Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse 9781138553484

Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse makes a dual intervention in both world literature and ec

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Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse
 9781138553484

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Dedication
Contents
Acknowledgements
Introduction: A Crisis of Imagination
1 ‘Expanded reality’: Alexis Wright’s Revitalisation of Dreamtime Narratives
2 Sublime Wilderness: Embracing the Non-Human in Richard Flanagan’s Tasmania
3 ‘The oneness is still with us’: Oceanic Mythology in Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider
4 ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’: Reconciliation in Keri Hulme’s The Bone People
5 Mosquitoes and Malaria: Counter-Science and Colonial Archives in Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome
6 Purity and Parody: Mo Yan’s Resistance to Western Magical Realism in Pursuit of His Own Chinese Style
7 Planetary Perspective: Addressing Climate Change in Wu Ming-yi’s The Man with the Compound Eyes
8 Conclusion
Index

Citation preview

Climate and Crises

Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse makes a dual intervention in both world literature and ecocriticism by examining magical realism as an international style of writing that has long-standing links with environmental literature. The book argues that, in the era of climate change, when humans are facing the prospect of species extinction, new ideas and new forms of expression are required to address what the novelist Amitav Gosh calls a “crisis of imagination.” Magical realism enables writers to portray alternative intellectual paradigms, ontologies and epistemologies that typically contest the scientific rationalism derived from the European Enlightenment and the exploitation of natural resources associated with both capitalism and imperialism. Climate and Crises explores the overlaps between magical realism and environmental literature, including their respective transgressive natures, which dismantle binaries (such as human and non-human); a shared biocentric perspective that focusses on the interconnectedness of all things in the universe; and, frequently, a critique of postcolonial legacies in formerly colonised territories. The book also challenges conventional conceptions of magical realism, arguing that they are often influenced by a geographic bias in the construction of the orthodox global canon, and instead examines contemporary fiction from Asia (including China) and Australasia, two regions that have been largely neglected by scholarship of the narrative mode. As a result, the monograph modifies and expands our ideas of what magical realist fiction is. “Holgate’s study of the relations between magical realism and ecological issues has valuable things to teach us about both discourses. In a series of detailed, persuasive readings, Holgate shows just how central a theme the environment has been in magical realism, and just how much magical realism has to tell us about the environment and our relations with it. This book will set the standard for current research into magical realism.” Dr Christopher Warnes (St John’s College, University of Cambridge), author of Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel: Between Faith and Irreverence

“The most exciting recent scholarship on magical realism expands beyond the previously exclusive focus on postcolonial political concerns into areas such as trauma theory, post-Memorial Holocaust literature, historicism, religion, YA and children’s literature, and, now, ecocriticism. Holgate is one of the first scholars to seriously explore the intersection of ecocriticism and magical realism. Additionally, Holgate undertakes the much-needed focus on magical realism’s development in Australasia and Asia. Because of the direction magical realist scholarship is heading and because of the gaps this book fills, Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse is timely and will certainly impact future scholarship.” Associate Professor Kim Anderson Sasser (Wheaton College), author of Magical Realism and Cosmopolitanism: Strategizing Belonging “Holgate’s study is both timely and innovative. It examines the often-overlooked traces of environmentalism in magical realism, drawing upon significant contemporary postcolonial and indigenous works from Asia and Australasia. Holgate has a knack to produce work that is carefully researched and written in a considered and accessible style.” Dr Maggie Bowers (University of Portsmouth), author of Magic(al) Realism Ben Holgate is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London. Previously, he was Associate Lecturer in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in English from the University of Oxford.

Routledge Studies in World Literatures and the Environment

Captivity Literature and the Environment Nineteenth-Century American Cross-Cultural Collaborations Kyhl D. Lyndgaard Ecogothic in Nineteenth-Century American Literature Edited by Dawn Keetley and Matthew Wynn Sivils The Ecophobia Hypothesis Simon Estok The Radical Ecology of the Shelleys Eros and Environment Colin Carman Roads, Mobility, and Violence in Indigenous Literature and Art from North America Deena Rymhs Human Minds and Animal Stories How Narratives Make Us Care About Other Species Wojciech Małecki, Piotr Sorokowski, Bogusław Pawłowski, and Marcin Cieński Climate and Crises Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse Ben Holgate

Climate and Crises Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse

Ben Holgate

First published 2019 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2019 Taylor & Francis The right of Ben Holgate to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data CIP data has been applied for. ISBN: 978-1-138-55348-4 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-14862-5 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by codeMantra

To Ellie and Joy For their planetary perspectives To Ted For the gift of reading

Contents

Acknowledgements

xi

Introduction: A Crisis of Imagination 1 1 ‘Expanded reality’: Alexis Wright’s Revitalisation of Dreamtime Narratives 42 2 Sublime Wilderness: Embracing the Non-Human in Richard Flanagan’s Tasmania 73 3 ‘The oneness is still with us’: Oceanic Mythology in Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider 95 4 ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’: Reconciliation in Keri Hulme’s The Bone People 113 5 Mosquitoes and Malaria: Counter-Science and Colonial Archives in Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome 134 6 Purity and Parody: Mo Yan’s Resistance to Western Magical Realism in Pursuit of His Own Chinese Style 159 7 Planetary Perspective: Addressing Climate Change in Wu Ming-yi’s The Man with the Compound Eyes 208 8 Conclusion 225 Index

233

Acknowledgements

The genesis of this book has gone through three distinct phases. The initial and, admittedly, vague gestation began within a master’s thesis on magical realism in contemporary Australian fiction at the University of Sydney. For that period I am grateful for the support and encouragement of Brigid Rooney and Robert Dixon. The second phase was as a doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford that explores the narrative mode in Asia and Australasia. For that time I am thankful for various kinds of help from Elleke Boehmer, Gillian Hamnett, Margaret Hillenbrand, Michelle Kelly, Hermione Lee, Marina Mackay, Ankhi Mukherjee and Fiona Wilkes, among others. The third and final phase was as a substantially revised and extended version of the doctoral thesis that brought to the foreground magical realism’s significant crossovers with environmental literature. I am indebted to Christopher Warnes for his insights and suggestions on how to frame the monograph, for his reading of the Introduction chapter and for his ongoing mentoring. Similarly, I want to specially thank Patrick Hayes for his sustained advice and support in general, and his acute perceptions on how to strengthen the Amitav Ghosh chapter. Other people who have provided greatly appreciated help either for this book or for building a career as a literature academic (or both) include David Attwell and Claire Chambers (at the University of York), David Damrosch and Delia Ungureanu (at Harvard’s Institute for World Literature), Richard Flanagan, Paul Giles, Stefan Helgesson, Kim Anderson Sasser and Galin Tihanov. I had the pleasure of devising and teaching a new module on magical realist fiction for postgraduate students at the University of York in 2018. The course included several of the key texts in this monograph. The experience not only benefitted the fine-tuning of this book but also demonstrated how popular and engaging magical realist fiction remains in the world at large. My thanks to these students for their countless fascinating insights and comments as well as their interesting essays on the topic. In a similar vein, credit and thanks are due to Christinna Hobbs and Jennifer O’Reilly for organising the conference “Reality, Interrupted: New Perspectives on Magical Realism” at Liverpool John

xii Acknowledgements Moores University in July 2018, which revealed a diverse array of fresh and exciting approaches that scholars are bringing to the field – this augurs well for future critical works. At Routledge I want to thank my editor, Michelle Salyga, for commissioning this book and being a delight to work with, as well as ­Bryony Reece, for invaluable help during production. Thanks also to the ­anonymous readers of the manuscript and their very helpful suggestions about improving the book. Finally, my heartfelt thanks to my wife, Joy, and daughter, Ellie, for their support and willingness to trek to the other side of the Earth. Parts of this monograph have previously appeared as journal articles or book chapters, although in different forms and shorter lengths than the chapters here. My thanks to the publishers below for allowing me to republish the material. Chapter One “Unsettling Narratives: Re-evaluating Magical Realism as Postcolonial Discourse through Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria and The Swan Book.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 51.6 (2015): 634–647. Chapter Two “Developing Magical Realism’s Irony in Gould’s Book of Fish.” JASAL (Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature) 14.5 (2014). Online. “Greening a Narrative Mode: Antipodean Magical Realism and Ecocriticism in Richard Flanagan’s Fiction.” In Richard Flanagan: Critical Essays. Edited by Robert Dixon, 43–58. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2018. Chapter Five “The Calcutta Chromosome in a Magical Realism Course.” In Approaches to Teaching the Works of Amitav Ghosh. Edited by Gaurav Desai and John Hawley, 160–165. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2019.

Introduction A Crisis of Imagination

In Gabriel García Márquez’s seminal magical realist novel, One ­Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), a group of “gringo” engineers, agronomists, hydrologists, topographers and surveyors invade the Columbian village of Macondo on a stealth mission to change the physical landscape for commercial gain. At first the locals have no idea what they are doing, wondering if they might even be “philanthropists,” but soon realise the “foreigners who arrived by train from halfway around the world” would cause a “colossal disturbance.” “Endowed with means that had been reserved for Divine Providence in former times, they changed the pattern of the rains, accelerated the cycle of the harvests, and moved the river from where it had always been.”1 The Americans create the environmental upheaval in order to establish a banana plantation for a multinational agribusiness, which culminates in social and economic degradation for the village and its indigenous inhabitants. Pointedly, the gringos build their own separate town in which to live, keeping the locals out with electrified chicken wire, and fashion a manufactured urban habitat with palm trees, expensive lawns and electric fan cooling. The episode can be read in a political context, as a resistance against a dominating power, which is a common characteristic in magical realist fiction. The banana company symbolises foreign occupation, by economic means, eventually suppressing striking workers through a brutal massacre meted out by the complicit government’s army. On the other hand, the plantation can also be read as environmental criticism. For the foreigners exhibit the belief that humans have an inalienable right to alter the environment, both for commercial profit and for private pleasure. Post-industrial humans, possessed with “divine” powers, act like gods by manipulating the non-human for their own benefit. In contrast, Macondo’s residents previously lived in a pre-industrial, natural arcadia. Indeed, the novel’s opening alludes to the village originally being a kind of prelapsarian paradise: the river has “clear water” (read: unpolluted) and white, enormous “polished stones” that are like “prehistoric eggs.” Many objects even lack names, implying an unspoilt, new world. 2 One Hundred Years of Solitude highlights how magical realist fiction and environmental literature have a long tradition of overlapping.

2 Introduction Other examples abound. In Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World (1949), the slave Macandal is crippled after his arm is mangled in machinery at a sugar cane plantation in Haiti. Macandal escapes and commences fighting as a revolutionary against the French occupiers, attacking the colonised landscape by poisoning the grass, crops and livestock. Moreover, Macandal’s supernatural powers enable him to metamorphose into different animals, such as birds, fish and insects, and evade capture, thereby breaking down the human-animal binary. Miguel Angel Asturias’s Men of Maize (1949) is set among fields of maize and sugar cane tended by Guatemalan Indian farmers who battle the descendants of Spanish colonists. The novel’s multiple stories depict “the ravages of capitalism” and the “new modes of exploitation” that damage human relations. 3 Asturias explores what happens to native peoples when they lose their links to the land, community and ancestral customs. Maize, says the character Benito Ramos, “should be planted … to give the family its grub, and not for business.”4 Magical realism as environmental discourse is by no means confined to canonical Latin American texts. Nigerian Ben Okri’s The Famished Road (1991), for instance, features a forest that is divided by a road and continually encroached by urban development and housing. “It seemed that the trees, feeling that they were losing the argument with human beings, had simply walked deeper into the forest,” says the narrator, the spirit-child Azaro. 5 The forest is the habitat of spirits and the site of traditional knowledge, contrasting with the politically corrupt world of the city at the time of Nigerian independence. Indigenous Australian Alexis Wright similarly portrays corrupt political and commercial collusion in Carpentaria (2006), in which a multinational mining company pollutes the land and sea in Northern Australia, and ignores Indigenous land rights.6 At the other end of the Australian continent, Booker Prize-winner Richard Flanagan utilises the remote, rugged wilderness in the south-west of the island state of Tasmania in Death of a River Guide (1994) and Gould’s Book of Fish (2001) as a metaphorical and geographically literal site for spiritual redemption, in which humans and the environment intersect. New Zealander Māori Witi Ihimaera explores environmental degradation in The Whale Rider (1987) through the hunting of whales and overfishing as well as nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean. Mo Yan, the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, celebrates the spiritual, cultural and nutritious value of the cultivated sorghum fields in Red Sorghum (1987).7 What we find in these texts and others are four commonalities of magical realist fiction and environmental literature. First is a postcolonial perspective, with writers frequently reacting against colonial legacies. Magical realist fiction often emanates from formerly colonised territories, such as Central America, South America, North America, South Africa, West Africa, the Caribbean, India, Australia and New Zealand. Elleke

Introduction  3 Boehmer describes the link between the development of magical realist fiction and postcolonial literature to be “inextricable.”8 Homi Bhabha proclaims that magical realism has become “the literary language of the emergent postcolonial world.”9 Christopher Warnes declares that magical realism “fulfils its creative and critical potential to the fullest” in its “postcolonial incarnations.”10 Environmental criticism acknowledges what Alfred Crosby calls “ecological imperialism,” the process by which European colonial powers conquered the Americas, Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand and other territories by imposing not only foreign peoples and philosophies but also animals, plants and ideas in order to exploit the natural environment for economic profit.11 The “triumph” of European colonists in these territories over their indigenous populations, as Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin point out, was effected through environmental, and hence cultural, derangement premised on both ontological and epistemological differences about what it is to be human and animal. “The ultimate irony of this hegemonic triumph is that in the twenty-first century the West is increasingly attempting to re-think and re-capture practices generated through the very respect for animals and nature that the early settlers so righteously scorned.”12 This last point reflects a second commonality between the two kinds of writing: a desire by authors to develop new kinds of expression and language in order to portray ideas and ways of seeing the world that counter dominant ontologies and epistemologies, usually the scientific rationalism that was a consequence of the European Enlightenment, which views humans and the environment as being separate. Magical realism presents the magical or the unreal in an ordinary, everyday manner, such that the real and the unreal are juxtaposed. The effect is to defamiliarise events or objects so the reader views them in a new light. Environmental literature typically prioritises the environment – ­wilderness, rural, urban, sea or atmosphere – as being fundamental to human existence, rather than a milieu to be manipulated by humans for their own purposes. The third common factor is a biocentric perspective or a focus on the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. Magical realist fiction explores what critics have called a third plane or third space that lies between the real and the unreal or the intersection of seemingly disparate or oppositional elements. The philosophical foundation of environmental literature is that everything is interrelated. This shared biocentric point of view presents humanity as merely one element of the universe. In contrast, the European Enlightenment and Western philosophy generally are largely anthropocentric, positioning humanity at the centre of the universe. Fourth, magical realism and environmental literature share a transgressive nature that dismantles binaries, such as human and non-human, and animate and inanimate. Despite a long tradition of magical realist fiction and environmental literature overlapping, there is a paucity of scholarship exploring links

4 Introduction between the two. Begoña Simal, one of the few critics of magical realism to do so, says “little (if any) research has been devoted to exploring the precise interconnections between ecocritical writings and magical realist motifs.”13 Simal’s analysis, although limited to how US “ethnic” writers of magical realism deal with the environment, points out how the two styles of writing “concur” with one another. A non-realistic mode like magical realism helps environmental criticism deconstruct assumed, normative conventions due to its “fluidity of realms” and capacity to break down boundaries. In magical realist texts humans may metamorphose into animals, inanimate beings or the environment, while animals or natural elements (like mountains, lakes or rivers) may be literally endowed with human or animate characteristics. “In rendering literal – not just metaphorical – the intermingling of organic and inorganic, human and nonhuman realms, magical realism proves highly amenable to the ecocentric and biocentric agendas,” says Simal.14 One possible reason for the lack of scholarship exploring links between magical realism and environmental literature is the temporal difference: critical theory of the former started almost a century ago, whereas environmental criticism, or ecocriticism, as an established branch of literary criticism began around four decades ago. German art critic Franz Roh is generally credited with coining the term magic realism in 1925 to identify a Post-Expressionism trend in European visual art. Roh chose the word “magic” to indicate a “mystery” that “does not descend to the represented world, but rather hides and palpitates behind it.”15 Italian critic and writer Massimo Bontempelli then applied the term realismo magico, or ‘magical realism,’ to both visual art and literature in his bilingual (Italian and French) journal 900.Novocento in the late 1920s. Bontempelli used the term to highlight “the sense of magic discovered in the everyday life of man and things,” and enlarged the scope of magical realism, compared to Roh, by including the portrayal of magical events with realistic techniques.16 It wasn’t until five decades later that William Rueckert coined the term ecocriticism in 1978 to refer to the application of “ecological concepts to the reading, teaching, and writing about literature.” Rueckert emphasised the distinction between a biocentric vision and an anthropocentric vision, which he described as humanity’s “tragic flaw” involving a “compulsion to conquer, humanize, domesticate, violate, and exploit every natural thing.”17 Subsequently, the field of environmental literary studies was planted in the 1980s and started growing in the 1990s, especially with the formation of the US-based Association for the Study of Literature and Environment in 1992.18 In other words, the different temporal developments in critical theory on the two kinds of writing may partly explain why there have been few attempts to approach them in tandem. Another plausible reason is that both magical realism and environmental criticism are amorphous, if not vague, literary terms and their meanings often hotly debated by critics.

Introduction  5 Although I will address the definitions of each term shortly, at this point it is worth noting that the ambiguity surrounding both areas of literary theory may have provided a disincentive or a hurdle for critics to explore them together. Regardless, such a critical inquiry is overdue and, more important, timely. When García Márquez was writing about ecological imperialism and banana plantations, he would not have understood the magnitude of the historical epoch in which he was living. It was not until the late twentieth century that scientists, historians, philosophers and others began to recognise the scale of the environmentally harmful cumulative effects of industrialisation. The 1980s was the critical turning point, a decade which saw the introduction of concepts such as the thinning ozone layer (which absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation), global warming (which denotes the increase in global surface temperature due to human emissions of greenhouse gases) and climate change (which describes long-term changes in the Earth’s climate). Now, in the early twenty-first century, there is widespread, rational fear around the world that humans may have created the conditions for their own extinction. The sense of collective urgency was symbolised by the historic Paris Agreement, struck under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) in October 2016, in which 194 nations signed up to jointly combat climate change and deal with its effects. The warning by China’s President Xi Jinping, during an address to the UN in January 2017, articulates global sentiment: Man coexists with nature, which means that any harm to nature will eventually come back to haunt man. We hardly notice natural resources such as air, water, soil and blue sky when we have them. But we won’t be able to survive without them.19 We are living in a new geological era, which, in 2000, was dubbed the Anthropocene age by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul J. Crutzen and his collaborator, marine scientist Eugene F. Stoermer. The concept of the Anthropocene age reflects “the central role of mankind in geology and ecology” due to the “major and still growing impacts of human activities on earth and atmosphere.” The onset of the Anthropocene began in the late eighteenth century, coinciding with James Watts’s invention of the steam engine in 1784. Since then “the global effects of human activities have become clearly noticeable” with the emission of “greenhouse” gases into the atmosphere, large-scale agriculture and the use of fertilisers, mechanised fishing and so on. 20 Historian Dipesh Chakrabarty says that humans, as a result of burning fossil fuels, other related activities and sheer numbers, have become both “a geological agent” and the “main determinant of the environment” on the planet. 21 Chakrabarty argues that this has resulted in a profound shift in historiography, signifying

6 Introduction the end of the “age-old” humanist distinction between natural history and human history. In the distant past, natural history involved a relatively slow-changing environment that evolved over thousands or tens of thousands of years, or even millennia, and was widely regarded as being separate from human activity. Over the past two centuries, however, because of industrialisation, the environment has been changing at an increasingly faster rate, and humanity has become the prime agent of that change. Chakrabarty says the Anthropocene era requires new methods of thinking in order to determine the complex interrelationships of vastly different factors that contribute to climate change, and to devise new ways of addressing environmental issues. The task of placing, historically, the crisis of climate change thus requires us to bring together intellectual formations that are somewhat in tension with each other: the planetary and the global; deep and recorded histories; species thinking and critiques of capital. (my emphasis)22 In other words, new ideas are required to lead humanity out of the climate crisis because the old beliefs that have led us to this point have failed: namely, humans are separate from and have control over the environment; natural resources can be extracted and consumed in perpetuity; the burning of fossil fuels will not cause irreversible and catastrophic environmental damage; and the pursuit of private economic profit has priority over environmental, social, cultural and spiritual concerns. Novelist Amitav Ghosh, who trained as an anthropologist, also emphasises the urgency for devising new ways of thinking in an era he calls “the Great Derangement,” reflecting a lack of collective political, business and social will to adequately tackle climate change. Ghosh refers to Chakrabarty, saying, “I would go further and add that the Anthropocene presents a challenge not only to the arts and humanities, but also to our commonsense understandings and beyond that to contemporary culture in general.” For Ghosh, “the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination” (my emphasis). 23 Ghosh laments a perceived shortage of attempts by imaginative writers to address climate change in their fiction, something he thinks is largely due to novels usually being set in “a certain time horizon.” Ghosh argues that novels “rarely extend beyond a few generations” and do not typically contain a longue durée that is necessary to depict the slow nature of climate change. 24 Ghosh seems to be referring to the conventional realist structure of the British, European or American novel. He is correct to identify a crisis of imagination amid writers of fiction generally in relation to the urgency of climate change. Over the ensuing chapters, however, I shall demonstrate how some authors of magical realist fiction utilise the narrative mode to depict time in either a long-term historical manner or a mythical manner

Introduction  7 in order to address the environmental crisis. Their work may be seen as part of an increasing amount of what has been called “climate change literature” and “the expansion of a concomitant critical field.”25 Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (2013), for example, is set in an unspecified time in the near future in Australia after the continent, as well as the rest of the world, has been ravaged by climate change, causing both extreme drought and torrential rains. Governments collapse, nations wage climate wars and starving refugees wander aimlessly in search of food. Although the text refers to “nuclear fallout,” it is unclear whether nuclear war was responsible for the environmental catastrophe or a consequence of it. 26 In both The Swan Book and Carpentaria, which features a polluting iron ore mining company, Wright juxtaposes two different concepts of the longue durée: the Indigenous Australian Dreamtime, which lies outside of horological time, and geological time, which extends back hundreds of millions of years. Geological time, which is scientifically measured, predates the ancient Indigenous Australian culture, estimated to be about 40,000 years old. Yet geological time is contrasted with the Dreamtime, which is indeterminate and began “billions of years ago” by the “ancestral serpent.”27 Wright’s achievement is to imbue her narratives with a biocentric perspective that depicts the effects of climate change within a broad conception of ancient history, stated in both scientific and mythological terms. In this regard, Wright’s fiction reflects Wai Chee Dimock’s concept of “deep time,” which denotes “a set of longitudinal frames, at once projective and recessional, with input going both ways, and binding continents and millennia into many loops of relations.” Deep time is a conceptual framework that enables the reader to view a text as having a long duration with a “backward extension” in “denationalized space” that reaches material in premodern and non-Western literature. 28 A key characteristic of magical realist fiction is to disrupt perceived ideas about time and space. 29 This is one of the core reasons why the narrative mode is so useful in colluding with environmental literature to depict the long duration of environmental degradation caused by industrialisation. Rob Nixon coined the term “slow violence” to represent the extremely protracted nature of the destruction of the planet’s environment, a process that continues over years, decades and centuries. Nixon defines slow violence as “a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.”30 The hyper-fast nature of twenty-first century media and information consumption, which has been turbo-charged by round-the-clock cable news television and the internet, creating what Nixon calls the “attosecond pace of our age,” makes it increasingly difficult to convey the ultra-long duration of environmental destruction or for people to comprehend it.31 Moreover, the discrepancy between the opposing time

8 Introduction frameworks between contemporary media and violence to the planet – quick and immediate versus slow and prolonged – means the destruction does become, in effect, invisible in the minds of so many individuals. Nixon’s concept of slow violence informs much of my literary analysis throughout this book. Like Ghosh, Nixon calls for fiction writers to create new kinds of images and new types of narratives to represent the slow moving violence associated with climate change and environmental degradation. “A major challenge is representational: how to devise arresting stories, images, and symbols adequate to the pervasive but elusive violence of delayed effects,” says Nixon.32 Taiwan’s Wu Ming-yi does so in The Man with the Compound Eyes, a novel originally published in 2011 that is a magical realist, ecocritical tale which highlights humans as geological agents by using the actual Pacific Ocean “trash vortex” as a plot device. The book, which features in Chapter 7, is set both in Taiwan and on a mythical island with the Pacific as a backdrop, and it emphasises a planetary consciousness, rather than a localised narrow focus, in relation to environmental issues. This is especially apparent in the novel’s central magical realist element: the title character, who appears before a dying climber in Taiwan’s mountains, with compound eyes that refract tens of thousands of images of the natural world, like the eyes of an insect. The imagery of the man with the compound eyes enables to reader to take a planetary perspective on the environment, with the central figure proclaiming that humans wilfully destroy the “existential memories” of their own as well as of other creatures, and warning that no life can survive without “the ecological memories other living creatures have.”33 Witi Ihimaera is another writer who develops new kinds of imagery and narratives in the context of environmental destruction in his novel The Whale Rider, which is infused with an updated version of Māori mythology. Like The Man with the Compound Eyes, The Whale Rider utilises the Pacific as a borderless commons to invoke a planetary consciousness. The mythological Kahutia Te Rangi, the high chief of the Māori ancestral homeland of Hawaiki, travelled to New Zealand on the back of a whale across a “huge seamless marine continent” in the Pacific a millennia ago. This is contrasted with the fictional present, in the late twentieth century, in which whales flee underwater radiation from nuclear bomb testing that contaminates the sea trench in Hawaiki, with the consequence that “the place of life, and the Gods, had now become a place of death.”34 However, myth becomes reality when ­Kahutia Te Rangi is reincarnated as the novel’s contemporary eight-year-old female protagonist. Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse is about not only how magical realism is a natural ally of environmental literature but also why magical realism is a dynamic, constantly evolving narrative mode that can address the challenges of imagination posed by

Introduction  9 the crisis of climate change. In other words, magical realism ought to be viewed as a literary style that embraces the complex realities of the early twenty-first century in exciting and inventive new ways. Magical realism commingles the magical and the real, the supernatural and the natural, which, in turn, illuminate aspects of the world that may have been previously hidden to the reader. By fusing seemingly divergent or contradictory elements the narrative mode entices readers to explore a third space, which is hybrid in nature because of “the purely natural way in which abnormal, experientially impossible (and empirically unverifiable) events take place.”35 Magical realist fiction retains its “strange seductiveness,” to borrow Fredric Jameson’s phrase, because individual works present alternative ways of seeing and understanding the world. 36 Magical realist fiction re-evaluates different knowledge systems that have generally been rejected within dominant Western discourse through its realistic depiction of myths, metaphors, dreams and belief in the supernatural or magical.37 In this manner, writers utilise magical realism in order to reimagine the world, to reveal alternative realities that challenge readers’ assumptions about what is actually real. When authors deploy the narrative mode as environmental discourse, they typically reimagine the world within another integrated context, emphasising a biocentric, holistic view that acknowledges the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. A magical realist text does not necessarily have to present extreme weather events or climate change as the ‘magical’ elements. Indeed, Wright’s The Swan Book portrays drought and flooding in the apocalyptic setting in a matter-of-fact manner, that is, as ‘real.’ Amitav Ghosh correctly points out that magical realist fiction should not depict extreme weather as an “unheard-of” or “improbable” phenomenon. “To treat them as magical … would be to rob them of precisely the quality that makes them so urgently compelling – which is that they are actually happening on this earth, at this time.”38 In The Swan Book, the ‘real’ extreme weather is juxtaposed with the novel’s ‘magical’ elements, which mostly involve the mute, teenage Indigenous Australian girl Oblivia Ethyl(ene) and her coming-of-age journey in learning Indigenous Law from ancestral spirits, symbolised in her symbiotic relationship with the native Australian black swans. The novel emphasises the role of Indigenous Law in protecting and conserving the environment. In other words, the ‘magical’ elements of the narrative help the reader understand the ‘real’ setting of climate change: the subtext is that without Indigenous Law and respect for the land, environmental destruction is almost inevitable. The examination of magical realism within a world literature framework is under-explored, given that the narrative mode is frequently discussed in a culturally specific or regional context. However, as Mariano Siskind argues, “magical realism is one of the most established aesthetic forms” of world literary genres.39 Moreover, my investigation of the

10 Introduction various intersections between magical realism and environmental literature, which involves transnational and interdisciplinary approaches, fills in gaps in scholarship in both these areas and augments world literature criticism. Alexis Wright’s fiction, in incorporating the Dreamtime, exemplifies my argument that collective conceptions of magical realist fiction are often too narrow because of a geographical bias of much critical analysis of the narrative mode. A great deal of extant scholarship on magical realism focusses on Latin America, where the narrative mode is often considered to have emerged as a literary movement in the 1940s, as well as North America; the Caribbean; Europe; West Africa; South Africa; and, to a lesser extent, India. Literary critical analysis of India, however, is largely concentrated on Indian-born Salman Rushdie, especially his early works Midnight’s Children (1981) and The Satanic Verses (1988). Wendy Faris noted more than a decade ago that “a comprehensive study of magical realism in world literature” needs to be broader than existing scholarship and include the “Far East.”40 In response, in this book I concentrate on magical realist fiction in the continental spread of Asia and Australasia, regions which have been under-explored in relation to the narrative mode, and a select group of authors from India, China, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. While I acknowledge that writers like Rushdie, Japan’s Haruki Murakami and Chinese Nobel laureate Mo Yan, who is a key author in this monograph, individually receive critical attention in regard to magical realism, broader critical analysis of the narrative mode across Asia is relatively thin. In addition, my study is simultaneously one of magical realism and environmental literature, and as such seeks to explore the narrative mode within the context of a rapidly growing branch of literature that is increasingly responding to the dire physical state of our planet. Sara Upstone makes the valid observation that much critical work on magical realism since the start of the twenty-first century has progressively produced “more nuanced and complex studies” by examining the narrative mode in conjunction with associated issues, which, in turn, “offers fruitful possibilities for the continuance of scholarship into magical realist writing.”41 Books like Jenni Adams’s Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature: Troping the Traumatic Real (2011), Eugene Arva’s The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction (2011) and Kim Anderson Sasser’s Magical Realism and Cosmopolitanism: Strategizing Belonging (2014) are indicative of this trend, examining magical realist fiction in light of the Holocaust, historical violence and cosmopolitanism, respectively. Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse is consciously placed amid this scholarly trajectory and aims to similarly provide new insights into both the narrative mode and its cognate topic, in this case environmental studies. Moreover, the authors and primary texts that form the basis of this study are particularly attuned to the

Introduction  11 environments in which they live as well as the inherent interaction between those environments and the people who live within them. Karen Thornber claims that what she calls “ecoambiguity” “appears more prevalent in literature from East Asia than in other textual corpuses.” Ecoambiguity, as Thornber defines it, is “the complex, contradictory interactions between people and environments with a significant nonhuman presence.”42 It may well be that writers from East Asia, India, Australia and New Zealand are especially aware of the ecoambiguities existing in their own countries due to their respective historical, political, economic and cultural backgrounds. After all, the combination of strong traditional, spiritual and agrarian ties with the land, and the presence, at one time or another, of invading foreign powers that alter human relations with the environment, inevitably produces a local consciousness of the fragility and potential degradation of the environment. As a result, it may be argued that these magical realist texts from Asia and Australasia under consideration here deal more effectively with environmental issues than many texts from other regions. Nevertheless, what I shall demonstrate is that broadening the geographical scope of magical realism modifies and expands our understanding of the narrative mode. The key writers of this book – Indigenous Australian Alexis Wright (Chapter 1), white-‘settler’ Australian Richard Flanagan (Chapter 2), pioneering Māori New Zealand author Witi Ihimaera (Chapter 3), fellow Māori and Booker Prize-winner Keri Hulme (Chapter 4), Indian-born Amitav Ghosh (Chapter 5), Chinese Nobel laureate Mo Yan (Chapter 6) and Taiwan’s Wu Ming-yi (Chapter 7) – ­challenge not only how we read magical realism but also our expectations of it.43 Wright, for example, fuses Dreamtime mythology and Indigenous Law with magical realist techniques to reveal an ancient ontology that is inextricably tied to the Australian land and offers a stark contrast to the transplanted Enlightenment empirical rationalist philosophies of European colonisers. Mo Yan draws on both domestic (Chinese) and foreign (non-Chinese) sources of magical realism to create an idiosyncratic literary style that is distinctly Chinese in terms of aesthetics and outlook. All of the key authors take magical realism into new territories – in terms of geography, technique and subject matter – thereby subjecting the narrative mode to differing intellectual and sociocultural frameworks. By carrying out a comparative analysis, Asian and Antipodean notions of magical realist fiction will be brought alongside Western ones. As will become clear, authors from disparate national, political and cultural backgrounds are constantly reinventing the narrative mode to serve their own artistic purposes. Magical realism, therefore, is in a perpetual state of metamorphosis through the process of translation, both culturally and linguistically. My methodology involves building on extant scholarship of magical realism, environmental criticism, world literature and postcolonial

12 Introduction studies. However, the latter is of interest insofar as tools of postcolonial critique enable an understanding of changing power structures on a global basis over the past four decades, the period in which key texts for this monograph were originally published. Magical realist fiction is “an international commodity” in that it is a mode of writing which circulates widely and freely around the world.44 Moreover, magical realist fiction has now become “mainstream.”45 Furthermore, the fact that nine writers who utilise magical realism in their fiction have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature over the past seven decades attests to a consecration of prestige, to borrow James English’s phrase, of the narrative mode, or at least to the extent that major international literary awards may be said to bestow such authoritative blessings.46 The novels featured in this book have attracted audiences outside their original domains, and as such accord with David Damrosch’s observation that works of world literature “circulate beyond their culture of origin, either in translation or in their original language.”47 Yet the key texts in this study should also be interpreted as world literature in another sense; building on Thornber’s argument about East Asian environment literature, the texts here each “address concerns that transcend those of their source cultures and are environmentally cosmopolitan, either explicitly or implicitly.”48 By engaging with environmental and other issues that are transnational and defy territorial borders, these novels demonstrate an awareness of the world from a planetary perspective, and encourage readers to think likewise. The advantage in a comparative literature context is to read these texts in terms of cross-border and cross-cultural thematics. Furthermore, these key texts exemplify the need to position magical realism firmly within discourse on world literature in relation to what is critically regarded as a representative global canon. I am drawing here on Damrosch’s concept that “world literature is not an infinite, ungraspable canon of works but rather a mode of circulation and of reading,” in which individual texts may enter and exit the constantly changing canon, in which classical and new texts alike are read.49 The same approach should be taken with the international canon of magical realist texts, in that the consecration and selection of critically and popularly acclaimed works should be fluid and responsive to new and important books. Yet critical works on magical realism frequently contain a geographical bias in their suggested global canons of the narrative mode. For instance, Wendy Faris confesses that, while aiming to discuss magical realism as a “worldwide phenomenon,” she nevertheless “followed my own limitations and confined myself to texts from Europe, the United States, and Latin America.”50 Most critics, as Anne Hegerfeldt concedes, “have a certain group of core texts in mind when they speak of magic realism.”51 Hegerfeldt and Tamás Bényei, among others, recommend first examining a group of texts for which there is a degree of consensus about being considered magical realist in

Introduction  13 order to formulate a definition of the narrative mode. 52 But if this group is ethnographically or regionally biased, the resultant definitions will be either flawed or incomplete. Apart from Rushdie’s novels, magical realist works from Asia and Australasia are typically omitted from these canonical selections. Critics have described the concept of magical realism as “a troubled one for literary theory,”53 “a misnomer, an impossible name,”54 and one which “many scholars would be hard-pressed to define.”55 But much of this theoretical confusion has resulted from geographical issues encroaching on critical analysis. After Roh’s and Bontempelli’s early attempts to define magical realism in light of visual art and literature, in 1948 Venezuelan writer Arturo Uslar Pietri became the first person to apply magical realism specifically to Latin American literature, arguing the term denoted “the consideration of man as a mystery surrounded by realistic facts,” a feature he thought was “prominent” in Venezuelan short stories.56 However, confusion about cultural context set in when Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier coined his neologism lo real maravilloso, or the “marvelous real,” in 1949 to express the unique reality of Latin America. Carpentier was inspired by a visit to Haiti where he found a “presence” and “vitality” that he concluded was “the heritage of all America,” of all time. Carpentier’s rhetorical purpose was to use the notion of lo real maravilloso to create an indigenous literary style to reflect an indigenous view of Latin America, one that does not differentiate between the “marvelous” and the real, rather than employ derivative European literary styles to so do. 57 Carpentier insisted that writers from Latin America “needed a new vocabulary” to describe their own world.58 The novelty of Carpentier’s idea was to present the “marvelous real” as “a cultural condition,” specifically of Latin American reality, “and not an aesthetic perception of reality universally available,” says Mariano Siskind.59 Nevertheless, Carpentier is “widely acknowledged as the originator” of Latin American magical realism, as Maggie Ann Bowers notes, even though he did not use the term.60 Furthermore, some critics still equate magical realism predominantly with Latin American fiction, which is erroneous following the proliferation of other kinds of magical realist fiction around the world since the 1980s.61 The problem with Carpentier’s theory is that, as Michael Bell says, the phrase lo real maravilloso “refers to a reality whereas ‘magical realism’ refers to a literary mode” (original emphasis). What Bell means is that Carpentier’s phrase relates to a culturally and geographically specific way of life, whereas magical realism refers to a particular kind of writing at a textual level that is not dependent upon a cultural or geographic context. “Carpentier’s argument, which was squarely based on a regional specificity, has coloured the use of the English phrase so that an ethnographic exceptionalism became part of the meaning of the sub-genre,” says Bell.62 In 1955, Angel Flores reclaimed the term magical realism

14 Introduction but perpetuated the ethnographic exceptionalism by using it to describe the then nascent Latin American literary ‘boom,’ defining the concept as an “amalgamation of realism and fantasy” that includes the “transformation of the common and the everyday into the awesome and the unreal.”63 Flores’s specification of blending the real and unreal in an everyday manner provided the foundation for most contemporary definitions of the narrative mode.64 The internationalisation of magic realist fiction became apparent after what might be called a second wave, outside of Latin America, proliferated from the 1980s and often from formerly colonised territories, especially after the publication of Salman Rushdie’s canonical Midnight’s Children (1981).65 Rushdie’s explanations of his own work reinforce the idea of magical realism as a mode of writing that reimagines the world. Rushdie’s hyperbolic style of English, the language of his native India’s colonisers; his use of elliptical, traditional Indian storytelling techniques; and his “mongrelisation” technique of borrowing from different cultures denote “a migrant’s-eye view of the world” and reflects “my determination to create a literary language and literary forms in which the experience of formerly colonized, still-disadvantaged peoples might find full expression.” Rushdie describes his fiction as “radical dissent and questioning and reimagining” (my emphasis).66 By the 1990s and into the 2000s it was not uncommon for critics to regard magical realism as an integral component in the development of postcolonial literature. But as Sarah Upstone notes, this at times erroneous conflation of magical realism with postcolonial fiction gave way in the twenty-first century to an acknowledgement of magical realist fiction progressively branching out into new geographies and historical contexts that are often not postcolonial. Upstone argues that “there is now a growing literature that reads magical realism explicitly beyond postcolonial and Latin American literatures” and focusses “more on the imaginative potential offered by the power to imagine worlds framed beyond the confines of western culture.”67 Interestingly, what we find in Carpentier and ­Rushdie in terms of a desire to reinterpret language and create new vocabularies in order to reimagine the world is echoed by writers working in environmental criticism. George Seddon, for instance, says the language that came “from England’s green and pleasant land does not fit the Australian landscape; it blurs our perceptions, acting as an overlay or coloured filter.”68 In the early days of British colonialism of Australia, at the start of the nineteenth century, the invaders’ attempts to give old English words new meanings often resulted in confusion, with words acquiring multiple, conflicting meanings.69 Since the 1990s, most critical attempts to define magical realism reflect its internationalisation and do not contextualise it geographically. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy Faris, for instance, describe the narrative mode as literature that presents the supernatural as an ordinary,

Introduction  15 everyday occurrence and which is “integrated into the rationality and materiality of literary realism.”70 The key point here is that magical realism emanates out of realism and is not oppositional to it. Christopher Warnes says magical realism “normalises the supernatural” so that neither the natural nor the supernatural “has a greater claim to truth or referentiality.”71 The important thing about these two working definitions is that they treat the narrative mode as a transnational kind of writing that is primarily textual and not contextual. A core theme of this study is that magical realist characteristics can be identified in disparate literatures from around the globe and at different points in history, not just the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I will build on these working definitions of magical realism as well as other critics who propose a minimalist approach to the narrative mode. However, a distinguishing feature of this book is that it draws on genre theory, in particular the work of Jacques Derrida, to provide a critical framework by which to highlight the strengths and limitations of magical realism as a tool for literary analysis. In short, I argue that while a text may participate in magical realism, it does not belong to magical realism. The corollary is that although magical realism may help distinguish or identify specific characteristics of a text that may not be picked up by more conventional genre categories, magical realism does not define that text. Magical realism provides a particular example of the more general issues surrounding the limitations of genre as an interpretative concept. Benedetto Croce, in his “theory of artistic and literary kinds,” argues that it is an “intellectualist error” to pass from “the aesthetic to the logical” by identifying “expressive facts” that appear in disparate texts and conceptualising them into “logical relations.” In other words, a reader commits an error if she or he first asks whether a text obeys the laws of a particular literary kind, or genre, rather than inquiring into a work’s intrinsic artistic expression.72 I am using genre here in a broad sense. Literary genre, as defined in The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, is “a recognizable and established category of written work employing such common conventions as will prevent readers or audiences from mistaking it for another kind.”73 I also take Alastair Fowler’s point that the term genre includes both the historical structured kinds of genre and the “unstructured modes.” A mode, as Fowler says, is “a selection or abstraction from kind” that has “few if any external rules, but evokes a historical kind through samples of its internal repertoire.”74 Most critics refer to magical realism as a mode, although there are some who refer to it as a genre. Intriguingly, few critics explain why they choose one over the other. Among the exceptions, Anne Hegerfeldt argues that “genre primarily relates to form and, at least on the level of sub-genre, content, while mode refers to manner of narration.”75 This strikes me as an adequate explanation as magical realism has no structural form as such, and it is the poetics, the way writers utilise this particular kind of narrative, which is paramount.

