From the advent of story itself, oral tales – such as Aesop’s fables – created a cross-cultural and meaningful understanding of the wider world. Furthermore, within the realms of fairy-tale and mythology there is a grounding, regardless of society, faith, or culture, which can be described as Christian and/or feudal tenets, For example, fairy-tales have their origins in the Middle Ages and contextually concern inner-faith, domestic hierarchies, dowry laws, estate, and marital obedience, (Warner, 1994, p. 19). However, the magical tension and plotlines may be representative of the struggle to give the subaltern a voice. Both Zipes and Warner suggest that fairy-tales were useful as political protests in a desire to change the status quo. Moreover, Zipes posits that the cultural manipulation of these tales evidences the methodology forming, ‘the family, socialisation, and cultural attitudes.’ (Zipes. P. 137). For instance, (Denmark), Andersen’s tale of The Ugly Duckling, when analysed is about rising above adversity, social class, and acceptance. Anansi, (Akan, Ghana) –Anansi acts as a go between the people and their sky god, Nyame. Anasi began as an oral tale in Ghana by the Ashanti people. Such tales travelled the continents both orally and in the written word becoming a political platform for many. (Bowers, M. 2004. p. 45).Then again, many ideologies and social strata were specific to defined world regions, and the tales relative only to the times and societies for which they were written. However, they have over time evolved to have universal meaning. This is what I wanted to portray in my own artefact, The Walking Winds, set in Mozambique.
The oral tradition verbalised magical realism, long before it gained recognition as a genre. These traditions belonged to and had culturally specific frameworks around the world. Moreover, they included mythology, fables, and allegory to convey useful truths and moral lessons. They verbally depicted magical, spiritual, or unreal features in realist settings. However, as the world metaphorically became smaller and written word evolved, such stories travelled the globe, as did the genre. Even so, although magical realism has advanced and crossed borders the discourses remain the same. They cover identity, history, the human condition, politics, and the spiritually magic realities of life. As such, magical realism is not simply a textual genre aimed at target-specific audiences. It is a genre accessible to and for everybody. To illustrate this point, I conventionally framed my artefact, The Walking Winds, as magical realism.
I wanted to utilise the narrative styles of Gabriel García Márquez, Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri, and Laura Esquivel. Consequently, I structured my story in such a way that readers could reach beyond the metanarrative to the singularity of event each micro-narrative holds. Besides this, I had to homogenise the postcolonial with post/modernism. Additionally, I fused aspects of the Mozambican culture into historiographic magical realism, and magical realism – all of which have long and diverse histories.
Magical Realism, Magic Realism, and Marvellous Realism are among other things, all types of art, theatre, and paintings, and narrative fiction. They encompass a huge range of subtly differing concepts that add to or reveal magical elements in order to express world actualities. As Matthew Strecher posits, Magical Realism is:
‘What happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe’, (p. 267).
When defined like this, magical realism, though not always appropriate, has become the universally used term for the entire genre.
The main confusion of this genre surrounds the accuracy of application and the misapprehension that they are critically and theoretically interchangeable. However, each variation on the term has its own context and distinctive use. Additionally, each of these terms has a different ontological and epistemological context. By which I mean, the ontological aspect of magical realism concerns the nature of being, growing, a presence of or the actuality of any given society or culture. Moreover, it determines the basic groupings and interactions within the family dynamic. These ontologies are not the creation of imaginary worlds, but are the relationship between the individuals and their existing circumstances. Likewise ontology answers questions concerning which entities the culture believes to exist and so deals with the spiritual concepts intrinsically meshed within the social structure. Conversely, the epistemology of the subject is an awareness or knowledge of a culture instead of an immersive experience. Furthermore, most epistemological fictions like Midnight’s Children, (Rushdie, S. 2008), gain recognition as historiographic metafictions. Historiographic metafiction rejects the positioning and/or projection of present morals and ethics merely because of written history. Rather, it takes a more epistemologically postmodern approach, asserting the specificity and singularity of the past events as precursors to today’s social values and doctrines. To paraphrase Hutcheon, (1998), it focuses on the relative truth of individual postmodern/postcolonial concrete experiences abstractive interpretations. These aspects, combined with the various histories and derivatives of magical realism are distinctive unto themselves. Equally, although it is possible to combine them within a narrative, they are not the same or interchangeable. Each deals with different cultural attributes or an entirely different artistic medium.
