Magical Realism: a Narrative of Celebration or Disillusionment? South African literature in the transition period

Paulina Grzeda


This article discusses the emergence of magical realism as a narrative form that was embraced by a number of South African writers in the times of transition and became increasingly attuned to express South African writing sensibility of the period. It argues that, straddling realist and postmodern narrative strands, by reconciling the realism's faithfulness to the socio-political context and the postmodern devotion to formal experimentation, syncretism and meta-fiction, magical realism simultaneously relies heavily on African oral traditions, and in doing so, it not only constitutes a point of confluence of black and white writing of the apartheid era, but it also epitomises reconciliation of Eurocentric Western rationalism and African tradition. While discussing magic realism in relation to the post-apartheid novels of André Brink and Zakes Mda, this article points towards the possible origins of the proliferation of South African texts embracing this narrative mode in the period directly following the demise of apartheid, as well as the possible reasons behind the gradual abandonment of magical realist strategy in post-millennial South African fiction. Thus, South African magical realist texts will be positioned at the intersection between literature of celebration and literature of disillusionment, emerging out of the short-lived coexistence of the two literary trends in South African literary history.


André Brink, dystopia, literature of disillusionment, literature of celebration, magical realism, Zakes Mda, South African history, South African literature, transition

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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