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Chanady, Amaryll Beatrice. Magical Realism and the Fantastic: Resolved versus Unresolved Antinomy. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1985.

Amaryll Beatrice Chanady defines magical realism and the fantastic, with particular focus on what differentiates the two terms. Chanady categorizes magical realism and the fantastic as types of literary modes, as opposed to genres or literary movements. In the fantastic, the worldview described by the author coincides with our own. This established worldview is then threatened by an event that doesn’t fit into our ideas of logic or norms of reason (3-4). This event represents a world of superstition and myth, which is difficult to accept for the “rational” man (5). The author presents two levels of reality, the natural and the supernatural. Chanady sums up the definition of the fantastic based on three criteria: use of antimony (the simultaneous presence of two conflicting codes), inclusion of circumstances that cannot be integrated within a logical framework, and use of authorial reticence (deliberate withholding of information and explanations) which makes the inexplicable even more disturbing (16). Chanady then compares magical realism to the fantastic on these three criteria. While magical realism is also characterized by antimony, in the fantastic the presence of the supernatural is perceived as problematic, while in magical realism the supernatural is accepted as part of reality. Authorial reticence is also an important criterion for magical realism. The difference is that while authorial reticence creates a disturbing effect in the fantastic, it integrates the supernatural into the natural framework in magical realism. In magical realism, the author presents a worldview that is radically different from ours as equally valid. There is no hierarchy expressed in the logical codes (30). By having to explain the supernatural in magical realism, the position of the supernatural as equal to our conventional view of the world is taken away (30). Chanady believes the main difference between magical realism and the fantastic is “the manner in which the irrational world view is perceived by the narrator” (23). In the fantastic, the supernatural world is perceived as different or disturbing, whereas in magical realism this world appears as integrated into our conventional perception of reality. In magical realism, the supernatural is not presented as problematic (23) and moreover, is presented in a matter-of-fact manner (24). The narrator places no judgment on the supernatural world, which is presented equally to the so-called rational world (24). In order to resolve the antimony created by the presentation of two different worlds, the reader is forced to suspend their judgment of what is perceived as rational and what is perceived as irrational (26). Chanady describes two apparently opposing views on magical realism, presented by Franz Roh and Angel Flores. Franz Roh views magical realism as a penetration of the mystery of reality, a renewed perspective that looks for the magic inherent in reality. Angel Flores, on the other hand, views magical realism as the amalgamation of realism and fantasy. While these two views appear to contradict one another, Chanady believes that they complement one another. Roh’s view can be described as the effect that magical realism writing produces on the part of the reader, while Flores’ view is more applicable to the technique of magical realism writing (27). Lastly, Chanady describes the three contexts in which the term magical realism has been used in the past. Firstly, Franz Roh used the term in describing art (17), then, in 1940’s Latin America the term was used as a way of expressing the true American mentality and as a description of a distinct, Latin American literature style, and lastly, in 1955 after an article written by Angel Flores, the term became a concept used in literary criticism and was used to describe authors who expressed certain themes and techniques in their writing (16-17). She stresses the importance of distinguishing between magical realism in painting and in literature, as she states that the term acquires different implications when used in different artistic mediums (18).


Delgado, Jose Manuel Camacho. Comentarios filologicos sobre el realismo magico. Madrid: Arco Libros, S.L., 2006.

Delgado begins by describing the work of French writer Andre Breton, an important figure in the Surrealist movement. Breton published The Surrealist Manifest in 1924, which stated his belief that the most important part of reality is not what is shown, but rather what is hidden, being everything that underlies our perception of the world (14). However, while surrealism and magical realism have been used interchangeably, writers of magical realism are quick to distinguish their writing from surrealist writing. Magical realist authors perceive the surrealist style of Breton and others to be frivolous, artificial and limited to European thought. Uslar Pietri believes that surrealism is essentially a creative game, which represents an artificial and easy formula. Pietri feels that the Latin American writers of magical realism are creating something markedly different. Rather than playing games with objects and words, these writers are revealing, discovering, and expressing the unknown and undiscovered reality of Latin America in order to better understand the great, mysterious creator of hybrid culture (17). Delgado also notes the importance of myths in magical realism. When magical realist works attempt to present the world as virginal, a new genesis is created, based on ideologies presented in various myths. These works are based on myths of cosmogony, myths of life and apocalyptical myths (21).


Zlotchew, Dr. Clark. Varieties of Magical Realism. New Jersey: Academic Press ENE, 2007.

In order to provide a clear definition of the term magical realism, Dr. Clark Zlotchew begins by defining what magical realism is not. He does this by defining and contrasting terms that are often used interchangeably with the term magical realism: the fantastic, the uncanny, the marvelous, and surrealism. The fantastic presents a bi-dimensional world. The two dimensions that exist are the realistic, everyday world governed by our accepted norms of logic, and the supernatural world that we are unable to comprehend. In the fantastic, the implied author or protagonist, and in turn the reader, experiences surprise, astonishment, or anxiety when the supernatural world confronts the natural world. The hesitation experienced by the protagonist, implied author or reader in deciding whether to attribute natural or supernatural causes to an unsettling event, or between rational or irrational explanations, is what differentiates the fantastic from the other terms (14). In the uncanny, a mysterious event occurs that can be concluded as having natural causes, or there may be a presence of something that is generally disquieting, as described by Amaryll Beatrice Chanady (14). There is either an uncomfortable feeling about some presence, without being explicitly supernatural, or it becomes understood that a mysterious event has a rational explanation in the end. The marvelous, on the other hand, is a mono-dimensional world. Nothing surprises the implied author in the marvelous world, as the entire world is considered supernatural to the implied author and reader. Magic is normal and expected in the marvelous world. Fairy tales belong to this category, where characters live in a world different to our own, and are accustomed to encounters with mystical creatures (15). The important idea in defining the marvelous is that the reader understands that this fictional world is different from the world they live in. Lastly, in surrealism, artists and authors recreate the symbolic processes stemming from the unconscious, without passing through the conscious mind first. Surrealism is largely based on dreams as well as myths (16). Zlotchew also differentiates between two terms often confused with one another: magical realism and lo real maravilloso, a term used by Alejo Carpentier to describe his work. Zlotchew states that while magical realism describes a fictional world created by the author, in works of lo real maravilloso the world described by the author is not fictional, but rather refers to the “real world” of Latin America, a world inherently marvelous as described by Carpentier (11). Zlotchew later describes the work of William Spindler. Spindler describes three types of magical realism: the metaphysical, the anthropological, and the ontological. Metaphysical magical realism is when reality is viewed in a way that brings out its already-present magical qualities. Anthropological magical realism is when the narrator of the novel introduces phenomena from a “rational” standpoint, and at times from a supernatural standpoint. Lastly, in ontological magical realism, the extraordinary is presented as ordinary (25). Zlotchew makes an important note that while magical realism is not exclusive to Latin American authors, it should be recognized that magical realism has flourished in Latin American fiction, more so than in other areas, in the latter half of the 20th century (26). Lastly, Zlotchew notes a few ideas that are important to magical realism. One idea is that the truth is stranger than fiction, if the whole truth is perceived. This idea lies at the core of magical realism. We can understand magical realism as a highly subjective observation of the “real world”. The term can also be seen as perceived reality filtered through the imagination, or reality undergoing interpretation and expressed metaphorically (27). --Kayohk (talk) 03:33, 8 February 2010 (UTC)