In 1929 Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz was not only compared to Ulysses but also hailed as a prime example of the postwar movement called magic realism. This junction led directly to landmark magic realist texts by Günter Grass, Gabriel García Márquez, and Salman Rushdie, who adopted Joyce's strategies because they faced the same problem he did: how to represent the unimaginable violence of their times. Joyce taught them how to bear witness to contemporary events while impugning their own testimony. In Ulysses and its successors, an ironic combination of symbolism and realism locates multiple secular meanings in specific historical events. Secular excess replaces divine plenitude. The absence of a consistent authorial voice prevents readers from determining a hierarchy of significance. Exaggerated correlations between individual lives and public events aggrandize the former and domesticate the latter. Terrible events are described comically, and everyday matters are treated as portents. The echoes of Ulysses in magic realism amplify its irony and dispel the primitivist tendency to interpret the fantasy in later texts as evidence of indigenous belief in supernatural forces.
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Research Article| June 01 2009
The German Detour from Ulysses to Magic Realism
Modern Language Quarterly (2009) 70 (2): 245–268.
Joyce Wexler; The German Detour from Ulysses to Magic Realism. Modern Language Quarterly 1 June 2009; 70 (2): 245–268. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-2008-039
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