For example, the term magischer realismus, devised by Franz Roh, is German, refers mainly to paintings in the style Neue Sachlichkiet. The New Objectivity of 1925 stylistically sought to capture the magic existing beneath the routine. However, Magischer Realismus when reaching the notice of the Dutch became Magisch-Realisme. Additionally in Spanish/Latin American, the term becomes Realismo Mágico changing again in English translation to Magical Realism. Each of these terms have a variation on the original theme – with every translation, the connection and origin becomes confused.
The first of the terms, Magischer Realismus, conceived by Franz Roh, originated in the 1920s Germany, related solely to Neue Sachlichkiet art. By going beyond the real, this style created a mimetic capturing of life’s spirituality. In his essay Nach-Expressionismus (1925), Roh states ‘Painting now seems to feel the reality of the object and of space, not like copies of nature but like another creation’ (Roh, 23). Because of Roh’s book, Nach Expressionismus: Magischer Realismus, the concept spiralled across continents. Inspired by Roh, Jorge Luis Borges wrote his first magical realist novel, Historia Universal de la Infamia in 1935. In the 1940s, Latin American citizen, Alejo Carpentier, created another twist to the theme, lo real maravilloso (marvellous realism). The concept being that Latin America’s geography and history is so fantastical it appears unreal to the outsider. Consequently, Carpentier, combining art and literature homogenised cultural realism and magical life views to express the diversity of Latin America. Thereafter this polymorphic term added yet another aspect to magical realism. Thus, incorporating magical happenings within the realist text yet still conceding the supernatural is commonplace. (Bowers, M. 2004. Pp. 1-14). Nevertheless, the Latin American boom of magical realism did not fully actualise until the advent of Gabriel García Márquez’s novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1967.
Garcia Márquez tells the story of Macondo, an isolated town whose history is a condensed yet similar, version of Latin American history. While the setting is realistic, there are many fantastical occurrences. As with most magical realism, García Márquez’s narrative includes nostalgia – time distortion, war, torment, identity, and solitude. The textual cast acts out his tale in Macondo to reconcile independent Columbia with its history. Márquez uses myth as a conduit, bringing centuries of history together in a narrative of allegorical evolution, paralleling the Columbian One Hundred Year Colonial War. I wanted to recreate this nostalgic melancholy in The Walking Winds. I used Simeon’s memories, thoughts, and actions to show his tumultuous emotions regarding his self-identity to mirror Márquez’s technique.
García Márquez exposed life’s truths using myth, history, language, and the supernatural. Using magical effects to transmit characterial emotions, we quickly come to expect the unexpected. For example – premonition and telekinesis, (p. 15), an insomnia plague (p. 44), and a banana company’s amnesia inducing rain (section 7). Additionally, he accentuates people’s willingness forget their past horrors, mistakes, and ultimately, their origins. Mimicking this technique this I transmitted the tribe’s possible loss of history and traditional values as they moved closer toward western ideals. Equally, I used Mozambican deities and beliefs to transmit these effects. From the onset of Márquez’s narrative, Macondo’s gypsy prophet Melquíades introduced the supernatural and advised the villagers. Likewise, I utilised mythology and the supernatural by bringing in the elements, and Mozambican deities, beliefs, and gods like Emere, (p. 20), Adze, (p. 15), and Solomon, (p. 2) who spoke via the dreams of the tribal elders. (p. 11)
Márquez’s seminal text created the subsequent magical realism boom. As such, the genre was initially thought indigenous only to Latin America. However, Márquez adopted the blending of history, and story with the fantastical from Alejo Carpentier. Carpentier, as magical realism is, was cross-cultural, being Russian, and French by heritage. Born in Switzerland and raised in Havana speaking Spanish with a French accent, he exemplified the universal identity and hybridity of magical realism.
CHAPTER 2: POSTMODERNISM, INTERPELLATION, AND THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE
Both magical realism, in all its written incarnations, and postmodernism have existed since the 1920s. However, to link them it is necessary to trace their origins. Both genres grew from and moved away from the concept of modernism. Magical realism blossomed with the onset of post-colonialism and postmodernism in literature as a way of looking back to traditional values and beliefs after World War II. Modernism on the other hand originated in Europe/North America in the late 19th – early 20th century. After the horror of war, western society reassessed its traditional values and began questioning the equanimity of the human mind. Therefore, through the resulting influence of philosophers like Freud and Marx, literary modernists experimenting with form and expression to articulate their new awareness disposed of traditional representative modes. As Ezra Pound promoted, (1928), by repurposing old ideas, and making them new – modernism was/is characterised by a self-conscious break with traditional ways of writing poetry and fiction.
