Magical Realism in Ukraine

There is a Ukrainian writer, from my city of all places, who’s getting translated into English and celebrated like he’s going to be important. I haven’t read him but I saw a blurb and it says he’s into the whole magical realism crap. For those who don’t know, magical realism is about making the grime, the violence, the perviness, and the sheer shittiness of life in third world countries look cute to Western consumers of exotic literature. It was a big thing in the eighties, and it’s very embarrassing that the ridiculous fad is reaching Ukraine now.

Even Latin Americans who invented the whole thing have realized it’s pathetic and don’t write like it any more.

5 thoughts on “Magical Realism in Ukraine”

  1. I haven’t read him but I saw a blurb and it says he’s into the whole magical realism crap.

    I had a conversation with an author, Larry Taylor, at a conference (SFRA, The Science Fiction Research Association) in 2006. He was credited with being the inventor of “Magic Realism.” Do you know the difference between Magic Realism and Magical Realism? Which is Toni Morrison’s Beloved?


  2. David, the term was invented by Franz Roh in 1925. Here’s a pretty classic survey on it.

    It has had an odd trajectory. What irritates me is that some people now call any use of the fantastic, or any mention of folklore or polytheistic religion, etc., as “magic(al) realism.” If there’s a ghost in the text, they’ll say it’s “magic(al) realism. Etc.


  3. Also: I recently saw a poster saying some TA in our English department was teaching Borges and Cortázar as magic realism. I was of course envious, I’d like to teach those guys, but the last time I did the students were too freaked out by the complexity of the texts and the use of fantastical elements. I made a wry comment on Facebook (“why must we see B. and C. as magic realism?”) not realizing this TA would be able to see it. He contacted me asking me to take it down.


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