The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from this site:


Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

For low prices on Las Vegas shows visit LasVegas.ShowTickets.com

You Say

Group Reads

The Tunnel

Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

Shop though these links = Support this site


Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

New Books
Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

New Books
See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
    Lance Olsen is the author of two recent works, [[there.]] and Theories of Forgetting (FC2). The second presents three narratives in a clearly fictional mode while the first offers day-to-day thoughts on living in another country. We rightly suspect that any artist’s memoir or diary ought to be viewed as written with a prospective public in mind, no matter ho […]
  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
    "It’s just one story. The oldest. . . . Light versus dark." Spanning 8 episodes between January and March of 2014, HBO’s runaway hit True Detective challenged the status quo of contemporary crime drama. The show has been widely celebrated for its philosophy, complexity, and visual aesthetic. Co-starring actors Matthew McConaughey as Rustin "Ru […]
  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
    Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (born 1940) is considered by many the living Iranian novelist, a perennial Nobel Prize candidate. Dowlatabadi wrote The Colonel some thirty years ago, because in his own words he had been “afflicted.” The subject forced him to sit at the desk and write nonstop for two years. “Writing The Colonel I felt a strong sense of indignation and pa […]
  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
    For Jenny Erpenbeck, no life is lived in an indisputable straight line. Which is why, in her new novel (new in English, though published in 2012 as Aller Tage Abend) she approaches the narrative as a series of potential emotional earthquakes, some which take place, some which might have taken place, all of which reveal something of how political turbulence p […]
  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
    Once, at a writers symposium, William Howard Gass remarked that to substitute the page for the world is a form of revenge for the recognition that "you are, in terms of the so-called world, an impotent nobody." There is inarguably no contemporary writer of American stock in whose work one might locate a more ambitious war of attrition between innov […]
  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
    Luiselli’s first novel, Faces in the Crowd, translated into fluid English by Christina MacSweeney, is the perfect illustration of this attitude toward fiction writing. Narrated in short sections spanning multiple storylines and the better part of one hundred years, it uses "[d]eep excavations" to expose the empty spaces in two lives, those of a you […]

The Real Inventor of Magical Realism

From the NYRB's review of the current Garcia Marquez bio:

García Márquez popularized the style, but he was not its inventor, and One Hundred Years of Solitude would not have been possible without his hav- ing studied, at Carlos Fuentes's urging, the works of an older generation of Spanish-American writers who were magic realism's pioneers, among them Alejo Carpentier and Miguel Asturias.[3] It is remarkable that so little influence on his writing is credited to his Latin American precursors. This is partly because García Márquez himself has been reluctant to give them their due. At times he seems to enjoy casting himself as the magician who created a new Spanish-American literature out of thin air.

The footnote embedded in the paragraph informs us that

[3]The Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier coined the term— lo real maravilloso—in 1949 to describe what he thought of as his variation on French Surrealism. Miguel Angel Asturias's phantasmagoric novel about a dictator, El Señor Presidente (1946), was the prototype for García Márquez's The Autumn of the Patriarch. In 1967, Asturias, a Guatemalan, became the first Latin American novelist to be awarded the Nobel Prize. García Márquez was awarded the prize in 1982.

Read Alejo Carpentier.

You Might Also Like:

More from Conversational Reading:

  1. The Long Arm of Coincidence, the Involuntary Memory Andrew Seal gives me another excuse to talk about Alejo Carpentier by putting up a splendid quote from an essay on Carpentier by Paul...
  2. Carpientier in The Guardian In The Guardian, Leonardo Padura recommends you read Alejo Carpentier. I wholeheartedly agree: 1. Explosion in a Cathedral (El siglo de las luces) by Alejo...
  3. Latin American Fiction Beyond Marquez There's not much benefit in certain people's infatuation with reporting every last remark Gabriel Garcia Marquez might have made, but at least one good thing...
  4. Dominating Figures Via the Literary Saloon, I read: Several of the authors have spent a considerable amount of time in New York and Lago, who has been...
  5. Realism vs Non I think Dan’s got a point. As long as such fiction does not unsettle established conventions of craft and decorum too severely (as long as...

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

11 comments to The Real Inventor of Magical Realism

  • By lo real maravilloso Carpentier did not mean exactly what the English “translation” magical realism conveys, but rather something more like heightened realism; there is nothing in Carpentier’s work that is very much like GGM’s 100 Years).

  • Cesar Bruto

    Michael Greenberg is incorrect. G.G. Marquez has credited Alejo Carpentier.

  • Xensen,
    I don’t think Greenberg is claiming that Carpentier wrote a book like 100 Years, otherwise Garcia Marquez would simply be derivative. But his fiction clearly does presage a lot of what Garcia Marquez and other Boom novelists were engaged in.

  • Cesar,
    Do you have a citation for that?

  • I thought surely Juan Rulfo’s novel, Pedro Paramo, would make an appearance in this discussion.

  • Cesar Bruto

    Scott,
    I will check my library. It’s got to be in either the Paris Review book of Latin American interviews, or in Vivir para Contarla, or in Donoso’s book about the Boom.

  • Molly is correct that Rulfo is an important influence on Fuentes and to some degree all the boom writers. I think Carpentier’s influence is significantly stronger on Fuentes than on GGM. Asturias is certainly another important predecessor, although also a bit of an outlier in some respects. Cortazar is another influence who might be mentioned (BTW, I have translated books by several of these). My main point was just that the English term magical realism has come to be used in a very different way from the way Alejo used realismo magico, and this sometimes leads English-language readers astray.

  • Xensen,
    I agree with your differentiation of magical realism and realismo magico, and it’s a good point.
    Certainly Rulfo would be another influence, although I don’t quite see how Cortazar would be an influence, since he’s generally acknowledged as one of the major Boom writers and a contemporary of Garcia Marquez and Fuentes. I suppose you’re talking in terms of cross-pollination, as the Boom writers evolved throughout their careers?

  • Cortazar is nearly a generation older than Garcia M. and Fuentes.

  • Mary Averett

    I recall reading Wilder’s Bridge at San Luis Rey, published in 1927 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Never expecting the feel of this book, I wondered about magical realism, and where the influence came for this book, since my experience with it has been via Garcia Marques who wrote much later. Has anyone made that connection?

  • There are so many precedents: Borges, Bioy Casares, Kafka (translated by Borges), Rulfo, Horacio Quiroga, Carpentier, Mário de Andrade, Lugones’ “Strange Forces…” There was just something in the air in the 1920s and 1930s from which magical realism evolved.

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>