However, just a few observations. The fantastique is basically low fantasy. (I quite hate that term. I think the implication is that "low fantasy" is somehow less good than "high fantasy." More often than not, quite the reverse is true.) Yes, in some ways your description sounds like horror, but even horror is a form of fantasy. It is even called "dark fantasy" in some circles to distinguish the quality work from the blood-and-gore trash.
I am told that the fantastique is the major genre of fantasy in France. "High fantasy" is historically a British genre. There is, I understand, no major tradition of high fantasy in French as there is in English. But in French, both Balzac and Hugo produced works that fall into the category. Salammbô (Flaubert), À Rebours (Huysmans), and Le Horla (de Maupassant) all have elements of the fantastique. High fantasy, e.g., Lord of the Rings, The Worm Ouroboros, or the Gormengahst trilgy, is apparently much less common in French.
The marveilleux does indeed sound like fairy tales. It's worth reminding us that many of our most familiar fairy tales, which I once imagined came from the Brothers Grimm, were written in French by Charles Perrault (Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and most surprisingly to me, Little Red Riding Hood).
I don't exactly get what is "strange" about étrange. If the "supernatural" is explained rationally, then it is not fantasy at all, e.g., The Hound of the Baskervilles or "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." Of course the French do have a science fiction tradition. Jules Verne is arguably the first great science fiction writer. Is his work "étrange"?
It seems to me that the definition of the fantastique can be stretched to include magic realism, but I don't know that it adds anything to our understanding to do so. I'm sure there must be a few modern French works that could be called magic realism, just a there are some American (Toni Morrison) and British (Angela Carter) works. I don't think it is a major theme of French literature, however.
And yes, surréalism is indeed an important French genre associated with fantasy. (Go, Rimbaud!)
: fantastique – the setting is the real world, there is
: an inexplicable intrusion into this real world from
: outside, something that contradicts the natural laws
: or the ordinary way of things; something that shocks
: and bothers the characters, tests their intellectual
: equilibriums, makes them suspect their belief systems,
: their own eyes, their judgement. It is a confrontation
: between the regular and the abnormal.
: This sounds more like horror to me than either fantasy
: or magical realism. Gothic literature would also fit
: in this category. Magical realism may be inexplicable
: to the reader, but it is usually taken in stride by
: the characters. It's more likely to represent the
: characters' belief system than to challenge it.
: merveilleux – there is an imaginary world which has
: its own laws (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings) or the
: supernatural does not surprise the characters (or the
: readers). The characters may have magical powers. The
: goal is to provide wonder and entertainment. Many
: legends, myths, fairy tales fall in this category.
: Definitely fantasy. And as I understand the
: distinction between low and high fantasy, they would
: both fit this category.
: étrange – natural laws apply for the most part, if
: there is something supernatural it may be explained
: and there may be a rational interpretation. Science
: fiction and “roman noir” (some forms of thriller) fall
: into this category.
: Yes, this sounds like science fiction to me.
: I don't think magical realism closely fits any of
: these categories, as least not as you have explained
: them. It (1) doesn't shock or bother the characters or
: test their equilibrium, (2) isn't set in an imaginary
: works and doesn't follow its own laws, and (3)
: certainly doesn't follow natural laws or have a
: rational explanation. It comes closes to the
: merveilleux, but there are no consistent laws. What
: happens to one character is not predictive of what
: will happen to another in the same circumstance.
: Have you discussed surrealism? That's yet another
: category of the fantastic in literature and is of
: French origin. It depicts the higher realities of the
: mind that may have no connection with the physical
: world or natural laws.
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