Despite being different forms, Modernism and Postmodernism have parts to play in Magical Realism. For example, in Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, the fragmented stream of consciousness text is an example of modernism wherein she creates an entire web of interconnectedness between the characters. I created a similar interconnectedness within the realms of Kivuali and the fact that he could see the thoughts of his people. (p. 29). Moreover, in Woolf’s text, this web raises the question of community identity and the separate self. This remains a recurring theme in magical realism and postcolonial texts. (Faris, W. 2013. p. 23). For instance, in Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, through her inexplicable breast milk, Tito secretly feeds Pedro’s baby and her identity conflates with Pedro’s true wife, Rosaura. (p. 71) Comparably, Vonnegut’s, Slaughterhouse Five questions American identity in relation to other nations and also contains a stream of consciousness narrative. Equally, because it has a pacifist undertone, is nonlinear, and decentred it is also postmodern. Woolf and Vonnegut’s texts illustrate how post/modernism narratives rest under the overarching umbrella of magical realism.
Inspired by these authorial ideas, I wanted to use experimental expression in my own artefact. So taking the common idea of socialisation and the traditional family dynamic, I repurposed them. Rather than making my protagonist conventionally reliable, I made him question his sense of self, his motives, and those of others. I introduced Simeon initially as the anti-heroic husband, and son. Nevertheless, I also show him to be one of life’s teachers. By adopting these conventions, I believe I create a well-rounded and realistic character. Furthermore, I made my artefact a Bildungsroman narrated in the stylistic techniques of Rushdie and Okri.
In spite of this, while one might think that the Bildungsroman protagonist would be childlike, mine was not. The finding of place in any society is not a smooth or easy process for anyone. Subjectively and objectively, the ‘coming of age’ is universal and an ongoing experience; there is no definitive threshold moment. For that reason, my principal character was the adult Simeon. Nevertheless, there are multiple depictions of such quests handed down through generational oral tales and they are as familiar in one culture as the next. Accordingly, I voiced my narrator/s by fusing Rushdie’s central first person narrative approach in Midnight’s Children, and the omniscient narrative in Okri’s, The Famished Road. I felt this would be comfortable for the reader. Likewise, recognising magical realism creates familiarity through intertextuality, I did the same. Therefore, I placed familiar phrases from the aforementioned texts. Vonnegut ‘ , so it goes, ‘, (p. 5), and Rushdie, ‘ believe it or don’t. (p. 34)
Furthermore, I applied Rushdie’s holistic and historiographic technique of telling the peoples journey through Old Tales. In my artefact, they represent the colourful yet sometimes heartless landscapes of Mozambique. Moreover, I scrutinised the individuals bond with the intrinsic communal ontologies and interpellations from which s/he is connected, shaped, and constructed. I signified this through Simeon’s bonds with both his father and village community. Primarily I wanted the reader to see Simeon as standoffish, contemptuous, and quite brutal. However, further into the narrative I believe the reader develops a deeper understanding of his inner psyche.
Within the Triptych stories Walk a Mile, I show Simeon to be a product of familial and societal interpellation – a subject of their expectations. Althusser’s essay, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, suggests the hegemonic power of traditional duties, perceived obligations, and obedience shape our actions and thought processes. He states that,
‘ individuals recognize themselves as subjects through ideology, thus illustrating how subjects can be complicit in their own domination’.
He theorises, by following this system, ideology is a ‘representation of the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.’ (p. 692).
Further stating ideologies regulate everyone; but without personal values, beliefs and ideas on how we think society should function these regulations differ. ‘There is no ideology except by the subjects for the subjects.’ (p. 693). Effectively, ideology belongs to the imaginary subconscious world. However, with the contrasts in religion and social norms between the traditional East, and capitalised West there are dichotomies.
Despite Althusser’s earlier suggestion, he further says the imaginary does have a material existence. Mentioning that – walking down the street if you bump into somebody you would automatically apologise – then carry on, more aware of your surroundings. The imaginary ideology being, someone taught you to feel concern for others therefore you are aware of your social mistake. The material existence then is in the apology, and walking more cautiously. Thus, your ideology determines your actions. Althusser states these normative values form because:
‘Ideology interpellates us as subjects’ (p. 697). ‘Therefore, while we believe ourselves acting freely, we are in fact acting in the manner our cultural ideologies have taught us’.
He identified the ideology state apparatuses (p. 701) as the schools, churches, etcetera, that teach us right from wrong so reinforcing the social norms. Most of these institutions have guides, such as priests, teachers, or as my artefact the elders, who create and instruct these ideas. Moreover, this theory links to the Marxist approach; each culture/institution has a hierarchy governed by both the elite and the subordinate. I exposed this phenomenon in Simeon through his need to, and the satisfaction he has in providing for his community. Equally, I revealed his tenaciousness by showing how he still fulfils the requirements of his achieved status.
