: So, my first issue: How does one distinguish between
: low fantasy and magic realism?
A dictionary of literature I have says that Magic Realism is "Literature that naturalizes the supernatural, taking for granted magical elements in an otherwise realistic narrative." And fantasy "creates within its narrative a coherent world that does not correspond to the perceived reality of everyday existence."
I think this is pretty consistent with what we've been saying. What it doesn't address is the purpose for which magic realism introduces the supernatural into our world. I think that's another big difference between it and fantasy.
: Why is [One Hundred Years of Solitude] not low fantasy?
If it's not (and this depends on who's doing the defining, of course), then I would suggest that the key difference is that 100 Years does not attempt to create a coherent world. What happens to one character is unrelated to what will happen to another character in the same circumstance, with no explanation offered.
: The taxonomy becomes quite cluttered when one tries to
: cope with surrealism, satire with fantastic elements,
: etc. However, surely The Master and Margarita and
: much of the work of Kafka is "low" fantasy.
I think the difference with surrealism is that it presents the fantastical as the product of the subconscious mind. The fantastical elements are presumed to be dreams or hallucinations, not something that is actually happening or that is allegorical or mythical.
: Most literature that is
: designated magic realism is, in some sense,
: post-colonial, with at least some political intent or
: subtext ...
Very true. It seems to be saying to the rest of the world that "what happens to us is so far removed from your concept of logic, reality and justice that this is the only way we can make you understand it."
: The Odyssey, the Book of Genesis, Journey to
: the West, the Divine Comedy, and Gulliver's Travels
: are all arguably high fantasy...
Don't let too many people in our part of the world hear you call the Book of Genesis "fantasy," or you're liable to be looking down the barrel of an assault rifle.
I wonder how many of Homer's contemporaries (if there really was a Homer) thought of the The Odyssey as anything but a true history? Probably the same proportion as now consider Genesis, etc., as likewise. The same might be said of Journey to the West.
I think of the Divine Comedy and Gulliver's Travels, along with such modern counterparts as Animal Farm, as belonging to a sub-genre of fantastic allegories. They are more closely related to fables and fairy tales than they are to magic realism.
: ...but the days when this
: could be considered mainstream literature are long
Isn't postmodernism in some ways a present day substitute? Thinking of such works as Gravity's Rainbow and Infinite Jest, we have the ridiculous and the absurd taking the place of the magical and the purely symbolic.
But I do agree with your sentiment that it's a shame that works falling squarely into the classification of "fantasy" and "science fiction" don't get the literary recognition they might have a century or two ago. I think this may be largely due to publishers and booksellers attempting to target every book to a specific niche market. Gene Wolfe, Connie Willis, and China Miéville get shelved in "SF&F" and consequently will never win that Booker or Pulitzer.
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