Elements of magical realism in Zakes Mda's novel She plays with the darkness


Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2005
22 Pages, Grade: 2,0

Excerpt

Content

I Introduction

II Elements of Magical Realism in Zakes Mda’s novel She plays with the darkness
1 Origin and history of magical realism
2 Characteristics of magical realism
3 Elements of magical realism in She plays with the darkness
3.1 Main characteristics of magical realism in She plays with the darkness
3.2 Secondary characteristics of magical realism in She plays with the darkness

III Conclusion

IV Bibliography

I Introduction

Magical realism is a artistic streaming in literature and painting that began in the 1920s.Today magical realism is especially associated with Latin America. Very often this fiction is written in reaction to political events.

In the seminar ‘Magic Realism in recent British and South African Novels’ we talked about characteristics of magical realism and read several abstracts of British and South African novels and the novel Nights at the circus by Angela Carter.

In reference to this seminar I’ll write this paper. Therefore I would like to deal with the relatively current novel She plays with the darkness by Zakes Mda.

The novel deals with two main characters Dikosha and her twin brother Radisene. When they were children they both lived in a mountain village Ha Samane in South Africa nearby town Maseru. As they get older Radisane leaves the village and goes to the lowlands to go to school there, and works there after leaving school. Dikosha, who is very beautiful, lives for dancing and for singing songs. Years are passing by and Radisene’s fortune, as a kind of lawyer of an insurance company, rises and falls in the city amid of several political coups. While Dikosha stays in the mountain village, which she never leaves. She never ages.

The author of She plays with the darkness, Zakes Mda, which is his nickname, was born in Herschel in the province Eastern Cape in South Africa in 1948. His actual name is Zanemvula Gatyeni Mda which means in his mothertangue ‘the one who came with the rain’. Mda belongs to the most famous romancers and theatre authors of South Africa. He spent his childhood in Soweto. His father had to go into exile in Lesotho and his family followed him.

They had to go into exile because Zakes Mda’s father, Ashby P. Mda, was an antiapartheid activist and was a member, co-founder and president of the ANC (African National Congress Youth League). Mda went to school in Lesotho. He published his first short story at the age of 13 in his mother tongue.[1]

In 1963 Zakes Mda immigrated to the USA because of political reasons. In the USA he studied at the University of Ohio. In the 70s and 80s he helped to establish the South African theatre as an author and a scientist. In 1990 he conferred at the University of Cape Town. After 32 years of living in exile, he came back to South Africa in 1995. In the 90s Mda started to concentrate on novels. He received several prices for his novels and theatre plays e.g. the Olive Schreiner Prize for Ways of Dying and the Sunday Times Fiction Award for The heart of Redness in 2001.[2]

Mda is teaching at several universities in the USA and South Africa. He lives in Ohio and Johannesburg. He works also as a composer, a painter, a film-maker, rears bees and is in charge of the Southern African Multimedia AIDS Trust in Sophiatown, Johannesburg.[3]

In the first subpoint of my paper I will deliver an insight in the origin and history of magical realism.

After this I will mention the main and secondary characteristics of magical realism. This subpoint is based on the essay Scheherazade’s children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction by Wendy B. Faris.

Elements of magical realism in She plays with the darkness, which I will deal with in subpoint 3, will be the focus of my paper. The subpoint is divided into two parts: 3.1. deals with the main and 3.2. with the secondary characteristics of magical realism in She plays with the darkness. The characteristics that are found in the novel will be in the same order, as they were listed up in subpoint 1.

At the end of this essay you can find a conclusion and a bibliography.

II Elements of Magical Realism in Zakes Mda’s novel She plays with the darkness

1 Origin and history of magical realism

The term magical realism has its origin in fine arts in the 1920s. The paintings of this time have a magical unreal construction.

In literature magical realism starts in 1945, especially in Latin American literature. The real world is presented as a folio of another, magical world.[4] In opposite to this statement, Maggie Ann Bowers, sets the beginning of magical realism 25 years earlier with three turning points:

“The first period is set in Germany in the 1920s, the second period in Central America in the 1940s and the third period, beginning in 1955 in Latin America, continues internationally to this day.”[5]

Furthermore Bowers sees the duration of this literary period as a spanning of eight decades.