16 Introduction Stephen Slemon echoes Croce when he warns about the risk of magical realism becoming “a monumentalizing category” if it is employed as “a single locus upon which the massive problem of difference in literary expression can be managed into recognizable meaning in one swift pass” (original emphasis).76 In other words, magical realism should be applied as just one critical tool among others in order to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of a literary work, without extinguishing the individual artistic expression that lies within any text. For instance, while Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria exhibits some magical realist elements, the novel is first and foremost a paean for Indigenous A ­ ustralian culture and an individualistic adaptation of Dreamtime mythology and spirituality. In addition, the structure of the book intersects with a range of different genres, such as thriller, quest narrative, action drama and multi-­generational family saga. Wright’s book also illustrates how the underlying aesthetic and cultural dynamics within a text may often burst or exceed the boundaries that are perceived to delineate magical realist fiction. Therein lies the paradox of magical realism as a tool for literary analysis: while it may identify literary kinds of expression that established genres miss, it may still not adequately capture all aspects of artistic expression. The fact that texts consistently exceed the boundaries of genres and, in doing so, resist any rational attempt to apply a taxonomic classification recalls Jacques Derrida’s notion of “the madness of genre.” “There is no madness without the law; madness cannot be conceived before its relation to law,” says Derrida.77 The law Derrida refers to is “the law of the law of genre,” a concept I shall build on to formulate an alternative system of poetics for magical realism. Every genre, says Derrida, necessarily involves “a principle of contamination, a law of impurity,” because no genre can exist purely, in and of itself. In Derrida’s view, any literary category (genre, mode, type) contains a “trait” that is common to all works within a particular category, by which readers recognise that category. The trait acts as a “code.” Yet the trait means that a text “participates” in a genre, or more than one genre, without actually belonging to the genre(s). “Every text participates in one or several genres, there is no genreless text, there is always a genre and genres, yet such participation never amounts to belonging” (original emphasis). The text cannot belong to a genre because the same trait that marks the text as participating in a genre does not in itself belong to that genre, or to any category for that matter. “In marking itself generically, a text unmarks itself.” Derrida concludes that the “formless form” of literary categories points to “the possibility and the impossibility of taxonomy.”78 I propose that a minimalist definition of magical realism should accord with Derrida’s notion of a single, common trait for each genre. Building on Zamora-Faris, Warnes and other similarly minded critics, the trait for every work of magical realist fiction is the representation

Introduction  17 of the magical or supernatural in a quotidian manner that is embedded within literary realism. Without this trait a text cannot be said to be magical realist. This minimalist definition allows a wide range of texts to participate in the category of magical realism without actually belonging to it. There is also an implied recognition that any magical realist text will participate in other generic kinds without belonging to any of them. A notable example is Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta ­C hromosome (1995), which is most often regarded as a work of science fiction but is also part detective novel, historical novel, quest narrative, Gothic novel, magical realist novel and environmental novel, among other literary kinds. One advantage of this minimalist approach to magical realism is that it highlights the narrative mode’s porous borders, not only in the geographic sense but also in the generic sense. Magical realism has a tendency to be more shape-shifting than most other generic kinds, throwing up unexpected and surprising permutations, partly because it is a mode, or a style of writing, rather than a genre, which denotes structural form, but also partly because it is frequently used in vastly different cultural, political, historical and geographical situations. In turn, this engenders the narrative mode with a seemingly infinite number of opportunities to transform and to be transformed. Magical realism is, by nature, porous, spilling over into other generic kinds such that the distinction between them is often blurred. Another advantage of this framework is that it makes it less likely for magical realism to be applied as a monumentalising category, to borrow Slemon’s term, to be used as a dominant rubric within which to read a work of fiction. If there is a tacit acknowledgement that a magical realist text participates in additional generic kinds, there will be a natural resistance to the temptation to apply magical realism – or any mode or genre – as a dominant, defining taxonomy for that text. My approach to defining magical realism differs from many other critics because it does not seek to add further qualifications to what a magical realist text should incorporate; that is, it does not impose a taxonomical system. In this respect, I am drawing on Kim Sasser’s approach of avoiding “a restricted, fixed view of the mode, one that has married secondary features to formal features,” and instead strive for “a minimalist aesthetic requirement, or definition, for the mode.” Sufficiently broad parameters can embrace diverse incarnations of magical realist fiction and allow the narrative mode the space it requires to continue evolving.79 One reason why there is widespread disagreement about what magical realism is, and theoretical discordance about how it operates, is a tendency among many critics to employ a methodology that revolves around classification. These critics typically study a select group of texts they consider to be magical realist and identify characteristics common to that particular group, although usually with the proviso that not all their nominated characteristics will necessarily appear

18 Introduction in every magical realist text. The end result is quite often lists, such as Wendy Faris’s five primary characteristics and nine secondary characteristics,80 Anne Hegerfeldt’s five “prototypical literary techniques,”81 Ato Quayson’s four “issue clusters”82 and Amaryll Beatrice Chanady’s three essential criteria.83 The problem with this approach is that one critic’s list is unlikely to exactly match up to another critic’s list. Also, the more peripheral the characteristic, the less likely it will appear in other critics’ lists. Critical attempts to define magical realism gathered momentum in the 1980s, but subsequent scholarship is often marked by what Marisa Bortolussi describes as a “passive adoption of these earlier, uncontested approaches” that results in “serious flaws and omissions.”84 I am advocating a minimalist approach to the narrative mode that is flexible and able to accommodate markedly different literatures from around the globe that are incessantly changing and evolving. Magical realism, like any type of literature that endures over the long term, has constantly changing boundaries and remains in a state of flux. Every genre (in a broad sense), as Fowler says, undergoes a continuous “metamorphosis” because each new work that enters a genre introduces a new element to the genre, which, in turn, changes the nature of the genre.85 This ongoing process of metamorphosis is what critics of magical realism usually fail to take into account. Peter Carey, in an interview published in 1992, stated that while he thought magical realism was “a lovely way” to describe elements in his first two novels, Bliss (1981) and Illywhacker (1985), he had come to regard the term as a “tag that was thrown around so much that it started to get soiled” and “a sort of cheap cliché.”86 Two years later, Jean Franco censured magical realism for changing from being “innovative” to mere “fashion.” “‘Magical realism,’ once taken as the index of Latin American originality, is now little more than a brand name for exoticism,” wrote Franco.87 Around the same time Raymond Williams referred to the “now defunct magic realist enterprise.”88 Their comments reflect a cynicism that emerged in the 1990s in response to publishers exploiting the term magical realism and applying it to a wide range of non-Western literature, with the aim of capitalising on the commercial success of magical realist authors from Latin America in the preceding decades. To some extent, that cynicism was warranted as magical realism was inappropriately applied as a marketing tool to many books, leading Graham Huggan to refer to magical realism’s “hypercommodified status.”89 Yet the notion that magical realism has become a “cliché” disregards the variegated ways in which it has been developed by authors. The narrative mode is neither ossified nor stuck in a phase of automatisation, to borrow the Russian Formalists’ term. If this were the case, magical realist fiction would not have endured. Instead, the process of exogamy means that authors keep reinventing the nature of magical realist fiction by way of dynamic evolutionism, thereby ensuring its longevity.90 Authors utilise magical realist

Introduction  19 elements in contexts as varied as the emancipation of American slaves (Toni Morrison’s Beloved, 1987), the dawn of the suffragette movement in Britain (Angela Carter’s Nights at the ­Circus, 1984), the ­Jewish ­Holocaust under Nazism (D.M. Thomas’s The White Hotel, 1981) and the duality of faith and the animalist instinct for s­ urvival (Yann ­Martel’s Life of Pi, 2001). Given the ever-increasing diversity of magical realist fiction, magical realism plays an important role within literary criticism generally because it allows comparative analyses between separate literatures, which, in turn, “enable us to recognize continuities within literary cultures that the established genre systems might blind us to,” says Slemon.91 He is specifically referring here to separate postcolonial literatures. Certainly, several of the key texts featured in this book challenge received conceptions of postcoloniality.92 Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria and The Swan Book, for example, highlight the need to modify Slemon’s frequently cited theory on magical realism as postcolonial discourse, which has largely gone unchallenged since its initial publication in 1988. Slemon argues that in a magical realist text “a battle between two oppositional systems takes place, each working toward the creation of a different kind of fictional world from the other.” The two systems are “incompatible,” and, as a result, “each remains suspended, locked in a continuous dialectic with the ‘other.’” In turn, magical realism’s “characteristic” manoeuvre is that its “two separate narrative modes never manage to arrange themselves into any kind of hierarchy.”93 The two systems, or modes, are usually taken by critics to mean the ‘magical’ world of the colonised and the ‘real’ world of the coloniser. However, Wright’s fictional portrayal of Australia’s first inhabitants still being at war against colonialist forces suggests there remains ongoing colonisation in what is officially a decolonised country. Rather than Slemon’s two binary, oppositional systems, Wright’s novels depict three oppositional systems: the Indigenous colonised, the white-‘settler’ coloniser and global economic forces that help perpetuate the ongoing colonisation. In other words, Wright’s fiction challenges the binarism inherent in Slemon’s theory. Other texts complicate the notion of postcoloniality in different ways. Richard Flanagan’s Death of a River Guide and Gould’s Book of Fish portray an empathetic bonding between Indigenous Australians and (mostly British) convicts in Tasmania during the colonial era that created a unique culture based on the land in the island state and which challenges a simplified notion of white versus black. Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider endows whales with consciousness, intelligence and the ability to communicate across species, which, in turn, exhibits a metaphysics of biocentrism that contrasts with the anthropocentric and humanistic approach of much postcolonial fiction. Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome suggests a cross-fertilisation of localised Indian scientific knowledge with British colonial science in a fictionalised reimagining of the ‘discovery’ of the cause of malaria.

20 Introduction Slemon’s rationale for comparative analysis equally applies to literatures outside of the postcolonial arena, such as those from communist countries. Mo Yan questions China’s communist make-up in various ways. Red Sorghum, for instance, searches for a traditional spirit of China among the rural-based peasantry and outlaw bandits at a time when Mao Zedong’s Communists and Nationalists were battling for power amid the Japanese invasion (1937–1945). The Republic of Wine satirises corruption and the commodification of society in a post-Mao, market-oriented Chinese economy. An approach that recognises narrative techniques spanning different traditions and interactions between different cultures “permits an increased understanding of the formal characteristics and cultural work of magical realism, and most important, of the relationship between them, of the ways in which literary forms develop in response to cultural conditions,” says Wendy Faris.94 Comparative readings allow us to determine why writers utilise the narrative mode in particular works at particular times, whether for political, social or cultural purposes. While I am mindful to respect the cultural differences between different magical realist texts, connections do abound. Thematic similarities include reacting against oppressive regimes; exhibiting political or ethical imperatives; giving voice to the marginalised; reinstating indigenous knowledge systems that might have been trivialised as magical or fantasy; exploiting historiographic metafiction to portray alternative versions of history; and, critically, exploring environmental concerns through magical realist techniques.95 I propose that similarities, rather than characteristics, provide the building blocks for comparative analysis. The benefit of this approach is that it avoids “overly schematic formulations,” as Jenni Adams puts it, in relation to magical realist fiction.96 Moreover, I am aware of the dangers inherent in applying rigid theories for literary analysis. A theory, as Michel Foucault defines it “in the strict sense of the term,” is “the deduction, on the basis of a number of axioms, of an abstract model applicable to an indefinite number of empirical descriptions.” A model may be useful as a hermeneutic device, but it remains an abstraction, an imaginative construct, whereas a literary work is something tangible and real. Foucault, however, eschews linear deduction, favouring instead to proceed “by concentric circles, moving sometimes towards the outer and sometimes towards the inner ones.” His goal is not to construct “a rigorous theoretical model,” but “to show how a domain can be organised, without flaw, without contradiction, without internal arbitrariness.”97 I propose a similar, flexible approach for a comparative analysis of magical realist fiction, one that proceeds by concentric circles without applying a rigid, abstract model. For this reason I believe a family resemblance model is most suitable for the narrative mode. In this respect I am building on the work of Jenni Adams and Anne Hegerfeldt, who similarly adapt a family resemblance model for their

Introduction  21 respective studies on Holocaust and British magical realist fiction.98 However, I am not advocating a given list of similarities, like Adams’s “properties” and Hegerfeldt’s five prototypical literary techniques. Rather, I propose the similarities among magical realist texts should remain open and changeable, resulting from a close reading of texts. The only factor that remains fixed is magical realism’s solitary trait: the representation of the magical or supernatural in a quotidian manner that is embedded within literary realism. Once this trait is identified in a text, the comparative analysis of similarities can proceed. I am, like ­Hegerfeldt, drawing on Alastair Fowler’s insight that literary works within a particular genre make up a “family” whose individual members are related in various ways. Fowler, in turn, adapts Ludwig ­Wittgenstein’s theory of family resemblances, which the latter uses to describe phenomena that do not have any one thing in common but are related to one another in many different ways. Family resemblances, says Wittgenstein, involve “a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail.”99 Fowler follows Wittgenstein by stating that literary works within a genre do not necessarily have “any single feature shared in common by all.”100 But on a philosophical basis, unless a “family” or a literary genre has at least one common characteristic, the similarities between the phenomena or literary works could potentially extend to an infinite number. In relation to magical realist fiction, a minimalist definition, or solitary trait, is necessary to identify which works ought to be included in the “family,” and, equally, which ones ought to be excluded. At a theoretical level it is important to also clarify what is meant by the ‘magical’ and the ‘real’ in magical realist fiction, especially in relation to depictions of the environment. The ‘magical’ component is an extension of literary realism rather than in opposition to it, and may involve an extratextual referent in the real-world environment. Critics sometimes assert that magical realism is an apparent “oxymoron,” an argument predicated on the assumption that the ‘magical’ and the ‘real’ are antinomies, positioned on opposite sides of a spectrum.101 However, magical realism is not inherently binary. The adoption of any position of binary opposites, as Fredric Jameson says, “make[s] unavoidable the taking of sides.”102 But is there really a need to take opposing sides for the magical and the real? Are they locked in a mutually antagonistic relationship? More specifically, as Michael Bell asks, “To what extent is magical realism opposed to realism or a form of it?” (original emphasis)103 I would argue that the literary realism from which magical realism springs is more complex than a naively mimetic or copyist function. As Fredric Jameson notes, the realist mode is itself a “construction,” a “hybrid concept” in which “an epistemological claim (for knowledge or truth) masquerades as an aesthetic ideal.”104 Realism involves a dual process of registering both the external world and, simultaneously, the

22 Introduction perception of the external world that, inevitably, distorts it. In other words, realism involves a degree of self-consciousness on the part of the author about how to represent, at a textual level, the external world. Or, as George Levine declares, “Realism is an illusion” (original emphasis).105 Realism constitutes “a self-conscious effort” by the writer “to make literature appear to be describing directly not some other language but reality itself (whatever that may be taken to be).”106 Magical realism, then, may be viewed as an iteration of literary realism in that it also attempts to reflect different perceptions of reality. Magical realism, as Anne Hegerfeldt notes, “approximates literary realism in that it presents a fictional world that is clearly recognizable as a reflection of the extratextual world.”107 The key difference between magical realism and the realist mode is that the former introduces magical or supernatural elements that are integrated within the real. Rather than view the magical and the real as being antagonistic or oppositional, I propose they are more like an infinite array of points that lie upon a continuum. Some critics have attempted to eradicate any impression of the ‘magical’ being a pejorative word when applied to non-Western or ‘exotic’ cultures, as if it denotes some inferior status to the ‘real’ world or the Western world, by re-conceptualising the adjective in neutral terms in relation to magical realism. Hegerfeldt, for instance, speaks of the magical as denoting “non-realistic elements,”108 while Ato Quayson suggests the magical should be “an umbrella term to denote elements drawn from mythology, fantasy, folk tales, and any other discourse that bears a representational code opposed to realism.”109 The weakness in Hegerfeldt’s suggestion is that perceptions of ‘reality’ are highly subjective and culturally conditioned, so what may appear ‘real’ (or unreal) to one person may seem ‘unreal’ (or real) to another. Although Quayson’s idea of an umbrella term has merit, magical discourse is not fundamentally opposed to realist discourse but is a variation of it. The identification of the magical involves a descriptive process that is just as representational as realism. Magical realist texts, says Tamás Bényei, consider narration as an act, and therefore “magic is used as the implicit or explicit trope for this narrative act.” Consequently, the magical and the real are not mutually opposite points on a spectrum but have an “adjunctive, supplementary relationship” with one another. Any magical realist text employs “an infinite number of gradations between the two poles” of the magical and the real.110 The notion of magical realism as an extension of literary realism is critical to understanding how the narrative mode operates as environmental discourse. The environmental aspects of a magical realist text can form part of either the ‘magical’ components or the ‘real’ components. There is no set rule. Another core component of my overall argument is that magical realist fiction has a genealogy of polygenesis, of a multistrand coexistence. That is, the narrative mode did not originate in any particular country

Introduction  23 or culture, or at any particular moment in history, but rather emerges in different countries and cultures, and at various times. The legacy of early attempts by Latin American literary critics to define magical realism, or its variants, is a residual assumption among some scholars that the literary style originated in Latin America in the mid-twentieth century. Marisa Bortolussi, for example, refers to “contemporary critics of magic realism, who assume that the mode or genre started in Latin America,” but who ignore earlier texts from other regions that contain magical realist elements.111 Similarly, some critics hold “a misconceived assumption that magic(al) realism is specifically Latin American,”112 while “many” people think magical realism “connotes Latin American literature.”113 Separately, some other critics do recognise the international nature of the narrative mode but nevertheless describe a kind of passage from Latin America to other regions. Jesús Benito, for instance, talks of “the translation and relocation of Latin American magical realism to a US ethnic space, a postcolonial space, or even a global space” (my emphasis).114 Stephen Hart writes about “magical realism … ­migrating to various cultural shores” (my emphasis).115 Mariano Siskind believes certain “post-García Márquez magical realist postcolonial ­novels … transformed a Latin American aesthetic form into a global cultural formation” (my emphasis).116 However, I propose that magical realist fiction did not originate in Latin America, and therefore did not relocate from Latin America to other regions. Instead, magical realism emerges in a multitude of literatures from different countries, different cultures and at different times in history. My position is prompted by the presence of magical realist-like elements in the premodern literature of China and Indigenous Australia, which suggests a stylistic connection – but not necessarily one of causality – with contemporary magical realist fiction. In other words, I envisage a genealogy of polygenesis, or a multistrand coexistence, that may be due to randomness as much as causality. This idea of polygenesis is partly inspired by comments from two Chinese literary scholars who identify similarities between magical realism and classical Chinese fiction, which I shall examine more fully in ­Chapter 6 on Mo Yan. David Der-wei Wang argues that the actions of Mo Yan’s fictional characters “not only express the special traits of magic realism and the influence of traditional Chinese legends of the strange, but also display a startling similarity between these two very different literary genres.” While he is adamant that magical realism and traditional Chinese legends of the strange are generically not the same, he nevertheless cites their shared commonality of the supernatural, such as characters undergoing metamorphosis or being reincarnated.117 Elsewhere, Ming Dong Gu argues that classical Chinese literature, with its “strange and extraordinary things or events” and its “blurring of the real and the unreal,” actually “anticipated the modern technique

24 Introduction of magic realism” (my emphasis). Crucially, Ming Dong Gu concludes that classical Chinese fiction “differs fundamentally” from magical realism due to the preponderance of underlying cultural factors that are not characteristic of the narrative mode and proposes that what exists in classical Chinese fiction might be more accurately described as “mythical realism” or “supernatural realism.”118 It is the prospect that classical Chinese fiction anticipated magical realist techniques, through shared similarities, which is of interest here. Given that Mo Yan’s contemporary fiction is influenced by classical Chinese literature, it may be said that the author draws on two different and arguably separate magical realist traditions: one domestic (Chinese) and the other foreign (non-Chinese). In a completely different context, critic and author Colin Johnson, who once published under the self-appointed Indigenous Australian name of Mudrooroo, a controversial figure whom I discuss in Chapter 1, argues that the Indigenous Australian Dreamtime is a world that is “as existent and as real” as that conceived by the European natural sciences and that the Dreamtime involves what Johnson calls “maban reality.” He defines maban reality as being “characterised by a firm grounding in the reality of the earth or country, together with an acceptance of the supernatural as part of everyday reality.” Johnson states that “Maban reality is akin to magic realism.”119 Johnson’s theory raises the prospect that Dreamtime narratives exhibit similarities with magical realism. My purpose here is not to say definitely whether classical Chinese literature anticipated magical realism, nor whether Indigenous Australian Dreamtime narratives do, in fact, exhibit magical realist elements, but to generate broader discussion about the genesis of magical realism as a literary phenomenon. By applying Wittgenstein’s theory of family resemblances in this context, I argue that elements in classical Chinese literature resemble those elements that exist in contemporary magical realist fiction. It is a similar argument for Indigenous Australian narratives. The elements are not necessarily the same, but they could be said to be members of the same family; they overlap and criss-cross, to borrow Wittgenstein’s phrase. Magical realist fiction, as Eugene Arva points out, is “viewed primarily as a postmodern literary phenomenon.”120 Nevertheless, this idea of a genealogy involving polygenesis suggests that magical realist-like elements may not be exclusively postmodern. The notion of magical realism as avant la lettre, as existing before the term was invented, has been raised before. Margaret Anne Doody, who identifies magical realist elements in the Roman writer Apuleius’s “novel” The Metamorphosis (also known as The Golden Ass), which was written about 160 AD, says, “Magical realism … has obviously been practiced long before the term was invented.”121 Similarly, Shannin Schroeder asserts, “The fact that magic realism existed before it existed, that is, before we knew what to call it, suggests that its definition will not be limited to any particular region or set of experiences.”122

Introduction  25 Curiously, although a number of critics have examined isolated incidences of what they perceive to be magical realist fiction that existed before Latin American fiction of the mid-twentieth century, none of them seems to have put forward a general theory about why this might have occurred. Christopher Warnes, who traces magical realism’s genealogy back to the historical romance, suggests that the German Romantic poet and philosopher Novalis developed a related concept of “magical idealism” in 1798. Warnes also identifies in Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses intertextual references to Apuleius’s The Golden Ass, which Warnes describes as “a magical realist proto-novel.”123 David Young and Keith Hollaman also trace magical realism’s “ancestry” to the romance as well as the pastoral, both of which are, in turn, derived from the ancient classics.124 The idea of searching for an originating kind of magical realism in the ancient classics is supported by Lorna Robinson, who argues that the ancient Roman poet Ovid “creates a world in magical-realist terms” in Metamorphosis.125 Susan Napier suggests, albeit in passing, that magical realist elements may be found in ancient Japanese tales.126 Other critics have identified the narrative mode in European fiction over the past two centuries. Jonathan Allison, for example, says that W.B. Yeats creates “a species of marvellous poetry” that may be equated with magical realism in his lyrical Irish poems.127 The 1984 magical realist anthology edited by Young and Hollaman includes nineteenth- and ­early-twentieth-century literature, with writers as diverse as the Russians Nikolai Gogol and Leo Tolstoy, German Thomas Mann, Englishman D.H. Lawrence and American Henry James. Despite this considerable list of examples, no critic seems to have attempted to explain why magical realism may have existed as a literary phenomenon before the term came into common usage in the twentieth century. It may be useful, therefore, to build on Franco Moretti’s idea of evolutionary trees and waves to interpret literary history in order to help explain the paradox of magical realism as it is generally perceived as a postmodern incarnation and magical realism as avant la lettre. According to Moretti, the diversification of a national literature is like Charles Darwin’s evolutionary tree, in that one trunk grows into many branches, or a species develops “from unity to diversity.” A national literature produces new kinds mostly by divergence. By contrast, world literature operates like a wave in that “it observes uniformity engulfing an initial diversity.” The wave is driven by markets. Whereas trees require discontinuity in order to branch off from each other, waves demand continuity. “Cultural history is made up of trees and waves,” declares Moretti (original emphasis).128 Similarly, I propose that localised emanations of magical realism broadly follow the principles of the evolutionary tree, creating new variations of the mode with the addition of each new local work. Over time they diversify within their own internal network. But each geographical location of local magical realism is not necessarily

26 Introduction causally linked with emanations of the narrative mode in other locations. They may be separate and completely unrelated. On the other hand, the market forces that propel the publishing industry, plus the intellectual and cultural forces that drive the literary community and the academy, collectively act as a wave to construct what is generally perceived to be magical realism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This wave washes over heterogeneous examples of magical realism while refining a degree of homogenous conceptualisation of magical realism in order to market, circulate and promote (in both the commercial and intellectual senses) this kind of fiction. Moretti’s twin metaphors of the evolutionary tree (diversification) and the wave (convergence) are useful in explaining the tension that exists between generally accepted notions of magical realism and what exists in individual works that contain magical realist elements (either pre- or post-1940s). For communities to limit further environmental degradation and to reverse already damaged ecosystems, people need to re-conceptualise how best to live in and interact with the environment, which in itself requires significant cultural change. Environmental literature, therefore, inherently involves looking at the extratextual world from a different perspective so that readers are prompted to at least consider how they might adjust their lifestyles, both individually and collectively, to protect the environment and persuade others to do likewise. A common impediment to action is what Karen Thornber describes as “ecoambiguity,” that is, peoples’ complex and often contradictory interactions with their environments. While humans demand increasingly more of our planet and its natural resources, we remain largely ambivalent about nature, confused about the actual condition of the non-human, and often exhibit contradictory behaviour toward ecosystems, sometimes inadvertently harming the environments that we attempt to protect.129 Environmental literature, therefore, shares with magical realist fiction a narrative approach of presenting the ‘real’ world slightly or even significantly askew, and an ethical imperative of encouraging readers to enact philosophical and behavioural change. Having extensively discussed magical realism as a literary term, I now want to clarify the concepts of environmental literature and environmental criticism. Throughout this monograph I will build on the work of Lawrence Buell, a pioneer in environmental criticism of literature. Buell sets out a useful framework by which to determine whether a literary work is environmentally oriented. First, the non-human environment must be present both as a framing device and as a presence that suggests “human history is implicated in natural history,” a criterion that reflects recognition of the Anthropocene era. Second, the human interest is not the only legitimate interest. Third, human accountability to the environment is part of the work’s ethical framework. Fourth, the text either implies or explicitly states that the environment is a process rather than a constant.130

Introduction  27 I will also draw on Buell’s neologism environmental criticism, rather than the more common and general term ecocriticism. Environmental criticism is a broad practice that encompasses humanity’s impact on all kinds of environments, be they terrestrial (both natural and manufactured), aquatic or atmospheric. “Environmental criticism arises within and against the history of human modification of planetary space, which started in remote antiquity but has greatly accelerated since the industrial revolution, when ‘environment’ first came into use as an English noun,” says Buell.131 ‘Environmental,’ he argues, is a better adjective to use than the prefix ‘eco’ in regard to literary criticism because it encapsulates the hybridity of environments in practice, which involve both natural and constructed elements. ‘Environmental’ also invokes the interdisciplinary mix of literature and environment studies.132 Furthermore, Buell believes the term ecocriticism implies a “methodological holism” that does not actually exist, because the application of literary studies to the environment is “more issue-driven than method or paradigm-driven.”133 Henry Harrington and John Tallmadge similarly view environmental criticism – although they use the term ‘ecocriticism’ – not as a method but as “an attitude, an angle of vision, and a mode of critique.”134 One advantage in adopting this attitude is that it accords with the flexible, non-methodological approach I am advocating for magical realism. In turn, the two kinds of literature – magical realist and environmental – are fluid kinds that overlap and inform one another without becoming rigid with defined borders or taxonomies. Moreover, environmental criticism in regard to literature is increasingly exploring how physical and social environments impinge upon one another, which parallels the myriad ways in which magical realist fiction investigates the third plane that lies between human activity, perception and spirituality on the one hand, and geographical space on the other. However, while Buell chooses primacy of environmental criticism over ecocriticism, he does not dispense with the latter term altogether, recognising it as the more common one, at least in academic discourse, and useful as shorthand. Cheryll Glotfelty broadens William Rueckert’s original definition of ecocriticism by conceiving of it as “the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment,” taking as its fundamental premise “human culture is connected to the physical world, affecting it and affected by it.” In other words, ecocriticism negotiates the space between the human and non-human, and how each influences the other. “Ecocriticism takes as its subject the interconnections between nature and culture, specifically the cultural artifacts of language and literature.”135 Yet ecocriticism also strives to discover how all things are interdependent and, in the twenty-first century, seeks to evaluate texts and ideas in terms of their coherence and usefulness as responses to our unprecedented environmental crisis.136 At a deeper level, however, ecocentricism, which underlies ecocriticism, frequently

28 Introduction draws on non-Western belief systems, such as Taoism, Buddhism and shamanism, which, in turn, endow it with a spiritual dimension.137 This exploration of alternative ontologies and epistemologies in contrast to the Western scientific rationalism that underpins ecocriticism parallels the portrayal of the alternative belief systems that are typically present in magical realist fiction. In addition to Buell, Thornber and Glotfelty, I will also draw on a range of critics concerned with environmental literature throughout the ensuing chapters. Among them, and in addition to Rob Nixon, whose useful concept of “slow violence” was cited earlier, I will build on the work of Ursula Heise, in particular her notions of “environmental world literature” and “eco-cosmopolitanism.” A core strength of Heise’s scholarly vision is to approach literature that deals with the environment from a planetary perspective, which is arguably the only common-sense approach, given the global nature of environmental issues and ecosystems, as well as the globalised nature of human activity in the twenty-first century. Heise defines “environmental world literature” in a broad sense, relating to works that inspire others to fight for the conservation of the natural world, works that address humans’ relations to nature, works that principally focus on the ecological crisis of the past half-century and that are distributed and read across national borders, and works that presuppose certain views of nature.138 Heise’s concept of “eco-­ cosmopolitanism” similarly takes a global viewpoint, meaning “an attempt to envision individuals and groups as part of planetary ‘imagined communities’ of both human and nonhuman kinds.”139 The goal of an “eco-cosmopolitan awareness” involves reorienting environmentalist discourse “toward a more nuanced understanding of how both local cultural and ecological systems are imbricated in global ones,” resulting in “an increased emphasis on a sense of planet.”140 Heise’s concepts, therefore, assist with a key aim of this monograph to make interventions in world literature and the environmental humanities debates by revealing the links between one of the most established aesthetic forms of world literary genres and the rapidly growing transnational category of environmental literature. What we frequently find in magical realist fiction that has environmental themes is a focus on the cultural and spiritual aspects of individuals and societies, and a depiction of how they both interact with, and depend on, the local environment. This is a familiar trope in magical realist works from Indigenous Australia, white-‘settler’ Australia, Māori New Zealand, China, Taiwan and Latin America, for instance. Writers from these backgrounds frequently portray an indigenous knowledge system that is inextricably tied to the local environment in order to challenge the dominant, almost invariably Western, ideologies. Such indigenous philosophies usually emphasise the primacy and fragility of the natural environment, the need for conservation and the environment’s

Introduction  29 fundamental importance to human existence as well as existential self-awareness. These indigenous philosophies stand in opposition to the Western, scientific, rationalist view of the natural environment as a site of exploitation for private profit and economic gain which is fundamentally separate from humanity. In a sense, then, such writers of magical realist fiction might be said to be revealing an “environmental unconscious” that pertains to their community, society, culture or ­philosophical / spiritual grouping. Buell’s idea of an environmental unconscious, which he argues is shaped by collective social experiences and ideologies, is useful when analysing magical realist works to search for the subtext of pre-existing historical experiences and ideologies in relation to the environment.141 However, neither environments, experiences nor ideologies are static – they are all in a constant state of change. This suits the fluidity of magical realism as a narrative mode. Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude famously ends with a “biblical hurricane” that destroys not only the town of Macondo but also the family that had lived there in solitude for a century, the Buendías. When the catastrophic storm begins, it is a “warm” wind “full of voices from the past,” with “sighs of disenchantment that preceded the most tenacious nostalgia.”142 The imagery remains relevant today, albeit in a different context. For just as a gentle breeze may ultimately turn out to be a natural disaster, so too whispered warnings of the effects of climate change may eventuate in actual human extinction. Human emotions of disenchantment and nostalgia may be literally blown away by a climate change storm of uber-biblical proportions. The sentiment is echoed in Alexis Wright’s dystopian novel The Swan Book, in which “countless stateless millions” of people wander the Earth “looking for somewhere to live.” They are the “new gypsies of the world,” from “one of those nationalities on Earth lost to climate change wars.”143 In the ensuing chapters, I shall demonstrate how writers of magical realism utilise the narrative mode to invert, destabilise and challenge accepted notions of the environment. Writers of magical realist fiction respond to the crisis of imagination in the climate change era by reimagining new, holistic worlds that offer alternative visions for the future, and quite possibly hope.

Notes 1 Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, trans. Gregory Rabassa (1967; London: Pan Books, 1978), 187–188. 2 García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, 9. 3 Ato Quayson, “Fecundities of the Unexpected: Magical Realism, Narrative and History,” in The Novel Vol 1: History, Geography, and Culture, ed. Franco Moretti (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 753. 4 Miguel Angel Asturias, Men of Maize, trans. Gerald Martin (London and New York: Verso, 1988), xi, 253.

30 Introduction 5 Ben Okri, The Famished Road (London: Jonathan Cape, 1991), 104. 6 In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are usually referred to as Indigenous Australians with a capital ‘I.’ 7 Mo Yan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012, making him the ninth writer of magical realist fiction to win the award. The others are Mario Vargas Losa (2010), Günter Grass (1999), Kenzaburo Oe (1994), Toni ­Morrison (1993), Octavio Paz (1990), Gabriel García Márquez (1982), Miguel Angel Asturias (1967) and William Faulkner (1949). While ­Chinese-born Gao Xingjian won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000, by that time he had taken French citizenship. 8 Elleke Boehmer, Colonial & Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 228. 9 Homi K. Bhabha, “Introduction: Narrating the Nation,” in Nation and ­Narration, ed. Homi K. Bhabha (London and New York: Routledge, 1990), 7. 10 Christopher Warnes, Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel: Between Faith and Irreverence (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 28–29. 11 Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). 12 Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment (London: Routledge, 2010), 11. 13 Begoña Simal, “Of a Magical Nature: The Environmental Unconscious,” in Uncertain Mirrors: Magical Realisms in US Ethnic Literatures, eds. Jesús Benito, Ana Ma Manzanas, and Begoña Simal (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009), 195. 14 Simal, “Of a Magical Nature,” 199. See also 197, 198, 201, and 213. 15 Franz Roh, “Magic Realism: Post-Expressionism,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, trans. Wendy B. Faris, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 16. 16 Seymour Menton, Magic Realism Rediscovered, 1918–1981 (Philadelphia, PA: The Art Alliance Press, 1983), 51–52. 17 William Rueckert, “Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism,” in The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks of Literary Ecology, eds. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), 107, 113. Reprint of Rueckert’s original 1978 essay. 18 Cheryll Glotfelty, “Introduction: Literary Studies in an Age of Environmental Crisis,” in The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks of Literary Ecology, eds. Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), xvii. 19 Tom Phillips, “China’s Xi Jinping says Paris climate deal must not be allowed to fail,” The Guardian, January 19, 2017, accessed January 19, 2017, www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/19/chinas-xi-jinping-says-worldmust-implement-paris-climate-deal. 20 Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer, “The ‘Anthropocene,’” IGBP [International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme] Newsletter 41 (May 2000), 17. Although Crutzen and Stoermer identified the start of the Anthropocene age as the late eighteenth century, some others nominate a different timeline. For example, Stef Craps and Rick Crownshaw write: The International Commission on Stratigraphy’s Working Group on the Anthropocene voted in 2016 to identify the mid-twentieth century—the beginning of the nuclear age and the Great Acceleration in greenhouse

Introduction  31 gas emissions—as the official start of the Anthropocene. However, there is still a critical mass of academic research that synchronizes the Anthropocene with industrial capitalism and so points to the onset of the industrial revolution: the late eighteenth century’s inauguration of the large-scale burning of fossil fuels and consequent atmospheric emissions, the cumulative effects of which make climate change the most pronounced Anthropocenic characteristic. Stef Craps and Rick Crownshaw, “Introduction: The Rising Tide of Climate Change Fiction.” Studies in the Novel 50, no. 1 (Spring 2018), 2. 21 Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (Winter 2009), 209. 22 Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History,” 213. 23 Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 9. 24 Ghosh, The Great Derangement, 59. 25 Craps and Crownshaw, 1. Stef Craps and Rick Crownshaw criticise Amitav Ghosh for identifying “the literary absence of climate change” and for deploying what they call “a rather nebulous notion of ‘serious’ modern literature to delimit the archive he finds lacking.” Indeed, they take a contrary view, arguing that Ghosh’s position “seems at odds not only with the increasing production of climate change literature itself but also with the expansion of a concomitant critical field.” 26 Alexis Wright, The Swan Book (Sydney: Giramondo, 2013), 26. 27 Alexis Wright, Carpentaria (Artarmon: Giramondo Publishing, 2006), 1. 28 Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 3, 28. 29 Wendy B. Faris, Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004), 23. 30 Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor ­(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 2. 31 Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, 8. 32 Nixon, 3. 33 Wu Ming-Yi, The Man with the Compound Eyes, trans. Darryl Sterk ­(London: Harvill Secker, 2013), 281. 34 Witi Ihimaera, The Whale Rider (Auckland: Heinemann, 1987), 26, 48–49. 35 Rawdon Wilson, “Metamorphosis of Fictional Space,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 220. 36 Fredric Jameson, “On Magic Realism in Film,” Critical Inquiry 12, no. 2 (1986), 302. 37 Anne Hegerfeldt, Lies that Tell the Truth: Magic Realism Seen through Contemporary Fiction from Britain (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2005), 3. 38 Ghosh, 27. 39 Mariano Siskind, “The Genres of World Literature: The Case of Magical Realism,” in The Routledge Companion to World Literature, eds. Theo D’haen, David Damrosch, and Djelal Kadir (London and New York: Routledge, 2014), 349. 40 Faris, Ordinary Enchantments, 3. 41 Sara Upstone, “Magical Realism and Postcolonial Studies: Twenty-First Century Perspectives,” Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 17, no. 1 (2011), 162.

