"Ordinary Enchantments" investigates magical realism as the most
important trend in contemporary international fiction, defines its
characteristics and narrative techniques, and proposes a new theory
to explain its significance. In the most comprehensive critical
treatment of this literary mode to date, Wendy B. Faris discusses a
rich array of examples from magical realist novels around the
world, including the work not only of Latin American writers like
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but also of authors like Salman Rushdie,
Gunter Grass, Toni Morrison, and Ben Okri.
Faris argues that by combining realistic representation with
fantastic elements so that the marvelous seems to grow organically
out of the ordinary, magical realism destabilizes the dominant form
of realism based on empirical definitions of reality, gives it
visionary power, and thus constitutes what might be called a
"remystification" of narrative in the West. Noting the radical
narrative heterogeneity of magical realism, the author compares its
cultural role to that of traditional shamanic performance, which
joins the worlds of daily life and that of the spirits. Because of
that capacity to bridge different worlds, magical realism has
served as an effective decolonizing agent, providing the ground for
marginal voices, submerged traditions, and emergent literatures to
develop and create masterpieces. At the same time, this process is
not limited to postcolonial situations but constitutes a global
trend that replenishes realism from within.
In addition to describing what many consider to be the progressive
cultural work of magical realism, Faris also confronts the recent
accusation that magical realism and its study as a global
phenomenon can be seen as a form of commodification and an
imposition of cultural homogeneity. And finally, drawing on the
narrative innovations and cultural scenarios that magical realism
enacts, she extends those principles toward issues of gender and
the possibility of a female element within magical realism.
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