Elements of ontological magical realism in Ibi Zoboy's American Street





ontological magical realism, American Street, magic, spirit of Papa Legba, migration, microhistory


The article explores the novel American Street by contemporary US writer of Haitian origin Ibi Zoboy from the perspective of using the technique of magical realism. The novel embraces magic, faith in spirits, otherworldly forces as well as strategies of realism. The narrative mode of magic realism dominates in postcolonial writings as well as in fictional works that describe migration experience. The development of magical realism in different national traditions caused its variety and diverse forms of expression. Therefore, in this paper, the term magic realism or marvelous realism is considered from different theoretical perspectives. The term and the phenomenon it denotes started its history from the Weimar Republic modernist movement when German art critic Franz Roh coined the term. Then, in 1955 the narrative mode of magic realism became popular in Latin America. Alejo Carpentier, Angel Flores underlined that it is different from its European counterpart as its main task is to express the unique and extraordinary reality of Latin America. They argued that magic and magical elements are derived from the 'supernatural' elements of 'local' or 'indigenous' myths, religions and cultures. Moreover, magical realism relies upon the presentation of the imagined or magical as if they were real.
The article focuses on how these different definitions are related and discussed by various theoreticians. It is concluded that the most relevant is Echevarría’s typology. He differentiated two kinds of magical realism: the ontological and the epistemological. Ontological magical realism has as its material beliefs or practices from the cultural context in which the text is set.
The author considers the notion of ontological magical realism to analyse Ibi Zoboy’s novel American Street, in which magical beliefs and rituals help the main character survive in a difficult situation. It is emphasized that the religious component is an important part of migration fictional discourse.


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