32 Introduction 42 Karen Laura Thornber, Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012), 1, 3. 43 Keri Hulme won the Booker Prize in 1985 for The Bone People (1984). Richard Flanagan won the Booker in 2014 for The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013). 44 Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, “Introduction,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 2. 45 Upstone, “Magical Realism and Postcolonial Studies,” 162. 46 For a critical analysis of the Nobel and other literary prizes, see James F. English, The Economy of Prestige (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005). 47 David Damrosch, What Is World Literature? (Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2003), 4. While I acknowledge that Damrosch has been criticised for focussing on spatiality to define world literature, his approach is useful in this context. 48 Thornber, Ecoambiguity, 23. 49 Damrosch, What Is World Literature? 5. 50 Faris, Ordinary Enchantments, 3. 51 Hegerfeldt, Lies that Tell the Truth, 42. 52 Tamás Bényei, “Rereading ‘Magic Realism,’” Hungarian Journal of ­English and American Studies 3, no. 1 (1997), 150. 53 Stephen Slemon, “Magic Realism as Postcolonial Discourse,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 407. The title of this book, Climate and Crises: Magical Realism as Environmental Discourse, is a deliberate homage to Slemon’s influential theory and an acknowledgement of the importance of postcolonial studies in a critical analysis of both magical realism and environmental literature. 54 Bényei, “Rereading ‘Magic Realism,’” 151. 55 Shannin Schroeder, Rediscovering Magical Realism in the Americas (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004), 1. 56 Arturo Uslar Pietri, quoted in Luis Leal, “Magical Realism in Spanish America,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 120. 57 Alejo Carpentier, “On the Marvelous Real in America,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, trans. Tanya Huntington and Lois Parkinson Zamora, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995). 58 Alejo Carpentier, “The Latin American Novel,” interview with Ramón Chao, trans. Ann Wright, New Left Review 154 (1985), 107. Carpentier coined the phrase lo real maravilloso (the “marvelous real”) in the prologue to his magical realist novel, The Kingdom of this World (1949). 59 Mariano Siskind, “Magical Realism,” in Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, ed. Ato Quayson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 843. 60 Maggie Ann Bowers, Magic(al) Realism (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004), 4. 61 Lorna Robinson, “The Golden Age Myth in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Ovid’s Metamorphoses,” in A Companion to Magical Realism, eds. Stephen M. Hart and Wen-chin Ouyang (Woodbridge, Suffolk, and Rochester, NY: Tamesis, 2005), 79.

Introduction  33 62 Michael Bell, “Magical Realism Revisited,” in English Now: Selected Papers from the 20th IAUPE Conference in Lund 2007, ed. Marianne Thormählen (Lund: Lund University Press, 2008), 127. 63 Angel Flores, “Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction,” Hispania 38, no. 2 (1955), 189–190. 64 Both the terms magical realism and magic realism are still used by different critics. Anne Hegerfeldt says she prefers magic realism because it “can be read as a double noun phrase and thus better reflects the relationship of equality between magic and realism that is a fundamental aspect of the mode” (Hegerfeldt, 1, n2). However, there does not seem to be any significant difference in the way critics employ either term. Regardless, magical realism is the conventional term (Bowers, Magic(al) Realism, 2) and so will be the default term in this book. 65 Rushdie’s novel was followed by Hulme’s The Bone People (1984), Peter Carey’s Illywhacker (1985) and Ben Okri’s The Famished Road (1991), to name just a few. 66 Salman Rushdie, “In Good Faith,” in Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991, by Salman Rushdie (London: Granta Books, 1991), 394–395. 67 Upstone, 156. 68 George Seddon, “It’s Only Words,” in Words for Country: Landscape & Language in Australia, eds. Tim Bonyhady and Tom Griffiths (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2002), 253. 69 Tim Bonyhady and Tom Griffiths, “Landscape and Language,” in Words for Country: Landscape & Language in Australia (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2002), 4. 70 Zamora and Faris, “Introduction,” 3. 71 Warnes, Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel, 3. 72 Benedetto Croce, Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic, trans. Douglas Ainslie, 2nd ed. (London: Peter Owen, 1953), 35–37. 73 Chris Baldick, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 90. 74 Alastair Fowler, Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 56. 75 Hegerfeldt, 47. 76 Slemon, “Magic Realism as Postcolonial Discourse,” 408–409. 77 Jacques Derrida, “The Law of Genre,” in Acts of Literature, ed. Derek Attridge, trans. Avital Ronell (London: Routledge, 1992), 251–252. 78 Derrida, 227–231. 79 Kim Anderson Sasser, Magical Realism and Cosmopolitanism: Strategizing Belonging (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 3, 20, 24. 80 Wendy B. Faris, “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995); Faris initially outlined her primary and secondary characteristics in this essay. Faris, Ordinary Enchantments; Faris modified her primary characteristics in this book but did not include the secondary characteristics. 81 Hegerfeldt, 50–62. 82 Quayson, “Fecundities of the Unexpected,” 753. 83 Amaryll Beatrice Chanady, Magical Realism and the Fantastic: Resolved Versus Unresolved Antinomy (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1985).

34 Introduction 84 Marisa Bortolussi, “Introduction: Why We Need Another Study of Magic ­Realism,” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 30, no. 2 (2003), 281. 85 Fowler, Kinds of Literature, 23. 86 Ray Willbanks, Speaking Volumes: Australian Writers and their Work (Ringwood: Penguin, 1992), 55–56. 87 Jean Franco, “What’s Left of the Intelligentsia? The Uncertain Future of the Printed Word,” in Critical Passions, eds. Mary Louise Pratt and Kathleen Newman (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 204. 88 Raymond Williams, The Postmodern Novel in Latin America: Politics, Culture, and the Crisis of Truth (New York: St Martin’s Press, 1995), 5. 89 Graham Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 19. 90 The Russian Formalists state that any literary genre is subject to a life cycle of birth and death, in which the genre initially challenges ordinary perceptions of reality, but, over time, through repetition and familiarity, loses its potency and falls victim to automatisation, becoming another “dull epigone which our senses register mechanically,” in the words of Victor Schklovsky. Victor Erlich, Russian Formalism: History – Doctrine, 4th ed. (The Hague and New York: Mouton, 1980), 252. 91 Slemon, 409. 92 I take Robert Young’s definition of the postcolonial as “coming after colonialism and imperialism, in their original meaning of direct-rule domination, but still positioned within imperialism in its later sense of the global market system of hegemonic economic power.” Robert J.C. Young, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), 57. 93 Slemon, 409–411. 94 Faris, Ordinary Enchantments, 2. 95 Linda Hutcheon coined the term “historiographic metafiction” to mean fiction that is “intensely self-reflexive” with a “theoretical self-awareness of history and fiction as human constructs,” and which rethinks and reworks “the forms and contents of the past.” Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (New York and London: Routledge, 1988), 5. 96 Jenni Adams, Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature: Troping the Traumatic Real (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 5. 97 Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith (1969; London: Routledge, 1994), 114. 98 Adams, Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature, 5; Hegerfeldt, 44. 99 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Oxford, 1967), sections 65 & 66. 100 Fowler, 41. 101 See, for example, Slemon, 409. Or Eugene Arva, “Writing the Vanishing Real: Hyperreality and Magical Realism,” Journal of Narrative Theory 38, no. 1 (2008), 70. 102 Fredric Jameson, The Antinomies of Realism (London and New York: Verso, 2013), 2. 103 Bell, “Magical Realism Revisited,” 127. 104 Jameson, The Antinomies of Realism, 5. 105 George Levine, Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 189. 106 George Levine, The Realistic Imagination: English Fiction from Frankenstein to Lady Chatterley (Chicago, IL and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1981), 8.

Introduction  35 07 Hegerfeldt, 50. 1 108 Hegerfeldt, 51. 109 Ato Quayson, “Magical Realism and the African Novel,” in The Cambridge Companion to the African Novel, ed. Abiola Irele (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 164. 110 Bényei, 157, 154. 111 Bortolussi, “Introduction,” 287. 112 Bowers, 18. 113 Schroeder, Rediscovering Magical Realism in the Americas, 1. 114 Jesús Benito, “Juxtaposed Realities: Magical Realism and/as Postcolonial Experience,” in Uncertain Mirrors: Magical Realisms in US Ethnic Literatures, eds. Jesús Benito, Ana Ma Manzanas, and Begoña Simal (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009), 108. 115 Stephen M. Hart, “Magical Realism: Style and Substance,” in A Companion to Magical Realism, eds. Stephen M. Hart and Wen-chin Ouyang (Woodbridge, Suffolk, and Rochester, NY: Tamesis, 2005), 6. 116 Siskind, “Magical Realism,” 856. 117 David der-wei Wang, “The Literary World of Mo Yan,” trans. Michael Berry, World Literature Today, 74, no. 3 (2000), 492. 118 Ming Dong Gu, Chinese Theories of Fiction: A Non-Western Narrative System (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006), 83, 194. 119 Colin Johnson (Mudrooroo), Milli Milli Wangka: The Indigenous Literature of Australia (South Melbourne: Hyland House, 1997), 96–98. Although Johnson was once regarded as a pioneer of Indigenous Australian literature, the authenticity of his self-described Indigenous heritage was called into question after his sister traced their family’s ancestry to an ­A frican-American (Regina Ganter, Mixed Relations: Asian-­Aboriginal Contact in North Australia [Crawley: University of Western Australia Press, 2006], 240). Nevertheless, his theory about maban reality being akin to magical realism is relevant to my argument for polygenesis in the genealogy of magical realism. 120 Eugene L. Arva, The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011), 5. 121 Margaret Anne Doody, The True Story of the Novel (London: HarperCollins, 1997), 470. 122 Schroeder, 4. 123 Warnes, 20, 115. Warnes says: “A magical idealist is one who participates in the project of apprehending truth not through correspondence with external reality, but by undoing the antinomies between language and the world and between subject and object” (22). 124 David Young and Keith Hollaman, “Introduction,” in Magical Realist Fiction: An Anthology, eds. David Young and Keith Hollaman (New York and London: Longman, 1984), 4. 125 Robinson, “The Golden Age Myth,” 82. 126 Susan J. Napier, “The Magic of Identity: Magic Realism in Modern Japanese Fiction,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 451. 127 Jonathan Allison, “Magical Nationalism, Lyric Poetry and the Marvellous: W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney,” in A Companion to Magical Realism, eds. Stephen M. Hart and Wen-chin Ouyang (Woodbridge, Suffolk, and Rochester, NY: Tamesis, 2005), 230. 128 Franco Moretti, Distant Reading (London and New York: Verso, 2013), 60, 134.

36 Introduction 129 Thornber, 1, 2, 6. 130 Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995), 7–8. 131 Lawrence Buell, The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), 62. Buell says the OED credits the first use of the word “environment,” meaning one’s surrounding, to the Victorian critic of machine culture, Thomas Carlyle, in 1830. See 158, Footnote 1. 132 Buell, The Future of Environmental Criticism, viii. 133 Buell, The Future of Environmental Criticism, 11–12. 134 Henry Harrington and John Tallmadge, “Introduction,” in Reading Under the Sign of Nature: New Essays in Criticism, eds. John Tallmadge and Henry Harrington (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2000), ix–xv (ix). 135 Glotfelty, “Introduction,” xviii–xix. 136 Richard Kerridge, “Introduction,” in Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism and Literature, eds. Richard Kerridge and Neil Sammells, 1–9 (London and New York: Zed Books, 1998), 5, 7. 137 Greg Garrard, Ecocriticism (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 22–23. 138 Ursula K. Heise, “World Literature and the Environment,” in The Routledge Companion to World Literature, eds. Theo D’haen, David Damrosch, and Djelal Kadir, 404–412 (London and New York: Routledge, 2012), 404–405. 139 Ursula K. Heise, Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 61. 140 Heise, Sense of Place, 59. 141 Lawrence Buell, Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 24. Buell builds on Fredric Jameson’s idea of the “political unconscious.” Jameson advocates the prioritisation of a political interpretation of literary texts, arguing that, since a writer’s unconscious is shaped by collective social experiences and ideologies, any literary text should therefore “be seen as the rewriting or restructuration of a prior historical or ideological subtext” (original emphasis). Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (London: Methuen, 1981), 81. 142 García Márquez, 335, 336. 143 Wright, The Swan Book, 23.

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Introduction  37 Asturias, Miguel Angel. Men of Maize. Translated by Gerald Martin. London and New York. Verso, 1988. Originally published as Hombres De Maiz. Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, S.A., 1949. Baldick, Chris. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. Bell, Michael. “Magical Realism Revisited.” In English Now: Selected Papers from the 20th IAUPE Conference in Lund 2007, edited by Marianne Thormählen, 126–136. Lund: Lund University Press, 2008. Benito, Jesús. “Juxtaposed Realities: Magical Realism and/as Postcolonial Experience.” In Uncertain Mirrors: Magical Realisms in US Ethnic Literatures, edited by Jesús Benito, Ana Ma Manzanas, and Begoña Simal, 105–159. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009. Bényei, Tamás. “Rereading ‘Magic Realism.’” Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 3, no. 1 (1997): 149–179. Bhabha, Homi K. “Introduction: Narrating the Nation.” In Nation and Narration, edited by Homi K. Bhabha, 1–7. London and New York: Routledge, 1990. Boehmer, Elleke. Colonial & Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Bonyhady, Tim and Tom Griffiths, ed. Words for Country: Landscape & Language in Australia. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2002. Bortolussi, Marisa. “Introduction: Why We Need Another Study of Magic Realism.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 30, no. 2 (2003): 279–293. Bowers, Maggie Ann. Magic(al) Realism. Abingdon: Routledge, 2004. Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995. ———. Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001. ———. The Future of Environmental Criticism: Environmental Crisis and Literary Imagination. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. Carpentier, Alejo. “The Latin American Novel.” Interview with Ramón Chao. Translated by Ann Wright. New Left Review 154 (1985): 99–111. ———. “On the Marvelous Real in America.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Translated by Tanya Huntington and Lois Parkinson Zamora, 75–88. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (Winter 2009): 197–222. Chanady, Amaryll Beatrice. Magical Realism and the Fantastic: Resolved Versus Unresolved Antinomy. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1985. Craps, Stef, and Rick Crownshaw. “Introduction: The Rising Tide of Climate Change Fiction.” Studies in the Novel 50, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 1–8. Croce, Benedetto. Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic. Translated by Douglas Ainslie, 2nd ed. London: Peter Owen, 1953. Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

38 Introduction Crutzen, Paul J., and Eugene F. Stoermer, “The ‘Anthropocene.’” IGBP [International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme] Newsletter 41 (May 2000): 17–18. Damrosch, David. What Is World Literature? Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2003. Deckard, Sharae. “Inherit the World: World-Literature, Rising Asia and the World-Ecology.” In What Postcolonial Theory Doesn’t Say, edited by Anna Bernard, Ziad Elmarsafy, and Stuart Murray, 239–255. London and New York: Routledge, 2015. Derrida, Jacques. “The Law of Genre.” In Acts of Literature. Edited by Derek Attridge. Translated by Avital Ronell, 221–252. London: Routledge, 1992. Dimock, Wai Chee. Through Other Continents. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006. Doody, Margaret Anne. The True Story of the Novel. London: HarperCollins, 1997. English, James F. The Economy of Prestige. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. Erlich, Victor. Russian Formalism: History – Doctrine, 4th ed. The Hague and New York: Mouton, 1980. Faris, Wendy B. “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 163–190. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. ———. Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004. Flores, Angel. “Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction.” Hispania 38, no. 2 (1955): 187–192. Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Translated by A.M. Sheridan Smith. London: Routledge, 1992. Originally published as L’Archéologie du savoir. Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1969. Fowler, Alastair. Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982. Franco, Jean. “What’s Left of the Intelligentsia? The Uncertain Future of the Printed Word.” In Critical Passions, edited by Mary Louise Pratt and Kathleen Newman, 196–207. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999. Ganter, Regina. Mixed Relations: Asian-Aboriginal Contact in North Australia. Crawley: University of Western Australia Press, 2006. García Márquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Translated by Gregory Rabassa. London: Pan Books, 1978. Originally published as Cien años de soledad. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericans, 1967. Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. London and New York: Routledge, 2004. Ghosh, Amitav. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016. Glotfelty, Cheryll. “Introduction: Literary Studies in an Age of Environmental Crisis.” In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks of Literary Ecology, edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, xv–xxxvii. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996. Hart, Stephen M. “Magical Realism: Style and Substance.” In A Companion to Magical Realism, edited by Stephen M. Hart and Wen-chin Ouyang, 1–13. Woodbridge, Suffolk, and Rochester, NY: Tamesis, 2005.

Introduction  39 Hegerfeldt, Anne. Lies that Tell the Truth: Magic Realism Seen through ­C ontemporary Fiction from Britain. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2005. Heise, Ursula K. Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. ———. “World Literature and the Environment.” In The Routledge Companion to World Literature, edited by Theo D’haen, David Damrosch, and Djelal Kadir, 404–412. London and New York: Routledge, 2012. Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London and New York: Routledge, 2001. Huggan, Graham, and Helen Tiffin. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment. London: Routledge, 2010. Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York and London: Routledge, 1988. Ihimaera, Witi. The Whale Rider. Auckland: Heinemann, 1987. Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. London: Methuen, 1981. ———. “On Magic Realism in Film.” Critical Inquiry 12, no. 2 (1986): 301–325. ———. The Antinomies of Realism. London and New York: Verso, 2013. Johnson, Colin (Mudrooroo). Milli Milli Wangka: The Indigenous Literature of Australia. South Melbourne: Hyland House, 1997. Kerridge, Richard. “Introduction.” In Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism and Literature, edited by Richard Kerridge and Neil Sammells, 1–9. London and New York: Zed Books, 1998. Leal, Luis. “Magical Realism in Spanish America.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 119–124. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Levine, George. The Realistic Imagination: English Fiction from Frankenstein to Lady Chatterley. Chicago, IL and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1981. ———. Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Menton, Seymour. Magic Realism Rediscovered, 1918–1981. Philadelphia, PA: The Art Alliance Press, 1983. Ming Dong, Gu. Chinese Theories of Fiction: A Non-Western Narrative System. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006. Moretti, Franco. Distant Reading. London and New York: Verso, 2013. Napier, Susan J. “The Magic of Identity: Magic Realism in Modern Japanese Fiction.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 451–475. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001. Okri, Ben. The Famished Road. London: Jonathan Cape, 1991. Phillips, Tom. “China’s Xi Jinping says Paris climate deal must not be allowed to fail.” The Guardian, January 19, 2017. Accessed January 19, 2017. www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/19/chinas-xi-jinping-says-worldmust-implement-paris-climate-deal.

40 Introduction Quayson, Ato. “Fecundities of the Unexpected: Magical Realism, Narrative and History.” In The Novel Vol 1: History, Geography, and Culture, edited by Franco Moretti, 726–758. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006. ———. “Magical Realism and the African Novel.” In The Cambridge Companion to the African Novel, edited by Abiola Irele, 159–176. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Robinson, Lorna. “‘The Golden Age Myth in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Ovid’s Metamorphoses.” In A Companion to Magical Realism, edited by Stephen M. Hart and Wen-chin Ouyang, 79–87. Woodbridge, Suffolk, and Rochester, NY: Tamesis, 2005. Roh, Franz. “Magic Realism: Post-Expressionism.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community. Edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. Translated by Wendy B. Faris, 15–31. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Rueckert, William. “Literature and Ecology: An Experiment in Ecocriticism.” In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks of Literary Ecology, edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 105–123. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996. Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991. London: Granta Books, 1992. Sasser, Kim Anderson. Magical Realism and Cosmopolitanism: Strategizing Belonging. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Schroeder, Shannin. Rediscovering Magical Realism in the Americas. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2004. Simal, Begoña. “Of a Magical Nature: The Environmental Unconscious.” In Uncertain Mirrors: Magical Realisms in US Ethnic Literatures, edited by Jesús Benito, Ana Ma Manzanas, and Begoña Simal, 193–237. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009. Siskind, Mariano. “Magical Realism.” In The Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, edited by Ato Quayson, 833–868. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. ———. “The Genres of World Literature: The Case of Magical Realism.” In The Routledge Companion to World Literature, edited by Theo D’haen, David Damrosch, and Djelal Kadir, 354–355. London and New York: Routledge, 2014. Slemon, Stephen. “Magic Realism as Postcolonial Discourse.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 407–426. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Originally published in Canadian Literature 116 (Spring 1988): 9–24. Tallmadge, John, and Henry Harrington. “Introduction.” In Reading Under the Sign of Nature: New Essays in Criticism, edited by John Tallmadge and Henry Harrington, ix–xv. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2000. Thornber, Karen Laura. Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012. Upstone, Sara. “Magical Realism and Postcolonial Studies: Twenty-First Century Perspectives.” Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies 17, no. 1 (2011): 153–163. Wang, David Der-wei. “The Literary World of Mo Yan.” Translated by Michael Berry. World Literature Today 74, no. 3 (2000): 487–494.

Introduction  41 Warnes, Christopher. Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel: Between Faith and Irreverence. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Willbanks, Ray. Speaking Volumes: Australian Writers and their Work. Ringwood: Penguin, 1992. Williams, Raymond. The Postmodern Novel in Latin America: Politics, Culture, and the Crisis of Truth. New York: St Martin’s Press, 1995. Wilson, Rawdon. “Metamorphosis of Fictional Space.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 209–233. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. Translated by Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe, 3rd ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Oxford, 1967. Wright, Alexis. Carpentaria. Artarmon: Giramondo, 2006. ———. The Swan Book. Artarmon: Giramondo, 2013. Wu, Ming-Yi. The Man with the Compound Eyes. Translated by Darryl Sterk. London: Harvill Secker, 2013. Originally published in Taiwan as Fuyanren in 2011. Young, David, and Keith Hollaman. “Introduction.” In Magical Realist Fiction: An Anthology, edited by David Young and Keith Hollaman, 1–8. New York and London: Longman, 1984. Young, Robert J.C. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001. Zamora, Lois Parkinson, and Wendy B. Faris. “Introduction.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 1–11. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.

1 ‘Expanded reality’ Alexis Wright’s Revitalisation of Dreamtime Narratives

Indigenous Australian Alexis Wright’s fiction demonstrates how Lawrence Buell’s concept of the “environmental unconscious” is a relative term.1 The collective ideologies and social experiences that shape an individual’s perception of the environment vary between people of different societies and cultures. The environmental unconscious, therefore, is a heterogeneous phenomenon rather than a singular, homogeneous one. And, of course, the environment itself – with the definite article – is a relative term, dependent upon the actual geographical locality. Wright’s fiction is largely set in Northern Australia, where populations are sparse, and where arid or semi-arid landscapes meet tropical seas. In particular, the backdrop within much of her three novels to date is the Gulf of Carpentaria, from where her family originates, and which is the home of the Waanyi nation. 2 Moreover, Wright imbues her fiction with the Indigenous Australian Dreamtime, a philosophy and spiritual framework that is inextricably connected to the Australian landscape, but which is substantially different from Western philosophies, even ecological ones. In other words, Wright’s books are notable for being unlike European or North American fiction in both the geographical environment of their settings and the world view that underpins the narratives. Wright did not begin publishing fiction until 1997, when she was in her late 40s, after she had spent time working as an activist for Indigenous affairs, including helping to coordinate two Indigenous constitutional conventions in the 1990s in an unsuccessful attempt to develop political autonomy separate from Australia’s national and regional governments. This background is important because it shows that the political imperatives evident in her fiction are goals and values that she has long held and championed. Wright benefitted from an established market for Indigenous Australian literature that emerged in the 1960s as part of a resurgent Indigenous voice which developed during the civil rights movement of that decade. After two centuries of political, economic, social and cultural marginalisation, Indigenous Australians belatedly won the right to vote in national elections and were finally counted in the national census. Pioneering writers such as playwright Jack Davis, poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal and novelist Monica Clare paved the way for a

‘Expanded reality’  43 renaissance in Indigenous Australian literature that was supported by government funding from the 1970s and the establishment of dedicated Indigenous publishers like Magabala Books from the 1980s. Collectively, Indigenous writing may be seen as a reappropriation of European communication, an intervention by Australia’s first inhabitants to wrest back control of their own narratives and reinsert themselves into social and political discourse. Yet, despite a substantial number of published Indigenous Australian authors, a general reading audience of Indigenous literature “is yet to be fostered,” as Indigenous author and critic Anita Heiss says. 3 This may be partly due to Indigenous Australians making up a relatively low 3 per cent of Australia’s population. Wright follows other Indigenous Australian authors, such as Sam Watson and Kim Scott, who employ magical realist techniques as a postcolonial strategy by conveying the Indigenous Australian Dreamtime in a written literary form, building on traditional oral storytelling. The Dreamtime, however, is not easily transferable to non-Indigenous languages, cultures or philosophies, in particular Western ones. This is a key factor that makes Wright’s fiction so interesting in terms of both magical realism and environmental literature for there are limits to how much the rubric of either concept can be applied to non-­Western philosophies. The Dreamtime is a “fraught epistemology” for Western intellectual consumption as European philosophies, derived from the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, tend to categorise and prioritise rationalist ideals. Dreamtime narratives, on the other hand, “integrate fields that are separate discursive domains in [W]estern knowledge – philosophy, religion, economics, ecology, epistemology, kinship, gender behaviour, kinship systems, interpersonal relations, geography and mapping.”4 The Dreamtime is tied to the land as well as to Indigenous Law. Historian Bill Gammage describes the Law as “an ecological philosophy enforced by religious sanction” that “compel[s] people to care for all their country.”5 The environmental aspect of the Law is paramount. Wright describes the Law as “Indigenous memory [by which] men and women can name and tell the story of thousands of individual sites in their country, continuing a long tradition of watching over this country and maintaining the ecologically sustainable life.” In other words, these traditional stories are passed down orally from generation to generation in order to identify and describe individual parts of the physical environment so that they are conserved and protected. Moreover, these “ancient” stories originate from “the ancestral creation beings,” thereby linking the stories, Law and environment with Indigenious spirituality.6 Indigenous playwright and poet Kevin Gilbert says that ancestral spirits watch over people in the present day as custodians of “a predictable and unchanging system of Law” that governs “the social and spiritual system as set down at the Beginning, the start of time.” The Dreamtime, he adds, “is the first formation, the beginning of the creative process of

44  ‘Expanded reality’ mobile / life upon and within the land.”7 The Law, then, is a constant that exists outside of chronological time. The Indigenous protagonists in Wright’s two major novels, Carpentaria (2006) and The Swan Book (2013), are guardians of the Law, hence protectors of the environment, and both have ‘magical’ or ‘supernatural’ attributes.8 Yet Wright does not view the ‘supernatural’ elements in her fiction to be extraordinary; instead she views them as quotidian occurrences that ought to be considered as ordinary. “Such stories could be called supernatural and fantastic, but I do not think of them in this way,” she says. “These are stories of spiritual beliefs as much as the beliefs of the everyday.”9 Her comment emphasises the point that the aspects of her fiction which may seem non-realist to Western readers should be read not as metaphors or figurative but rather as phenomena in the actual world. In Carpentaria, Norm Phantom is an “old tribal man” (4) whose stories are referred to as “decorum – the good information, intelligence, etiquette of the what to do, how to behave for knowing how to live like a proper human being” (original emphasis) (246). Tellingly, Norm, as a fisherman, shares a greater affinity with the sea than the land, preferring to be in a boat on the ocean as “the sea man of Carpentaria” (95). He “inherited his father’s memory of the sea” (17), indicating the vital importance of intercultural transference of traditional knowledge and culture for survival. Through the character of Norm, textual references to the environment expand beyond the terrestrial. Interestingly, Wright repeatedly appropriates the use of the word ‘magic’ to describe Norm, which suggests that this is a deliberate technique to normalise the term and invoke a normative status for ‘magical’ events in the narrative. Norm is described as the kind of person who has “swapped their blood for magic” and who has “only got magic running through their veins” (486). His practice of preserving dead fish is depicted as being “like magic” (197). And his son, Will Phantom, seeks out “the latest piece of magic his father was working on” (194). Norm is also referred to as a “supernatural master artist who created miracles” (206). Indeed, Wright uses the word ‘magic’ liberally throughout the novel, including in relation to ancestral sprits, like the “land woman devil Gardajala” (276). Some critics worry that the application of the word ‘magic’ to Indigenous Australian literature somehow “trivialises the sacred dimension” of the ancestral spirits.10 Alison Ravenscroft even warns against relating Carpentaria to magical realism because it might imply a binary reading that “associates Indigeneity with magic, irrationality, delusion and dream, and whiteness with realism, reality and rationality.”11 However, I propose that Wright is deliberately co-opting the word ‘magic’ from an Indigenous viewpoint, using it in a positive rather than a pejorative sense. Wright’s approach is consistent with an anthropological perspective that treats magic as a legitimate form of knowledge. Claude Lévi-Strauss

‘Expanded reality’  45 considers magical thought in premodern societies to form “a well-­ articulated system” that is just as valid as modern scientific thought. Rather than pitting magic and science against each other as adversaries, Lévi-Strauss suggests that it is better to “compare them as two parallel modes of acquiring knowledge.” Both magic and science are similar insofar as they “require the same sort of mental operations,” yet they are dissimilar in regard to “the different types of phenomena to which they are applied.”12 Magic, as Marcel Mauss notes, is a knowledge base that has to be believed. It is “a social phenomenon” rather than a private one, and it is sanctioned by public opinion through “shared ideas and voluntary rites” that are passed down through generations. Magic is learned through “revelation,” which occurs through contact “with one or more spirits.”13 In short, an anthropological interpretation of magic is as a well-articulated system of thought equal in status to scientific thought and as a social phenomenon consecrated by tradition. Magic as a legitimate form of knowledge links an Indigenous Australian environmental unconscious with traditional spirituality in Wright’s fiction. Ancestral spirits reside within the environment and pass on knowledge of the Law to ongoing generations of Indigenous people like Norm. Carpentaria opens with a creationist myth: the “ancestral serpent,” at an indeterminate time “billions of years ago,” descends from the stars and crawls “all around the wet clay soils in the Gulf of Carpentaria.” For the remainder of the narrative the rainbow serpent “continues to live deep down under the ground” and “permeates everything” (1–2). The “silent spirit men” watch over the country and people (150), and, in an echo of the historical massacres of Indigenous tribes, the “fairy-like people,” the yinbirras, who once lived beside real people, “disappeared into the wilderness of life” in order to not be found (299). This interconnection between the Law, ancestral spirits and the environment reaches its apotheosis towards the end of the narrative, when Norm invokes the spirits to create a cyclone as “payback” against the corrupt white people who run the town of Desperance (485, 487). The storm destroys the white settlement, razing the land back to a precolonial state, recalling a similar fate for Macondo in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). This interconnection between the spiritual and environmental worlds is even more overt in The Swan Book. The native Australian black swan, which has supernatural properties in the text, is an inversion of the northern hemisphere’s white swan. The black swans are said to be “banished” and “gypsies” (15–16), representing the plight of Indigenous Australians. Black swans have their own ancestral spirits and Law stories (16), but nobody can remember what the swans’ stories are (67), signifying a loss of cultural memory. The protagonist, the teenager Oblivia Ethyl(ene), becomes a custodian of Indigenous knowledge after living underground for a decade in the “bowels” of an ancient eucalypt,

46  ‘Expanded reality’ a “sacred tree where all the stories … were stored like doctrines of Law left by the spiritual ancestors” (78). Oblivia’s education, however, is not initially voluntary. After being “gang-raped” as a girl by a group of petrol-sniffing Indigenous boys (82), signifying dysfunction within her own society, she is pushed underground by an ancestral spirit responsible “for looking after the memories” (79). She learns by touching the native eucalypt’s “huge woven roots” and “writing stanzas in ancient symbols” (7), meaning she literally inscribes knowledge on to the earth. Her underground dwelling also acts as a kind of womb for Oblivia’s resurfacing as a young woman signifies parturition. Her muteness – she does not speak – symbolises both the denial of an Indigenous voice and the prospect that only Oblivia can communicate traditional knowledge among her people. Two other characteristics of the Law make this Indigenous philosophy starkly different from Western perceptions of the environment: the land as text and localised knowledge. Indigenous Australian literature has a “unique conception of textuality” because the land is viewed as a text of the Dreamtime, a text that is bound up with the experiences of each and every individual.14 In The Swan Book this is evoked through Oblivia writing ancestral knowledge on the earth while underground and the drought-riven country, described as having been “rolled like an ancient scroll from its top and bottom ends” (18). Knowledge stored in the environment is conveyed from one person to another through song, a pedagogical method that is sometimes referred to as songlines. In Carpentaria, Norm Phantom’s rival elder, Joseph Midnight, passes on information to Will Phantom by singing “in the right sequence hundreds of places in a journey to a place at least a thousand kilometres away” (375) so that Will may use these songs as a kind of map and arrive at his destination safely. Yet the Law is also localised, specific to a particular language group or groups. Wright speaks of having to follow “protocols” in her own work and not write about things outside her own traditional country in the Gulf of Carpentaria.15 In The Swan Book, Oblivia is led by her abductor, the Indigenous political leader Warren Finch, through spinifex country that is foreign to her. This country “had a serious Law story for every place” (191), but Oblivia listens to grass and scrub that sing “stories and laws that she would never know” (171). The implication is that local traditional knowledge is only accessible to insiders. In Carpentaria, the narrator states that “the old white people” who had tried to “translate the secret conversations Norm had with the heavenly spirits at night” “will never know” (original emphasis) (230). In other words, Indigenous spirituality is truly comprehensible only by those who live within an Indigenous culture. Wright’s fiction is political in that her work constitutes a reassertion of Indigenous Australians as the pivotal centre of the continent. A critical

‘Expanded reality’  47 component of Wright’s utilisation of magical realism as a postcolonial strategy is the literal rewriting of Indigenous people back into recorded history. Her purpose is not only to reassert the primacy of the autochthon to Australia’s ancient history but also to ensure the survival of Indigenous stories for future generations of Indigenous peoples by preserving them in a written form.16 She warns of the danger of not passing on intergenerational stories: otherwise “silence is a major curse” that threatens to result in Indigenous people forgetting who they are.17 Magical realism, says Wendy Faris, not only reflects history, but “it may also seek to change it, by addressing historical issues critically and thereby attempting to heal historical wounds.”18 The narrative mode offers an “alternative history” that is “just as valid as the official version,” says Denis Donoghue, in which “the pluperfect subjunctive is just as good as the past perfect.”19 Wright follows in a long tradition in magical realist fiction with texts that seek to fill in the gaps of official nationalist history and reinsert the perspective of the marginalised, often in response to oppressive regimes; indeed, this will unfold as a central theme of this monograph. For example, García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude highlights United States capitalist imperialism in Central America and the subjugation of workers, Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987) depicts the dehumanising consequences of slavery in the United States, and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981) critiques former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s autocratic rule. Wright’s fiction is particularly acute in illustrating the absurdity of much official history. It is well noted by critics that magical realist fiction frequently employs historiographic metafiction, which critically reworks the forms and contents of the past with a “theoretical self-awareness of history and fiction as human constructs.” Linda Hutcheon argues that historiographic metafiction “plays upon the truth and lies of the historical record” by foregrounding the possibility of error – both deliberate and inadvertent – in recorded history, emphasising that we know the past through our reading of historical textual documents. 20 Ato Quayson develops this point further: “In magical realism, historiographic metafiction often also embraces various processes and contradictions by which the historical is established, producing what, to echo Raymond Williams, is a structure of (absurdist) feeling with respect to history.”21 Quayson here picks up on Williams’s theory that there will always be certain elements of past times and places that are “irrecoverable” and that even those elements which are recovered will only be so “in abstraction.” Williams says:22 The most difficult thing to get hold of, in studying any past period, is this felt sense of the quality of life at a particular place and time: a sense of the ways in which the particular activities combined into a way of thinking and living.

