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No more magical realism: Latin American Narrative uses Imagination and Fantasy to explain its world

No more magical realism: Latin American Narrative uses Imagination and Fantasy to explain its world

By Pilar Marrero. Ethnic Media Services

Throughout Latin America, writers who previously turned to magical realism to capture the region's realities are increasingly turning to science fiction and fantasy.

For the countries of the Global North, the term polycrisis it has become a kind of dark cloud that darkens the horizon. The concept is increasingly the stuff of dystopian fantasies about a future set on fire by the convergence of multiple global and existential challenges.

In Latin America, the polycrisis it has defined much of its history, and where writers once turned to magical realism, many are increasingly turning to science fiction to describe that reality.

Speculative, fantastic or imaginative literature -in other latitudes called science fiction- has a number of young representatives throughout Latin America who write to explore, from a different point of view, the harshest and most difficult realities of a continent accustomed to to crises, poverty and corruption.

"A mistake that is very commonly made is to confuse what we are doing in Latin America in terms of non-mimetic literature with magical realism," explains, not without a load of irritation, the Mexican writer and editor Libia Brenda. "Many in the North think that if it's not the science fiction they know, then it must be magical realism."

What writers like Alberto Quimal and Gabriela Damián Miravete ?Mexico?, Fernanda Trías and Mariana Enríquez ?Argentina?, Ignatio de Loyola Brandao ?Brazil? or Liliana Colanzi and Edmundo Paz Soldan ?Bolivia? they are doing as literature today, it does not have much to do with what Gabriel García Márquez did, the greatest exponent of Latin American magical realism.

Writers like García Márquez, whose most emblematic novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, takes place in the fictional town of Macondo, always said that their literature was imbued with their reality, lives, stories, past, with the magical and extraordinary element that cannot be explained. It is not discussed, it only exists naturally. Instead, the current boom in Latin American literature delves into topics as varied as terror and environmentalism, technology, dystopia and fantasy.

According to some observers, these new works are less focused on reconciling the past than on making sense of a tense and uncertain future.

"The region is finding in its literature, the futures that its politicians are incapable of imagining," the writer Jorge Carrión points out in an essay in the New York Times. The title of the essay is «Latin American Literature Takes a Turn towards the Future».

In other words, Brenda says, "we do our own thing here."

A "fantastic literature of another order"

This speculative literature, also known in other spheres as "science fiction" -although this term is used more in the Anglo world than in the Hispanic world, at least to define what is done locally-, is also quite different from what is done in the anglo world.

"The new mythologies, which readers undoubtedly need, are built by writers through hybridization? Indigenous worldviews with the masters of feminism, technology with humor, essays with science fiction," continues Carrión's essay. .

"A distinctive feature of Latin American science fiction is the combination of elements that we experience and therefore write very naturally," explains Brenda.

"Something that is done a lot is mixing fantasy with science fiction and fantasy not understood as within the framework of unicorns or dragons, but a fantastic literature of another order," he adds.

As an example in the Mexican context is the story by Gabriela Damián Miravete, "Soñarán en el jardín", which can be read in the pages of the online magazine latinamericanliteraturetoday.org.

In the aforementioned garden live the pearly silhouettes? The "holographic memorial"? of women and girls murdered and disappeared in Mexico, in a past that, by the time of the story, has already been overcome.

In a country where every day at least ten women and girls die or disappear due to gender-based and domestic violence (rather conservative official figures), Damián Miravete's story imagines a future in which women organize and stop the murders.

Úrsula K. Heise, professor in the Department of English at the University of California at Los Angeles ?UCLA?, points out that, in Latin America, "what has attracted attention has been the attention paid to social settings rather than to science and technology" in the so-called science fiction or "speculative" fiction, which is what many prefer to call this type of narrative.

No more magical realism: Latin American Narrative uses Imagination and Fantasy to explain its world
Artificial Intelligence interpretation of the holographic garden of the work ?Soñarán en el jardín?, by the Mexican writer Gabriela Damián Miravete, via Ethnic Media Services.

"If you think of people like Ignatio de Loyola Brandao in Brazil, science fiction becomes a way of articulating political criticism, right?" Heise explains. «His great novel from 1981, Nao Verais Pais Nenhum, is about a somewhat futuristic Sao Paulo, where the entire Amazon has been deforested. It is incredibly hot, and all this is a metaphor for the military dictatorship of the time.

Heise also refers to the Bolivian Edmundo Paz Soldán who "has thought about a lot of science fiction that arises in the context of having to write about oppressive forms of government under conditions of censorship."

Paz Soldán has written about what appears to be a future society or a society on another planet, but is actually a veiled critique of conditions in her own country at the present time.

The Argentine Pedro Mairal wrote, in 2005, a novel that has become a cult, "The Year of the Desert" in which a force called weather attacks the city of Buenos Aires, "where chaos reigns, food rots, sprouts epidemics and women see their rights curtailed».

"It's hard to know exactly what he's referring to," Heise explains. "But the most plausible interpretation is that it refers to the collapse of the Argentine economy in 2001 and perhaps an indirect way of dealing with the dictatorial past and European colonialism."

looking for answers

The Argentine writer Mariana Enríquez, known as "the queen of gothic realism" and winner of multiple awards in Spanish and English, explained it this way during an interview with El Economista de México:

“What is happening in the region, and it is a problem for many horror writers, is that the volume is already very high. We are experiencing a horror that is quite difficult to explain from realism. It seems to me that fiction, and especially horror fiction, helps to get answers, “he says.

The dystopian futures present in much of Anglo-Saxon science fiction reflect the growing anxieties that many Latin Americans have long grappled with, Heise says.

"People in the Third World, in the developing world, in the Global South, so to speak, are already experiencing the problems of widespread waste, climate change, poverty, hunger, desertification, in a way that the Global North is starting to experiment, but not yet?" Heise says.

And it is there, in that literature born of a complicated present, an uncertain future, and a tradition of fantasy and imagination that goes back to indigenous traditions and colonial and imperialist influences, that perhaps some echoes of other stories can be felt. literary traditions such as magical realism and the inevitable extinction of Macondo.

This report is part of a special series exploring how global societies and diaspora communities in the US are coping with the «polycrisis», a term increasingly used to describe the confluence of current and emerging global crises. It has been funded by a grant from the Omega Resilience Awards.

Read the original note giving click here.

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