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magic realism


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A term coined by Franz Roh (1925), to describe tendencies in the work of certain German artists of the neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity), characterized by clear, cool, static, thinly‐painted, sharp‐focus images, frequently portraying the imaginary, the improbable, or the fantastic in a realistic or rational manner. The term was adopted in the United States with the 1943 exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art, entitled ‘American Realists and Magic Realists’. The term has subsequently been used to describe the works of such Latin American authors as Borges, García Márquez, and Alejo Carpentier (1904–80), and elements of it have been noted in Günter Grass (1927– ), Italo Calvino (1923–85), Fowles, and other European writers. In the 1970s and 1980s it was adopted in Britain by several of the most original of younger fiction writers, including, notably, Emma Tennant (Hotel de Dream, 1976; Wild Nights, 1979); Angela Carter (The In‐fernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, 1972; the remarkable Nights at the Circus, 1984); and Salman Rushdie (Midnight's Children, 1981; Shame, 1983). Magic realist novels and stories have, typically, a strong narrative drive, in which the recognizably realistic mingles with the unexpected and the inexplicable, and in which elements of dream, fairy story, or mythology combine with the everyday, often in a mosaic or kaleidoscopic pattern of refraction and recurrence. English Magic Realism also has some affinity with the neo‐Gothic.

Subjects: Literature.


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