48  ‘Expanded reality’ The absurdity of official recorded history is particularly evident in Australia’s colonial past. Historian Henry Reynolds points out the artificial construct of ‘Australia’ at the commencement of Federation in 1901: at the time “there were two Australias” – the white colonialist south and the Indigenous-multiracial north, which included residents hailing from South-East Asia, China and Japan, with the northerners being largely unaware of the white southerners’ existence. In remote Northern Australia there lived “uncounted thousands of Aborigines,” who “had never seen Europeans and knew nothing of Federation or their putative membership of a new nation.”23 It is a stark example of Benedict Anderson’s argument that the modern nation state is no more than “an imagined political community” because all of its citizen-members will never know most of their fellow members. 24 Wright’s fiction transcends the limitations of an abstracted textual reconstruction of history by drawing on oral storytelling passed down through generations. Her fictionalised history, then, becomes a felt history in that it involves an emotional recovery as much as an intellectual one. This is evident in the continual references in her fiction to the massacres of Indigenous Australians, which even today is a contentious point among conservative white-‘settler’ historians. For instance, in Carpentaria the Indigenous elder Mozzie Fishman experiences visions of “white hands” “touching everything in the community” that are “created by a special luminance caught in the fractures of light” (126). “Sometimes he saw thousands of these hands at work. He could see them killing Aboriginal people. He believed the hands belonged to all kinds of white people, some dead, some still alive” (127). In a frequent technique of hers, Wright compresses time so that the past is fused with the present, suggesting that the colonisation process is continuous. Carpentaria also satirises the potential flaw in recorded history ignoring tangible documentation that is easily accessible when Uncle Mickey finds “evidence” of “all kinds of cartridges used in the massacre of the local tribes” with a humble metal detector. Mickey obsessively collects “maps, names of witnesses, details, the lot,” assembling his own alternative archive of historical artefacts (11). Wright complicates our conceptions of post-coloniality by reconstructing a history of the continent that lies outside the binary of coloniser and colonised, European and Indigenous. Wright draws on her own mixed heritage, especially that of her Chinese ancestry, which she shares with her maternal grandmother. Granny Ah Kup, a major influence on Wright, who passed on Indigenous stories, “collapsed history and assimilated the remote Dreamtime into the present in order to explain her attachment to country,” says Wright. But her grandmother also “acknowledged her Chinese inheritance.”25 Wright’s great-grandmother was kidnapped as a child in 1881 by a pastoralist who “gave” her to his Chinese cook as a wife. Their daughter, Granny Ah Kup, in turn, married a man who also had Chinese ancestry. Wright’s mixed Indigenous

‘Expanded reality’  49 and Chinese heritage was crystallised in May 2012 at the launch of the Chinese translation of Carpentaria. Presiding over the event at the Australian Embassy in Beijing for Li Yao’s translation of Wright’s novel was China’s most famous magical realist author, Mo Yan, who five months later would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. 26 While Wright does not appear to have ever explicitly described her fiction as magical realist, she has acknowledged finding inspiration early in her career from leading international writers of magical realism, including Gabriel García Márquez, Salman Rushdie, Carlos Fuentes, Toni Morrison, Günter Grass and Keri Hulme. In particular, Wright says she sought out authors from other countries which, like Australia, had been colonised, and who had “ancient ties with their land.” “I wanted somebody to speak to me because I could not find the words I was searching for in Australian literature,” she says. “I was interested in how other people survived horror.”27 The horror that Wright refers to is the British invasion and the subsequent dispossession of land for the first inhabitants. She argues, 28 This nation was shaped through its ability to lie and get away with the land theft of the entire country from Aboriginal people since day one of colonisation; it is the most fundamental issue of what is still wrong in the country. Yet, whereas Australia is officially regarded as being a decolonised nation, following Federation in 1901, Wright’s fiction portrays the country’s original inhabitants as suffering ongoing colonisation. When ‘settler’ colonies become ‘settler’ nations, the colonial relationship between rulers and native peoples typically endures because the latter do not experience independence from their immediate colonisers. Moreover, the colonisers’ initial acquisition of land leads to further dispossession through the forcible removal of native people from their homelands as well as the policies of assimilation and even genocide. 29 It is this process that Wright portrays in her fiction. She argues that “tired, old-fashioned, dysfunctional” governments “continue to think like colonists.”30 She believes that Indigenous Australians remain engaged in “a war just for our very survival” and “a continuing invasion.”31 The omniscient narrator in Wright’s debut novel, Plains of Promise (1997), calls the theft of the land “an undeclared war … [a] war with no name.” The enforced removal of Indigenous peoples to the “prison camps” of Christian missions and cattle stations, where they were exploited as effective slave labour, was a continuation of that war.32 While Wright largely employs a realistic mode in Plains of Promise to depict the cultural, psychological and emotional ramifications of dispossession, she radically alters her style in her subsequent two novels, Carpentaria and The Swan Book, to include magical realist techniques.

50  ‘Expanded reality’ Much early Indigenous Australian literature focussed on literary realism in order “to make a clear statement about the conditions under which Aborigines lived in white Australia: dispossession, violence, poverty, disease, constant harassment by whites, and the day-to-day struggle to survive” so that their political message would be apparent to white readers.33 Wright, however, apart from in her first book, eschews literary realism in favour of a non-realist narrative strategy that enables her to represent a distinct alternative mode of ‘reality’ that privileges her traditional culture. She adapts Dreamtime mythology to depict the world as it is viewed though Indigenous eyes, which stands in stark contrast to the empirical rationalism imported by the European colonisers. Her use of myth foreshortens time, which, in turn, enables her fiction to subvert the dominant, white-‘settler’ version of Australia’s post-­invasion history by suggesting that the past is a factor that determines the present as it will the future. This is what Wright means when she says she attempts to “use literature to try and create a truer replica of reality.”34 Yet her adaptation of Dreamtime mythology is a reinterpretation of Indigenous spirituality rather than a transcription. As a result, Carpentaria is “transformative” as a magical realist text because it draws on cosmology from Wright’s traditional Waanyi nation “to insist that mythological meanings are embedded in the mundane and everyday real.”35 Her narratives create an Indigenous “expanded reality” that taps “into the ‘underlying stuff’ of [D]reaming consciousness.”36 The extended sequence of Norm’s aquatic burial of his friend, the shipwrecked European sailor Elias Smith, in Carpentaria illustrates how Wright evokes the Dreamtime in her fiction, which accords with a magical realist treatment, eroding distinctions between the supernatural and the real, the incorporeal and the corporeal. Moreover, this passage shows how magical realist texts “disturb received ideas about time, space and identity.”37 After Elias is murdered by mining company workers, Norm places Elias’s body in a small boat and heads out into the Gulf of Carpentaria. Elias’s spirit talks back to Norm, as if they are on one of their regular fishing trips. After two weeks, Norm’s boat is surrounded by “hundreds” of groper fish that remind him of Indigenous “families gathering at funerals” (252). The groper is said to be not only from the Dreamtime but also a “descendent of the giant dinosaur” (248–249). This passage links ancestral time with prehistoric time, highlighting how Wright often blends Indigenous mythology with Western science to present two different cultural perspectives on immemorial time, thereby creating an inherent tension within the narrative. The gropers guide Norm to Elias’s “final resting place” (252) as Norm places the body into “the strangely calm emerald green waters” (253). Elias descends to the gropers’ underwater “abyss,” a “place where they left to go on their spiritual journeys into the skies” (251). Norm watches as the groper fish raise “their bodies high out of the sea” and “ascend into the sky world

‘Expanded reality’  51 of the Milky Way” to become “a cloudy blur in the celestial heavens of stars and spirits.” “He knew at once Elias was up there with them” and that “Elias was taking the journey back to his own country” and “would be like a star” (257–258). However, this groper passage is also indicative of what a Western reader may perceive as magical realist, but which in fact contains underlying cultural factors that exceed the narrative mode. Wright’s evocative repetition of imagery such as the mythical groper, emerald-coloured water and stars reflects the poetics of much Indigenous storytelling. The imagery is what Kevin Gilbert refers to as “emotional symbolism,” which is “an extension of the traditional oral language” or song cycles. Such images are “symbolic mnemonics” that aid the teller and listener in remembering “the beginning and end of the complex whole.”38 So, while we may say that Carpentaria participates in magical realism, it does not belong to magical realism, and, crucially, it participates at a more fundamental level as a textual representation of traditional oral storytelling. Author and critic Colin Johnson, who publishes under the name of Mudrooroo Narogin, and who was once regarded as a pioneer of Indigenous Australian literature, argues that the Dreamtime is a world that is “as existent and as real” as that conceived by the European natural sciences. Indigenous Australians, he says, resort to fictional narratives to present both their own reality and their own history because they have been denied “alternative ‘authentic’ historical” texts due to the official history of the colonists. Johnson coins the term “maban reality” to describe this Indigenous Australian world view, which, he says, is “characterised by a firm grounding in the reality of the earth or country, together with an acceptance of the supernatural as part of everyday reality.” Critically, Johnson states that “Maban reality is akin to magic realism.”39 The authenticity of his self-proclaimed Indigenous Australian heritage was called into question after his sister traced their family’s ancestry to an African-American.40 Nevertheless, his concept of “maban reality” and its relation to magical realism deserves critical attention. Notice that he uses the word “akin” rather than specifically equating Dreamtime reality to the narrative mode. In other words, his theory accords with my argument that critics should look for similarities or family resemblances between texts in relation to magical realism rather than set lists of characteristics. The implication of Johnson’s maban reality concept is that there may be similarities between premodern Dreamtime narratives and what is conceived as postmodern magical realism as a literary mode. This is not to exoticise the Dreamtime but to draw similarities between the ontological perspective of Indigenous Australians and a magical realist sensibility. Johnson’s theory, then, provides another marker from which to explore the possibility of polygenesis for magical realism. In Carpentaria, Wright’s core themes of ongoing colonisation, Indigenous reality and protecting the environment are synthesised in the

52  ‘Expanded reality’ iron ore mine run by a New York-based multinational mining company named Gurfurritt International (as in ‘Go For It’) that drives the action subplot. The mining theme is reminiscent of Jennifer Wenzel’s concept of “petro-magic-realism,” which she applies in her analysis of short stories by Nigerian writers to explore the relationships between the fantastical and material elements of these stories, and their links with corrupt oil companies and colluding politicians. Oil compels the Nigerian state to become a “magical mediator” between globalised capital markets and Nigeria’s human and natural resources. Petro-magic-realism, as Wenzel defines it, is a literary mode that combines the transmogrifying creatures and liminal space of the forest in Yoruba narrative tradition with the monstrous-but-mundane violence of oil exploration and extraction, the state violence that supports it, and the environmental degradation that it causes.41 Similarly, in Carpentaria, the state acts as a mediator between international capital markets on the one hand and human and natural resources on the other, aided by the corrupt collusion of white politicians and police. The forest in Yoruba narratives exemplifies liminal space, which is a common feature of magical realist fiction, set between two boundaries, symbolising the in-between space that lies amid the ‘magical’ and the ‘real.’ In Carpentaria, the town of Desperance, population 300, lies on the North Australian coastline, surrounded by the expansive Gulf of Carpentaria on one side and the arid outback on the other. Instead of Yoruba transmogrifying creatures, however, Wright’s novel contains Dreamtime ancestral spirits, who look on in despair at the environmental damage that the iron ore mine wreaks on the environment. The spirits listen to “the dull, monotonous clanging made by heavy machinery churning and gouging the land” (150). The word gouging has a dual meaning here: both to dig and to extort money. By building on Wenzel’s concept of petro-magic-realism I formulate what I call “commodity magical realism,” a term that covers any natural resource or agricultural product sold as a commodity – such as iron ore, oil, gas, timber, rubber or fish – and which features in a magical realist text. The narrative mode has a long tradition of commodities providing a central role in texts, such as bananas in Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), sugar cane in Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World (1949), maize in Miguel Angel Asturias’s Men of Maize (1949), fish and whales in Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider (1987) and sorghum in Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum (1987). In each of these books the focal commodity symbolises the exploitation of human and natural resources for economic profit, often involving the subjugation of native peoples in order to extract those resources. So, too, the iron ore in

‘Expanded reality’  53 Carpentaria is metaphorical for the insatiable appetite of global capital, colluding state apparatuses and the suppression of the native population. The text unambiguously presents the mining company’s operations as a twenty-first-century form of ecological imperialism and yet another iteration of the dispossession of land. Gurfurritt International is said to be “pillaging the region’s treasure trove” of minerals (9). Corporate interests ignore Indigenous legal rights as mining company representatives “claimed not to know what was required from Native title claims” (391). Will Phantom regards the mining company as waging a “new war in their country,” “a war for money,” a type of war that “had no rules” (378). Even an independent voice in the narrative, the pugilistic Irish priest Father Danny, views the mining company’s war against Indigenous people as being linked to the dispossession of land. “It’s gone too far this time Will, too far, this mine, using technology to control ­people. Very unwise. They cannot crush people just because they have the power to crush the landscape to smithereens” (193). This is a critical point as the novel is set in 2002, a decade after Indigenous Australians won the legal right to own their traditional lands, an historic milestone that exposed the hypocrisy of colonial law. The British justified their ‘occupation’ of Australia on the basis of terra nullius, which created the fiction that the continent belonged to no one because it was not cultivated.42 However, nomadic Indigenous Australians in precolonial times did, in fact, cultivate the land through controlled fire and parklands to ensure a sustainable food supply, as Bill Gammage demonstrates in The Biggest Estate on Earth (2011). European colonial powers like Britain used international law to ratify territorial claims that were imagined cartographically, thereby justifying the geographical expansion of their empires.43 The white-‘settler’ fiction of terra nullius was overturned by the High Court of Australia’s historic Mabo judgement in 1992, which affirmed native title rights to traditional land and led to improved land rights legislation with the Native Title Act in 1993. The court’s decision, however, subsequently came under attack from conservative state and federal governments as well as mining and pastoral interests. Mabo created an unsettledness among whites in the ‘settler’ nation because the mode of occupation that the Europeans had originally taken for granted  – that is, invasion and land theft – had been challenged. So, Wright’s novel may be read as a counter-reaction to the conservative reaction to Mabo. The iron ore mine in Carpentaria engenders greed for money, causing Indigenous people to fight among themselves and divide families.44 Norm Phantom’s two eldest sons, Inso and Donny, who will not help anyone “except for money,” work at the iron ore mine (107), while Norm’s 16-year-old son, Kevin, the brightest child in the family, suffers brain damage after being caught in an explosion on his first day at work at the mine (109). Moreover, the elder Joseph Midnight organises his

54  ‘Expanded reality’ own community to make up the false Wangabiya tribe in order to claim land rights and receive mining royalties (52). The mine also becomes metonymic for corporations, politicians and bureaucrats acting in concert to subjugate native inhabitants in order to exploit natural resources, a type of collusion known as the “neo-­colonialist Iron Triangle.”45 When Norm’s rebellious son Will decides to literally fight back against the mine by sabotaging its $30 million, 150-­kilometre pipeline to the coast (366–367), the Iron Triangle retaliates by ordering a police manhunt to capture him. White politicians demonise Will as “a curse to the Gulf” (289), reinforcing Alexis Wright’s belief in an ongoing war against Indigenous Australians. However, Will is saved in a quintessential magical realist event that is as much environmental as it is ‘magical.’ After he sets fire to the mine’s headquarters, the land itself comes alive as the text imbues the inanimate with human qualities. An armed mining employee who is hunting down Will trips on a rock. Instantly, his head was split open at the temple by a rock that had, up to that moment, lain on the ground, embedded in soil that was thousands of seasons old, untouched by humankind since the ancestor had placed it in this spot, as if it had planned to do this incredible thing. (405) In this single moment Wright merges the Dreamtime, the environment and the political reassertion of Indigenous rights through the dismantling of binaries and the portrayal of an alternative, Indigenous view of ‘reality.’ Carpentaria engages in what Lawrence Buell calls “toxic discourse” in order to further develop the theme of environmental racism by which Indigenous Australians are segregated from mainstream white society and prevented from having control over their traditional lands. Toxic discourse in a work of fiction reflects “expressed anxiety arising from perceived threat of environmental hazard due to chemical modification by human agency.” The term also refers to fiction that attempts to imagine physical environments in such a way that it fuses social and environmental restoration perspectives.46 In Wright’s novel, the iron ore mine is the most overt originator of toxicity, a polluter of gargantuan proportions. It disfigures the landscape, creating “horrible devils that the gigantic yellow mining equipment scraped out of the big open-cut holes” (98). Eventually, “everyone” in Desperance sees what the ancestral spirits see: “The country looked dirty from mining, shipping, barges spilling ore and waste” (401). Yet Wright also deploys magical realist techniques to denote toxicity in a broader context beyond industrial activity. Towards the end of the novel, Will Phantom, still on the run from police and mining employees,

‘Expanded reality’  55 inadvertently finds sanctuary on a one-kilometre-long “extraordinary floating island of rubbish” in the ocean (493). The text implies that the island might be partly made from detritus washed into the sea after Desperance was obliterated by Norm Phantom’s cyclone, by the same floodwaters that push Will out into the Gulf. Will is surrounded by plastic ­ etroleum-based bottles and green bags tied with rubbish, all synthetic p products. At first the island is described as being totally alien to its aquatic environment and destructive as it “became more tightly enmeshed into a solid mass that squashed every inch of oil and stench of the dead marine life it had trapped in its guts” (493–494). However, the longer Will remains on the ‘island,’ the more it transmutes into a part-synthetic, part-organic phenomenon. A single rotting tomato containing an earthworm settled in the ­ ewspaper-lined vase of a plywood fruit box, and grew. Within a sean son, tomato plants inhabited the island like weeds. The worm multiplied into hundreds and thousands of worms. The worms spread like wildfire into every pokey hole of rotting rubbish and soon enough, a deep, nutrient-rich humus covered the entire island. Well! What have you? Peach, apricot, almonds, all grew. Guava, figs – fruit that came with the birds, stayed, and grew into beautiful trees (495). The metamorphosis of Will’s floating sanctuary from toxicity to part-­ organic enables him to survive his prolonged sojourn on the sea. What the text implies, however, is a primacy of the natural environment: once human-created pollution is dismantled and fragmented, the organic world may have a chance of reasserting itself and creating a life-­ sustaining environment. Another toxicity motif runs through the garbage site in which the Indigenous residents of Desperance are forced to live. The Phantom family and their community reside in a “human dumping ground next to the town tip” and live “piled up together in trash humpies made of tin, cloth, and plastic too, salvaged from the rubbish dump” (4). In a further sign of exclusion and enforced apartheid, the Indigenous community is said to live in Downtown, whereas the whites in their solid houses live in Uptown. The garbage ghetto is yet another form of environmental racism as well as another example of the kind of attritional “slow violence” directed against the poor that involves the “delayed destruction” of the environment so that “the conditions for sustaining life become increasingly but gradually degraded.”47 Uptown people impose a colonialist ideology by insisting that “all people were born without lands” (61), thereby refusing to acknowledge legal and moral rights to their traditional lands. However, the whites’ own claim to landownership is shown to be spurious and arbitrary. The town of Desperance is characterised as being

56  ‘Expanded reality’ temporal and illusory. It is not marked on any map (57), its name was changed to Masterton by the state government against the locals’ wishes (59) and its existence is justified by white residents merely because the “original pioneers” (read: colonisers) surveyed the area and marked the town’s boundary “on paper” (59). The pioneers’ aspirations, however, proved misguided. Their intention was for the town’s port to serve ­shipping trade for the hinterland of Northern Australia, but over time the river changed direction, and the port became waterless (3). Wright here utilises magical realism to invoke an alternative world view, one in which the environment is permeated by ancestral spirits that protect and even shape the environment, and subvert cartographical ­­boundaries. The Rainbow Serpent is responsible for altering the river’s course. Ancestral creation spirits, which are “huge” and “powerful,” occupy both land and sea, and continuously move freely through the town of D ­ esperance, “even inside other folk’s houses” (59). The physical exclusion of Indigenous people from the township and their ghettoised residence in the garbage dump is symbolic of historical attempts by white Australian governments, bureaucrats and churches to eradicate Indigenous Australians through so-called ‘assimilation’ ­policies. Norm’s surname, Phantom, which signifies non-existence, and his supernatural ability to commune with dead people who are “frightened” about “what was going to happen to them” (202) both serve as a hauntology, a reminder that the murder of Indigenous peoples during the colonial and postcolonial eras is as relevant to the present as to the past. I am borrowing Jacques Derrida’s concept of hauntology as a spectre of history that keeps returning, the repetitive recurrence of its presence highlighting its repression by the hegemonic discourse of the present. Moreover, the constantly returning spectre is situated outside of chronological time.48 Carpentaria is replete with tales of the dead that serve as reminders of past massacres of Indigenous peoples. These particular stories are usually inextricably connected to the land, reinforcing the nexus between Indigenous society and the local environment. Uncle Mickey, for instance, uses a metal detector to uncover “evidence” buried in the ground about “the massacre of the local tribes,” such as cartridges, which he predicts will one day be used for prosecutions in “war trials” (11). Norm Phantom relates to a group of elders the story of his father, who, as a boy, escaped “men on horses” with guns by sliding like a lizard “with the gravel into the dirt” and hiding “under a rock ledge” (101–102). In other words, the natural environment became Norm’s father’s refuge from slaughter. Wright maintains a militant attitude regarding the treatment of her native people, both in historical and contemporary times. Indeed, she does not draw a distinction between the two time frames. “I am interested in the reality of our social, political, economic and cultural position in today’s Australia as a consequence of the continuing invasion and our ongoing war against genocide,” says Wright.49

‘Expanded reality’  57 Despite a widespread public misconception that genocide did not occur in Australia, historical scholarship and judicial opinion lend weight to Wright’s stance. Historian Henry Reynolds argues that the massacres of Indigenous groups in the nineteenth century by white ‘settlers,’ who were assisted by Indigenous trackers and troopers, are likely to be classified as genocide if the term is applied to smaller, distinct groups rather than, say, Indigenous Australians in their entirety. Reynolds also asserts that the policy of assimilation – the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families by governments and churches – could be considered “genocidal in effect, if not necessarily in intention” if the aim of the children’s transfer was the destruction of a group of people. Indeed, this was the conclusion of the Human Rights and Opportunity Commission’s 1997 report Bringing Them Home, which examined the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. In addition, jurist Hal Wootten, in his 1989 report to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, argues that assimilation falls within the “modern definition of genocide.” Reynolds says that government-sanctioned assimilation was in breach of international law prohibiting genocide that had been laid down by the United Nations Genocide Convention in 1946. 50 The creator of the word genocide, Polish jurist Raphael Lemkin, who in 1944 helped draft the United Nations’ Genocide Convention, considered that it did not necessarily mean the entire destruction of a nation but could also apply to the planned disintegration of a national group and the destruction of individuals within such groups.51 Assimilation, says historian Ann Curthoys, was designed to make Indigenous Australians “lose their identity as a distinct people” through “intermarriage and mixed-race children.”52 Rather than use literary realism to tackle the topic of genocide, which would likely be too confronting for the general reader, Wright instead deploys magical realism to depict the attempted annihilation of Indigenous peoples from an imaginative, Indigenous perspective. The narrative mode enables the text to engage readers with the issue rather than to alienate them. As The Swan Book’s narrator sarcastically remarks, “it was officially denied” that “crimes” such as “genocide, or mass murder” ever occurred in the country (309). Wright’s technique illustrates what Eugene Arva identifies as the “traumatic imagination” that is inherent in much magical realist fiction. The narrative mode involves “an empathy-driven consciousness that enables authors and readers to act out and / or work through trauma by means of magical realist images.” Magical realism allows the depiction of historical events that are too extreme to be portrayed through realism – such as massacres, genocide or natural disasters – by “re-present[ing] the unpresentable” as experiences rather than as they might have actually occurred. 53 Plains of Promise, which was published in the same year as the Bringing Them Home report, details the devastating emotional and psychological effects of

58  ‘Expanded reality’ assimilation, which the narrator says is simply another word for “annihilation.” “The white people wanted everyone to become white, to think white” (74). The unnamed mother of Ivy Koopundi commits suicide by self-immolation after Christian missionaries take her daughter away. Ivy’s mother had previously seen “small and faceless” creatures slide down ropes in the sky and beckon her in the night (14). Ivy, in turn, has her own daughter, Mary, taken away from her. As Grannie Kathie, herself taken from her parents on the cattle station where she was born, tells Mary, “Lots of children had been taken away.” The ramifications, however, are profound as parents were unable to pass down language, culture and Law to their offspring. “I couldn’t give them their past,” laments Grannie Kathie (275). In Carpentaria, Mozzie Fishman, an Indigenous elder and “religious leader” who travels in a convoy of cars with his “holy pilgrims of the Aboriginal world” to bring “the feared Law ceremony” across state borders (119), experiences visions of “white hands,” “touching everything in the community,” that are “created by a special luminance caught in the fractures of light” (126). “Sometimes he saw thousands of these hands at work. He could see them killing Aboriginal people. He believed the hands belonged to all kinds of white people, some dead, some still alive” (127). Wright uses indirect images, or magical realism’s traumatic imagination, to convey extreme atrocities and compresses time so that the past is fused with the present, suggesting that the colonisation process is continuous. The plight of Indigenous Australians is what Robert Young describes as the “fourth world,” where in an officially decolonised country there is still colonisation of first inhabitants “who seek the basic rights of legal and social equality.” After independence, power is passed on to a “native bourgeois elite,” who have been raised during the period of colonialism and taken on Western presuppositions, such as the idea of the nation state.54 This is a key issue in Wright’s utilisation of magical realism as a postcolonial strategy. Although Australia is generally considered to be postcolonial because the country is no longer subject to “direct-rule domination” by the British, Indigenous Australians remain dominated by non-Indigenous governments. Wright’s use of magical realism in a so-called “fourth-world” context prompts a modification of Stephen Slemon’s frequently cited theory of magical realism as postcolonial discourse. His 1988 article has been variously described as “seminal,”55 “groundbreaking”56 and “influential,”57 yet his assumptions have largely gone unchallenged over the past three decades. Slemon argues that in a magical realist text “a battle between two oppositional systems takes place, each working toward the creation of a different kind of fictional world from the other.” The two systems are “incompatible,” and, as a result, “each remains suspended, locked in a continuous dialectic with the ‘other,’ a situation which creates disjunction within each of the separate discursive systems, rendering them with

‘Expanded reality’  59 gaps, absences, and silences.” In turn, magical realism’s “characteristic” manoeuvre is that its “two separate narrative modes never manage to arrange themselves into any kind of hierarchy.” Critically, Slemon makes it clear that he is talking about a “binary opposition” or a “double vision” that results from the clash between the colonial culture and that of the indigenous population. In a postcolonial context, this manifests itself in a dialectic between two different codes: the “codes of recognition” handed down from the “inherited,” or coloniser’s, language and the “imagined” or “future-oriented” codes that aspire towards a language of “local realism,” usually taken to mean the language of the colonised.58 Slemon here invokes Gabriel García Márquez’s famous metaphor of the “speaking mirror,” which appears at the climactic end of One Hundred Years of Solitude, and which, subsequent to Slemon, has often been used by critics to explain the dual nature of magical realism.59 Slemon believes the two systems are oppositional and irreconcilable. In an often overlooked remark, he says in a footnote that his reading “takes issue” with contrasting approaches that view magical realism as “a seamless interweaving of, or synthesis between, the magical and the real.”60 Furthermore, his theory of magical realism as postcolonial discourse is predicated on a binary analysis: magical and real, coloniser and colonised, foreign and local. As he admits, Slemon builds on the notion of postcolonialism’s hybrid nature, which, in turn, creates this double vision or “metaphysical clash.” But it is Slemon’s fixation on binaries, or a postcolonial hybrid dualism, which limits his otherwise insightful theory when it comes to magical realist texts set within ongoing colonisation in an officially decolonised nation. Ato Quayson argues that Slemon’s use of the term “battle” does not accurately reflect the dynamics inherent in magical realism. “The idea that they are in a battle undermines the notion of equivalence, since it implies that the reader is invited to switch sides in a shifting hierarchical relationship, either of an ethical, motivational, or indeed, spatial kind, between the real and the fantastic,” says Quayson. Instead, he says that magical realist fiction involves an “equivalence” that governs the narrative relationship between the two domains: the magical and the real. “It is better to speak of an interplay between the two representational regimes, with an equal emphasis on both parts of the word inter/play,” he adds (original emphasis).61 On the one hand, Quayson is correct to highlight the constant intermingling between the magical and the real; after all, the magical aspects of magical realism are embedded in, and emanate from, the realistic ones. On the other hand, his notion of “equivalence” suggests a kind of equal voice between the magical and the real, which may not always be the case within a specific text. In Wright’s fiction, for instance, the

60  ‘Expanded reality’ ontological reality of the Dreamtime, which is signified by the ­‘magical’ elements, ultimately achieves a dominant voice in Carpentaria and The Swan Book. Moreover, Slemon’s notion of a “battle” between the oppositional systems captures the tension that exists between these irreconcilable narratives, which reflects the fractures within the postcolonial societies being portrayed. As Elleke Boehmer says, by drawing on magical realism “postcolonial writers in English are able to express their view of a world fissured, distorted, and made incredible by cultural clash and displacement.”62 Despite the strengths and insight of Slemon’s theory, his analysis does not adequately allow for the complexity of problems that arise from a situation in which there is ongoing colonisation in a supposedly decolonised country. Wright’s fiction illustrates that for Indigenous Australians there are three oppositional systems in operation, one more system than what Slemon identifies. There is arguably a continuous dialectic between the still-colonised Indigenous Australians, the contemporary white-‘settler’ rulers who inherited British-European ideologies from the colonial era and the global economic forces that help perpetuate a colonialist mindset. In Carpentaria, the colonised Indigenous viewpoint is dramatised in the spiritual resistance offered by Norm Phantom and the militant resistance waged by Will Phantom and Mozzie Fishman against the mining company as well as the white politicians and police. The British colonialist viewpoint is represented by the white mayor of Desperance, aptly named Stan Bruiser, whose motto is “Hit first, talk later” (327) (original emphasis). The mayor chases down Indigenous women on his horse until they are exhausted and then rapes them (41), and he bullies the town’s police constable, the ironically named Truthful E’Strange, to jail three young Indigenous boys falsely accused of murder. Bruiser’s bashing of the boys leads them to commit suicide while incarcerated. The third viewpoint, of global economic forces, is represented by the multinational mining company Gurfurritt International, which destroys the environment, ignores Indigenous land rights and demands the complicity of the domestic politicians and police. In The Swan Book, Oblivia is symbolic of the colonised Indigene, while the intervention of the army into Indigenous communities echoes the original British colonists’ invasion. The portrayal of the international economic powers, however, is more complicated than in Carpentaria because of Warren Finch, the Indigenous leader who colludes with mining companies in order to finance his political career and rise to become the country’s first Indigenous president. Through the character of Warren Finch, Wright develops the neocolonialist Iron Triangle theme further than she did in Carpentaria. The dual message in The Swan Book is that people in the Indigenous community are as vulnerable to corruption as anyone in white society and that Indigenous Australians’ collective struggle for survival and autonomy

‘Expanded reality’  61 must remain true to its ideals. Warren is portrayed in biblical terms, reinforcing his in-between status in regard to Indigenous and white-‘settler’ Christian societies. He has a face like “a modern Moses” and is “intent” on “saving the world from the destructive paths carved from its own history” (123). Warren’s age, early 30s (134), draws a parallel to Christ at the time of his crucifixion, and Indigenous elders believe that Warren as a young boy is a “gift from God” (original emphasis), “even though he was a half-caste” (101). Yet, unlike Christ, who refused to make deals with earthly powers, Warren does so in order to realise his political ambitions. His financial backers, however, have grown rich by oppressing his people and exploiting natural resources, that is, by destroying the natural environment. Their support is contingent upon their having a “separate voice,” so they can “hold sway in this country” (223–224). The novel suggests that compromise only damages Indigenous needs. Although Warren’s Brolga Nation people form an Aboriginal Nation Government (97), they cede some of their sovereignty and agree to some assimilation in exchange for mining royalties (116). Warren becomes an “addict” for power (192) and is riddled with “cynicism” (116). Moreover, he effectively adopts the role of coloniser by kidnapping Oblivia – the sole custodian of traditional Law – and taking her from her home in remote Northern Australia to a big city in the south as his forced bride. Warren is assassinated, with the text suggesting that Oblivia might have killed him. As Adeline Johns-Putra points out, he, having been assimilated by imperialist power structures, becomes a signifier of imperialist ideology that is environmentally and racially destructive.63 Warren, then, is a Christlike figure with flaws, a false messiah who ultimately plays Judas to his own oppressed people. The political cynicism underpinning The Swan Book reflects an overall bleak outlook that borders on pessimism throughout the novel, which stands in marked contrast to the hopeful optimism inherent in Carpentaria. Perhaps this is partly due to a lack of advancement in Indigenous Australian affairs on a political front in the early twenty-first century as well as increasing global anxiety about climate change. Wright’s third novel is a dystopian work of fiction that depicts an environmental apocalypse. Set in the near future in an unspecified time, the book depicts an Australia ravaged by climate change, in which “the entire continent [is] covered in dust” (18). Later, the drought is “replaced by soddening rains, year in and year out” (269). The text states that there was “nuclear fallout” but does not specify whether nuclear war was partly or wholly responsible for the environmental catastrophe or a consequence of it. Refugees flee nations that have crumpled due to “climate change wars” (23). Governments around the world have collapsed; towns and cities have closed; and starving people wander aimlessly in search of food, at risk of being attacked by bandits “picking off people they suspected were hiding food” (309). “In every neck of the woods people walked in the

62  ‘Expanded reality’ imagination of doomsayers and talked the language of extinction,” says the narrator (6). The novel also continues Wright’s theme of toxic discourse, which is symbolised in Oblivia’s home of a polluted lake, named Swan Lake, in remote Northern Australia. The lake is filled with disused boats and contaminated with “toxic waste swimming on the surface of the water” (58) as well as possible radiation leaking from some of the hulls (59). The lake represents another iteration of the dispossession of land for its “traditional owners” regard it as a special site “from time immemorial” (original emphasis) (10). As if the toxicity is not bad enough, the government’s air force also uses the old boats on the lake for target practice (11), reinforcing the notion of ongoing colonialism through military means. As Maria Takolander observes, Wright’s narrative “demonstrates the ironic engagement with imperialist histories characteristic of magical realist literature.”64 The Swan Book is an antidote to “the Great Derangement,” Amitav Ghosh’s phrase to describe the twin “crisis” of culture and the imagination in dealing with climate change.65 Moreover, Wright’s novel exemplifies a rising trend in climate change fiction.66 What is distinctive about her overtly environmentally themed book, however, is her use of magical realist techniques to reassert the primacy of an Indigenous Australian perspective that prioritises care for the environment and the implicit warning that environmental damage is likely to be irreversible if such a philosophy continues to be ignored by white authorities. One passage in particular deserves close scrutiny, in which Oblivia’s lake is referred to as the “swamp.” This was the history of the swamp ever since the wave of conservative thinking began spreading like wildfire across the twenty-first century, when among the mix of political theories and arguments about how to preserve and care for the world’s environment and people, the Army was being used in this country to intervene and control the will, mind and soul of the Aboriginal people. … [T]he intervention of the Army never ended for the swamp people, and for other Aboriginal people like themselves who were sent to detention camps like the swamp to live in until the end of their lives. The internment excluded the swamp people from the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (my emphasis) (47–48) The swamp is a substitute for the rubbish tip in Carpentaria, another site of toxicity into which the country’s original inhabitants, as well as international climate refugees, have been herded. Yet it is also a site of traditional land that has been destroyed environmentally by white occupiers. Wright’s use of the word “conservative” is ironic. I take it to mean conservative political thinking – in the sense of the so-called political

‘Expanded reality’  63 ‘right’ – rather than ecological conservation. Her dystopian vision criticises the hypocrisy of twenty-first-century, right-wing political theories that claim to “preserve” the environment, while the perpetrators of those theories utilise military force to subjugate the Indigenous population. Critically, as in Carpentaria, the text here connects environmental degradation with the denial of legal rights to Indigenous people: in this case intrinsic human rights as enshrined by the United Nations (UN). This underlines the interlinked themes of environmental racism and environmental injustice. Human rights in practice are only “natural” as “the positive rights of citizens,” and not those of “humans qua humans,” says Joseph Slaughter. Despite the ideal of every person having inalienable human rights, in reality those rights are usually only exercisable if a person has citizenship of a nation state. To be stateless is to be in a kind of rights limbo. Slaughter draws a distinction between “modern” human rights, as enshrined in national law after the American and French revolutions, and “contemporary” human rights, as espoused by the UN and regional organisations after the Second World War. Human rights law, he argues, is “a complex of contested – and often ­contradictory – ­principles still in formation” that involves “discontinuities” and “inconsistencies.”67 In other words, human rights abuses can still occur in countries that have not legislated those same rights in sovereign law. Wright’s fiction suggests that even in a country that has legislated human rights in sovereign law, those abuses may still occur. The traditional land is named Swan Lake in reference to the native black swans that inhabit it. In a magical realist context, the Australian swans are important for two key reasons. First, they demonstrate that characteristics which are supposedly common to the narrative mode sometimes only appear common because of criteria that involve a Western bias when tested against non-Western texts. For example, Wendy Faris says that magical realist fiction incorporates a kind of “verbal magic,” or a literalisation of metaphor, whereby figures of speech are rendered as real at the level of the text.68 Salman Rushdie is a pre-eminent practitioner of this technique, such as when Saladin Chamcha literally becomes demonised as an Indian immigrant in Britain by turning into a cloven-hoofed goat in The Satanic Verses (1988). But the exploitation by Rushdie and other writers of the traditional Western distinction between the literal and the figurative is not something that generally applies in Wright’s fiction because her Indigenous Australian culture has a different take on the relationship between the literal and the figurative. The black swans guarding Oblivia may be read on one level, from a non-Indigenous perspective, as a metaphor for Australia’s original inhabitants. In the novel, the native swans face extinction due to the severe drought, figuratively representing the ongoing struggle for Indigenous Australians, who are starved of nourishment due to colonising forces. From an Indigenous perspective, however, the black swans

64  ‘Expanded reality’ are not metaphorical; instead they are to be read literally as “ancestors” who once travelled the continent, sharing their Law stories (16), which have largely been forgotten by Indigenous people (67). The second point is that the native swans, in their intimate and spiritual relationship with Oblivia, break down the ­human-animal binary such that the text exhibits a biocentric perspective that accords with environmental literature. This is particularly evident when the swans rescue Oblivia from her incarceration in Warren Finch’s apartment building in the southern city and literally fly her back to her home in Northern Australia. She watched, and knew she had found her swans. They had found each other’s heartbeat, the pulse humming through the land from one to the other, like the sound of distant clap sticks beating through ceremony, connecting together the spirits, people and place of all times into one. These were her swans from the swamp. There was no going back. She would follow them. (303) This passage underscores the interconnection between humans, animals and ancestral spirits; the communication of traditional knowledge through song; and the compression of time into mythic time. Indeed, Wright complicates the swan imagery by imbuing the novel with multiple references to various swan mythologies, not only Indigenous but also Western, Eastern and from classical antiquity. This technique signals that Wright desires a transnational audience, linking the plight of Indigenous Australians to wider human rights issues, and serves as a postcolonial tactic to subvert the dominance of Western discourse. In addition, the novel’s blending of multiple swan myths reinforces the need to position Wright’s fiction within a world literature framework since the text transcends its subnational genesis. The novel’s mythological swan references range across Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, which is part of the Knight of the Swan tradition (28); Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake (94); the belief by Chinese and Greeks that the sighting of swans means good luck (269–270); a swan poem by Chinese monk Ch’i-chi (303); and various swan poems by John Keats, Charles Baudelaire, Pablo Neruda, Seamus Heaney and the Australian James McAuley (327). Early in the text the narrator juxtaposes the different names for white swans in eight different languages, such as ­Japanese (“Kugui”) and Dutch (“Zwaan”), with nine separate names for the black swans in different Indigenous Australian languages, like “Goolyen” and “Koonwarra” (75). This deceptively simple yet effective linguistic technique helps to underscore both the swan’s archetypal symbolism in different cultures around the globe and the distinction between northern hemisphere and antipodean swans. It exemplifies the storyline’s cross-­cultural resonance while reinforcing the text’s ­I ndigenous ­Australian origins.

