Magical Truth

Apologies for the tardy blog post–it won’t happen again.

Anyways, I felt rather confused about Alejo Carpentier’s book The Kingdom of This World. In fact, I feel similar to how I felt after reading the Master and Margarita. Confused, unsure of what to do next… novels like these just seem to go way over my head. I much prefer straightforward texts like Rousseau and Kant.

While I mull over those thoughts in my head, I have been thinking about magical realism. I remember listening to an interview of Reza Aslan for one of his new books where he talked about the significance of ancient Middle Eastern parables/stories, stories like Genesis and such. He said that history as we see it today did not exist as a concept in the ancient Semitic mind. If you were to go up to an ancient Judaean, say, and ask “What actually happened?”, you’d be met with a blank stare.That’s because the goal of “history”, to them, it not to present fact, but to present truth.

For instance, if I said along those lines, “Joe is so kind he’d give up his jacket to the homeless”, I’m not actually saying he would do that, but rather I’m trying to demonstrate the truth that he is extremely kind and unselfish.

I think this might be a good way of analyzing the events in not only this book but the Master and Margarita as well. For instance, if Macandal did not actually transform into all those animals, then what truth does this indicate about him? If Behemoth isn’t actually a demon at all, then what does he mean? What does all this so-called “magic” actually say about reality? Quite a bit, probably. But unfortunately, I haven’t been able to figure it out yet.

Brendan

One Comment

  1. Nice points here about expressing a kind of truth through narrative. I liked how this came up in class today with Macandal changing into animals. There is, I think, a sense in which the voudou ceremonies and some of the magic in the text may depict what some people at the time would have believed as true–they probably thought Macandal changed into animals, that spirits were helping them to win the war against the colonists, etc. So there might be a combination of the kind of truth you’re talking about and a sense of realism in terms of realistically portraying what may have been believed at the time. I’m not certain about this, but Macandal and Bouckman were considered to be voudou “priests” (not sure what the right word is in voudou), and after Boukman’s speech there is reported to have been a ceremony like the one in which they sacrifice the pig, to help call the spirits to help them.

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