‘They never witnessed him lying in his own filth sweating through the pain of fever. All they saw was the man who would protect and provide, and he could still do that. This was the way that things should be.’ (p.22)
What is more, I depict the pressure he is under to appear strong even when things were at their bleakest. For example the story, The Time of the Lost Child, in the same series,
‘Why did nobody hold him as he wept? Why did no one hold him as he spoke of his hopes, dreams, and dreads? Why did no one look as he crept away a broken man?’ (p. 23).
Although the village systems were centuries old, they at times created unnecessary suffering through the pressure of conformity, and there was a need for change. I also wanted to show that such systems can merge with others and evolve into one more fitting to the current era. Even though Simeon’s society was changing, he was ignorant of and ignored by the progress in his own and the other society he encounters. Similarly, I also illustrated how, due to Simeon’s innate faith in the traditional ways of his spirituality, he also moulded himself. For example, during his joining ritual he perceived Ruth’s laughter as demonic interference – hence the happy event became tainted, ‘ the rot began .’ (p. 28)
Depicting his life journey like this demonstrated how self-assumptions created self-imposed responses to achieve what he felt to be his ascribed social role as a strong provider. Likewise, such responses created presumed expectations regarding both his assumed and ascribed social roles. By creating multiple points of view, I incorporated modernism, postmodernism, and the magical realism techniques. This layering created an unsettling surrealism within the real and as such an example of magical realism.
CHAPTER 3: HYBRIDITY, MYTHOLOGY. THE FAMISHED ROAD AND MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN
Although the term magical realism is oxymoronic in nature, it implies an opening for the inclusion of multiple worldviews, perspectives, genres, cultures, and worldwide discourse. As discussed previously, while this style of narrative is open to interpretation by everyone, it does not belong to any one particular culture or zeitgeist. This fact is highly noticeable in Okri’s text, The Famished Road. He opens his text with the passage,
‘In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry.’ (p. 3).
Okri sets up his story as a genesis tale, a myth, not just stylistically but in substance too. It invites the reader to read the many textual layers and accept the hybridity of the marvellous and mundane as normative.
It is apparent from the onset that Okri’s text is full of references to mythology, all mythology. Although he specifically references the Nigerian Yorùbá culture, he is at pains to point out that every culture, religion, and society its own mythology and origin story – signified here by the road branching out to the whole world. However, here he is also theoretically creating a universal hybridity; a fusing of identity, just as the genesis of all rivers is from one source, so, hypothetically, are all people. No matter their story, they all have marked similarities. They all have their own deities that peopled the world as a whole society and with rules to follow, hierarchies, and ideologies to which the people adhere. Though this structuring is universal, it is the tweaking of the individuals involved that makes such dogmas unique.
This narrative set in Nigeria is representative of a postcolonial society travelling in circles. This is where the concept of hybridity comes in as it sways between the ideas of the old and the new. The familial society encompasses the Yorùbá myth of the Abiku child, so born to die repeatedly. However, Okri makes it clear that he does not see the famished road as an emblematic representation of colonialism, the new politicians, Western commerce, or technology but rather:
‘ the stories and wisdoms, as power of the past which acts as a guide to the behaviour of the present.’ (Cooper, B. 2004.)
On balance, political constitutions are transitory, yet myths have endured for centuries, and helped shape collective identities more strongly than any political alliance could. In order to mimic Okri’s technique, and that of the Anasi oral tale, I created my own origin story involving the elements and the Wise Ones who guide the people. (p. 6). Moreover, by simultaneously positioning the text between reality and the world of dreams and nightmare I created a hybrid situation. Okri’s story has a fluid hybridity with Azaro having an uncertain existence caught between the dead the living, and those waiting to be re/born. Thus, depicting Nigerian past values and the present/new ones, which have yet to evolve. Thereby, he shows the circular reality of the Abiku oral tale.
As discussed earlier, the oral tale, magical realism, and the fairy-tale are timeless and limitless. Each holds facets to establishing microcosms, and as such, the interpellation of each member of these societies into their pre-destined rank, status, and expectations. Furthermore, through the evolution of a ‘smaller world’, creates an ideal to which world society aspires; so indicating that while not oral, cultural texts cross the boundaries of established socio -political/ ideological structuring, creating a universal identity of sorts.
I recreated this universal identity in my artefact, The Walking Winds, insofar as I created my own genesis story (p. 6). I also created a social communal dynamic and the expectations of the each member therein. Additionally, I wanted to explore the family unit and its arrangement within the community; is it uniformly in line with the past generational expectations? Alternatively, does the idiosyncratic tweaking of the individual members define the family as a different yet accepted piece in a complete unit?