‘Expanded reality’  65 Wright also explores the intersection between Indigenous and non-­ Indigenous myth by juxtaposing the Dreamtime with geological time. I take geological science to represent the mythical nature (in a secular sense) of Western science generally in that science in the twenty-first century offers meaning to both existential and social questions. Wright’s purpose, I contend, is to inject a narrative tension between Dreamtime cosmology and Western science, between the magical and the real, without giving precedence to either. This particular juxtaposition not only disrupts received ideas about time, which is a common characteristic of magical realist fiction, but also questions the discourse of realism. The interplay between the fantastic and the real in magical realism, as Ato Quayson says, produces “constitutive aporia” that is “felt most strongly in the conduct of time and temporality, since it is these that most capture our sense of consensual realism” (original emphasis).69 The groper fish that help Norm Phantom bury his friend, the immigrant Elias Smith, at sea live in an underwater abyss that “descended down the many levels of a Mesozoic bluff” (257). When Will Phantom sits at the edge of a lagoon contemplating Elias’s corpse, he realises that time is just “a fleeting whisper” as the lagoon had “been carved by an eternity of rushing floodwaters inside the remains of a forest that lived a million years ago” (164). Will later stands at a spot in the desert that “500 million years ago” had sea levels “as high as the surrounding hills” (169). Geological time denotes another temporality that extends back beyond the ancient Indigenous Australian culture and even human existence. Geological time, although long-dated, is scientifically measured, whereas the Dreamtime, which began “billions of years ago” (1), is indeterminate. Wai Chee Dimock coined the neologism “deep time” to identify “a set of longitudinal frames, at once projective and recessional, with input going both ways, and binding continents and millennia into many loops of relations.” Deep time is a conceptual framework that enables the reader to view a text as having a long duration, with a “backward extension” that reaches material in premodern and non-Western literature. Deep time, says Dimock, consists of “temporal length added to the spatial width of the planet.” In turn, this allows the text to operate “below the plane of the nation,” where the subnational and the transnational intertwine “in a loop,” creating a kind of denationalised space.70 I propose that the geological formations referred to throughout Carpentaria may also be read as texts in that both the Dreamtime and the Law regard the land as a text that communicates knowledge. In this sense, Carpentaria extends back textually millions of years in the earth just as it extends back over past millennia to ancient Greek and Chinese swan myths. In doing so, the text transcends its subnational origins to exist in a denationalised space. The geological aspect of Wright’s fiction is just one element that illustrates the overlapping of magical realism and environmental literature in

66  ‘Expanded reality’ her work. The central interconnecting factor, however, is her distinctive style of Dreamtime narrative, which incorporates a holistic and spiritual view of the ecosphere. As a literary artist in the twenty-first century, Wright responds to the crisis of imagination in the climate change era by offering an Indigenous Australian ontology that is tens of thousands of years old as an alternative to the scientific rationalism of the European Enlightenment, which accelerated the mass exploitation of natural resources on a global scale, and which, in turn, ushered in the Anthropocene era. Yet Wright’s fiction acknowledges the fragility of both her people’s culture and the health of the planet, that they are each precariously poised in a delicate balance. The final lines of The Swan Book reflect the author’s fear that Indigenous Australian culture could, without constant nurturing, die out. “Maybe Bujimala, the Rainbow Serpent, will start bringing in those cyclones and funnelling sand mountains into the place. Swans might come back. Who knows what madness will be calling them in the end?” (334) It is noteworthy that at the end of her latest book she reintroduces the Dreamtime and its primordial creator, the Rainbow Serpent, which appears in the opening lines of Carpentaria, thereby forming a narrative link between the two texts. Critically, the Rainbow Serpent’s potential action mentioned at the end of The Swan Book, recalling the cyclonic destruction of white-‘settler’ Desperance in Carpentaria, is posited in the subjunctive. The implication is that it is far from certain whether the Rainbow Serpent will, or can, make reparations for Indigenous people. Similarly, the black swans, the mythological custodians of traditional knowledge, an ecological philosophy that compels people to care for the environment, “might” return; it is not definite that they will.

Notes 1 Lawrence Buell, Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 24. 2 The word ‘nation’ here refers to regional subnational identification by Indigenous Australians, who at one time formed about 600 individual Indigenous nations and had about 200 distinct Indigenous languages. Anita M. Heiss, Dhuuluu-Yala: To Talk Straight: Publishing Indigenous Literature (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003), 28–29. 3 Heiss, Dhuuluu-Yala: To Talk Straight, 16. 4 Bill Ashcroft, Frances Devlin-Glass, and Lyn McCreddan, Intimate Horizons: The Post-Colonial Sacred in Australian Literature (Adelaide: ATF Press, 2009), 208–209. 5 Bill Gammage, The Biggest Estate on Earth (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2011), 2. 6 Alexis Wright, “A Question of Fear,” in Tolerance, Prejudice and Fear, by Gideon Haigh, Christos Tsiolkas, and Alexis Wright (Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2008), 135–136. 7 Kevin Gilbert, “Introduction,” in Inside Black Australia: An Anthology of Aboriginal Poetry, ed. Kevin Gilbert (Ringwood: Penguin Books, 1988), xix.

‘Expanded reality’  67 8 Alexis Wright, Carpentaria (Artarmon: Giramondo, 2006). Alexis Wright, The Swan Book (Artarmon: Giramondo, 2013). Hereafter cited by page in the text. 9 Alexis Wright, “On Writing Carpentaria,” HEAT 13 (2007), 88. 10 Ashcroft et al., Intimate Horizons, 227–228, 241. See also Frances DevlinGlass, “A Politics of the Dreamtime: Destructive and Regenerative Rainbows in Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria,” Australian Literary Studies 23, no. 4 (2008), 395. 11 Alison Ravenscroft, The Postcolonial Eye: White Australian Desire and the Visual Field of Race (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), 60–62. 12 Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (London: Weidenfield and Nicholson, 1972), 13. 13 Marcel Mauss, A General Theory of Magic, trans. Robert Brain (London and Boston, MA: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972), 40, 127, 141. 14 Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back, 2nd ed. (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 142. 15 Jean-Francois Vernay, “Interview with Alexis Wright,” Antipodes 18, no. 2 (December 2004), 120. 16 Vernay, “Interview with Alexis Wright,” 121. 17 Alexis Wright, “Secrets and ties,” The Age, February 6, 2010, 12. 18 Wendy B. Faris, Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004), 138. 19 Denis Donoghue, “Safe in the Hands of the Uncanny,” The New York Times Book Review, April 8, 1990, 15. 20 Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (New York and London: Routledge, 1988), 5, 114. 21 Ato Quayson, “Fecundities of the Unexpected: Magical Realism, Narrative and History,” in The Novel Vol. 1: History, Geography, and Culture, ed. Franco Moretti (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 749. 22 Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2001), 63. 23 Henry Reynolds, North of Capricorn: The Untold Story of Australia’s North. (Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2003), vii. 24 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London and New York: Verso, 1983), 6. See also Benedict Anderson, The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World (London: Verso, 1998), 42–43. 25 Alexis Wright, “A Family Document,” in Storykeepers, ed. Marion Halligan (Sydney: Duffey & Snellgrove, 2001), 238. 26 Nicholas Jose, “Deconstructing the Dumpling: Australia, China, Lived Connections,” Journal of Australian Studies 37, no. 1 (2013), 120–122. 27 Alexis Wright, “Politics of Writing,” Southerly 62, no. 2 (2002), 11–12. 28 Wright, “A Question of Fear,” 130. 29 Nicholas Thomas, Possessions: Indigenous Art/Colonial Culture (London: Thames and Hudson, 1999), 9–11. 30 Alexis Wright, “We have a vision. What we need is authority,” The Advertiser, June 30, 2007, 9–10. 31 Wright, “Politics of Writing,” 18, 19. 32 Alexis Wright, Plains of Promise (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997), 74; hereafter cited by page in the text. 33 Suzanne Baker, “Magic Realism as Postcolonial Strategy: The Kadaicha Sung,” SPAN: Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies 32 (1991), 55.

68  ‘Expanded reality’ 34 Wright, “Politics of Writing,” 13. 35 Devlin-Glass, “A Politics of the Dreamtime,” 393. 36 Paul Sharrad, “Beyond Capricornia: Ambiguous Promise in Alexis Wright,” Australian Literary Studies 24, no. 1 (2009), 57, 62. 37 Faris, Ordinary Enchantments, 23. 38 Gilbert, “Introduction,” xix. 39 Colin Johnson (Mudrooroo), Milli Milli Wangka: The Indigenous Literature of Australia (South Melbourne: Hyland House, 1997), 96–101. 40 Regina Ganter, Mixed Relations: Asian-Aboriginal Contact in North Australia (Crawley: University of Western Australia Press, 2006), 240–241. 41 Jennifer Wenzel, “Petro-Magic-Realism: Toward a Political Ecology of Nigerian Literature,” Postcolonial Studies 9, no. 4 (December 2006), 455–456. 42 The concept of terra nullius was derived from the philosopher John Locke’s dictum that, in Robert Young’s rephrasing, “those who did not cultivate the land had no rights to it.” Robert J.C. Young, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), 20. 43 Benedict Anderson, The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World (London: Verso, 1998), 318. 4 4 Wright says mining was “an important seed” in the conceptualisation of Carpentaria. In the 1990s, the author witnessed deteriorating relationships between Indigenous people in the Gulf of Carpentaria following negotiations to develop the Century Mine in North-West Queensland. Wright, “On Writing Carpentaria,” 93. 45 Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment (London: Routledge, 2010), 49. 46 Buell, Writing for an Endangered World, 31, 45. 47 Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 2, 3, 5. 48 Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (1993; London and New York: Routledge, 1994), 10, 37. 49 Wright, “Politics of Writing,” 19. 50 Henry Reynolds, An Indelible Stain? The Question of Genocide in Australia’s History (Ringwood: Viking, 2001), 30–31, 120–121, 173–174. 51 Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944), 79. 52 Ann Curthoys, “An Uneasy Conversation: The Multicultural and the Indigenous,” in Race, Colour and Identity in Australia and New Zealand, eds. John Docker and Gerhard Fischer (Sydney: University of NSW Press, 2000), 25. 53 Eugene L. Arva, The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011), 5. 54 Young, Postcolonialism, 4, 57–60. 55 Faris, 48. 56 Ursula Kluwick, Exploring Magic Realism in Salman Rushdie’s Fiction (New York and London: Routledge, 2011), 16. 57 Jeanne Delbaere-Garant, “Psychic Realism, Mythic Realism, Grotesque Realism: Variations on Magic Realism in Contemporary Literature in English,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 249. 58 Stephen Slemon, “Magic Realism as Postcolonial Discourse,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 409–411.

‘Expanded reality’  69 59 During the “biblical hurricane” that destroys Macondo, Aureliano Amador Buendía reads the gypsy Melquíades’s parchments, in which he predicted the future of the Buendía family. Aureliano “began to decipher the instant that he was living, deciphering it as he lived it, prophesying himself in the act of deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror.” Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, trans. Gregory Rabassa (1967; London: Pan Books, 1978), 336. 60 Slemon, “Magic Realism as Postcolonial Discourse,” 424, Footnote 11. 61 Quayson, “Fecundities of the Unexpected,” 728–729. 62 Elleke Boehmer, Colonial & Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 229. 63 Adeline Johns-Putra, “The Rest Is Silence: Postmodern and Postcolonial Possibilities in Climate Change Fiction,” Studies in the Novel 50, no. 1 (Spring 2018), 36. 64 Maria Takolander, “Theorizing Irony and Trauma in Magical Realism: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book,” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 47, no. 3 (2016), 113. 65 Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 59. 66 Stef Craps and Rick Crownshaw, “Introduction: The Rising Tide of Climate Change Fiction.” Studies in the Novel 50, no. 1 (Spring 2018), 1. 67 Joseph Slaughter, Human Rights, Inc: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law (Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press, 2007), 12, 16. 68 Wendy B. Faris, “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 176. 69 Quayson, 743–744. 70 Wai Chee Dimock, Through Other Continents (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 3, 23, 28.

Bibliography Primary Sources Wright, Alexis. Plains of Promise. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997. ———. “A Family Document.” In Storykeepers, edited by Marion Halligan, 223–240. Sydney: Duffey & Snellgrove, 2001. ———. “Politics of Writing.” Southerly 62, no. 2 (2002): 10–20. ———. Carpentaria. Artarmon: Giramondo, 2006. ———. “We have a vision. What we need is authority.” The Advertiser, June 30, 2007. ———. “On Writing Carpentaria.” HEAT 13 (2007): 79–95. ———. “A Question of Fear.” In Tolerance, Prejudice and Fear, by Gideon Haigh, Christos Tsiolkas, and Alexis Wright, 129–169. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2008. ———. “Secrets and ties.” The Age, February 6, 2010. ———. The Swan Book. Artarmon: Giramondo, 2013.

70  ‘Expanded reality’ Secondary Sources Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1983. ———. The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World. London: Verso, 1998. Arva, Eugene. The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011. Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back. 2nd ed. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. Ashcroft, Bill, Frances Devlin-Glass, and Lyn McCreddan. Intimate Horizons: The Post-Colonial Sacred in Australian Literature. Adelaide: ATF Press, 2009. Baker, Suzanne. “Magic Realism as Postcolonial Strategy: The Kadaicha Sung.” SPAN: Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies 32 (1991): 55–63. Boehmer, Elleke. Colonial & Postcolonial Literature: Migrant Metaphors. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Buell, Lawrence. Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001. Craps, Stef, and Rick Crownshaw. “Introduction: The Rising Tide of Climate Change Fiction.” Studies in the Novel 50, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 1–8. Curthoys, Ann. “An Uneasy Conversation: The Multicultural and the Indigenous.” In Race, Colour and Identity in Australia and New Zealand, edited by John Docker and Gerhard Fischer, 21–36. Sydney: University of NSW Press, 2000. Delbaere-Garant, Jeanne. “Psychic Realism, Mythic Realism, Grotesque Realism: Variations in Magic Realism in Contemporary Literature in English.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 249–263. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International. Translated by Peggy Kamuf. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. Originally published as Spectres de Marx. Paris: Editions Galileé, 1993. Devlin-Glass, Frances. “A Politics of the Dreamtime: Destructive and Regenerative Rainbows in Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria.” Australian Literary Studies 23, no. 4 (2008): 392–407. Dimock, Wai Chee. Through Other Continents. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006. Donoghue, Denis. “Safe in the Hands of the Uncanny.” The New York Times Book Review, April 8, 1990. Faris, Wendy B. “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 163–190. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. ———. Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004.

‘Expanded reality’  71 Gammage, Bill. The Biggest Estate on Earth. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2011. Ganter, Regina. Mixed Relations: Asian-Aboriginal Contact in North Australia. Crawley: University of Western Australia Press, 2006. García Márquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Translated by Gregory Rabassa. London: Pan Books, 1978. Originally published as Cien años de soledad. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericans, 1967. Ghosh, Amitav. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016. Gilbert, Kevin. “Introduction.” In Inside Black Australia: An Anthology of Aboriginal Poetry, edited by Kevin Gilbert, xv–xxiv. Ringwood: Penguin Books, 1988. Heiss, Anita M. Dhuuluu-Yala: To Talk Straight: Publishing Indigenous Literature. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2003. Huggan, Graham, and Helen Tiffin. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment. London: Routledge, 2010. Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York and London: Routledge, 1988. Johns-Putra, Adeline. “The Rest Is Silence: Postmodern and Postcolonial Possibilities in Climate Change Fiction.” Studies in the Novel 50, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 26–42. Johnson, Colin (Mudrooroo). Milli Milli Wangka: The Indigenous Literature of Australia. South Melbourne: Hyland House, 1997. Jose, Nicholas. “Deconstructing the Dumpling: Australia, China, Lived Connections.” Journal of Australian Studies 37, no. 1 (2013): 116–129. Kluwick, Ursula. Exploring Magic Realism in Salman Rushdie’s Fiction. New York and London: Routledge, 2011. Lemkin, Raphael. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1944. Lévi-Strauss, Claude. The Savage Mind. London: Weidenfield and Nicholson, 1972. Mauss, Marcel. A General Theory of Magic. Translated by Robert Brain. London and Boston, MA: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972. Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001. Quayson, Ato. “Fecundities of the Unexpected: Magical Realism, Narrative and History.” In The Novel Vol. 1: History, Geography, and Culture, edited by Franco Moretti, 726–758. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006. Ravenscroft, Alison. The Postcolonial Eye: White Australian Desire and the Visual Field of Race. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012. Reynolds, Henry. An Indelible Stain? The Question of Genocide in Australia’s History. Ringwood: Viking, 2001. ———. North of Capricorn: The Untold Story of Australia’s North. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2003. Sharrad, Paul. “Beyond Capricornia: Ambiguous Promise in Alexis Wright.” Australian Literary Studies 24, no. 1 (2009): 52–65. Slaughter, Joseph. Human Rights, Inc: The World Novel, Narrative Form, and International Law. Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press, 2007. Slemon, Stephen. “Magic Realism as Postcolonial Discourse.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and

72  ‘Expanded reality’ Wendy B. Faris, 407–426. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Originally published in Canadian Literature 116 (Spring 1988): 9–24. Takolander, Maria. “Theorizing Irony and Trauma in Magical Realism: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book.” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 47, no. 3 (2016): 95–122. Thomas, Nicholas. Possessions: Indigenous Art/Colonial Culture. London: Thames and Hudson, 1999. Vernay, Jean-Francois. “Interview with Alexis Wright.” Antipodes 18, no. 2 (December 2004): 119–122. Wenzel, Jennifer. “Petro-Magic-Realism: Toward a Political Ecology of Nigerian Literature.” Postcolonial Studies 9, no. 4 (2006): 449–464. Williams, Raymond. The Long Revolution. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2001. Young, Robert J.C. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001.

2 Sublime Wilderness Embracing the Non-Human in Richard Flanagan’s Tasmania

Maybe we have lost the ability, that sixth sense that allows us to see miracles and have visions and understand that we are something other, larger than what we have been told.1

Narrator Sid Hammet’s opening remark in Gould’s Book of Fish (2001) encapsulates a recurring theme of Richard Flanagan’s fiction: the perception of human existence as something bigger than Western materialism and urban existence, of anthropic life as one element within a profound, mysterious cosmos. Flanagan conveys this transcendental awareness through a style of writing that frequently involves magical realist elements and which is inextricably tied to a philosophy based on ecology and a connection to the Tasmanian landscape, a philosophy influenced by Indigenous Tasmanians and their precolonial culture. In particular, Flanagan blends the magical and the environmental through his persistent leitmotif of wilderness, specifically Tasmania’s unique and remote South-West Wilderness. Flanagan’s work, therefore, provides a distinctive opportunity to examine the links between magical realism and environmental literature. What is unique to Flanagan, who is renowned domestically as an advocate for the environment as well as a novelist, is his portrayal of his home state’s South-West Wilderness as a fictional landscape of the human spirit as much as a geographic terrain, in which European notions of “civilisation” are made redundant and individual humans’ spiritual potential may be fully realised. In Flanagan’s South-West, the wild illuminates the magical. He capitalises on the dual exoticism of Tasmania in terms of its geography as Australia’s remote island state located south of the continental mainland, with only the treacherous Southern Ocean separating it from Antarctica, and in terms of its brutal history as a penal colony for the British that involved the transportation and incarceration of minor felons and some political prisoners, and the attempted eradication of Tasmania’s first inhabitants. My discussion in this chapter focusses predominantly on two of his best-known novels – his debut, Death of a River Guide (1994), and Gould’s Book of Fish (2001) – both

74  Sublime Wilderness of which are mostly set in the South-West, in both its physical and metaphorical senses. Flanagan’s work further supports my contention that writers from different countries subject magical realism to diverging intellectual and sociocultural frameworks, and utilise it for diverse purposes. On the one hand, Flanagan typically constructs his novels within identifiable literary genres. Death of a River Guide, for instance, is a multi-generational family saga framed within memory flashbacks and visions by the protagonist, the river guide Aljaz Cosini, as he drowns under a flooded Franklin River. Similarly, Gould’s Book of Fish is ostensibly a satirical picaresque romp in nineteenth-century, colonial Van Diemen’s Land (later renamed Tasmania) featuring the ongoing misfortunes of convicted forger and painter William Buelow Gould, and framed within Gould’s eponymous notebook that gives the narrative an epistolary structure. On the other hand, both novels are written in a predominantly realist style that are imbued with magical or supernatural elements which are portrayed in a quotidian manner. In Death of a River Guide Flanagan draws on two traditions of ‘magic,’ one derived from Europe and often associated in the text with Christianity, and the other from Indigenous Tasmanians. Marc Delrez argues that this dual genealogy of magic in the novel may be read as an attempt at reconciliation between white-‘settler’ Australia and the country’s autochthon.2 This is an acute observation, especially given the novel was first published at a time when reconciliation was prominent in the national political debate. However, Flanagan’s utilisation of multiple sources or cultural streams of ‘magic’ also reflects his broader agenda throughout much of his fiction to delineate Tasmanians as a populace who have evolved a unique culture of their own, during and after the colonial era. This is a topic I shall explore in more depth later in the chapter. The European strain of ‘magic’ is reflected in the novel’s central magical realist trope: Cosini believes that, during his protracted drowning, he has been “granted visions” that “I must share,” otherwise “their magic will become as a burden.”3 These visions constitute the narrative as Cosini reflects on not only his own life but also that of his father and forebears as he pieces together disparate events and characters to arrive at an understanding of his own make-up, which, in turn, provides a wider commentary on Tasmania’s racial, social, economic and environmental history. Cosini regards his parturition as being miraculous because he was born in his mother’s caul, and the “milky blue sac of amniotic fluid” in which he swam as a foetus mirrors his ultimate predicament trapped underwater in the river, which equates to the narrative present (1). ­A lthough the Christian churches are problematic in Australia’s colonial and postcolonial history, due to their complicity in dispossessing Indigenous Australians from their traditional lands and enforcing assimilation among whites, Death of a River Guide includes

Sublime Wilderness  75 numerous supernatural events that are associated with Christian spirituality or mysticism. Worshippers believe the walls in a Hobart cathedral bleed during a funeral, even though the “spectacle” could have been explained by heavy rain and paint after incomplete renovations on the roof (59–60). Cosini’s nurse as a child, the Trieste-born Maria Magdalena Svevo, inherits from her father a bedsheet stained with tears that never wash out, tears that resulted from a woman’s decision to abort a child rather than get married (163). Maria’s first name carries the obvious allusion to Christ’s mother. The Christian mysticism points to E ­ uropean cultural influences that are embedded within white postcolonial Tasmania. However, the novel also highlights an Indigenous Tasmanian spirituality, one that is inextricably connected to the local environment, which is a fundamental point of difference with the European cultural strain of spirituality. Cosini’s father Harry’s Auntie Ellie provides an interesting character study for while she teaches her nephew the traditional ways of collecting bush food and the need “to look after the land for the land was the spirit,” at the same time she proclaims to be a “stern and proud Catholic” (203). At the end of her life, however, Auntie Ellie rejects Christianity, professing “I ain’t got no need of going to the Catholic heaven” (205) and reembraces her Aboriginal heritage and spirituality, literally whistling up a storm just as she dies to leave for “my people” (208). Rather than an inverse deathbed conversion, Auntie Ellie’s trajectory should be read as reflecting the social stigma that was frequently – and unjustifiably – attached to having Aboriginal heritage in Tasmania from the colonial era until the late twentieth century. Auntie Ellie’s denial to Harry that either she or Harry were Aboriginal, and her insistence that the family were instead “good decent white Catholic folk” (original emphasis) (201), dramatises the fictitious rewriting of family histories that was once common in the state in order to attain or retain social respectability. Flanagan also creates a kind of hybrid spirituality in Death of a River Guide by drawing on both the European and Indigenous strains. This is especially evident in Cosini working as a river guide for the mostly city-dwelling ecotourists rafting down the potentially treacherous ­Franklin River. As Delrez notes, Cosini’s role as “a special guardian of the mysteries of topography, or as a privileged interpreter of the language of the land” follows in a literary tradition in white Australian fiction of an Indigenous character helping disoriented Europeans on expeditions through the bush.4 The paramount revelation for the red-headed Cosini as a result of his visions is that he is part-Aboriginal, and not merely the product of British (paternal) and Slovenian (maternal) genes. ­Cosini’s Indigenous forebear, renamed Black Pearl, was raped by a white sealer in 1828 on a Bass Strait island, off the north cost of Tasmania. ­A nother instance of Flanagan’s hybrid supernatural is when Harry hosts a barbeque at which native Tasmanian animals tell stories, including

76  Sublime Wilderness a Tasmanian tiger (218) and lobster (226) that recite past events of ­ osini’s family. ­B esides this episode, there are other instances of Harry C revealing his Indigenous side, such as his preference to travel not on the new roads but the old roads that were “built along the routes of carriageways, that more often than not were cleared widenings of old Aboriginal pathways” (92). The novel’s subtext is that non-Indigenous people can learn and benefit from Indigenous knowledge in a manner that is reconciliatory and respectful, rather than usurping and disrespectful. Similarly, Gould’s Book of Fish draws on both European and Indigenous Tasmanian spiritualities yet in a substantially different manner to the author’s debut novel, mostly due to Gould, the colonial protagonist, being wholly British. Flanagan creates a metafictional ‘magic’ in the dual structure, with two texts that interweave and, towards the end, ultimately merge. The novel’s first narrator, Sid Hammet, who lives in the fictional present, discovers the convict Gould’s notebook, called Book of Fish, in a colonial sandstone warehouse in the Tasmanian capital city, Hobart. Hammet realises it is “no ordinary book” (11) for it “never really started and never quite finished” (14), suggesting a non-linear concept of time. The notebook’s cover glows with “a mass of pulsating purple spots” (13), and Hammet believes the manuscript contains “some magic that might somehow convey or explain something fundamental” (16). The two texts first intersect when Hammet loses Gould’s notebook in the Republic Hotel (24), the name a nod to Flanagan’s anti-colonial sentiment, and Hammet proceeds “to rewrite the Book of Fish” from “memories, good and bad, reliable and unreliable” (28). Hammet’s rewrite follows in the tradition of unreliable narrators in magical realist fiction, a postcolonial literary technique that throws into doubt the authenticity of universal ‘truth’ in narratives, as was claimed in colonial-era historical, political, philosophical and religious texts. Another hint at the interrelatedness of the two texts occurs on page 41, at the start of the novel’s second chapter, which is also the beginning of William Gould’s narrative: a note states that the first 40 pages of Gould’s “notebook are missing.” Towards the end of the novel the dual texts merge when Gould tries in vain to recover his notebook from the funeral pyre stoked by his Indigenous lover, whom the whites name Twopenny Sal. Gould has an epiphany, realising he is reading his own fate, which is presented as a mise en abyme: Trying desperately to avoid the conclusion that if this book of fish was a history of the settlement, it might also just be its prophecy, I then realised that the book was not near ended, that it contained several more chapters, & with mounting terror I read on the succeeding page of how—‘I realised that the book was not near ended, that it contained several more chapters ….’ (337)

Sublime Wilderness  77 The effect is akin to an intertextual loop, in which the novel’s text merges with Gould’s text. This narrative interplay, which implies a circular notion of time, is a prime example of how magical realism disrupts the Western conception of linear time. In Gould’s Book of Fish, the consistent overlapping between the novel’s framing story involving Sid Hammet and Gould’s narrative creates what Zach Weir aptly describes as “the postcolonial present,” given that there is no distinct separation between the fictional present and the historical past. 5 By fusing time in a circular movement, the text serves to remind the reader that the postcolonial present is defined by its colonial past, that the human actions in Gould’s time created consequences that are still being felt in Tasmania in the reader’s time. The novel’s central literary conceit – characters evolving into fish – is another magical realist element. Metamorphosis is common to magical realist literature, but in Gould’s Book of Fish it is used to emphasise the fluidity of identity and humanity’s deep connection with nature that is otherwise suppressed by rationalism. For Gould, metamorphosis reveals that “men’s lives are not progressions … they are a series of ­transformations” (305). This is played out as Gould, convicted for forgery, turns his artistic skills to painting human portraits that take on piscatorial features. For instance, the Surgeon, who embodies the worst aspects of the Enlightenment and a scientific, rationalist world view, becomes a porcupine fish (138). The Sarah Island penal gaol’s Commandant, who represents the insane extreme of imperialist delusions of grandeur, resembles a stargazer fish (173). The main Indigenous character, ­Twopenny Sal, morphs into a striped cowfish (273). Gould himself, in the historical past, eventually metamorphoses into a weedy seadragon, that is, the same weedy seadragon into which Hammet, in the fictional present, two centuries later, turned at the start of the novel. Wendy Faris argues that the literal metamorphoses of characters in magical realist fiction occur in response to “cosmic forces beyond their control,” which contrasts with the way characters in realist novels rise or fall, or transform metaphorically, in response to social and psychological forces.6 The metamorphosing of humans into fish is a response to the regression of human behaviour, given that the savage barbarity of the Sarah Island gaol is a perverse, not to mention ironic, outcome of the colonial rationalist project. Gould’s metamorphosis into a weedy seadragon represents human evolution “going on in reverse,” from land creatures to sea creatures rather than the other way around as D ­ arwinism asserts. This evolutionary reversal implies, as Hammet says, that “we are already sad, dumb fish” (3). Flanagan’s Tasmanian fiction challenges the assumed binaries inherent in European colonialism and European Enlightenment thought that underpinned the political and economic expansion by conquest. In a literary theory context, his fiction also challenges the binarism implied in

78  Sublime Wilderness Stephen Slemon’s concept of magical realism as postcolonial discourse, yet in a different way to how Alexis Wright’s fiction does, as outlined in the previous chapter. In Slemon’s view, a magical realist text involves “a battle between two oppositional systems” that each work towards “the creation of a different kind of fictional world from the other.” The two systems are “incompatible,” and, as a result, “each remains suspended, locked in a continuous dialectic with the ‘other,’” with neither system able to take a dominant position over the other.7 In a postcolonial context the two systems are usually taken by critics to mean the ‘magical’ world of the colonised and the ‘real’ world of the coloniser. Flanagan’s work, however, contains no simple binary analysis of British colonisation. Rather, his novels introduce a complexity of the colonisation process by pointing out that the convicts – mostly from Britain and Ireland – were both colonisers and the colonised: colonisers because they participated in the annexation and exploitation of land from Indigenous Tasmanians; colonised because they themselves were oppressed by the British colonial military regime. Importantly, Flanagan’s novels repeatedly portray ties between the white convict underclass and the dispossessed Indigenous people. In Gould’s Book of Fish, for instance, William Gould, who initially regards the Indigenous population as “doomed savages” (216), eventually has an affair with the Indigenous woman Twopenny Sal. Yet their relationship is based on more than sexual gratification: Gould learns her Indigenous language and beliefs (271), and, during a frenzied dance around a funeral pyre of one of her friends, the convict thinks, “we shared something that transcended our bodies & our histories & our futures” (333). Although Gould achieves a nascent affinity with Tasmanian Aboriginal culture, he nevertheless recognises that he does not, or perhaps cannot, understand it, professing, “I only sensed that I knew none of it” (333). The character of Gould, therefore, is another example of Flanagan creating a reconciliatory bridge between European and Indigenous cultures. Yet Gould’s inability to comprehend Indigenous culture suggests that it may ultimately be unknowable from a white person’s perspective. Moreover, Gould’s limitations may be partly due to his own ineptitude and perhaps an ingrained sense of European superiority that he fails to overcome. For late in the narrative he confesses that “I realised with a sudden sense of shame, I had never bothered finding out” Twopenny Sal’s Aboriginal name – that is, her real name (327). In Death of a River Guide, Cosini realises through his visions that he ­ lanagan’s is descended from both Indigenous Tasmanians and convicts. F fiction, therefore, depicts a commingling of the white convict underclass and the black dispossessed, by which the former learned from ­ asmania. the latter. In turn, this created a culture that was unique to T These ­European-Indigenous links are reinforced in different ways in some of Flanagan’s other novels. In Wanting (2008), Van Diemen’s

Sublime Wilderness  79 Land Governor Sir John Franklin and his wife, Lady Jane, adopt the I­ ndigenous girl Mathinna in a misguided, doomed and somewhat selfish attempt to ‘civilise’ her in Western culture. In The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013), the protagonist, the former prisoner-of-war ­ asmanian surgeon Dorrigo Evans, belatedly realises that an Indigenous T soldier murdered by the Australians’s Japanese captors while under ­Evans’s command in Thailand during World War Two was his nephew, the illegitimate love child of Evans’s brother and an Aboriginal woman. ­Flanagan’s alternative view about a unique Tasmanian culture, created from the state’s horrific colonial history, is encapsulated in a passage that appears not in the novels under consideration here but rather in his review of historian James Boyce’s book Van Diemen’s Land (2008). Boyce’s book, he argues: suggests that we [Tasmanians] are not dispossessed Europeans, but a muddy wash of peoples who were made anew in the merge of an old pre-industrial, pre-modern European culture with an extraordinary natural world and a remarkable black culture. As much as a process of colonisation, Boyce’s work suggests a history of i­ndigenisation – a strange, uneven, frequently repressed, often violent process in which a white underclass took on much of the black ways of living. It suggests we have a connection with our land not solely based on ideas of commerce, and that there are continuities in our understanding of our land that extend back into pre-history. It is an argument, never more timely, that we are our own people, not a poor imitation of elsewhere.8 The key point is that Boyce confirms Flanagan’s own philosophy that non-Indigenous Tasmanians are not imitative Europeans, even though many of them are descendants of Europeans, but a people and a culture unique to their own landscape. Moreover, non-Indigenous Tasmanians’ ties to their local geography are influenced by Indigenous peoples’ links to their land that extend back tens of thousands of years before the ­European invasion. As a writer privileged by a white-‘settler’ background, Flanagan might be accused of cultural appropriation because of his portrayal of Indigenous Tasmanian characters and their ancient culture, a point that Delrez raises, among others.9 In the 1980s and 1990s, however, it was not uncommon for white Australian authors to present an Indigenous viewpoint in their fiction as part of broader efforts at reconciliation. This followed a widespread revision of orthodox colonial history that coincided with the Australian government’s commemoration of the 1988 bicentenary, which marked the arrival of the First Fleet of British colonists and convicts two centuries before. The event occasioned a wave of dissent by Indigenous Australians and their non-Indigenous supporters,

80  Sublime Wilderness who challenged the notion that the First Fleet marked the beginning of a peaceful settlement of Australia, which had been the orthodox historical view and instead argued that it entailed an invasion by British colonisers. Flanagan followed a number of well-known Australian authors, such as Peter Carey, David Malouf, Rodney Hall and Kate Grenville, who had attempted through their historical fiction to reexamine the nation’s origins in light of revisionist history and move towards reconciliation. But Malouf’s Remembering Babylon (1993), in particular, was criticised for “a troubling tendency to project white, Eurocentric narratives and desires on to racial and cultural others,” as Jo Jones points out.10 Moreover, as Indigenous author and critic, Anita Heiss, warned of this trend: “Few attempt to understand the complexities of Aboriginal life prior to white invasion; instead the portrayal is belittling and always in relation to the standards or existence of the white man.” Alternatively, well-meaning white writers may unintentionally “depict Aboriginal people simply as token.”11 In a literary critical context, it could also be asked whether these two novels by Flanagan are examples of magical realist fiction that “offers the literary equivalent of a skilfully marketed tour of a dead or dying culture,” a criticism the narrative mode has been frequently subject to.12 Or, as Graham Huggan phrases the question from a slightly different angle, do these books represent magical realist fiction as the “postcolonial exotic”? That is, literature which “posits itself as anti-colonial” but also capitalises “on the widespread circulation of ideas about cultural otherness and on the worldwide trafficking of culturally ‘othered’ artifacts and goods.”13 In answer to the cultural appropriation question, I propose that the imaginary powers of the author ought to allow the text to stand or fall on its own merits. The proviso, however, is that the work must be subject to the reception of the community of the cultural context in which the fiction is set, especially if that community is in a minority or a marginalised position. This approach is in keeping with my overarching argument that magical realism is shape-shifting and porous, that it is a narrative ­ mitav mode which syncretises binary opposites and promotes plurality. A Ghosh argues that if the “appropriation” argument were to be extended across all fiction, “it would destroy the very possibility of any kind of imaginative work.” While Ghosh concedes that cultural authenticity is vital to autobiographies, essays and other kinds of non-fiction, he says that if fiction authors were to write only about their own “identity group,” then all of the narrative arts – literature, drama, film and so on – would be reduced to a certain kind of “testamentary” writing relating to their own direct experience.14 This position also applies to ­Flanagan’s best-known work, his historical prisoner-of-war drama The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013), which is mostly set amid imperial ­Japan’s infamous Thai-Burma “Death Railway” in World War Two, and for which Flanagan won the Man Booker Prize in 2014. In that novel,

Sublime Wilderness  81 Flanagan pays homage to the celebrated Japanese seventeenth-century author ­Matsuo Bashō in a highly metafictional and intertextual work that blends East and West across literary, cultural and historical levels. In relation to the postcolonial exotic, what we find in both Death of a River Guide and Gould’s Book of Fish is something deeper and more thoughtful. Gould’s story highlights that the nostalgia we may feel for a lost premodern Indigenous Tasmanian society is not a nostalgia locked in a linear conception of time. “The idea of the past is as useless as the idea of the future,” says Gould. “There is never any more beauty than there is now” (372). What Gould’s tale conveys to us, as contemporary readers, is that the past can live on in the future and that the spiritual essence of a premodern culture may be partially recoverable, even if it is only glimpsed. In turn, this may provide the basis for a fresh way of viewing the world. So, rather than being a token resistance to modernity, it is an attempt to engage with premodern aspects of humanity. Flanagan utilises his fiction to reinstate this view of Indigenous and non-Indigenous ties in contemporary discourse. I say reinstate because what was once taken as fact was subsequently erased from official history due to a collective wish to eradicate personal or familial associations with penal convicts and Indigenous people. In Death of a River Guide, this is referred to as the convict “taint” (65). Instead, “[c]hildren denied their parents and invented new lineages of respectable free settlers to replace the true genealogy of shame.” In addition, “lies” were invented to hide the fact that convicts and Indigenous people “begat children to one another” (260). In Gould’s Book of Fish, the same sentiment is encapsulated in the convict Gould’s lament that Australia’s population has “been trained to live a life of moral cowardice” and docility by making “accommodations with power.” Tasmania, says Gould, has become “the island of forgetting, because anything is easier than remembering” (400–401). In order to overcome the lies, the social peer pressure to forget Tasmania’s brutal past, Flanagan presents the Indigenous/non-Indigenous connections in a decidedly environmental context. By doing so, he not only presents this cross-cultural nexus in a fresh manner but also focusses on the main common element between the two groups, that is, the land. Moreover, it is within this ecological framework that Flanagan utilises many of the magical realist elements, which reinforce his fiction’s portrayal of an alternative world view that challenges conventional perceptions of the present and the past. The transition from a pre-colonised landscape abundant in natural resources to a post-colonised landscape being progressively denuded of natural resources is summed up by ­Cosini thus: [M]y mind fills with a vision of when the English first arrived and the land was fat and full of trees and game. Had the loss begun at

82  Sublime Wilderness this time? … From that time on, each succeeding generation found something new they could quarry to survive. First the emu disappeared, then the [Tasmanian] tigers, then the many different fishes and seals and whales and their rainbows became rare, then the rivers were stilled under dams, then the trees, and then the scallops and the abalone and the crayfish became few and were in consequence no longer the food of the poor but the waste of the rich. I wonder whether the memory of loss was carried with those who had originally peopled this land. Had it begun with them fighting for the land because, although they knew they belonged to the land, the English had an idea that a single man could own land for his own advancement? Had it begun with this idea of the land not as a source of knowledge but as a source of wealth? … Or was it something the convicts and blackfellas shared, that divided them yet might one day bring them all together? (257–258) The key themes here are the loss of food and the destruction of the natural environment, the memory of that loss and the shift in conceptual paradigms from the land as a public collective source of knowledge to a private individual’s source of materialist riches. Cosini’s comment describes what Alfred Crosby calls “ecological imperialism,” the process by which European colonists conquered the Americas, Africa, ­Australia, New Zealand and other territories by imposing not only foreign peoples and philosophies but also animals, plants and ideas for exploiting the natural environment for commercial profit.15 The “triumph” of ­European colonists in these territories over their indigenous populations, as Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin point out, was effected through environmental, and hence cultural, derangement premised on both ontological and epistemological differences about what it is to be human and animal. “The ultimate irony of this hegemonic triumph is that in the twenty-first century the West is increasingly attempting to rethink and recapture practices generated through the very respect for animals and nature that the early settlers so righteously scorned.”16 Flanagan’s fiction should be viewed as participating in this recuperative trend. In addition, as Christopher Warnes points out, “As a postcolonial response to colonialism’s often brutal enforcing of a selectively-conceived modernity, magical realism of this kind seeks to reclaim what has been lost: knowledge, values, traditions, ways of seeing, beliefs.”17 Gould’s Book of Fish exemplifies this characteristic by seeking to reimagine and reassert precolonial Indigenous culture but in a way that is filtered through the subjective eyes of a British colonial convict, thereby presenting the topic from a position once removed. Cosini’s lament for a lost world is shared by Gould in Flanagan’s later novel, in which the convict expresses admiration for “patriot”

Sublime Wilderness  83 Indigenous Tasmanians who were “free & noble” but who eventually gave up “their nation” in the expectation that they would be looked after by the colonial government, which of course they were not (216, 219). I have written elsewhere of Gould’s lament for a fading premodern society destroyed by the imperialist, rationalist culture to which he belongs.18 Indeed, magical realism, as Michael Valdez Moses notes, often “expresses the nostalgia of global modernity for the traditional worlds it has vanquished and subsumed.” The magical realist novel, he adds, is a “sentimental” fiction that encourages “readers to indulge in a nostalgic longing for and an imaginary return to a world that is past, or passing away.”19 The ‘magical’ elements in Flanagan’s fiction, however, are much more than simply sentimental nostalgia as they frequently contain an environmental ethic that highlights the connection to the land by both Indigenous Tasmanians and the white underclass, the combination of which creates the state’s unique culture, in Flanagan’s view. For this reason, the kind of magical realism evident in his work is different from the type of magical realism that we see in, say, Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria (2006) or Guatemalan Miguel Ángel Asturias’s canonical magical realist work Men of Maize (1949). 20 Both of these novels explore what happens to native peoples – Indigenous Australians and Guatemalans, respectively – when they lose their links to the land, community and ancestral customs because of colonial invasion. Critically, these two works focus primarily on the Indigenous populations. Flanagan’s novels, by contrast, depict an interconnection between both the Indigenous and the oppressed colonial underclass, and their mutual bonds with the land. Vivian Smith is correct to identify a distinctly Australian strain of magical realism in Death of a River Guide, which is characterised by a conventional strand in white Australian writing that contains embellished, “amazing” or “tall” stories, or what is often called a yarn in the domestic vernacular. 21 Peter Carey’s magical realist novel Illywhacker (1985) is another example of this. Yet the type of magical realism in Flanagan’s fiction is additionally intertwined with a biocentric view of the world, in which humanity is but one element of the universe, and not the centre of it. It is this facet that sets his work apart from much white, anthropocentric Australian fiction. His use of Tasmania’s South-West Wilderness as a setting for Death of a River Guide and Gould’s Book of Fish is fundamental to this philosophy. Environmental destruction of the pristine wilderness as a result of colonisation and the rapacious appetite of Western capitalism for natural resources is foregrounded in both Death of a River Guide and Gould’s Book of Fish. Cosini has visions in which his father, Harry, and ­Harry’s workmates earn a living as “piners,” harvesting by hand the giant Huon pine trees on the banks of the Gordon and Franklin Rivers in the remote South-West, which even today is largely inaccessible by road.

