through Contemporary Fiction from Britain

Lies That Tell the Truth: Magic Realism Seen through Contemporary Fiction from Britain

Lies That Tell the Truth: Magic Realism Seen through Contemporary Fiction from Britain

Lies That Tell the Truth: Magic Realism Seen through Contemporary Fiction from Britain

Synopsis

Magic realism has long been treated as a phenomenon restricted to postcolonial literature. Drawing on works from Britain, Lies that Tell the Truth compellingly shows how magic realist fiction can be produced also at what is usually considered to be the cultural centre without forfeiting the mode's postcolonial attitude and aims. A close analysis of works by Angela Carter, Salman Rushdie, Jeanette Winterson, Robert Nye and others reveals how the techniques of magic realism generate a complex critique of the West's rational-empirical worldview from within a Western context itself. Understanding magic realism as a fictional analogue of anthropology and sociology, Lies that Tell the Truth reads the mode as a frequently humorous but at the same time critical investigation into people's attempts to make sense of their world.

Excerpt

“Is Magical Realism Dead?” asks a headline in a 2002 issue of Newsweek. The American author William Kennedy, himself a practitioner of the mode, promptly shoots back in an article of his own: “Remedios the Beauty Is Alive and Well.”

The two articles are symptomatic of the critical debate that has been raging over the literary phenomenon of magic realism ever since it first came to public attention during the 1960s Boom in Latin American literature. For almost four decades now, magic realism has been an amazingly steadfast favourite both with critics and publishers, and, if publishers' predilections for using the term on back-cover blurbs are anything to go by, with the reading public as well. One might argue that it has found favour also among writers, many of them trying their hand at it. But this is a contentious point, as it often is the critics and the publishers who apply the label “magic realism”, not the writers themselves. With public and critical interest showing no signs of flagging, one might indeed agree with William Kennedy that magic realism is alive and well.

However, throughout its nearly four decades of literary stardom, magic realism has also consistently faced severe points of critique. It has been condemned as escapist literature, as exoticist and commercialized kitsch. It has been pigeon-holed as a typically Latin American

Mac Margolis, “Is Magical Realism Dead?” and William Kennedy, “Remedios the
Beauty Is Alive and Well”, both in Newsweek, 6 May 2002, 50–53 and 56, respectively.

In contemporary literary criticism, both “magic realism” and “magical realism” are used.
I prefer the former, as it can be read as a double noun phrase and thus better reflects the
relationship of equality between magic and realism that is a fundamental aspect of the
mode.

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