Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

8 an Overview of Diasporic Marvellous Realism and Identity in Literature

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

8 an Overview of Diasporic Marvellous Realism and Identity in Literature

Article excerpt

The impossibility for some diasporic authors of marvellousrealist texts to believe in Mackandal's anthropomorphic powers, the reluctance to accept as fact physical mutations induced by a goddess, or the negation of the existence of aquatic monsters - these have been some of the catalysts for the conflicting subaltern sensibility that emerges from these texts. This is probably why soucouyant was a foreign word for Chariandy, as he himself acknowledged in a talk given at the University of Vigo in 2008. Such a defamiliarization of discourse does not occur unexpectedly; on the contrary, it is the result of a complex process of identity-transformation, which is in part provoked by a diasporic condition. Although cultural identity depends on history and memory, this ascription is established in diasporic communities from the host country, and is determined by the way immigrants negotiate the tensions that emerge from occupying a cultural border-zone.

In order to explore the link between Diasporic Marvellous Realism and Caribbean identity, the Latin American Boom will be taken, once again, as the point of departure to discuss the evolution of lo real maravilloso americano. It is worth remembering that the cultural legacy of Latin America has always been considered as an intersection between fantasy and reality. This is exactly what Llarena highlights when she analyses Carpentier's prologue to The Kingdom of This World, where the author explores the intricacies of the praxis that he applies to "that universe where extraordinary events are confined to a spontaneous earthshaking emergence."1 Thus, lo real maravilloso americano applies not only to a narrative technique of juxtaposed points of view but also to the literary philosophy that develops from the transcultural cosmogony of Latin America and the Caribbean. There is thus an important difference between theory and practice when approaching lo real maravilloso americano, although these are jointly relevant to literature.

Parts I and II above focused on exploring the textual dimension of lo real maravilloso americano and its subsequent evolution towards Diasporic Marvellous Realism as a narrative technique. For this purpose, slavery and the history of the Middle Passage were used to illustrate the presence of the technique in different contemporary texts. There is a similar progression in the philosophical motivation that led Carpentier to postulate his particular literary theory. For him, lo real maravilloso americano meets the demands of a "thirst for exoticism in some European currents of a literary nature that, outwardly fictitious, are in fact a significant part of their own cultural substance."2 The Boom rode on a wave of nonconformity driven by the need to reinterpret Latin American 'otherness' as something positive, something that can actually assist in the process of what Llarena refers to as "contraculturas de la identidad," identitarian counter-cultures. This was conceived as a process by which authors transgress rationalism in order to render the different world-views that emerge from the presence of the supernatural in literature; a presence that amounts to the social and cultural vindication of the Latin American 'exotic'.

There is thus a clear link between Latin American Boom writing and postcolonial or diasporic literature, a connection based on the sense of exoticism that emerges, for instance, from the texts included in the present study. The definition of the 'exotic' as a process of domesticating cultural difference to make it comprehensible to the outside eye has already been pointed out.3 The decade of the 1940s is considered by many critics and contemporary writers alike as being an inflection point in Latin American literature due to the growth of nationalistic consciousness in many countries that, after the transi- tion to independence, wished to vindicate their mestizo or hybrid identity. Just as Latin American Boom and postcolonial writers explored the 'exoticism' of the Other in their fictions, it seems that a similar exercise of introspection can be identified in diasporic literature - an exercise that involves highlighting the exoticism of one's, or one's parents', culture of origin in the diaspora in order to make it readable for those who feel unfamiliar with that code. …

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