84  Sublime Wilderness Interestingly, Flanagan does not depict the piners as wreaking havoc on the environment, given that they harvest selectively, cut trees by hand and float the logs downriver without cargo boats. Piners as environmentalists is a thesis that Flanagan laid out as a young writer, before publishing fiction, in his debut book, a historical work titled A Terrible Beauty: History of the Gordon River Country (1985). 22 In Death of a River Guide, Harry and his mates in the mid-twentieth century: talked of how there was no money left in the game, of how they were the last pining gang on the rivers; talked of how it was all changing, of how not only the river people but the rivers themselves were doomed, to be damned forever under vast new hydroelectric schemes and already there was bush work to be had cutting exploration tracks for the Hydro-electric Commission’s surveyors and geologists and hydrologists. (93) This passage may be read as a dig at the Tasmanian government’s controversial plan in the early 1980s to dam the Franklin River in order to generate hydroelectric power, which provoked a nationwide environmental public protest, and which was only scuppered by the election, in 1983, of a new, Labor federal government that prevented the project from proceeding. 23 Some of the twentieth-century piners, such as Harry, are descendants of the nineteenth-century convicts, who were forced to log the Huon pines while incarcerated on the penal settlement of Sarah Island, in Macquarie Harbour. Cosini’s forebear Ned Quade was one of those piner-convicts. Through this lineage Flanagan depicts the ­Tasmanian white underclass engaging with the natural environment. Cosini has a natural affinity with the land that emanates from his sporadic professional work as a guide for ecotourists rafting down the Franklin River. Importantly, Cosini’s perception of the South-West ­Wilderness is a biocentric one, which contrasts with the anthropocentric views of the (mostly) urban tourists whose lives he is responsible for. Cosini recalls how, as a youth in the 1970s, when the river was largely “unknown,” he saw “the strange and beautiful river” as “a whole, not as a collection of named sites that could be reduced to a series of photographs.” Cosini feels that by “splitting the whole into little bits with silly names,” the environmentalists and political activists had “stolen away” something of “the river’s soul” (252). In other words, Cosini values the Franklin River for its intrinsic worth, or, as he puts it, “for its own sake,” rather than as a natural feature that has been named, classified and effectively partitioned. Moreover, Cosini does not acquire an understanding of the river, its geology, plants or animals through common or scientific names but through “feelings,” “intuitions” and the “spirit” of what these things are (121). By comparison,

Sublime Wilderness  85 the tourist rafters are “frightened” and “terrified” by the river and the surrounding “vast unpeopled mountain ranges.” Given that these urban dwellers’ “only measure was man,” they feel alienated from “this world in which the only measure was things that man had not made” (81). Moreover, the novel depicts humans as being anatomically part of the physical world, inseparable from it. Cosini dies underwater in a flooded Franklin River after falling and becoming wedged between submerged rocks. As Laura A.  White says, by placing Cosini’s immobilised body underwater, the novel allows him to see through new eyes, challenging received understandings of vision and exploring “a multiplicity of times and places through an interplay of body and mind.”24 In addition, Cosini is overwhelmed by the smell of the soil during heavy rains, “of earth eroding, of peat washing away” (14). Just as Cosini’s fate is to merge physically with the natural world in death, so, too, is it the fate of his paternal grandfather, named Boy, who is a trapper in Tasmania’s rugged highlands. Harry finds his dead father caught under “a rotten myrtle limb” (71), his face, hands and arms partly eaten by Tasmanian devils (73). After burying his father under a stringybark, Harry returns weeks later to see the gumtree blooming “into massive lemon-coloured blossom,” which he finds ­“miraculous” (74). Flanagan takes this notion of humans being fused with the natural world a step further in Gould’s Book of Fish by breaking down the distinction between human and animal on multiple levels, which is a recurrent theme throughout this monograph. This is most apparent in the metamorphosis of Gould into a weedy seadragon that is the same fish into which Sid Hammet turns in the fictional present, two centuries later. In the opening narrative, Hammet stands by an aquarium in the Hobart home of his Vietnamese friend, Lau Phu Hung. “I was falling, tumbling, passing through glass and through water into that seadragon’s eye while that seadragon was passing into me,” says Hammet (38). ­Towards the end of the novel, Gould escapes execution by colonial soldiers by falling into the water at Macquarie Harbour and metamorphoses into a weedy seadragon. But he is a fish with miraculous longevity, as Gould the seadragon is eventually caught by Mr Hung for his aquarium, which is where Gould first sees Hammet. “Sid Hammet stares at me for too long,” says Gould the fish. “I shall be you. I am ascending … passing through glass & air into his sad eyes” (402). The device is a typical magical realist conceit in that it disrupts conventional notions about time and place, and dismantles barriers, in this case between human and non-human. The novel’s piscatorial theme is reinforced by Gould’s various attempts to paint portraits of different human characters, which turn out to be portraits of different native fish, as discussed earlier. This dismantling of the human-animal binary is part of Flanagan’s subversion of European colonialism. As Tanya Schwalm details in her essay on the

86  Sublime Wilderness magical realist aspects of Gould’s Book of Fish, the “Linnaean system of taxonomy in particular became … the universal blueprint for the way Europeans order the world around them.”25 But Gould the artist upends the logic of scientific taxonomy, not only with his fish portraits but also with his paintings of native animals. His European cultural bias prevents him from depicting the local fauna in a realistic manner and instead restricts him to painting it as a bastardised version of a European animal. For instance, Gould’s attempt to paint a native orange-bellied parrot looks more like a bald eagle, and his painted kangaroo ends up with a “suspicious rodent-like face” (84). As Gould concedes, the “ ­ lesson” of ­“colonial art” is to render “the new as the old, the unknown as the known, the antipodean as the European” (68). It is a satirical take on taxonomy’s attempt to neatly categorise the antipodean natural world with a biased, European cultural perspective. The Linnaean system of taxonomy, therefore, breaks down, subverted by the unclassifiable nature of the New World. As Schwalm says, “Australian animals subvert and mock Linnaean taxonomies.”26 So, in this sense, the fantastical, or magical, in Gould’s Book of Fish disrupts Linnaean taxonomy and hence the Enlightenment rational view of the world. By dissolving the boundaries between human and animal, Gould’s Book of Fish dismantles what may be termed a “species boundary,” in the sense of “a strict dividing line” between what is human and what is animal. 27 In this respect, the novel exhibits a quintessential aspect of magical realist fiction, in that it blurs the distinction between what is real and unreal, and creates an intersection between the two, resulting in what critics commonly refer to as a “third space.” This space is hybrid in nature because of “the purely natural way in which abnormal, experientially impossible (and empirically unverifiable) events take place,” says Rawdon Wilson. 28 In addition, the novel transitions on this point from ecocriticism to zoocriticism, which is concerned with the rights and representation of animals, a topic I shall explore in more detail in the next chapter. 29 Critically, Gould as a fish retains full consciousness and the ability to communicate with humans. Indeed, he is still in command of his rational faculties and is self-aware of his metamorphosis from human to animal as well as the interrelationship between himself and his new fishy friends. “I live now in a perfect solitude,” reveals Gould the fish. “We fish keep company it is true, but our thoughts are our own & utterly incommunicable. Our thoughts deepen & we understand each other with a complete profundity only those unburdened by speech & its complications could understand,” he adds, reinforcing the notion that fish are sentient beings. “It is then untrue that we neither think nor feel. Indeed, apart from eating & swimming, it is all we have to occupy our minds” (397). The text here represents reality from a biocentric point of view – that is, from a fish’s and not a human’s perspective  – thereby inverting the anthropocentric positioning of much literature on

Sublime Wilderness  87 the eighteenth-century colonisation of Australia. Ultimately, the natural world attains a higher status in the hierarchy of existence than humans do. In this sense, Gould’s Book of Fish, as does Death of a River Guide, demonstrates an environmental orientation, because the non-human environment is used as a framing device and to suggest that human history is implicated in natural history. Furthermore, Flanagan’s texts have an additional ethical orientation because they highlight that humans are accountable for the natural environment, which has just as legitimate an interest in existence as humans do.30 A clue to this environmental philosophy appears when Gould finds a copy of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History among the Surgeon’s books. “In Pliny’s observations I discovered that man, far from being central in this life, lived in a parlous world beyond his knowledge,” reflects Gould (131). In other words, through the classical Roman naturalist’s writings, Gould realises that humanity is not the centre of the universe – contrary to the dominant ­Enlightenment thinking of Gould’s era – but rather a confused element among all existing things. It is a realisation that eventually manifests in Gould metamorphosing from human to fish. In a broader context, the fish in Gould’s Book of Fish are a subset of the aquatic imagery that permeates not only this novel but also Death of a River Guide, in which Cosini tells his life story while he slowly drowns underwater. By contrast, Gould is incarcerated for about 18 months in a tidal cell carved into rock on Sarah Island, in which the water rises at high tide. He writes much of his notebook in cuttlefish ink and other aquatic materials that he can lay his hands on. The novel’s central location, Sarah ­Island, is a tiny rock surrounded by water, initially the immense ­Macquarie ­Harbour at the edge of the South-West Wilderness and beyond that the Indian Ocean to the west and the vast Southern Ocean to the south. ­Similarly, the main location of Death of a River Guide, the ­Franklin River, also consists of water, becoming increasingly so as the narrative progresses and the river waters rise following days of torrential rain. This maritime and aquatic imagery, I suggest, underscores the notion of Tasmania as an isolated island in these two Tasmanian-based novels. I say isolated because the state is geographically remote, situated at the southern end of a continent positioned in the southern hemisphere, and remote from a nineteenth-century European viewpoint, given that convicts and free settlers travelled half way across the world to arrive there. Tasmania as an island, however, also resonates as a literary device, for it is often within islands that unique ideas and cultures are allowed to emerge and percolate, protected from competing factors that might otherwise exist in more central, or continental, locations. “Islands have been useful to writers because their distinctive geographical formations have supplied narrative settings that isolate ideas,” says Jean Arnold. This, of course, is a key theme of this chapter, in that Flanagan utilises

88  Sublime Wilderness magical realist techniques infused with an environmental perspective to portray a culture unique to Tasmania in which Indigenous and non-­I ndigenous peoples have strong ties to the land. As Arnold adds, ­“Because literary islands form settings for writers’ imagined solutions to cultural or perceptual problems, these islands also have the power to reveal the unconscious concerns of the culture in which the writer lives and from which the literature arises.”31 Furthermore, the literary trope of the island has additional resonance in a colonial context, as Elizabeth McMahon says, because it is frequently presented as “a perfect object of control,” in which such control is “often revealed as being unethical, solipsistic, even theomaniacal.” Flanagan parodies this theme through the deranged, despotic Commandant in Gould’s Book of Fish, who unsuccessfully attempts to transform the tiny Sarah Island convict gaol into a sovereign nation like Venice. Yet the novel also subverts the notion of control through the Commandant’s eventual demise and the Europeans’ thwarted attempts to tame – in an agricultural and industrial sense – Tasmania’s wilderness. In addition, the literary island incorporates “a reflexive counter-image” in that the reader anticipates this darker side of colonial-like control together with “a site of escape and luxury.” In other words, the notion of an island paradise is “matched by an equal measure of ugliness, evil and subjugation.”32 The magical realism in Flanagan’s fiction plays with this inherent counterpoint by examining the historical, social and racial hidden realities of Tasmania, and juxtaposing them against the idealised, or literally white-washed, “settler” views. Flanagan’s island of Tasmania takes on a special distinctiveness because much of its land mass consists of wilderness. And it is in this wilderness, in the South-West of the state, that the author locates Death of a River Guide and Gould’s Book of Fish. The word wilderness is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “wilddeoren,” in which the “deoren,” or beasts, dwelt beyond the boundaries of cultivation.33 Flanagan plays with this European concept of wilderness by portraying the South-West as an area that defies not only cultivation by the Europeans but also habitation. By contrast, however, Indigenous Tasmanians both survive and thrive in the South-West, enjoying a nomadic lifestyle in harmony with the natural ­environment, despite its ruggedness. In other words, in European eyes, especially those of the nineteenth-century colonists, South-West T ­ asmania represents a remote wilderness within a remote island. This attitude of separateness reflects what Christopher Hitt identifies as the dominant traditional European element of the “sublime,” the “humbling fear” induced by giant mountains, impenetrable forests, deep oceans and so on. Yet the European notion of the sublime, fuelled by R ­ omanticism, is contradictory because it also involves an “ennobling validation” of nature. Instead, Hitt advocates a modified notion of an “ecological sublime,” one that blends both humility and ennoblement, and which expresses

Sublime Wilderness  89 a “universal” feeling of “human beings’ encounters with a nonhuman world whose power ultimately exceeds theirs.”34 Flanagan’s fiction similarly exhorts this concept of an ecological sublime. Moreover, as Greg Garrard says, the idea of wilderness is central to ecocriticism’s challenge to the status quo of literary and cultural studies, because it does not share the mainly social concerns of the traditional humanities. ­Wilderness has “an almost sacramental value” that is “founded in an attitude of reverence and humility.”35 Indeed, Flanagan’s fiction often seems to prioritise wilderness in the hierarchy of living things over humans. In Gould’s Book of Fish, Van Diemen’s Land/Tasmania is presented as “that island to which only the worst of all convicts were banished” (19), and specifically Sarah Island was “the most dreaded place of punishment in the entire British Empire” between 1820 and 1832 (20). Moreover, the South-West Wilderness, which cuts off Sarah Island and the surrounding Macquarie Harbour from the cultivated farmlands of the northern, eastern and southern regions of Tasmania, is portrayed as “impenetrable wild lands” and “uncharted country” (19). When Gould escapes from the Sarah Island gaol, he initially views the South-West with European eyes, thinking of it as a “crumpled labyrinth of cascades & rainforest & ravines & limestone tiers” that are beyond his comprehension. However, he follows his intuition, aiming to reach the mountain Frenchman’s Cap, which he regards in symbolic terms as representing “the Frenchman’s cap of liberty” (317). In other words, the South-West mountain is regarded in terms of liberty rather than bondage. Along the way, Gould meets up with his old convict friend Capois Death, who has also escaped, but Capois is unable to find sanctuary in the wilderness and meets his own death through being speared by two Indigenous men (321). Gould, on the other hand, ultimately does find a kind of spiritual redemption in the wilderness, which is depicted in a magical realist manner on two different levels. First, after dancing around the funeral pyre with Twopenny Sal and smeared with red ochre, thereby achieving a sort of transcendental awareness, Gould burns his notebook on the fire. While doing so, he realises that his notebook, which provides the metafictional framework for Flanagan’s novel, does not end. The act of burning his notebook, which contains his personalised record of life in the penal colony, results in an epiphany as Gould comes to believe the literature of the past contains “lies” and that he is a kind of everyman, being both the hangman and the convict hanged, both the “flagellator” and the convict whipped, both the violent sealer and the Indigenous woman raped by the sealer (338). Gould’s story, in other words, is representative of the underclass and the oppressed in colonial Tasmania. The second level of magical realist treatment occurs soon after the funeral pyre, when Gould stumbles across a freshwater crayfish while traipsing through the South-West. “It was shedding its carapace & emerging newer & larger, yet still the

90  Sublime Wilderness same,” says Gould, in a phrase that reflects his own transition from ­ uropean convict to indigenous resident: E I looked at the translucent shell the crayfish was abandoning & marvelled at its metamorphosis, at the magical power it had to appear one thing & become another, its ability to leave behind an image of itself that was no longer itself. (341) Gould’s perception of the physical metamorphosis of the crayfish echoes his own spiritual metamorphosis in the wilderness and presages his own physical metamorphosis from human to fish at the end of the novel. In Death of a River Guide, the urban tourist rafters view the Franklin River wilderness as a frightening threat, in contrast to Cosini’s affinity with the natural environment. Just as Gould ultimately merges physically with the natural world, so too does Cosini. After successfully – albeit dangerously and recklessly – navigating a huge rapid which the tourists in his boat barely survive, Cosini is exultant. “He feels as if he is the rainforest and the river and the rapid” (299). Flanagan here uses the narrative technique of presaging the fate that is to befall his protagonist. After being wedged between submerged rocks and receiving the visions that enable him to understand not only his own life but also that of his family and forebears, Cosini, on the point of death, feels himself merge with the natural world around him: “I am no longer sure if I am me, or me the river or the river me” (321). What both Death of a River Guide and Gould’s Book of Fish illustrate in having their protagonists become one with the environment is how the distinctive kind of magical realism in Flanagan’s fiction contains an environmental element that underpins his use of the narrative mode. In conclusion, these two novels illustrate how Flanagan employs magical realist elements that are not only distinctively Australian – or even, arguably, Tasmanian – in their style, content and setting, but which also correlate with a long tradition of environmental writing in magical realist fiction. Flanagan’s fiction portrays the link between magical realism and environmental literature largely through his use of Tasmania’s South-West Wilderness as a metaphorical and geographically literal site for spiritual redemption. William Buelow Gould flees into the wilderness to escape penal servitude and to discover a spiritual affinity with both the ­Indigenous population and the natural environment. Aljaz Cosini physically merges with the wilderness by drowning in the Franklin River and, in doing so, uncovers through magical visions his own personal lineage with ­Indigenous forebears. Flanagan’s fiction not only highlights why scholarly conceptions of magical realism as a narrative mode may be modified and broadened by embracing literature from the antipodes and from beyond the orthodox world “canon,” his work is also instructive of how magical realism can have a high correlation with environmental literature.

Sublime Wilderness  91

Notes 1 Richard Flanagan, Gould’s Book of Fish (2001; New York: Grove, 2002), 3; hereafter cited by page in the text. 2 Marc Delrez, “Nationalism, Reconciliation, and the Cultural Genealogy of Magic in Richard Flanagan’s Death of a River Guide,” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 42, no. 1 (2007), 127. 3 Richard Flanagan, Death of a River Guide (1994; New York: Grove, 2002), 10; hereafter cited by page in the text. 4 Delrez, “Nationalism, Reconciliation, and the Cultural Genealogy of Magic in Richard Flanagan’s Death of a River Guide,” 120. 5 Zach Weir, “Set Adrift: Identity and the Postcolonial Present in Gould’s Book of Fish,” Postcolonial Text 1, no. 2 (2005), accessed July 6, 2018, http://postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/view/345/803. 6 Wendy Faris, Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004), 138. 7 Stephen Slemon, “Magic Realism as Postcolonial Discourse,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 409–410. 8 Richard Flanagan, “Van Diemen’s Land,” in And What Do You Do, Mr ­Gable? by Richard Flanagan (Sydney: Vintage, 2011), 208. 9 Delrez, 119. 10 Jo Jones, “Ambivalence, Absence and Loss in David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon,” Australian Literary Studies 24, no. 2 (2009), 71. 11 Anita Heiss, “Writing About Indigenous Australia – Some Issues to ­Consider and Protocols to Follow: A Discussion Paper,” Southerly 62, no. 2 (2002), 198. 12 Michael Valdez Moses, “Magical Realism at World’s End,” Literary Imagination 3, no. 1 (2001), 119. 13 Graham Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 28. 14 Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Makarand R. Paranjape, “An Interview – Amitav Ghosh: In Conversation with Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Makarand R. Paranjape,” in In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings, eds. Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya (New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2013), 27–28. 15 Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). 16 Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment (London: Routledge, 2010), 11. 17 Christopher Warnes, Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel: Between Faith and Irreverence (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 12. 18 Ben Holgate, “‘The Impossibility of Knowing’: Developing Magical Realism’s Irony in Gould’s Book of Fish,” JASAL: Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 14, no. 5 (2014). https://openjournals. library.sydney.edu.au/index.php/JASAL/article/view/9926/9814. 19 Valdez Moses, “Magical Realism at World’s End,” 105–106. 20 Miguel Angel Asturias, Men of Maize, trans. Gerald Martin (London and New York: Verso, 1988). 21 Vivian Smith, “Down the Franklin,” The Times Literary Supplement, October 3, 1997, 21. 22 Flanagan trained as a historian and undertook postgraduate study in history as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. 23 On the campaign to save the Franklin River, see two of Flanagan’s essays in And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?: “It’s Peter Dom” (23–31), about

92  Sublime Wilderness

24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

32 33 34 35

wilderness photographer Peter Dombrovskis, whose iconic images capture the Franklin’s majestic beauty; and “Metamorphosis” (153–167), about the campaign figurehead and subsequent Greens politician Bob Brown. Laura A. White, “Submerging the Imperial Eye: Affective Narration as ­Environmentalist Intervention in Richard Flanagan’s Death of a River Guide,” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 47, no. 2 (June 2012), 272. Tanja Schwalm, “‘Relax and Enjoy the Show’: Circensian Animal Spaces in Australian and Latin American Magical Realist Fiction,” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 41, no. 3 (2006), 85. Schwalm, “Relax and Enjoy the Show,” 91. Huggan and Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism, 139, Footnote 2. Rawdon Wilson, “Metamorphosis of Fictional Space,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 220. Huggan and Tiffin, 18. Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995), 7. Jean Arnold, “Mapping Island Mindscapes: The Literary and Cultural Uses of a Geographical Formation,” in Reading under the Sign of Nature, eds. John Tallmadge and Henry Harrington (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2000), 24. Elizabeth McMahon, Islands, Identity and the Literary Imagination (London: Anthem Press, 2016), 5, 6. Greg Garrard, Ecocriticism (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 60. Christopher Hitt, “Toward an Ecological Sublime,” New Literary History 30, no. 3 (Summer 1999), 606, 609–610. Garrard, Ecocriticism, 59.

Bibliography Primary Sources Flanagan, Richard. Death of a River Guide. Ringwood: McPhee Gribble, 1994. Reprint, New York: Grove Press, 2002. ———. Gould’s Book of Fish. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2001. Reprint, New York: Grove Press, 2003. ———. Wanting. Sydney: Knopf, 2008. Reprint, New York: Grove Press, 2008. ———. And What Do You Do Mr Gable? Sydney: Random House Australia, 2011. ———. The Narrow Road to the Deep North. North Sydney: Vintage, 2013.

Secondary Sources Adams, Jenni. Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature: Troping the Traumatic Real. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Arnold, Jean. “Mapping Island Mindscapes: The Literary and Cultural Uses of a Geographical Formation.” In Reading Under the Sign of Nature, edited by John Tallmadge and Henry Harrington, 24–35. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2000. Asturias, Miguel Angel. Men of Maize. Translated by Gerald Martin. London and New York: Verso, 1988). Originally published as Hombres De Maiz. Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, S.A., 1949.

Sublime Wilderness  93 Bényei, Tamás. “Rereading ‘Magic Realism.’” Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 3, no. 1 (1997): 149–179. Buell, Lawrence. The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “The Climate of History: Four Theses.” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (Winter 2009): 197–222. Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Delrez, Marc. “Nationalism, Reconciliation, and the Cultural Genealogy of Magic in Richard Flanagan’s Death of a River Guide.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 42, no. 1 (2007): 117–129. Derrida, Jacques. “The Law of Genre.” In Acts of Literature. Edited by Derek Attridge. Translated by Avital Ronell, 221–252. London: Routledge, 1992. Faris, Wendy B. “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 163–190. Durham, NC: Duke ­University Press, 1995. ———. Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004. Fowler, Alastair. Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982. Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. London and New York: Routledge, 2004. Ghosh, Tapan Kumar, and Makarand R. Paranjape. “An Interview – Amitav Ghosh: In Conversation with Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Makarand R. Paranjape.” In In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings, edited by Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya, 23–31. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2013. Glotfelty, Cheryll. “Introduction: Literary Studies in an Age of Environmental Crisis.” In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks of Literary Ecology, edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, xv–xxxvii. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996. Harrington, Henry, and John Tallmadge. “Introduction.” In Reading under the Sign of Nature: New Essays in Criticism, edited by John Tallmadge and Henry Harrington, ix–xv. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2000. Hegerfeldt, Anne. Lies that Tell the Truth: Magic Realism Seen through Contemporary Fiction from Britain. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2005. Heiss, Anita. “Writing about Indigenous Australia – Some Issues to Consider and Protocols to Follow: A Discussion Paper.” Southerly 62, no. 2 (2002): 197–205. Hitt, Christopher. “Toward an Ecological Sublime.” New Literary History 30, no. 3 (Summer 1999): 603–623. Holgate, Ben. “‘The Impossibility of Knowing’: Developing Magical Realism’s Irony in Gould’s Book of Fish.” JASAL: Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 14, no. 5 (2014). https://openjournals.library. sydney.edu.au/index.php/JASAL/article/view/9926/9814. Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London and New York: Routledge, 2001. Huggan, Graham, and Helen Tiffin. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment. London: Routledge, 2010.

94  Sublime Wilderness Ihimaera, Witi. The Whale Rider. Auckland: Heinemann, 1987. Jones, Jo. “Ambivalence, Absence and Loss in David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon.” Australian Literary Studies 24, no. 2 (2009): 69–82. Malouf, David. Remembering Babylon. London: Chatto & Windus, 1993. McMahon, Elizabeth. Islands, Identity and the Literary Imagination. London: Anthem Press, 2016. Menton, Seymour. Magic Realism Rediscovered, 1918–1981. Philadelphia, PA: The Art Alliance Press, 1983. Schwalm, Tanja. “‘Relax and Enjoy the Show’: Circensian Animal Spaces in Australian and Latin American Magical Realist Fiction.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 41, no. 3 (2006): 83–102. Simal, Begoña. “Of a Magical Nature: The Environmental Unconscious.” In Uncertain Mirrors: Magical Realisms in US Ethnic Literatures, edited by Jesús Benito, Ana Ma Manzanas, and Begoña Simal, 193–237. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009. Slemon, Stephen. “Magic Realism as Postcolonial Discourse.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 407–426. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. ­Originally published in Canadian Literature 116 (Spring 1988): 9–24. Smith, Vivian. “Down the Franklin.” The Times Literary Supplement, October 3, 1997, 21. Valdez Moses, Michael. “Magical Realism at World’s End.” Literary Imagination: The Review of the Association of Literary Scholars 3, no. 1 (2001): 105–133. Warnes, Christopher. Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel: Between Faith and Irreverence. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Weir, Zach. “Set Adrift: Identity and the Postcolonial Present in Gould’s Book of Fish.” Postcolonial Text 1, no. 2 (2005). Accessed July 6, 2018. http://­ postcolonial.org/index.php/pct/article/view/345/803. White, Laura A. “Submerging the Imperial Eye: Affective Narration as Environmentalist Intervention in Richard Flanagan’s Death of a River Guide.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 47, no. 2 (June 2012): 265–279. Wilson, Rawdon. “Metamorphosis of Fictional Space.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 209–233. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Wright, Alexis. Carpentaria. Artarmon: Giramondo, 2006.

3 ‘The oneness is still with us’ Oceanic Mythology in Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider

New Zealand Māori writer Witi Ihimaera’s novel The Whale Rider (1987)1 presents a much different portrayal of the environment from most magical realist fiction because of its setting in and awareness of the ocean, specifically the Pacific, rather than the usual terrestrial location. But the text has a heightened and existential awareness of the ocean as a commons that is as integral to all life on the planet, not just humans, and one that is equally as important and fragile as land. Moreover, the book, whose international popularity was enhanced by a successful film adaption that garnered an Academy Award nomination, takes a traditional cultural view of the ocean by interpreting it through Māori mythology. By basing the story on an updated and reinterpreted version of Māori ancestors migrating across the Pacific a millennia ago, Ihimaera infuses the slender novel with a sense of epic time such that the book’s themes and environmental ethics resonate with a timeless quality. In addition, the central figure of the whale rider, who is given renewed life by being reincarnated as the young female protagonist, blurs the boundary of the species divide between humans and animals, which is a common aspect of much magical realist fiction. Another reason for examining The Whale Rider is that Ihimaera, writing in the 1980s, demonstrates an astute and prescient concern for the profound negative effects that human industrial and military activity has on the environment, in particular the extensive and harmful testing of nuclear bombs in the Pacific by Western countries. Ihimaera utilises magical realism as a postcolonial strategy in order to reassert the primacy of Māori culture and tradition in New Zealand as well as to ensure the perpetual survival of Māori culture. Like I­ ndigenous Australian Alexis Wright, Ihimaera employs mythopoeia to portray an alternative, indigenous version of reality that challenges the empirical ­ urthermore, both rationalist philosophy imposed by British colonists. F authors draw on traditional mythology that is inextricably tied with their respective environments, with an ethical imperative of caring for and nurturing the environment for the sakes of both their peoples’ survival and the planet’s survival. However, as Anne McClintock correctly points out, postcolonialism “is unevenly developed globally” and there

96  ‘The oneness is still with us’ is no singular or common type of postcolonialism or post-coloniality among formerly colonised territories. 2 It follows, then, that not only is the postcolonial condition that Ihimaera addresses in New Zealand different to that which Wright faces in Australia, but also the kind of postcolonial strategy that Ihimaera executes in his fiction is a variant to Wright’s. Although the neighbouring modern nation states New Zealand and Australia, which are separated by the Tasman Sea, both emerged from white-‘settler’ British colonies established in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, their histories are substantially different from an indigenous perspective. The adjective ‘settler,’ of course, is a misnomer as the British invaded both countries and subjected the indigenous inhabitants to brutal wars and long-term suppression. However, there are three crucial distinctions between them in light of indigenous fiction. First, while Indigenous Australians can legitimately claim to be Australia’s only non-migrants, Māoris are themselves migrants, having originally travelled across the Pacific Ocean centuries ago in the Great Migration to New Zealand, or Aotearoa. Second, while Indigenous Australians were deprived of their civil rights after colonisation until they were belatedly granted full citizenship in the 1967 referendum, Māori people were granted civil rights early in their colonial period. Unlike the colonisation of Australia, which involved the outright theft of land from its first inhabitants, in New Zealand the British negotiated a settlement with Māori chiefs in 1840 called the Waitangi Treaty, which was designed to recognise both the Māori system of tribal and family ownership of land, and the British system of individual landownership. The treaty acknowledged that all property belonged to the Māori and could not be taken without their consent and without payment. However, a Māori backlash against land sales resulted in devastating and violent land wars, especially from 1863 to 1872. In addition to the treaty, Māori people received political rights under the Constitutional Act of 1852, and were elected to the colony’s parliament.3 Third, whereas Indigenous Australians make up a relatively tiny proportion of the Australian population, at around 3 per cent, Māori people make up about 15 per cent of New Zealand’s population, which has given them greater proportionate influence at a national level in terms of political, economic and cultural issues.4 These factors come into play when comparing the emergence of contemporary indigenous fiction and non-fiction from both countries, which grew on the back of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and took off in the 1970s with the assistance of government funding. The growth in indigenous literature was part of a broader cultural renaissance for both Indigenous Australians and Māoris as they sought to reclaim and reassert their heritage and identity, and to establish political and social power. It was also about fighting for a voice in domestic publishing. In New Zealand in the late 1960s, only about 40 local novels

‘The oneness is still with us’  97 were published a year, but these were by Pākehā authors.5 Ihimaera was a key pioneering figure in the Māori literary renaissance, along with other writers, like Keri Hulme (the subject of Chapter 4) and Patricia Grace, who, as Hulme says, “came on stream” in the 1970s, initiating a “huge blossoming” of Māori literature.6 Ihimaera, who was born in 1944, authored not only the first collection of Māori short stories to be published, Pounamu, Pounamu (1972), but also the first Māori novel, Tangi (1973), which was released in the same year that the Māori Artists and Writers’ Society was formed. Georges-Goulven Le Cam says of the early Māori writers:7 Foremost in the minds of these trailblazers – and those who ­followed – was the desire to portray the alienation of urban existence, to remind their people of the tribal past and of the need to get renewed strength and inspiration from it, Māori leaders and communities had rallied to fight back against the erosion and discontinuity of Māori culture, tradition and language, which resulted from huge internal migration after World War Two by Māoris from rural to urban areas. In 1945, only 15 per cent of ­Maoris lived in urban centres, but by 1974 that fraction had jumped to 70 per cent.8 ­Today it’s around 75 per cent. This led to a Māori political-­ cultural movement in the 1970s that fought for Māori language courses in schools; an official policy of biculturalism; and the establishment in 1975 of the Waitangi Tribunal, which provided a mechanism for addressing grievances over the colonial usurpation of land.9 The Whale Rider is typical of Ihimaera’s body of work in that the novel explores what it means to be Māori in the contemporary age, and the struggle by Māori people to ensure the survival of their precolonial culture in a postcolonial nation dominated by the descendants of Europeans, known as Pākehā. The book is also reflective of Māori literature, especially that of the 1980s, towards the start of the domestic literary renaissance. In general terms, “Māori cultural pride rests on a profound sense of being different from Pākehā.” Māori literature emphasises the rhythms, patterns and cadences of oral traditions. In addition, Maori novelists often blur the boundaries between realism, the mythic and the supernatural.10 Ihimaera’s novel exemplifies these Māori literary characteristics in its construction around the whale rider myth, which is updated with a feminist twist by making the central character, the eight-year-old Kahu, the reincarnation of the ancestral whale rider Kahutia Te Rangi, thereby inverting the patriarchal hierarchical structure of traditional society. The central motif of Ihimaera’s novella – the whale – overlaps traditional myth and what we might call generic myth to such a significant degree that the narrative transcends its subnational cultural context. Ihimaera’s purpose, I contend, is to make traditional

98  ‘The oneness is still with us’ myths relevant to New Zealand society by reshaping their content in order to illuminate deeper truths about contemporary issues. Although only 122 pages, The Whale Rider, by featuring an ancient bull whale as a central figure, both metaphorically and in terms of the plot, contains a structural and thematic unity that reinforces the ‘magical’ code which keeps intervening in the extratextual world. The ancestral bull whale symbolises the presence of Māori culture and spiritualism, but critically the Māori villagers must choose to embrace the returning whale, otherwise they risk losing their links with the past as well as their collective identity. Ihimaera’s adaptation of the Māori myth of the whale rider is typical of the way in which writers of magical realism frequently utilise traditional myths not to convey any truths intrinsic to the myths themselves but, as Donald Shaw highlights, to express their own attitudes and ideas. “In magical realism it is normally not what the myths are, but what they are used for, that matters,” says Shaw.11 The ancestral whale is the catalyst for the indigenous, marginalised people to reconnect with their own cultural history and thus reverse the legacy of postcolonialism. At the narrative’s dramatic climax, 200 whales beach themselves on the remote Wainui Beach on the North ­Island and die, despite desperate attempts by both Māori and Pākehā to save them. Subsequently, the ancestral 20-metre bull whale beaches itself, bringing with it a “mythic” whale herd that hangs back in safer waters.12 The geographical location of the beach is typical of a magical realist space in that it is liminal, set between two boundaries, in this case between the land and the sea. The shoreline upon which the bull whale chooses to strand itself is representative of the third space between the ‘magical’ and the ‘real.’ Koro Apirana, the septuagenarian community chief, recognises the ancestral whale’s beaching as a symbolic event. Koro is plagued by his own impending mortality and the effects of a disappearing Māori culture and lifestyle, amid increasing urbanisation and the drift of younger people away from the local regional community. This is personified in the book’s first-person narrator, Rawiri, who is Kahu’s 24-year-old uncle and a labourer who leaves to live in Sydney and Papua New Guinea for several years before returning home. Koro is obsessed with ensuring his chiefdom is passed on in the traditional manner down the family line. The trouble is, Māori custom dictates that leadership is hereditary and is normally passed on to the eldest son (14), whereas Koro’s eldest grandson, Porourangi, has only two daughters, the eldest of whom is Kahu. Kahu keeps trying to win the approval of her great-grandfather but to no avail. For instance, she dives into the sea to recover – with the help of dolphins – a special stone Koro had thrown overboard as a leadership test for the community’s young boys (74). Koro recognises that the bull whale, which has “a sacred sign tattooed on its head” (96), a “swirling moko” (93), represents a last chance

