Magical Realism: A Narrative of Celebration or Disillusionment? South African Literature in the Transition Period
- ariel: A Review of International English Literature
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 44, Number 1, January 2013
- pp. 153-183
- Additional Information
This article discusses the emergence of magical realism as a narrative form embraced by a number of South African writers in the transition period and increasingly attuned to South African writing sensibility during this time. I argue that South African magical realism goes beyond the joining of realist and postmodern narrative strands by reconciling realism’s faithfulness to the socio-political context and postmodernism’s devotion to formal experimentation, syncretism, and meta-fiction. Magical realism simultaneously relies heavily on African oral traditions, and in doing so, it not only constitutes a point of confluence for black and white writing of the apartheid era, but it also epitomises the reconciliation of Eurocentric Western rationalism and African tradition. While discussing magic realism in relation to the post-apartheid novels of André Brink and Zakes Mda, this article points towards the possible origins of the proliferation of South African texts embracing this narrative mode in the period directly following the demise of apartheid, as well as the possible reasons behind the gradual abandonment of magical realist narrative strategy in post-millennial South African fiction. Thus, South African magical realist texts will be positioned at the intersection between literature of celebration and literature of disillusionment, emerging out of the short-lived coexistence of the two literary trends in South African literary history.