Examining magical realist texts including Tim O’Brien’s Going After Cacciato (1991), and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated (2002) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2006), this paper discusses how magical realism examines the extremities of trauma and fear, proposing that magical realist narratives afford a unique ability to represent trauma in a way that is not open to the stylistics of literary realism. Blending the real or believable with the fantastically outrageous, magical realist narratives typically destabilise and disorder privileged centres of ‘truth’ and ‘reality’, demonstrating the constructedness of knowledge and history. Accordingly, magical realist strategies are frequently used in interventionist or counter narratives that refuse to adhere to privileged versions of truth or history and insist upon a multiplicity of experience. The majority of magical realist scholarship explores how the genre undermines hegemonic perspectives of history to clear a space for marginal representations of the past. However, as this paper argues, magical realist narratives also provide a unique space for writing about experiences of extremity. Examining the role of fantasy in representations of violence and trauma, this paper proposes that rupturing a realist narrative with the magical or un-real accommodates representations of extremity by conveying the ‘felt’ experience of trauma.
Recommended CitationLangdon, Jo, Magical Realism and Experiences of Extremity, Current Narratives, 3, 2011, 14-24.