Visual Images: Magical Realism & The New World Baroque

Swords and Silver Rings:
Objects and Expression in Magical Realism and the New World Baroque

Intro | Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Notes


1 Gustav Flaubert, letter to Le Poittevin, September 1845, Correspondence, Vol. I, p. 192. Cited by Mario Vargas Llosa, The Perpetual Orgy.

2 Franz Roh, "Magical Realism: Post-Expression," trans. Wendy B. Faris, Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), p. 16.

3 Franz Roh, German Art in the 20th Century: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, trans. Catherine Hutter (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1968), p. 10. I am grateful to Lily Ann Cunningham for these references and for her insights into Roh's aesthetic of the object.

4 This shift is apparent in the earliest formulations of Magical Realism as a literary critical term. See the first two essays on this matter by "Angel Flores," "Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction" (1955) and Luis Leal, "Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature (1967), reprinted in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, pp. 109-124.

5Irene Guenther has initiated this process or reconsideration in her essay "Magic Reliasm, New Objectivity, and the Arts during the Weimar Republic," in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, pp. 33-73.

6 Roh, "Magical Realism: Post-Expressionism," Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, p. 17.

7 T.E. Hulme, Speculations Essays on Humanism and the Philosophy of Art, ed Herbert Read (New York: Harcourt and Brace & Co, 1936), p. 126.

8 Borges, "La metáfora," in Obras completas, I p. 382, my translation. Borges is describing the kennings of the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturlson, as we will see shortly.

9 For a useful discussion of ultraísta aesthetics, see Beret E. Strong, The Poetic Avant-Garde: The Groups of Borges, Auden and Breton (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1997).

10 Jorge Luis Borges, with Margarita Guerrero, "Fauna of Mirrors," The Book of Imaginary Beings, rev. and trans. Norman Thomas di Giovanni (London: Penguin, 1974), p. 67-8.

11 Borges, "Pascal's Sphere," trans. Suzanne Jill Levine, in Selected Non-Fictions, ed. Eliot Weinberger (New York: Viking, 1999), p. 352.

12 Borges, "The Zahir," trans. James E. Irby, in Labyrinths (New York: New Directions, 1962), p. 197.

13 In this context, it is interesting to consider Borges’ early devotion to film. John P. Dyson, in his essay entitled “Hard-Boiled Borges” (forthcoming in Comparative Literature) writes:

Borges toyed with but promptly rejected the graphic violence, the verbal coarseness and the sex and swagger of tough writing. What he chose instead were the retrained but still hard-edged and luminous techniques of that other artistic passion of his, the early near-noir film and its haunting unrealities. It is surely those to which he referred when he said in the preface to the 1954 reissue of A Universal History of Infamy that '[t]he book is no more than appearance, than a surface of images . . . ' (12). In his subsequent work he would retain all of the behind-the-lens remoteness of 1920s and 1930s film-making while rejecting both vulgarity and the perils of a constraining Argentine idiom.

14 Gabriel García Márquez, "Light is like Water," in Strange Pilgrims, trans. Edith Grossman (New York: Penguin Books, 1993, p. 160.

15 García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera, trans. Edith Grossman (New York: Knopf, 1988), p. 100.

16 See Carpentier y Ernesto González Bermejo, "Alejo Carpentier: 'Para mí terminaron los tiempos de la soledad'" (1975), Entrevistas, p. 285. In this 1975 interview, Carpentier notes that his use of the terms "maravilloso" and "barroco" has become confused, and he offers clarifications of both. His definition of lo maravilloso is as follows:

...lo maravilloso es--en realidad--lo insólito, lo singular, lo inhabitual, bello o feo, hermoso o terrible, jubiloso o lúgubre, dondequiera que se le halle. . . . Y no puede negarse que nuestra historia toda se caracteriza, desde sus inicios, por lo insólito de sus contingencias y peripecias. (285, Carpentier's emphasis)

...the marvelous is, in reality, the strange, the singular, the unusual, beautiful or ugly, handsome or horrible, joyful or lugubrious, wherever it is found. . . . And it cannot be denied that our whole history is characterized from its beginning by the strangeness of its contingencies and peripeteias.

17 Carpentier, "Problemática de la actual novela latinoamericana," in Tientos y diferencias (1964; Montevideo: Editorial Arca, 1967), p. 36, author's emphasis.

Intro | Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Notes