To interrogate this phenomenon, I focused on Nelson’s family. As the eldest child, Simeon feels the pressure of being the pioneer for both his siblings and younger generation of the tribe. To this end, I wanted to portray the overwhelming pressure and need that Simeon has to surpass the expectations of his father, and yet still stay within the boundaries of tradition. Simeon has a lot to live up to with his father Nelson being a fair and benevolent chief. However, he is still subject to parental boundaries – as in any family – against which to rebel, such as accepting the decision to send his siblings to the town school thereby embracing Western principles and progress. I used foreshadowing to position Moses and Ruth as symbolically chasing this progress at the very beginning of the narrative, where they become lost in playful adventuring, subsequently meeting Harry and Jim. This meeting leads them on to the prospect of a westernised education, which Simeon believes will eventually overshadow traditional ideals.
‘The old is often lost in the excitement of the new, well you know how it is, .’ (p. 22).
Consequently, I showed not only his failings, such as jealousy and insecurity, but also his sense of loyalty, justice, and deep-rooted belief in the old ways. Additionally I portrayed how when overlooked these strong emotions can sour and darken into the unspeakable truths that such hurt precipitates. I disclosed this through Simeon’s hidden illness, ‘where the rot began in earnest’, (p. 28), as the shape-shifting demon Adzu took over his thoughts during his Joining Ceremony. Simeon is introduced very much as the as the antihero who rejects progressive ideals. Highlighting his blind dissatisfaction and other problems, I created tensions between his public person and private self, when he failed to catch the Springbok, (p. 5).
Rushdie similarly juxtaposed Saleem Sinai’s birth, as an individual, to coincide with the birth of Indian Independence, thus positioning him as representative of India in its entirety. However, as this is impossible it creates tension between Saleem’s individual and public life. India – boasting twenty-two official languages, and a diverse variety of religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, as well as many others – is a melting pot of magical realism. A fundamental component of magical realism is post-colonialism. Through Saleem’s worldview, Rushdie shows how individual relationships between the national collective — the public and private —influence one another. The influence of countless other colonising cultures over the millennia has created an accepted hybridity within Indian society.
This acceptance of others and their beliefs illustrates how magical realism jumps cultural as well as continental boundaries. Therefore, I added the eternal love story of Chinu?e and Atekeye. Furthermore, I included elements of Yorùbá superstition such as Emere the spirit of childhood, and Adzu the demon alongside the Buddhist concept of rebirth and accumulated karma, which effects new life cycles, and also the universally known Solomon as the tribes’ elemental spiritual guide.
Both Rushdie and Okri’s texts include the Bildungsroman, and the dualistic nature of identity. Additionally, they probe the notions of multiple planes of reality that blur the boundaries between the tangible and the ethereal – which I employed as a major feature in my own artefact. Like Rushdie and Okri, I wanted to investigate both the collective tribes and Simeon’s individual consciousness as they head toward social and progressive maturity.
Typically, magical realism plots use hybridity and multiple planes of reality set in such dichotomies such as the indigenous and the interloper. The individual/s involved could meet with two realistic situations occurring in the same place, but at different times. Such events might happen centuries apart or in different parts of the world by the same individual. By this practice, most postcolonial authors express profound truths concerning the reality of the new social ideologies; therefore, giving the subaltern a voice, and creating a deeper understanding cultural diversity better than any conventional text could.
I wanted to achieve this vocalisation in The Walking Winds; including elements of the western world, and Mozambique’s landscapes, customs and beliefs. In this way, I hoped to introduce the reader to Mozambique in all its layered complexities.
Simeon, as Azaro the Abiku hero in Okri’s text, has a spiritual-physical nature that completely alters the trajectory of the conventional Bildungsroman. Since he has a dual nature, he must develop both through the earthly and through the mythical realms to mature both metaphysically and socially. I wanted to achieve the same effects through the inclusion of mythical dimensions. Therefore, through redirecting the significance of the subjugating master, western ideals and any progress they might introduce, I focused on the traditional ideology.
To show the interconnectedness of magical realism I introduced the Baobab tree, the Tree of Life as the conduit for Simeon’s allegorical rebirth. The Tree of Life is indigenous to many cultures, including Assyria, Egypt, Christianity, the Celts, Islam, Judaism, the Mayans, and more. Therefore, I feel that many readers could intrinsically relate to its implied symbolism, and consequently the interconnectedness of the spiritual universe.