‘The oneness is still with us’  99 for his community to recover their Māori way of life and identity, or Māoritangi. This is no ordinary whale but an “ancient bull whale” that was “succoured” as a young whale in mythological times by Kahutia Te Rangi after its mother was attacked by sharks. Kahutia Te Rangi, also known as Paikea, is the Apirana family’s ancestor, a former high chief in mythical Hawaiki, the original place from which the Māori migrated in canoes, who travelled to New Zealand “on the back of a whale” (26). Known as “the great Migration,” the mass oceanic emigration is believed to have occurred around a thousand years ago.13 Ihimaera’s novel, therefore, operates within mythic time rather than linear time, in a similar vein to Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria, thereby foreshortening history so that the book’s time scheme becomes symptomatic of the long process of colonialism and its residual legacies. The novel also contains dual narratives – one cetacean and mythic; the other human, contemporary, involving family and culture – with each narrative dependent on the other. Yet, as Jonathan Steinwand points out, “Such anthropomorphic focus on the whales is not merely a magical realist gesture but is consistent with the Pacific ethic of genealogical connection among living beings.”14 In other words, the novel draws on a Pacific tradition in which there is no significant division between human and animal or nature and culture. Māori people retain a genealogical relationship to the land, sea and non-human species such that this multifaceted relationship is ontological rather than based on Western conceptions of property and ownership.15 Theirs is a habitational relationship that Elizabeth ­DeLoughrey describes as geontology or “a deep relation to place that exceeds human temporality and scale.”16 This real, tangible, genealogical lineage is articulated by the narrator Rawiri at the start of the novel, when he reveals that not only is Kahu named after Kahutia Te Rangi, the ancestral whale rider (16), but also that Nanny Flowers, Kahu’s great-­ grandmother and Koro’s wife, has an ancestor Muriwai “who had come to New Zealand on the Maataatua canoe” (17). Nanny Flowers’s royal lineage, coupled with Kahu as the contemporary whale rider, reinforces Ihimaera’s provocatively feminist updating of Māori mythology, which suggests the author is also advocating for generational change.17 This ability among Māori people to recite from memory their genealogy back to a canoe ancestor, and as a consequence an ultimate source, reinforces the importance of locating an individual in time and space.18 So, while the symbiosis between Kahu the young girl and Kahutia Te Rangi the ancestral whale rider might be mythical on one level, on another level their fusion is prosaic and, to an extent, expected, or at least anticipated. Kahu as the reincarnation of the whale rider, therefore, is as much ‘real’ as it is ‘magical.’ Koro addresses the Māori men about the vital importance of saving the bull whale in a speech that, due to its lexicon, could just as easily describe the essence of magical realist fiction. Man, says Koro, with the

100  ‘The oneness is still with us’ passing of time grew arrogant and drove “a wedge through the original oneness of the world.” Man, meaning the Pākehā, divided the world into the “real and the unreal,” the “natural and the supernatural,” the “scientific and the fantastic.” Belief in Māori gods, he adds, “has often been considered irrational.” Koro rhetorically asks the men if the whale is “natural or supernatural,” before answering that it is both. “It is a reminder of the oneness which the world once had,” says Koro. The Māori chief then highlights the stakes to their local community. If we are able to return it to the sea, then that will be proof that the oneness is still with us. If we are not able to return it, then this is because we have become weak. If it lives, we live. If it dies, we die. (96) Despite the adults’ best efforts, however, the whale remains determinedly beached. It is not until young Kahu climbs on to the whale and rides it “as if it was a horse” that the whale returns to the open sea (106). Kahu subsequently goes on a deep-sea adventure with the herd of 60 whales, until found three days later unconscious in the ocean, “floating in a nest of dark lustrous kelp” and guarded by dolphins (117). Because of this epic act, Koro finally acknowledges his great-granddaughter as his rightful successor as chief and the reincarnation of the mythical whale rider. “Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter,” he finally concedes (121). The Whale Rider, as Lars Eckstein says, is “about belief as much as about fantasy” and the need to affirm an indigenous identity “in times of cultural crisis.” In this respect the book shares a commonality with the novels of Alexis Wright and fellow Māori author Keri Hulme, among others. However, Eckstein’s comment that Ihimaera’s book exhibits “an affirmative cultural mode more in line with [Alejo] Carpentier’s model of the marvellous” misunderstands the essential properties of magical realist fiction.19 As I argued in the Introduction, Carpentier’s concept of lo real maravilloso relates to a particular geographical and cultural reality of Latin America which, at the time, seemed ‘supernatural’ to European sensibilities. Carpentier’s “marvellous real,” therefore, is an indigenous Latin American perception of localised reality, whereas magical realism refers to a literary mode. The Whale Rider, I contend, does not refer exclusively to a Māori or South Pacific ‘marvellous’ reality but rather transcends its cultural context and subnational origins. It does so by embedding the fable-like storyline within and around the central motif of the whale, a deep-sea creature that evokes mythological meaning in many cultures beyond New Zealand, such as Jonah and the whale in the Old Testament and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851). That humans and whales are both mammals underpins the universal nature of whale mythology in a biological sense.

‘The oneness is still with us’  101 Interestingly, Ihimaera employed whale mythology at the start of his writing career, in the short story “The Whale,” which was published in his 1972 collection, Pounamu, Pounamu.20 The themes and characterisation are very similar to those in The Whale Rider. An ageing Māori elder worries the Māori language and respect for customs are “disappearing” (118). Believing he is dying, the elder visits his village’s meeting house “for the last time” (115) and observes panels that recount the history, or mythology, of the Paikea riding a whale to Aotearoa (New Zealand) (118). He walks down to the beach to see a stranded whale that is already disintegrating physically: its flesh has been “stripped” by seagulls; and its blood has turned the seawater red. The story finishes with the elder crying out as the whale, in response, “lifts a fluke of its giant tail to beat the air with its dying agony” (122). This short story, then, parallels The Whale Rider in a number of ways: a dying whale symbolises a declining Māori culture, a Māori chief identifies personally with his aquatic mammalian ancestor and there is direct communication between a Māori person and a whale. In other words, both the short story and the novella blur the boundaries between the human and animal worlds. Ihimaera’s strategy is to address subnational issues in a way that attracts a wider readership beyond the New Zealand audience. The merging of the human and non-human is where magical realism and environmental literature intersect in The Whale Rider. This is most evident in Kahu fulfilling her destiny as the Paikea by becoming ‘one’ with the ancestral bull whale, to lead him back out to sea. The young girl is literally and ‘magically’ conjoined with the whale as it changes its surface to create “footholds and handholds,” while its “rippling skin” forms “a saddle with fleshy stirrups for her feet and pommels to grasp” (105). The three factors of the biosphere – human, animal and environment – merge when Kahu spends several days diving beneath the ocean as the reincarnated mythical whale rider. Yet Ihimaera’s narrative technique of extinguishing the species boundary also provides a biocentric view that challenges the anthropocentrism which underpinned the empirical rationalist, Cartesian ideals of the European Enlightenment, and provided the philosophical justification for the expansion of European colonialism around the globe in the last half of the last millennium. Moreover, the text implicitly critiques European colonialism’s prioritisation of private profit over public commons in two specific instances. Early in the novel, Koro unambiguously censures the Cartesian binarism of the colonists that allowed a philosophical justification for exploiting the natural environment for economic gain. He warns the younger Māori men about over-fishing their local waters, for fear of bringing about “retribution” by their guardian ancestors and depleting fish supplies. However, Koro concedes that in the past Māori men and other licensed commercial fishermen had failed “to resist [the] temptation” to make money from over-fishing as well as whaling. The latter, of course, suggests a

102  ‘The oneness is still with us’ fundamental breakdown in the traditional merging of the human and non-human. During this pep talk Koro criticises ­“commercialism” and instead advocates living “in harmony with ­Tangaroa’s kingdom” (40–41). The motif of killing for greed and the concomitant division between human and non-human is symbolised in the second instance of the commercial exploitation of the environment, when five men – ­presumably Pākehā, although their identity is unclear  – grotesquely dismember one of the beached whales with a chainsaw and remove the lower jaw. The implication is that they intend to sell the whale bone. The “human butcher[s],” as they are described, are covered in blood and provoke “sorrow and anger” among the locals for their horrific killing of a “vanishing species” (84). This fleeting act of barbarism is juxtaposed with the (unsuccessful) attempt by the community to save the beached whale herd. Ihimaera’s choice in depicting the butchering of a whale encapsulates the depths of depravity that humanity may stoop to and its disconnection with the natural world, given that the text endows the whale with a special, mythical relationship with Māori people that extends back millennia. The imagery of the chainsaw also becomes metaphoric for what ­Harold Fromm calls the “Myth of Voluntary Omnipotence” to describe humanity’s use of technology to mediate our relationship with nature, thereby causing physical and spiritual alienation from the environment. “It is the contemporary form of the Faust legend, a legend which in all of its variants ends the same way,” says Fromm.21 Even Faust cannot avoid death, despite his Mephistophelian pact. The Whale Rider depicts a more horrifying example of the Myth of Voluntary Omnipotence with a nuclear explosion in the Pacific Ocean, which the ancestral bull whale recollects. The detonation occurs while the whale herd swims in a sea trench in the mythical Hawaiki, the “Place of the Gods.” A “flash of bright light” scalds the sea, leaving “contamination” and “radioactive death.” ­Importantly, Ihimaera endows the ancestral whale with both a consciousness and a point of view, not to mention a rational understanding of science. “He was afraid of the genetic effects of the undersea radiation on the remaining herd and calves,” says the text (48–49). This passage is a clear critique of nuclear colonialism, “the systematic programme by which the post-­ Second World War arms race turned large swathes of the Pacific into a military zone and, more specifically, a nuclear arena.”22 Not only were Britain and the United States perpetrators of this late twentieth-century form of environmental annihilation, but so, too, was France, which was still testing nuclear warheads in the P ­ acific when Ihimaera was writing The Whale Rider. Indeed, the oceanic nuclear fallout that the whale pod attempts to avoid in the novel has been connected to the French detonating “hundreds of nuclear weapons in the Tuamotu Archipelago of Tahiti.”23 The ancestral whale’s stream of consciousness, if I may call it that, in relation to the oceanic nuclear bomb tests demonstrates how magical realism may become environmental discourse, in that the whale is

‘The oneness is still with us’  103 imaginatively accorded the ‘supernatural’ power of scientific thought. In addition, the whale herd experiences the nuclear explosions while visiting the mythical birthplace of the original Māori, thereby applying mythic time to the act, implying that humanity’s Faustian self-­deception is timeless. On the other hand, animal consciousness is not a notion that should be considered fanciful. Rather, the science of cognitive ­ethology – which is described as “the comparative, evolutionary, and ecological study of animal minds and mental experiences,” including how they think and process information, the nature of their emotions and whether or not they are conscious – takes the idea seriously. “It is narrow-minded to believe that we are the only species with minds or the only species that can think, make plans, and experience pain and pleasure,” says cognitive ethologist Marc Beckoff of humans. Beckoff believes pragmatic actions by animals such as adaptively flexible behaviour and complex social skills may be considered evidence of consciousness. 24 By this criteria, Ihimaera dramatises what might be considered as fiction by some but as fact by cognitive ethologists by imbuing the whales with self-awareness, empathy, memory and rational thought. The Whale Rider, therefore, moves beyond basic ecocriticism to zoocriticism, which is concerned with the rights and representation of animals. 25 Magical realism has an important role to play in emerging discourse on human rights in fiction, in that the narrative mode often involves an appeal to intrinsic human rights, as occurs in Alexis Wright’s work. Ihimaera’s novel demonstrates how this argument may be extended to include magical realism involving an appeal to intrinsic animal rights. A zoocritical philosophy accords animals equal status with humans in regards to their right to exist. The Whale Rider interweaves references to the cognitive and emotional lives of whales with the implicit assumption that they have the right to roam freely throughout the world’s oceans without being threatened by human intervention. For example, the ancestral bull whale accesses “the massive banks of his memory” to “compute” a course through the Pacific for the herd to take “sanctuary” in “the underwater cathedrals” so they may avoid their “greatest threat,” that is, “man” (24). Later, when the bull whale consciously decides to beach himself and prepare for death, he is described as having a “primal psychic force” (94). By dissolving the boundaries between human and animal, between rational consciousness and instinct, and between hunter and prey, Ihimaera’s book demolishes what may be termed a “species boundary,” in the sense of “a strict dividing line” between what is human and what is animal. 26 The rights of whales to enjoy an unfettered life may be read in the wider context of magical realist fiction’s tendency to give voice to the voiceless, to reposition to the centre the marginalised and the oppressed. Another narrative technique that Ihimaera employs to reassert a voice for Māori people is to liberally use the Māori language in the original

104  ‘The oneness is still with us’ edition of The Whale Rider, which was first published by Heinemann in 1987. It’s a technique that might be thought of as the literal reassertion of a cultural voice. Although the text is predominantly written in ­English, it does include extensive use of Māori language for dialogue and narrative passages, starting from an epigraph on an inside title page and the first chapter. This bilingual technique underscores the Māori culture and mythology that permeates the book. My argument is that Ihimaera utilises the Māori language as another part of his postcolonial strategy to present an alternative sense of reality, and to challenge the dominant Pākehā in New Zealand. The Māori language was not officially recognised as the official New Zealand language, alongside English, until 1987. However, in recent years there has been a domestic push for the Māori language to be studied, so that many New Zealand residents can speak at least some Māori. It’s also common to have Māori-language excerpts on television and radio. Keri Hulme and Alexis Wright also insert indigenous language into their mostly English-language novels for much the same reasons: to add authenticity to an indigenous, non-­Western perspective. Wright’s deployment of Indigenous Australian language is more sparing than Ihimaera’s use of Maori in The Whale Rider, and whereas Hulme provides a lengthy glossary of Maori words at the end of The Bone People, Ihimaera does not for his novel in the original edition. The implication is that Ihimaera is asking more of his non-Māori readers to navigate and interpret the Māori passages. While the meaning may be evident through contextualisation in some Māori language parts, it may not be in others. The non-translated Māori language in The Whale Rider, argues Eckstein, creates an untranslatable zone between Māori and Pākehā culture, thereby illustrating the gaps and silences proposed by Stephen Slemon in postcolonial magical realist fiction. 27 However, Ihimaera reversed his position on a significant non-­ translated zone for the international edition of The Whale Rider, which was published by Robson in 2003 and is sometimes referred to as the ­“American edition.”28 It should be noted that the international edition was released the year after the successful film adaptation of the novel (which I shall discuss in detail later), undoubtedly in order to capitalise on the movie. Curiously, Ihimaera decided himself to excise much of the Māori language for the international edition, says Eckstein, who thinks the de-Māori-ised version “loses a central element of its local and cultural grounding in favour of global compatibility.”29 An analysis of the international edition reveals the loss of a linguistic cultural specificity present in the original edition. For example, in the prologue of the 2003 version, Ihimaera replaces the Māori words karanga with “song,” taniwha with “whale,” tipua with “sea monster” and moko pattern with “tattoo” during the initial description of the ancestral whale (5). A nonMāori speaker could have divined the meaning of each of these Māori words without much difficulty through contextualisation. Similarly, in

‘The oneness is still with us’  105 the subsequent two pages of the 2003 edition, during the mythological introduction to Paikea, the ancestral whale rider, the author replaces mauri with “spear” and karakia with “prayer.” Moreover, Ihimaera feels compelled to insert English translations to two Māori phrases: karangai mai (“call me”) and hui e, haumi e, taiki e (“let it be done”) (6–7). What is most perplexing about the author’s self-initiated translations within the text is that he adds a two-page glossary of English translations of Māori words in the 2003 edition (151–152), whereas there is no glossary in the original edition. Given the new glossary, the in-text translations seem unnecessary. Why not just keep the original Māori words and add a translation at the back of the book for those readers who want to check the actual meaning? One possible explanation is that Ihimaera was striving to eliminate any elements of the original edition that might potentially alienate international, and probably American, readers. The removal of an entire paragraph of Māori language at the start of second section, “Summer Halcyon’s Flight,” which, admittedly, is virtually impossible to decipher for a non-Māori reader, suggests Ihimaera may have wanted to make the international edition as simple to read as possible for English speakers. This possibility is reinforced by a newspaper interview in which ­I himaera stated that he wanted to “remov[e] barriers of understanding.”30 Moreover, Eckstein says Ihimaera told him that he removed much of the Māori language for the 2003 edition because he wanted to reach an international audience, and that he felt he “had done justice to the politics” of Māori writing with the original 1987 edition as well as a 1995 edition that was translated entirely into Māori. 31 ­I himaera’s comment to Eckstein should be viewed in light of Ihimaera’s activity between 2003 and 2005, when he published revisions of his early stories and novels, including a rewrite of his debut novel, Tangi. The Whale Rider was part of this revision process. Christine Prentice argues that two different projects underpin these revisions: one is to politicise what Ihimaera came to regard as his insufficiently political novels of the 1970s; the other combines his response to the growing global market for fiction with his interest in translating literary works for other media, such as stage, screen, orchestra and voice.32 However, the excision of much of the Māori language has another, perhaps unintended, effect in that it compels the non-Māori reader to engage with the Māori aspects of the book, especially the mythology, at a deeper, non-linguistic level. In other words, the deletions imply the narrative is Māori in spirit, not merely through the effect of vernacularisation. Nevertheless, there is no denying that the Māori passages in the original version reinforce the culturally derived kind of magical realism associated with the whale rider mythology, and act as a resistance to claims of exoticism. Emily Apter’s observation that any fictional work which transcends its local market and is transported into the realm of world literature

106  ‘The oneness is still with us’ becomes vulnerable to charges of “cultural betrayal and loss of authenticity” is not only true of Ihimaera’s international edition but also of the film version of the book.33 So far in this monograph I have been discussing magical realism as a generic kind in relation to the novel, which is itself a generic form. However, Ihimaera’s tale enables an examination of how the narrative mode translates into a different artistic and narrative genre altogether with film. Whale Rider (2002) is a globally successful film that garnered an Academy Award nomination for best actress. ­A lthough Ihimaera is credited as an associate producer, the film was written and directed by New Zealand-born Niki Caro and deviates substantially from key elements of the book, even though it does remain largely faithful to the core story and themes. Notably, the film loses the postcolonial subtleties inherent in the novel. The text includes repeated references to the dominance of the Pākehā, the descendants of the colonists, and the difficulties faced by Māori people in asserting their indigenous culture and autonomy against the whites. Yet virtually no Pākehā appear in the film. Instead, the movie focusses on the local Māori community. This point was echoed by The Guardian’s film critic, who questioned why the “Anglos” who “dispossessed” the ­Māoris “don’t feature in the movie.”34 Similarly, in the book the narrator Rawiri is able to comment on different postcolonial territories in nearby Australia and Papua New Guinea, which provides a broader geopolitical, historical and postcolonial context to the immediate New Zealand story. H ­ owever, the film turns Kahu’s father into a global traveller (but without the same insights as the book’s Rawiri) and reduces Rawiri to a comic, out-of-shape jovial uncle who teaches Kahu how to fight like a Māori warrior. Yet the film does retain the spine of the story and the Māori whale mythology, which, in turn, continues the environmental perspective and retains some of the magical realist elements of the book: the key characters remain Kahu (renamed Pai, short for Paikea the whale rider) and Koro; Koro’s obsession with patriarchal lineage and the resultant alienation from Kahu/Pai; and a focus on Kahu/Pai attempting to prove her worth to Koro, culminating in her rescue of the ancestral whale and the trope of a child against a hostile world. However, the film reduces the frequency of both Māori language and mythology such that cultural specificity is mostly communicated through images, like the repeated cutaways to a statue of the mythical whale rider on top of the village marae. Moreover, the movie loses most of the significant magical realist elements in the book: Koro’s speech that Māori myths are both real and supernatural (96); the ancestral whale’s moko (traditional tattoo) on its forehead (5); the ancestral whale changing its physical shape so that Kahu can climb aboard and hold on for deep-sea diving (105, 107); and Kahu’s ability to communicate with dolphins (another species of mammal), which help her find Koro’s stone (74) and guard her at sea following her deep-sea adventure with the whale herd (117). The key magical realist episode in

‘The oneness is still with us’  107 the book that is retained in the film is the climactic ending when Kahu/ Pai rides out to sea on the back of the beached whale. Frederick Luis Aldama remarks that “film directors ‘produce a certain reality’ in their magicoreels.” Aldama coins the word magicorealism as a substitute for magical realism, partly in an attempt to avoid the binary opposition inherent in the conventional term of the narrative mode. He demonstrates how film directors may utilise magical realist cinematic techniques to destabilise audiences’ perceptions of reality.35 This is certainly true of writer-director Caro’s treatment of the mythical whale rider being reincarnated in ‘real’ life in the movie, even if many of the magical realist elements of the book are not transferred to the film version. A similar outcome occurs in the 2012 film adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s canonical magical realist novel Midnight’s Children (1981), for which Rushdie co-wrote the screenplay (as well as ‘acted’ as the voiceover narrator). The film Midnight’s Children is shot mostly in a realist style, and plot points that are distinctly magical realist in the novel are blended with a cinematic realism. For instance, the story’s central magical realist conceit – the magical children of midnight – is portrayed in the film as a hybrid between the real and the supernatural. When Saleem Sinai sees and talks to the other magical children, it generally occurs in his bedroom or another interior room as if there are other, ‘real’ people surrounding him. Granted, there is a visual allusion that they ‘appear’ to him, but the depiction is as flesh-and-blood characters rather than as telepathic bodiless identities. Moreover, in each of these scenes, there are only perhaps a couple of dozen of the midnight’s children at most, rather than the full 1,001, which, in the age of computer-generated images, seems parsimonious numerically. As a result, the film adaptation does not accentuate the central magical realist aspects of Rushdie’s novel, although this may have been a stylistic decision by the director, Deepa Mehta, in an attempt to add plausibility to the storyline. My conclusion is that on one level Whale Rider, as well as Midnight’s Children, does show that magical realist fiction can be successfully translated into the entirely different genre of film, and that mythical time and space can be compacted into around two hours of celluloid drama. Variety’s reviewer even praised the Whale Rider film’s combination of a “straightforward coming-of-age narrative with Maori mysticism,” and the blending of “hinted magic” with domestic drama and humour. 36 This reinforces the argument that much magical realist fiction, even that of the culturally specific kind, has the capacity to enjoy a transnational reception with an international readership. On the other hand, the film version of ­I himaera’s novel does lose a significant amount of cultural detail and, most importantly, the elements that enable the author to utilise magical realism as a postcolonial strategy in the book. 37 In conclusion, Ihimaera utilises magical realism to reassert the primacy of Māori people and their culture in their homeland as a resistance to

108  ‘The oneness is still with us’ the dominant Pākehā. Moreover, he does so by focussing on the links between Māori people and their environment, in particular the sea. The author reinforces this theme by basing the novel on a reinterpretation and updating of traditional mythology regarding the whale rider, which, in turn, provides echoes of their ancestors migrating across the Pacific a millennia ago. While Ihimaera promotes the centrality of the environment to Māori life and culture, as well as a blurring of the species divide between human and non-human, in the next chapter I will examine how another pioneering Māori author, Keri Hulme, deploys magical realism, environmental issues and Māori mythology in a significantly different manner.

Notes 1 Witi Ihimaera, The Whale Rider (Auckland: Heinemann, 1987); hereafter cited by page in the text. 2 Anne McClintock, “The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term ‘Post-­ colonialism,’” in Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory, eds. ­Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (London and New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993), 294. 3 Witi Ihimaera, Maori (Wellington: A.R. Shearer, Government Printer, 1975), 18–20, 24. 4 Anne Brewster, “Indigenous Writing in Australia and New Zealand,” in Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, ed. Ato Quayson, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 533. 5 Elizabeth Caffin, “Aotearoa / New Zealand,” in The Novel in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the South Pacific since 1950. Vol. 12 of the Oxford History of the Novel in English, eds. Coral Ann Howells, Paul Sharrad, and Gerry Turcotte, 46–60 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 49. 6 John Bryson, “Interview with Keri Hulme,” Antipodes 8, no. 2 (1994), 132. 7 Georges-Goulven Le Cam, “The Quest for Archetypal Self-Truth in the Bone People: Towards a Re-Definition of Maori Culture?” Commonwealth Essays and Studies 15, no. 2 (1993), 67. 8 Ihimaera, Maori, 35. 9 Kirstine Moffat, “Aotearoa / New Zealand,” in The Novel in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the South Pacific since 1950. Vol 12. of the ­Oxford History of the Novel in English, eds. Coral Ann Howells, Paul Sharrad, and Gerry Turcotte, 112–127 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 117. 10 Moffat, “Aotearoa / New Zealand,” 119. 11 Donald L. Shaw, “The Presence of Myth in Borges, Carpentier, Asturias, Rulfo and García Márquez,” in A Companion to Magical Realism, eds. ­Stephen M. Hart and Wen-chin Ouyang (Woodbridge, Suffolk, and Rochester, NY: Tamesis, 2005), 50–51. 12 Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment (London: Routledge, 2010), 65. 13 Ihimaera, Maori, 7–9. 14 Jonathan Steinwand, “What the Whales Would Tell Us: Cetacean Communication in Novels by Witi Ihimaera, Linda Hogan, Zakes Mda, and Amitav Ghosh,” in Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment, eds. Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 186. 15 Elizabeth DeLoughrey, “Ordinary Futures: Interspecies Worldings in the Anthropocene,” in Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities:

‘The oneness is still with us’  109

16 17

18 19

20 21 22 23

24 25 26 27 28 29

Postcolonial Approaches, eds. Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Jill Didur, and ­A nthony Carrigan (London and New York: Routledge, 2015), 356. DeLoughrey, “Ordinary Futures,” 367. Ihimaera frequently includes the figure of a Māori matriarch in his work. Another instance is his play Woman Far Walking (Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2000), which has several magical realist characteristics. First, the central character, Te Tiri O Waitangi Mahana, is the impossible age of 160, having been born in 1840, the same year as the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Māori and Pākehā. Tiri invokes feminine performativity by reliving in her memory key historical events for the Maori: her experience as a soldier fighting alongside Te Kooti in the land wars against the Pākehā in 1888, the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918 and protests against the South African Springbok rugby tour in 1981. The second magical realist element of Woman Far Walking is the compression of historical time into the present as Tiri acts out the various historical events in a dreamscape. Time exists as a continuum, becoming non-linear and spiral. The third element is the rainbows that the weavers, for whom Tiri works as a child, magically weave into their “sacred thread” (22). The play also has multiple layers of postcolonial critique. Tiri tells her sons (in vain, as it turns out) that they should not enlist to fight in World War One because, as Māoris, they will be fighting with, not against, the Pākehā. “Let the Pākehā fight the Pākehā,” she says. “Maybe they’ll kill each other” (64). Clearly, Tiri’s view is that this is an imperialist war, and not a war for which the colonised should die. Similarly, she recognises French nuclear bomb tests on Moruroa Atoll in the Pacific as nuclear colonisation, a form of subjugating “the land and the sea” (76). In addition, when Tiri meets the “Queen of England” on Tiri’s 150th birthday in 1990, she tells Her Majesty: “I was named after the Treaty which your forefathers signed to guarantee our ownership. You have failed us. You have dishonoured my name. You have broken the Treaty” (89). Woman Far Walking points to the need for reconciliation in a bicultural society. Mere Roberts, et al., “Whakapapa as a Māori Mental Construct: Some Implications for the Debate over Genetic Modification of Organisms,” The Contemporary Pacific 16, no. 1 (Spring 2004), 4. Lars Eckstein, “Think Local Sell Global: Magical Realism, The Whale Rider, and the Market,” in Commodifying (Post)Colonialism: Othering, Reification, Commodification and the New Literatures and Cultures in English, eds. Rainer Emig and Oliver Lindner (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010), 96–97. Witi Ihimaera, “The Whale,” in Pounamu, Pounamu, ed. Witi Ihimaera (Auckland: William Heinemann, 1981); hereafter cited by page in the text. Harold Fromm, “From Transcendence to Obsolescence: A Route Map,” in The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks of Literary Ecology, eds. Cheryll ­Glotfelty and Harold Fromm (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), 35. Huggan and Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism, 54. Elizabeth DeLoughrey, “Heliotropes: Solar Ecologies and Pacific Radiations,” in Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment, eds. Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 241. Marc Beckoff, Minding Animals: Awareness, Emotions, and Heart (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 191, 192, 206. Huggan and Tiffin, 18. Huggan and Tiffin, 139, Footnote 2. Eckstein, “Think Local Sell Global,” 101. Witi Ihimaera, The Whale Rider (London: Robson Books, 2003); hereafter cited by page in the text. Eckstein, 104.

110  ‘The oneness is still with us’ 30 Melissa Kennedy, Striding Both Worlds: Witi Ihimaera and New Zealand’s Literary Traditions (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2011), 191. 31 Eckstein, 104. 32 Christine Prentice, “Māori Novels in English,” in The Novel in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the South Pacific Since 1950. Vol 12 of the O ­ xford History of the Novel in English, eds. Coral Ann Howells, Paul Sharrad, and Gerry Turcotte (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 445–446. 33 Emily Apter, Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability (London and New York: Verso, 2013), 325. 34 Peter Bradshaw, “Whale Rider,” The Guardian, July 11, 2003, accessed April 27, 2018, www.theguardian.com/culture/2003/jul/11/artsfeatures2. 35 Frederick Luis Aldama, Postethnic Narrative Criticism: Magicorealism in Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, Ana Castillo, Julie Dash, Hanif Kureishi, and ­S alman Rushdie (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003), 15, 42, 43. Aldama defines magicorealism as a term that “identifies a new study that is careful not to confuse the transcription of the real world, where the criteria of truth and falsity apply, with the narrative mode governed by other criteria” (15). While Aldama’s analysis of magical realism in film is interesting – and one of the few studies in this area – his neologism magicorealism does not warrant becoming an alternative to the accepted term magical realism. 36 Dennis Harvey, “Whale Rider,” Variety, September 18, 2002, accessed April 27, 2013, http://variety.com/2002/film/reviews/whale-rider-3-1200546121/#. 37 Film reviewers tended to focus on the movie’s exoticism, both in terms of Māori spiritualism and the lush landscape of New Zealand. Although the film mostly received a favourable critical reception, with child star Keisha Castle-Hughes winning over hearts, the adaptation could provoke polar opposite responses. The late US legendary film critic Roger Ebert, for instance, thought the film’s ending “uplifting” and “transcendent.” Whereas The Guardian’s critic derided the film as “picturesque, risk-free ethnography” and “a cross between Free Willy and a 90-minute Benetton ad.” For the former, see Roger Ebert, “Whale Rider,” www.rogerebert.com, June 20, 2003, accessed April 27, 2018, www.rogerebert.com/reviews/whale-rider-2003.

Bibliography Primary Sources Ihimaera, Witi. Tangi. London: Heinemann, 1973. ———. Maori. Wellington: A.R. Shearer, Government Printer, 1975. ———. “The Whale.” In Pounamu, Pounamu, by Witi Ihimaera, 115–122. Auckland: William Heinemann, 1981. ———. The Whale Rider. Auckland: Heinemann, 1987. ———. Woman Far Walking. Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2000. ———. The Whale Rider. London: Robson Books, 2003.

Secondary Sources Aldama, Frederick Luis. Postethnic Narrative Criticism: Magicorealism in Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, Ana Castillo, Julie Dash, Hanif Kureishi, and Salman Rushdie. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003. Apter, Emily. Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability. London and New York: Verso, 2013.

‘The oneness is still with us’  111 Beckoff, Marc. Minding Animals: Awareness, Emotions, and Heart. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Bradshaw, Peter. “Whale rider.” The Guardian, July 11, 2003. Accessed April 27, 2018. www.theguardian.com/culture/2003/jul/11/artsfeatures2. Brewster, Anne. “Indigenous Writing in Australia and New Zealand.” In Cambridge History of Postcolonial Literature, edited by Ato Quayson, 1, 511– 538. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Bryson, John. “Interview with Keri Hulme.” Antipodes 8, no. 2 (1994): 131–135. Caffin, Elizabeth. “Aotearoa / New Zealand.” In The Novel in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the South Pacific since 1950. Vol. 12 of the Oxford History of the Novel in English, edited by Coral Ann Howells, Paul Sharrad, and Gerry Turcotte, 46–60. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Eckstein, Lars. “Think Local Sell Global: Magical Realism, The Whale Rider, and the Market.” In Commodifying (Post)Colonialism: Othering, Reification, Commodification and the New Literatures and Cultures in English, edited by Rainer Emig and Oliver Lindner, 93–107. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010. DeLoughrey, Elizabeth. “Heliotropes: Solar Ecologies and Pacific Radiations.” In Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment, edited by Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley, 235–253. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. ———. “Ordinary Futures: Interspecies Worldings in the Anthropocene.” In Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities: Postcolonial Approaches, edited by Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Jill Didur, and Anthony Carrigan, 352–372. London and New York: Routledge, 2015. Ebert, Roger. “Whale Rider.” www.rogerebert.com, June 20, 2003. Accessed April 27, 2018. www.rogerebert.com/reviews/whale-rider-2003. Fromm, Harold. “From Transcendence to Obsolescence: A Route Map.” In The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks of Literary Ecology, edited by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm, 30–39. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996. Harvey, Dennis. “Whale Rider.” Variety, September 18, 2002. Accessed April 27, 2018. http://variety.com/2002/film/reviews/whale-rider-3-1200546121/#. Huggan, Graham, and Helen Tiffin. Postcolonial Ecocriticism: Literature, Animals, Environment. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. Kennedy, Melissa. Striding Both Worlds: Witi Ihimaera and New Zealand’s Literary Traditions. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2011. Le Cam, Georges-Goulven. “The Quest for Archetypal Self-Truth in The Bone People: Towards a Re-definition of Maori Culture?” Commonwealth Essays and Studies 15, no. 2 (1993): 66–79. McClintock, Anne. “The Angel of Progress: Pitfalls of the Term ‘Post-­ Colonialism.’” In Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory, edited by Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman, 291–304. London and New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993. Prentice, Christine. “Māori Novels in English.” In The Novel in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the South Pacific since 1950. Vol. 12 of the Oxford History of the Novel in English, edited by Coral Ann Howells, Paul Sharrad, and Gerry Turcotte, 436–451. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Roberts, Mere, Brad Haami, Richard Benton, Terre Satterfield, Melissa I. Finucane, Mark Henare, Manuka Henare. “Whakapapa as a Māori Mental

112  ‘The oneness is still with us’ Construct: Some Implications for the Debate over Genetic Modification of Organisms.” The Contemporary Pacific 16, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 1–28. Moffat, Kirstine. “Aotearoa / New Zealand.” In The Novel in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the South Pacific since 1950. Vol. 12 of the Oxford History of the Novel in English, edited by Coral Ann Howells, Paul Sharrad, and Gerry Turcotte, 112–127. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Shaw, Donald L. “The Presence of Myth in Borges, Carpentier, Asturias, Rulfo and García Márquez.” In A Companion to Magical Realism, edited by ­Stephen M. Hart and Wen-chin Ouyang, 46–54. Woodbridge, Suffolk, and Rochester, NY: Tamesis, 2005. Steinwand, Jonathan. “What the Whales Would Tell Us: Cetacean Communication in Novels by Witi Ihimaera, Linda Hogan, Zakes Mda, and Amitav Ghosh.” In Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment, edited by Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley, 182–199. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Films Midnight’s Children. Director Deepa Mehta. David Hamilton Productions, Hamilton Mehta Productions, Number 9 Films, 2012. Whale Rider. Niki Caro. South Pacific Pictures, Pandora Film, 2002.