Ancestors of magical realism are actually found in the ancient world. But hereby the fantastic serves exclusive the amplification of an argument or a joke. The prime of magical realism was in the 1960s and 1970s in Latin-America. In these years the postcolonial experiences lead to discrepancies between the culture of the technique and the superstition.[6]

A statement of John Barth let to worldwide recognition of magical realism in 1980. He said that he would reject membership in any writer’s club “that did not include Gabriel García Màrquez”.[7]

The Nobel Prize winner for literature, Gabriel García Màrquez, is one of the main represents of magical realism. His family epic Cien anos de soledad (1967) is one the climax of this literature direction.[8]

Although magical realism is today associated with Latin America, “many of its influences can be traced to European literature […].”[9] In the West the category of magical realism can be characterize as a significant body, in the time of postmodernism.[10] Outside Latin America the work of the Italian Italo Calvino and of the Indian Salman Rushdie (Midnights Children, 1981) influenced magical realism. Although there was not as much significance of magical realism in the 1980s than the years before, works like Nights at the Circus (1984) by Angela Carter show still the influences of magical realism.[11]

2 Characteristics of magical realism

In general one can say that magical realism is a combination of realism and fantastic ideas in a way that magical elements are portrayed as reality.[12] Fiction of magical realism often seems more popular than modernist fiction. That could have the reason that these text cater with unidirectional story lines, what modernists text didn’t do. This satisfies the readers desire to read what happens next.[13]

In magical realism the realistic narration is mixed with fantastic and supernatural elements. Hereby a decline of the familiar imagination of reality leads often to a challenge of the truth in general.

Wendy B. Faris makes a list of five primary characteristics that appear in magical realist fiction.

The main characteristic is that this fiction contains an “irreducible element” of magic. This element cannot be explained by logical rules as we know them.[14] The magic in fiction that cannot be ignored doesn’t fit together with the ordinary logic. Magical things seem to happen in reality. This fact leads to that the reality can seem ridiculous. “This is often because the reactions of ordinary people to these magical events reveal behaviours that we recognize and that disturb us.”[15]

[...]


[1] Zakes, Mda’: www.unionsverlag.com/info/persinfo.asp?pers_id=1575&title=Zusatinformationen&type=addinfo (10.10.05)

[2] ibid. www.unionsverlag.com

[3] ibid. www.unionsverlag.com

[4] cp. ‚Magischer Realismus’ Encarta Enzyklopädie. 1998. 1993 – 1997 Microsoft Corporation. Köln 1997.

[5] cp. Browers, Maggie Ann: Magical Realism, London, New York, Routledge 2004, p. 8.

[6] cp. ‚Magischer Realismus’ Encarta Enzyklopädie. 1998.

[7] Faris, Wendy B.: Scheherazade’s children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction. In: Magical Realism ed. by Zamora, Lois Parkinson, Durham 1995, p. 163 – 190, p. 163.

[8] cp. ‚Magischer Realismus’ Encarta Enzyklopädie. 1998.

[9] cp. Browers, Maggie Ann: Magical Realism, p. 9.

[10] Zamora, Lois Parkinson (Hrsg.): Magical Realism, p. 165.

[11] cp. ‚Magischer Realismus’ Encarta Enzyklopädie. 1998.

[12] Zamora, Lois Parkinson (Hrsg.): Magical Realism, p. 163.

[13] Ibid.: p. 163.

[14] Zamora, Lois Parkinson (Hrsg.): Magical Realism, p. 167.

[15] Ibid.: p. 168.

Excerpt out of 22 pages

Details

Title
Elements of magical realism in Zakes Mda's novel She plays with the darkness
College
University of Duisburg-Essen
Course
Magic Realism in Recent British and South African Novels
Grade
2,0
Author
Year
2005
Pages
22
Catalog Number
V66854
ISBN (eBook)
9783638592406
ISBN (Book)
9783638688741
File size
511 KB
Language
English
Notes
Die Arbeit stellt Charakteristika des Magischen Realismus dar und erläutert im Anschluss Elemente dieser Literaturrichtung aus dem Roman "She plays with the darkness" by Zakes Mda.
Tags
Elements, Zakes, Magic, Realism, Recent, British, South, African, Novels
Quote paper
Janine Diedrich (Author), 2005, Elements of magical realism in Zakes Mda's novel She plays with the darkness, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/66854

Comments

  • guest on 9/19/2008

    Elements of magical realism in zakes Mda'snovel she plays with the darkness.

    Dear Madam/Sir,
    I wish to indicate that I was very impressed with your article.I am a ph.D student working on Zakes Mda's novels and I dont have access to material especially on the net because we do not use the credit card system in cameroon nor Euros.I am desperate for this article.What can I do?Please help me.waiting.
    Thank you in advance

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