4 ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ Reconciliation in Keri Hulme’s The Bone People

Another pioneering Māori author, Keri Hulme, adopts a zoocritical narrative that imbues whales with not only consciousness but also inter-­species empathy in her short story “Whale, Singing,” which was published in the same year as Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider (1987).1 Hulme’s story juxtaposes a pregnant humpback whale with a pregnant woman. The two maternal beings are brought into intimate physical proximity in the sea after the whale strikes a boat, sinking it. The story contrasts the two pregnant females’ intuitive connection with the sexist, species-centric view of a male scientist, who appears to be the woman’s partner. “We can conclusively demonstrate that to man alone belong true intelligence and self-knowledge,” he says. But the woman, a poet, challenges his assumptions, thinking that non-human species may also be able to pass on knowledge to their offspring “in ways beyond our capacity to understand.” The narrative supports the woman’s speculation. The humpback whale sends “dark pictures” to the calf in her womb, including “memories” of fleeing killer whales, to prepare the calf for self-survival. The pregnant whale also sends out messages via low frequencies to “the sea-people,” or other whales. In this respect, Hulme’s story parallels The Whale Rider in according whales with consciousness, intelligence, memory and communication. The reconciliation between human and non-human occurs when the pregnant woman treads water in the ocean, experiencing the whale’s “long moaning call” that “reverberates through her.” “She is physically swept, shaken by an intensity of feeling, as though the whale has sensed her being and predicament, and has offered all it can, a sorrowing compassion,” says the text. 2 While it may not be as complete an inter-species merging as occurs in Ihimaera’s book, with the young heroine physically bonding with the bull whale in an underwater adventure, Hulme’s short story nevertheless depicts a mutual bonding between human and non-human in a supernatural manner that is magical realist. The oceanic and environmental themes in this short story are also present in Hulme’s sole novel, The Bone People (1984).3 Hulme’s novel, which was published three years before The Whale Rider, like Ihimaera’s book explores, what it means to be Māori in the contemporary age and

114  ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ the struggle by Māori people to ensure the survival of their precolonial culture in a postcolonial nation dominated by the Pākehā. Hulme also fashions an updated revision of Māori mythology, emphasising the importance of the Great Migration. She utilises magical realism as a postcolonial strategy in different ways to Ihimaera. For The Bone People focusses on two individuals who are flawed anti-heroes, and who face various obstacles to overcome their initial alienation from their Māori heritage and eventually reconnect with it. By contrast, Ihimaera’s novel is largely family- and community-oriented. Hulme’s controversial win of the Booker Prize in 1985 established her as an international literary figure. James English remarks that the award led to The Bone People becoming the first Māori novel to be “firmly established” in the canon of world literature.4 Certainly, the novel is frequently included by scholars in lists of international magical realist fiction, mostly due to its inherent literary value rather than the consecration of prestige endowed by the Booker. However, relatively little commentary has eventuated over the past two decades, and it is worth revisiting the book in light of subsequent developments in magical realism to explore how it fits in an historical context. Moreover, I propose to revisit the novel by examining the magical realist elements in light of its environmental themes, and by reassessing Hulme as a writer of magical realism by also analysing some of her short stories, which most critics of magical realism tend to ignore. Born in 1947, Hulme sees herself as following in the “printsteps,” as she calls it, of pioneering Maori writers such as Ihimaera and Patricia Grace, who “came on stream” in the 1970s, initiating a “huge blossoming” of Maori literature.5 The Bone People is an interesting case study in literary history because it was published at the beginning of the emergence of magical realist fiction from postcolonial countries outside of Latin America. While it shares the mythopoeia and “faith-based” kind of magical realism that features in so much Latin American fiction, the novel also develops the narrative mode beyond the cultural context of the setting.6 However, I shall argue that the faith-based kind of magical realism that is evident seems forced or too highly structured, because it appears like a coda in the final section of the novel, threatening to descend on occasions into cliché and the postcolonial exotic. Hulme utilises Māori mythology to resolve the storylines for the principal characters Kerewin Holmes and Joe Gillayley, both products of an urban environment who struggle to rediscover their Māori heritage and recover a sense of spiritual renewal. Set in 1980, The Bone People reflects a time when New Zealanders were attempting to come to terms with the country’s bicultural make-up, with a sizeable indigenous population who had nevertheless been marginalised since colonial times. The novel’s domestic “rapturous reception,” as Simon During says, owes a considerable amount to “the desire of New Zealand to see a reconciliation

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’  115 of its postcolonising and postcolonised discourses.” By postcolonising, During means communities and individuals who profit from and are heirs to the colonisers, whereas the post-colonised are people who have been dispossessed by the work of the colonisers and are heirs to a culture “more or less undone.”7 In The Bone People, which traverses a number of genres, such as romance, domestic drama, mystery thriller, the Gothic and quest narrative, this process of national reconciliation is personified in the respective spiritual journeys of Kerewin and Joe, who are both from mixed heritage yet primarily identify as Māori. Kerewin is a 30-something (24) woman who feels as if “the best part of me has got lost in the way I live” (62). Although Kerewin speaks Māori, and exhibits signs of traditional knowledge, such as a familiarity with making natural remedies from plants (161), she is alienated from her family and Māori culture. Reflecting New Zealand’s multiracial history, Kerewin is also part-Pākehā, having blue eyes, brown hair and fair skin (61). Yet, although Kerewin describes herself as being “an eighth Maori” genetically, she identifies as being “all Maori” in terms of “heart, spirit, and inclination” (62). Her cultural dislocation has resulted in an existential crisis. Despite winning the lottery and being liberated from having to work for a living (28), Kerewin has lost her artistic powers as a painter, complaining she is “dead inside” (264). In addition, there is the implication of barrenness, or loss of fecundity, as she confesses to having no sexual urge and claims to still be a virgin (266). Joe, at 33, is similarly of mixed Māori and Pākehā heritage, and initially feels estranged from his traditional culture. He, too, concedes that he has lost the Māoritanga (Māori way of life) (62). Early in life he had aspirations to overcome his disadvantaged childhood – his father died when he was four (226), and his mother was a criminal (227) – but he dropped out of his attempts to train as a Catholic seminarian and teacher in order to start a family (229). Having lost his wife and son, Joe is stuck in a dead-end job as a factory worker (89) and battles a life in decline. Hulme employs Māori mythology and magical realist elements in the fourth and final section of the novel in order for Kerewin and Joe to reconnect to their traditional culture and find purpose in life. What is important for my argument is that the ‘magical’ elements are inextricably connected to the environment, reflecting Māori culture being tied to the land and sea, as I discussed in the previous chapter. Most of the mythology relates to Joe. After being released from jail for bashing his young foster son Simon, whose heritage is probably Irish, Joe tries to kill himself by jumping off a cliff but is rescued by a Māori kaumata (elder) named Tiaki Mira, who nurses Joe back to health with Māori ointment and “bush lotion” in his hut (348–349). Tiaki, who has an “archaic moko” tattooed on his face (346), symbolising a link to precolonial times, also rehabilitates Joe on a spiritual level. Tiaki says that he had been waiting for Joe since before he was born (353), so that Joe could take over the role

116  ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ as “keeper” of a sacred stone and one of the canoes in which their Māori ancestors had originally travelled to New ­Z ealand. Hulme’s adaptation of traditional mythology relating to the Great ­M igration is another common element with The Whale Rider, although for The Bone People it is a secondary, rather than primary, factor of the narrative. Tiaki’s mystic grandmother, who has been dead for four decades, had told him to wait for a trio of the “broken man,” the “digger” and the “stranger” (360), which, at face value, could be taken to mean Joe, Kerewin and Simon, respectively. However, as Laura Wright astutely observes, Tiaki’s trinity myth, which echoes the C ­ hristian trinity doctrine of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is complicated and therefore destabilises an allegorical reading of the text. There is no one-to-one correlation because all of the main characters exhibit each of these three characteristics. Kerewin dreams of digging, Simon digs into the ground to find rabbits (203) and Joe plants a tiri tree at the foot of Tiaki’s grave (377). All of the main characters are broken: Simon physically by Joe’s violent abuse, Joe by jumping off a cliff and Kerewin by her supposed stomach cancer. And all three are strangers in one way or another, to themselves, to one another and to others. Wright says:8 Hulme’s characters resist allegory because they can neither be read as one part of a duality nor as a middle variable – ‘something midway between the two’ – that creates the space of taboo, and such a lack of correlation between a prophetic designation and a singular character operates to destabilize binary readings that often inform colonial discourse. Tiaki’s myth, therefore, is one of hybridisation. Joe’s role within the trinity myth is prioritised as Tiaki anoints him as “the watcher,” a role that the elder is anxious to pass on to Joe before his imminent death. Under Tiaki’s instructions, Joe is to guard a stone and god that came on a canoe in the Great Migration. The canoe lies in pieces in a kind of sea cave on land that Tiaki owns. The god, in turn, “broods over the mauriora” (363), that is, the “life principle” or talisman that protects the vitality of people, animals and plants (449). The god, says Tiaki, “is the heart of this country. The heart of this land” (364). Critics have read this aspect of the novel as national allegory. Margery Fee, for instance, offers an idealised interpretation of the book that seems to read too much into the plot. Fee says:9 Hulme has written a novel that is intended to change New Zealand, to rewrite it into a place where Maori and Pakeha can not only live together but also evolve a distinctive culture that takes in the best of world civilization while retaining its heart in the traditions of the Maori past.

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’  117 Stephen Slemon, in a more considered response, views The Bone ­People as an example of an allegorical text in postcolonial settler societies, such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada, which are part of “an interventionary, anti-colonialist critique.” In these texts “indigenous or pre-­contact allegorical traditions engage with, and finally overcome, the kinds of allegorical reading which a universalising European tradition would want to impose.” In other words, these fictional allegories establish their cultural heterogeneity and difference to the dominant discourse by subverting the codes of recognition that colonial discourse has imposed on postcolonial cultures.10 The subversion of colonial discourse is also evident in how Hulme employs magical realism in an environmental context to disrupt the conventional colonial binary of coloniser/colonised in order to reflect the complexities of contemporary New Zealand as a multicultural society. Tiaki frames the trinity myth within an ecocritical framework. It is noteworthy that Hulme, like Ihimaera in The Whale Rider, creates a tribal elder to raise the alarm about environmental degradation and the concomitant loss of traditional culture, which is rooted in the land and sea. Tiaki the hermit laments that the Māori have “changed” and “ceased to nurture the land” (364). He personifies this societal alienation from the land through his parents, who lived on a farm but “were no longer Maori,” despite occasionally speaking the language. “They were husks, aping the European manners and customs,” he says. “Maori on the outside, with none of the heart left” (359). Traditional knowledge is passed down from two generations removed as it is left to Tiaki’s grandmother, who has supernatural powers, to instruct him in the trinity myth that will ensure the family’s undeveloped landholding remains in its precolonial state. Tiaki owns and bequeaths to Joe almost 800 acres of pakihi, or swamp-like land, plus private sea beaches (376). Consistent with a postcolonial ecocritical view, Tiaki is acutely aware of the Pākehā’s destruction of the environment through farming, pollution, roads and urban development. He laments the loss of a pre-capitalist Māori society and the resultant environmental “mess.” “Maybe we have gone too far down other paths for the old alliance to be reformed, and this will remain a land where the spirit has withdrawn,” fears Tiaki just before he dies (371). Tiaki’s relatively modest patch of land stands in marked contrast to the Māori peoples’ displacement from their traditional lands as a result of colonisation. However, the hermit’s gifting of this land to Joe as “watcher” is more than just a transfer of land to an individual. Tiaki’s promise to his grandmother reveals the rationale behind the trinity myth. “I must wait until the stranger came home, or until the digger began the planting, or until the broken man was found and healed. Then they could bear my charge. They could keep the watch” (original emphasis) (360). Rather than Joe representing all three of the figures – stranger, digger

118  ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ and broken man – or Joe, Kerewin and Simon each representing one of them, the text suggests that all three of the main characters share facets of each of the figures. As a result, Tiaki effectively hands over custodial responsibility for his family’s land to all of them. Given the characters’ complex racial and cultural heritages, the subtext is that the ecological future of New Zealand lies in the hands of both Māori and Pākehā, not just the former. This complicates a binary reading of the novel as Māori being preservers and Pākehā destroyers of the environment. In this respect, Hulme’s text is reminiscent of Fredric Jameson’s dictum that “magic realism depends on a content which betrays the overlap or the coexistence of precapitalist with nascent capitalist or technological features.” Jameson advocates what he calls “the anthropological view of literary magical realism,” in that this kind of fiction highlights the contrast between a primordial past and industrial modernity. Jameson argues that the realism is not transfigured by a “magical perspective” acting as a “supplement,” but rather reality “is already in and of itself magical or fantastic.”11 Jameson’s comments reflect the kind of reality portrayed in The Bone People in the last section. Joe’s retreat to Tiaki’s natural wilderness symbolises the flight from modernity to a premodern world that is culturally alive and inherently magical. The corollary is that modernity, or the materialism and spiritual vacuity associated with capitalism, strips premodern societies of their cultural heart. J­ ameson’s theory, however, is more relevant to Latin American magical realist fi ­ ction during the so-called literary boom, featuring authors such as ­Gabriel García Márquez, Alejo Carpentier and Miguel Asturias, because his approach is focussed on the nexus between pre-capitalist and nascent capitalist societies. Jameson’s analysis does not hold up with much postcolonial magical realist fiction, which is often set in the late-capitalist phase. This is part of the problem with The Bone People, which is definitively set in late-capitalist New Zealand. Tiaka’s cultural and environmental sanctuary is more an historical oddity, physically separated from contemporary New Zealand society, than representative of an “overlap” of pre-capitalist indigenous society and the nascent capitalist colonial regime, which, in New Zealand, occurred in the nineteenth century. The final section of Hulme’s novel is typical of the lament by much magical realist fiction of a fading premodern society that has been attacked by colonialist forces in economic, ideological, political and ­cultural terms. Magical realism, argues Michael Valdez Moses, ­“expresses the nostalgia of global modernity for the traditional worlds it has vanquished and subsumed.” The magical realist novel, he continues, is a “sentimental” fiction that encourages “readers to indulge in a nostalgic longing for and an imaginary return to a world that is past, or passing away.”12 Perhaps, then, this is an indication that The Bone People is better viewed as sitting on the cusp of the development of postcolonial magical realist fiction outside of Latin America, which was heralded by

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’  119 Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children in 1981. In other words, Hulme’s novel, in its last section at least, has more in common with the earlier Latin American magical realist texts than those of the later postcolonial authors of magical realism. Hulme employs a slightly different kind of magical realism, in that it is not sentimental, in her short story “Getting It,” which is included in her collection Stonefish (2004). This story is an interesting comparative work to the novel because it also features a tract of undeveloped coastal land and contains an overt environmental ethic. The stories in Stonefish, as Elizabeth DeLoughrey remarks, are “formally innovative, mixing the genres of science fiction, magical realism, modernism, millennial fiction, and poetry,” and include “supernatural and cosmological figures and events.”13 In “Getting It,” five Māori spirits turn up to a local council meeting to object to a proposed subdivision of “unclaimed Crown land,” which the councillors intend to rubber stamp because of the prospect of building and road construction jobs.14 The description of the land is ironic and contains an inherent postcolonial dig, for the reference to the “Crown” symbolises the British colonists’ appropriation of the land, and the adjective “unclaimed” implies that even if the Crown is not using the land, then nobody can claim it, not even local Māori residents. Although the spirits are described in supernatural terms, the mayor and councillors accept their presence as matter of fact. Upon their arrival, the rain outside turns to fog. One of them is two-and-a-half metres tall, “stinks” of “rancid meat and freshcut fern and something like ancient sweat.” Another is “a little horror, hairless, face as pale as foam under moonlight, with eyes that are wholly red. No pupils, no whites.” Still another has “large deeply green eyes” and is “dressed in a black kneelength rāpaki” that has “little green beetles flying out and around at erratic intervals, tethered on invisible threads” (92–93). Even though one of the spirits addresses the councillors, its speech is translated, and it does not speak in actual words that are heard but rather in words that strike the skin and finger the inner drums of the ear. The speech is unambiguously militant and stands in marked contrast to the tone of reconciliation in The Bone People: We were here first. We have never left. We own our homelands. We prefer to be in the shadows. We roam the lands at night. We were on the Almost-island before you came, it has always been ours. We will remain there, in company with the first arrivals. We share with them but not with humans. Go away. Leave us alone. (original emphasis, 96) Notice the rhetorical repetition of “we,” which reinforces the idea of an indigenous people set apart from the implied “you” of colonial

120  ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ descendants. Furthermore, the spirits threaten to declare war on the council if they make a decision detrimental to the spirits’ continued occupation of the coastal land. Interestingly, after the councillors do back the proposed subdivision, which is deceptively marketed as “a boutique tasteful ecofriendly village,” the community suffers from a series of environmental disasters that are reminiscent of climate change, and which damage the local economy: toxic algae blooms that kill all the salmon farms and ruin the whitebait season, torrential rains and earthquake swarms (103). This is not the only reference to climate change in Stonefish. In “Floating Words,” which is not magical realist, the narrator exhibits a fatalism about the environmental destruction wrought by industrialisation, and implies that it represents yet another phase in the planet’s life over millennia. We knew – the television told us, the radio mentioned it often – that the oceans would rise, the greenhouse effect would change the weather, and there could be rumblings and distortions along the crustal plates as Gaia adjusted to a different pressure of water. And we understood it to be one more ordinary change in the everlasting cycle of life. (18) The narrator of “Floating Words,” therefore, demonstrates the kind of ecoambiguity that prevents so many people to take action against climate change, just as the councillors in “Getting It” fail to ‘get it’ and merely persist in ‘developing’ undeveloped land in pursuit of an assumed notion of ‘progress.’ However, Hulme’s innovations in imaginative writing through using magical realist elements provide an example of how writers may address ecoambiguity and prompt people to take action to conserve the environment. The environmental imperative evident in The Bone People, while admirable, is nevertheless couched in a kind of faith-based magical realism that feels somewhat forced, mainly because it is concentrated in the fourth and final section of the novel, rather than permeated throughout the text, as in The Whale Rider. The result is that the magical realism seems too highly structured because it appears like a coda, threatening to descend on occasions into cliché and the postcolonial exotic. It is clear that Hulme has used this technique and narrative structure in order to resolve the character arcs of Kerewin and Joe, by enabling them to reconnect with their Māori culture, heritage and community. I am also mindful of inadvertently applying aesthetic expectations of an early twenty-first-century perspective to a work more than three-decades old that was composed on the cusp of the established Latin American and emerging postcolonial waves of magical realist fiction, so I am not

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’  121 attempting to make an evaluative judgement of the magical realist elements in the novel. Notwithstanding these caveats, it is worth examining the execution of the book’s final section as a literary analysis of its magical realism. Joe’s anointment as the watcher is presented in magical terms but in such a matter-of-fact way that nobody questions the validity of events. Two years before meeting Joe, Tiaki the hermit makes a will with his solicitor in the nearest town that is unsigned and has no beneficiary. Tiaki tells Joe: I left with the lawyer a complicated design which I said I would draw over the name of the beneficiary and my own name on my copy of the will, so he would know I had completed it with a sound mind, without being under duress. (360) As he is dying, aged 79, Tiaki takes out his copy of the will and, over Joe’s name, draws “a complicated maze of spirals and spreading lines” that “no calligraphist could have drawn” in so short a time (373). Tiaki’s Pākehā solicitor, even though he had only met Tiaki three times, nevertheless readily accepts Joe as the legitimate beneficiary of the will and the watcher of the land, after carefully comparing the designs on his copy of the will and Tiaki’s copy (377). Pointedly, the solicitor regards the land as “nearly worthless” unless Joe spends “a million dollars” to “develop it,” echoing a typical Pākehā view of land, that it only has value as a resource to be commercially exploited, rather than any intrinsic cultural or environmental value. It’s a view that Hulme satirises in the short story “Getting It.” In addition, not only does the solicitor unquestionably accept Joe as Tiaki’s successor, but so too does the solicitor’s wife, who believes Joe’s arrival just before Tiaki’s death was “ordained” (378). The couple’s willingness to both recognise and assist Māori spiritualism stands in marked contrast to other Pākehā characters in the novel, who are generally presented as being separate from, and not privy to, Māori culture. Just as Joe’s cultural and spiritual conversion based on an environmental factor occurs in the final section, so does Kerewin’s. But while Joe’s transformation is annexed to the land, Kerewin’s redemption is intertwined with the ‘fruits’ of the land, in particular traditional bush medicines. This may partly be due to Kerewin being portrayed as a feminist figure, a woman who is financially and socially independent, who lives on her own and who has no desire to live in domestic partnership with a man, either in marriage or in a de facto relationship. For the literary trope of healing is commonly associated with women. Early in the novel, in part two, it is established that Kerewin heals herself with natural remedies (161). In the same section Joe reveals to her that he was

122  ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ saved from polio by his grandmother who practised “traditional medicine,” after being bedridden for four years (228–229). Yet Kerewin’s self-­ healing powers become fully evident in part four after a doctor notices a swelling and hardness in her stomach and advises that it may be cancer (414). However, she refuses conventional Western medical treatment and instead embarks on her own self-administered course of traditional medicine, which seems to involve mushroom extract (417) and toadstools (423). Critically, while she retreats to a beach hut, she is visited by a mysterious figure with brown skin and silver hair of “an indeterminate age.” The implication is that this is an ancestral Māori spirit. As Tiaki helps Joe achieve salvation, the spirit helps Kerewin achieve salvation, both physically and spiritually, as it leaves her natural medicines that cure her ailment, which is presumably cancer (424). Following her recovery, Kerewin reconnects with the local community, after having lived for years on her own in an isolated rural tower, and funds the conversion of a Māori hall into a marae, or communal place. Interestingly, the theme of self-healing crops up in the magical realist short story “The Trouble with A. Chen Li,” which is in the Stonefish collection. Although the story appears to be set in New Zealand, the location is unspecified. The first-person narrator, Oliver Marsh, which is a Pākehā-sounding name, is more than 60 years old and embarks on a journey to cover more than 200 miles a day “over land and water” (152). It is unclear how Oliver travels; the only reference to his vehicle is that it has a “handlebar” and that he rides it. But his narration leaves it vague as to whether the vehicle is some sort of motorcycle – that “looks and touches like a piece of heavy machinery, dark grey and metallic” – or even a science-fiction like machine – “it could be protoplasm for all I know” (154). Regardless, Oliver crashes the vehicle, loses consciousness and wakes up in pain. What’s relevant to my discussion of Hulme is that three months later Oliver realises that his body has gained the power to heal rapidly. I had realised that I healed extremely quickly now. It wasn’t only the bump on the head and the wretched shoulder. I tried sticking a sharp flake of stone into a wrist vein. It spurted, hurt, and sealed. The cut was gone before dark. There was never any scar. (167) Although there is no explicit explanation of why Oliver’s body has a capacity for exceptional healing, it is implicit in the narrative that the strange place he had crashed in provides the circumstances for this to occur. Yet Oliver is decidedly unattracted to the location, describing it as having no “wonders” or “satisfactions” (167). Moreover, an eightyear-old boy of Chinese heritage who befriends him, the A. Chen Li of the title, had a medical problem with his legs that left him immobile

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’  123 while living in Auckland, but when he woke up in this strange location, he discovered he could walk. Admittedly, the point of the short story is difficult to determine. But for the purposes of my discussion I shall argue that Hulme here portrays two non-Māori characters who are endowed with miraculous healing powers that are somehow triggered by the environment, yet the characters, one presumably Pākehā and the other at least part-Chinese through his mother, do not feel an affinity with the strange landscape. Indeed, Oliver abruptly leaves. In other words, the subtext of this short story is in stark contrast to the ‘magical’ healing powers endowed by the local New Zealand environment that benefit the two main Māori characters in The Bone People. The plot devices that Hulme employs in the final section of the novel for Kerewin and Joe border on New Age mysticism. As a result, part four becomes problematic because the main characters’ actions threaten to descend into cliché and so risk being categorised as, to borrow ­Graham Huggan’s phrase, the “postcolonial exotic.”15 This difficulty has been remarked on by various critics in different ways. Ato Quayson says the narrative “falls apart,” becoming “highly religious and esoteric in tone, following Joe on a visit to a shaman in a quest for atonement for his cruelties and, sporadically, Kerewin, on a journey that seems not to have any clear direction.”16 Margery Fee refers to the novel’s plot points in this last section as being “implausible, even melodramatic.”17 C.K. Stead argues the novel suspends disbelief with Joe’s rescue by the Maori elder and Kerewin’s self-medication that saves her from cancer. “I found it, read either as Maori lore or as fiction, almost totally spurious,” says Stead of Joe’s mythological redemption.18 My argument is that The Bone People provides an example of how the poetics of magical realism operates, or ought to operate, in fictional narratives. If we return to the basic definition of magical realism as a literary work that portrays the magical or supernatural as an ordinary, everyday matter, and which is embedded in literary realism, then we may say that The Bone People enacts magical realist poetics predominantly in the back quarter of the narrative. ­Conversely, the first three quarters of the narrative are largely realist in style. While this narrative construction is not inherently problematic from a stylistic point of view, in effect it does create problems because the ‘magical’ elements seem to arise for the main purpose of resolving plot points. Most canonical novels, by contrast, typically convey the ‘­magical’ as being present in the ‘real’ world throughout the narrative, so that there is a strong identification of the persistent mingling of the ‘magical’ and ‘real.’ In Hulme’s defence, perhaps it was her intention to depict her two Māori leads as living in a Pākehā-dominated world to begin with, only having them transition into a fully Māori world towards the end. In contrast to the two main adult characters, Simon’s non-Māori background enables Hulme to complicate the novel’s exploration of post-­ coloniality in New Zealand even further. Simon is associated with the

124  ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ natural world from the outset, when Joe discovers the young boy badly wounded on a beach after a boat sinks on a reef during a storm near Whangaroa in the South Island. Simon is the only survivor, with a man and a woman, and possibly one or two more adults, perishing (83–85), none of whom are his parents (87). His indeterminate past imbues Simon with a mystery that is never resolved. His enigmatic essence is magnified not only by his supernatural powers but also by Hulme’s invocation of the Gothic. As a result, The Bone People exemplifies one of the key themes of this monograph, that magical realism’s inherent shape-­shifting nature means it often crosses over into other generic kinds, making the narrative mode difficult to define and equally as difficult to identify at times. I propose a magical realist interpretation of Simon in order to arrive at a holistic understanding of Hulme’s novel. Various clues in the text suggest Simon is Irish, which links him with Gaelic mysticism and the Gothic. Hulme’s choice of Irishness is curious because it separates Simon from the English and the Scottish, who were the dominant British races associated with the colonisation of New ­Zealand, and therefore complicates the novel’s postcolonial critique. On the other hand, many New Zealanders have some Irish ancestry, especially as a result of the Irish migrants who flocked to the gold rush on the South Island in the 1860s.19 In contrast to the main Māori characters, Simon is a tabula rasa, a character with no real defined background, at least in the novel. His lack of an official identity means that Joe cannot formally adopt him. Joe subsequently takes in Simon as his foster son, but three years later his own wife and ten-month-old son die of influenza (88). Simon’s Irishness is suggested by his “silverblonde hair” (16) and “seabluegreen” eyes (17), and his belief that his name, or surname, is “Clare” is reminiscent of County Clare. But even that tenuous possibility remains elusive. “He doesn’t know if that’s his name,” says the narrator (112). Joe thinks the people in the boat were named ­O’Connor (87). Kerewin later discovers that Simon is possibly related to an Irish lord, the Earl of Conderry, after her investigations reveal that a coat of arms on the ring of Simon’s rosary matches that of the earl’s. Afterwards, she gives Simon the nickname “ould Ireland” (184, 188, 198, 223). Adding to the mystery, the earl writes to Kerewin that his “younger grandson” – presumably Simon’s father – was “disinherited for disgraceful propensities” four years before moving to New Zealand (99). After Kerewin hires a diver to salvage the boat in which Simon was shipwrecked, it becomes apparent that whoever was responsible for the boy was also attempting to smuggle nearly 20 pounds of heroin worth $3 million (436). Apart from these scant details, The Bone People offers little else to establish ­Simon’s identity, which effectively fashions his past into a mystery thriller subplot. Three years after the novel was published, however, Hulme filled in Simon’s background in a short story titled “A Drift in Dream.” The short

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’  125 fiction reveals that Simon’s father, Timon Padraic McDonnagh, 18 at the start of the story, was not only Irish but also a violent drug dealer and arsonist who had tried to kill his grandfather (presumably the Irish earl). Timon partners with a French woman twice his age, Marie-Clare de Vraiencourt, immediately after she renounces her vows as a nun. On the run from police, he flees with Marie-Clare to New Zealand, where Simon is born. Timon makes a substantial amount of money from dealing drugs but is responsible for killing his wife in a high-speed car accident in Auckland, which Simon survives. 20 In The Bone People, Joe belatedly discovers that Timon had ended up a heroin addict, spending his last months with the reclusive hermit and Māori elder Tiakinga Meto Mira (or Tiaki, also Joe’s spiritual saviour) before dying at the hermit’s bush hut (378). The police, however, mistakenly think that both Timon’s wife and child were killed in the car accident. The short story and the novel, therefore, leave it unclear who Simon’s carer was at the time of the shipwreck. This dual narrative background is important because it establishes Simon as having twin Irish-French heritage and a mother who was a former nun, which add to the Gothic elements. The novel keeps reinforcing Simon’s Gothic nature by adding more elements. When he first appears, having broken into Kerewin’s home, he seems like “some weird saint” who is “haloed in hair, shrouded in the dying sunlight.” There is also something “distinctly unnatural” about the boy. At the moment Kerewin sets eyes on him, thunder erupts outside (16). Simon possesses an extra-­ sensory intelligence as he has the ability to see lights around people: “coronas,” “auras” or “soul shadows,” as Kerewin calls them (93). Simon even has the power to see a Māori ghost, who sings a goodbye lullaby to the boy before he departs Kerewin’s holiday home (251–252). Kerewin’s main abode, the tower, the physical locale in which she and Simon initially establish their relationship, is itself a Gothic feature of the novel as it has six floors and a “large brass and wood crucifix” that hangs on a wall (15). Kerewin’s tower, in other words, acts like a castle, or a fortress from the outside world in which the magical is allowed to flourish. If the “Gothic represents a ruined or fractured realism,” as Terry ­Eagleton asserts, the Gothic genre overlaps with magical realism in that the narrative mode often also reflects societies that are fractured, disintegrating or under threat from exogenous forces. 21 In The Bone People, ­Simon’s Irishness represents a fractured realism in three distinct respects: an ancient culture that itself has been colonised by the English; a disintegrating noble class, as evidenced by the earl; and the drug addiction and cognate criminality of his late father. While Simon may not be Māori, his Irish heritage symbolises another decaying, colonised culture that serves as a parallel to the Māori experience. From an artistic perspective, Hulme requires a different mode of writing for Simon than the kind of magical realism intertwined with Māori mythology that she reserves for

126  ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ the Māori characters Kerewin and Joe. The Gothic enables Hulme to imbue Simon with supernatural characteristics that allow him to stand apart from his substitute parents. At the same time, the supernatural is critical for Simon because, as a result of his otherworldly powers, he acts as a catalyst in the individual lives of Kerewin and Joe while also bringing them together, thereby empowering them to reconcile with their Māori heritage. Simon During remarks that the Māori cultural elements in The Bone People are “absorbed and controlled” by the novel’s “profoundly Occidental narratives,” pointing out various modernist narratological devices, such as the characters’ psychologisation, the symbolism and the narrative frame of journeys “beyond death to regeneration.”22 I would argue, however, that Hulme’s use of the Gothic is another example of an occidental narrative in the novel. The Gothic novel has defined generic boundaries that separate it from magical realism. The Gothic novel, as Christopher Warnes points out, makes “coherent use of codes of the natural and of the supernatural, yet present[s] them in such a way that their co-existence is rendered a source of unease or anxiety – thus leaving the antinomy unresolved.”23 Warnes is here referring to Amaryll Beatrice Chanady’s criterion that magical realist fiction requires a “resolution of logical antinomy” in relation to the “conflicting” codes of the supernatural and the natural. Chanady originally proposed that the author abolishes the antinomy between the natural and the supernatural on the level of textual representation, and the reader, who recognizes the two conflicting logical codes on the semantic level, suspends his judgment of what is rational and what is irrational in the fictitious world. 24 However, Chanady subsequently recanted her influential theory almost two decades later, withdrawing her “formalist-idealist quest for generic certainty” and her “infelicitous” binary distinction between resolved and unresolved antinomies. “Magic realism rejects the certainties of Western reason with its dichotomies (rather than resolving them), or at least ignores the rigidity of rational codes and conventions in favor of the imagination, literary, popular or religious,” says Chanady, revising her earlier theory. 25 My argument is that the magical and the real in magical realism represent an infinite number of points along a continuum rather than points at the polar ends of a spectrum, and therefore the narrative mode does not require a resolution of antinomies. Consequently, both the Gothic and magical realist fiction create a sense of unease or anxiety tied to the coexistence of the supernatural and the natural. In The Bone People, the supernatural Celtic elements surrounding Simon are disturbing, especially given the extreme violence he suffers at the hands of his foster father, Joe. Simon’s supernatural powers make him both a

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’  127 constructive and destructive figure in terms of the effect he has on other people’s lives. On another level, the trope of unreason located in a confined space, which represents the cultural metaphor of marginality, is different in essence between the two generic kinds. In the Gothic novel’s phenomenon of the haunted house, the magical stays within the boundaries of the building, whereas in magical realist fiction, magical events emanate beyond the walls out into public spaces.26 In Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), for instance, Sethe’s ghost daughter Beloved ventures outside her mother’s home at 124 Bluestone Road. In The Bone People, Simon’s life exists mainly outside of Kerewin’s tower. Simon’s heightened spiritual awareness seems to be at odds with his muteness, a developmental trait he shares with Oblivia in Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (2013). Despite his young age, Simon displays a remarkable ability to communicate by writing and his own kind of sign language. An ear, nose and throat specialist tells Joe there is “no physical reason” why Simon should not speak (85). As the narrative unfolds, however, it becomes clear that Simon’s muteness, like Oblivia’s, is likely due to experiencing excessive abuse and trauma as a juvenile. The violence that Joe metes out on his foster son is excruciating to read and creates a moral ambivalence in the text, especially given his tender age: a news item about Joe’s conviction for assault on the boy puts his age at seven, with the prosecution counsel describing him as “a defenceless handicapped child” (328). Critic and author C.K. Stead says that the book’s presentation of “extreme violence against a child,” while demanding “sympathy and understanding for the man who commits it,” creates a moral ambiguity. 27 The reasons for Joe’s personal frustrations are reasonably clear: the loss of his wife and child; disconnection from his Māori heritage; being beaten by his white grandfather as a boy (227); and being “thwarted” in his attempts to train as a priest and, later, a teacher (231). Moreover, there is the suggestion that Joe’s sadomasochistic treatment of Simon might somehow be connected to his own conflicted sexuality, his having previously experienced a brief “sadsweet” relationship with another man that he recalls as being “gentle,” “kind” and “good” yet also “wrong” and “unnatural” (175). Nevertheless, even Joe’s Māori family is repulsed by his abuse of his foster son. “You’ve turned sour, Joe. You’re bent,” says Joe’s cousin, Piri Tainui. “You’re spoiling something special and bright and you fucking know it” (132). Kerewin only complicates the situation: whereas at the start of her relationship with Simon and Joe she offers a respite, possibly even protection, from the domestic violence, she ultimately becomes complicit in Joe’s behaviour. “I’m as culpable as you are,” confesses Kerewin to Joe (326), after realising she had effectively given Joe permission to brutally bash the boy, based on the trivial justification that Simon had stolen her prized knife (307). This single assault results in Simon’s hospitalisation and Joe’s three-month jail term.

128  ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ Some critics argue that Joe’s violence against the boy and Simon’s muteness represent the historical violence in New Zealand between the Pākehā and Māori. Antje Rauwerda, for instance, thinks that Simon symbolises the “sinister inner images of the white colonist” and that the “­violence the child suffers suggests that whiteness must be punished in order that ­ auwerda adds Māoriness can regain pride of place in New Zealand.” R that Simon’s silence is a reversal of the muteness that colonisers usually impose on the colonised. 28 However, this line of argument is undercut by the abhorrence felt by Joe’s family towards his actions, which suggests violent retribution is not justified. Moreover, Hulme herself has commented that the novel is not about “oblique revenge,” adding that “All violence does is breed violence.” Rather, the author says she wanted to write “a story of three rather strange people” in order to show her father’s English family that, on the one hand, “there are wonderful riches on the Maori side of things,” and, on the other hand, that “not everything the pakeha brought was unwelcome” (original emphasis).29 I propose that the violence and muteness associated with Simon should be read in a wider postcolonial context than just New Zealand, and that it is consistent with magical realism’s capacity to convey historical traumata. Eugene Arva’s concept of magical realism’s “traumatic imagination,” which I introduced in Chapter 1, is also relevant to Hulme’s novel. The narrative mode involves “an empathy-driven consciousness that enables authors and readers to act out and / or work through trauma by means of magical realist images,” says Arva. Magical realism enables the depiction of historical events that are too extreme to be portrayed through realism – such as massacres, genocide or natural disasters – by “re-present[ing] the unpresentable” as experiences rather than as they might have actually occurred. 30 This is especially evident during the scene in which Joe carries out the near-fatal bashing, during which ­Simon’s supernatural extrasensory powers come to the fore. “Joe is surrounded by pulses and flares of dull red light,” says the narrator. “The world is full of dazzlement, jewel beams, fires of crystal splendour.” ­Simon feels that he is “on fire” (308). Simon’s disability of muteness symbolises historical trauma in a much wider context than just the Pākehā and Māori in New Zealand. ­I ndeed, the trope of physical disability in magical realist fiction is common within a postcolonial context. Other examples include Oblivia in Alexis Wright’s The Black Swan; Kevin Phantom, the young man who suffers a brain injury after his first day at work in the mine in Wright’s ­C arpentaria (2006); and Boonyi, the former Kashmiri beauty who grows into an obese invalid following a disastrous affair with the American ambassador to India in Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown (2005). Ato Quayson argues that the presence of disabled characters in postcolonial fiction generally reminds us of “a struggle to transcend the nightmare of history” in terms of the marginalisation of the colonised.

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’  129 “For colonialism may be said to have been a major force of disabling the colonized from taking their place in the flow of history other than in a position of stigmatized underprivilege,” says Quayson. In postcolonial magical realist texts, the disability is often associated with supernatural powers, which, in turn, accentuate the ‘magical’ nature of the colonised society’s knowledge systems versus the naturalism of the coloniser’s ­society.31 The disabled, the most vulnerable of society, are typically the first to be abused. Joe, who himself was physically abused by his grandfather, perpetuates the classic cycle of intergenerational – and in this case, interracial – abuse. Intriguingly, Hulme revisits the theme of disability in her short story “Kiteflying Party at Doctor’s Point,” which was published three years after The Bone People. The story is magical realist in that the narrator, an unnamed academic with a mediocre career, is kidnapped and held hostage by people he does not know and for reasons he does not know. The narrator’s imprisonment descends into a surreal state of being, where the demarcation between what is real and what is unreal becomes blurred. The narrator believes that “all deformed monsters should be painlessly destroyed at birth” because the “pain they cause to those who are closest to them is unbelievable.” The narrator’s belief, it appears, has been shaped by his partner killing her baby and herself after the child “wasn’t born right,” in a moment of “puerperal insanity.”32 There is a connection, therefore, between “Kiteflying” and The Bone People in that ­extreme violence is inflicted irrationally on disabled children. Yet there is more to this trope of the disabled child who is subjected to repeated violence. Quayson sees “quasi-religious significations” in ­Simon, in that the boy is “a sort of sacrificial figure” who, like Hamlet, is made to carry “the ‘slings [stings] and arrows of outrageous fortune.’”33 Similarly, Georges-Goulven Le Cam regards Simon as a Christlike ­figure: his foster father is named Joseph and his figurative mother, Kerewin, is a virgin. “By enduring increasing physical pain through his beatings, Simon is taking the sins of the world upon himself,” says Le Cam. 34 By taking a magical realist interpretation of Simon, however, it is not necessary to view him as a Messiah-like figure in a post-sacred world; instead, he is a character with a supernatural capacity to absorb punishment in order to pacify the aggressors and in the process gain some kind of redemption for society. This metaphor appears in other magical realist fiction. In Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria, for instance, the mysterious ­European seaman Elias Smith is an everyman immigrant with overtones of Christian saintliness who is persecuted by the white townspeople of Desperance and eventually killed after he grows close to the local community of Indigenous Australians. In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, set in 1873, shortly after the American Civil War, the baby Beloved is murdered by her mother, Sethe, who commits the atrocity because she does not want her child to be forced into slavery. 35 Around 18 years later, the

130  ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ ghost Beloved returns to visit her mother, leading to Sethe’s traumatic reconciliation with the past. In all of these examples of magical realist fiction, the supernaturally endowed character’s role is to absorb physical punishment in order to make atonement for past wrongs and subsequently bring about some greater good. In conclusion, The Bone People demonstrates how Hulme employs magical realism as part of a broader strategy to subvert postcolonial discourse, complicating and challenging European-imposed binaries in a nation eager for reconciliation between Māori and Pākehā. Hulme adapts and updates traditional mythology to convey deeper truths about contemporary society, focussing on individual peoples’ struggles to ­reconnect with their Māori heritage and culture, while also embedding the supernatural elements of the text within the natural world. Hulme describes being able to tap into a “continuum of ancestors” for her fiction. “Carrying your ghosts on your shoulders,” is how she explains writing as a Māori and someone with mixed Pākehā heritage. “We are never entirely alone, no matter how alone, or lonely, we may feel.”36 Wright invokes the Gothic in relation to the Irish-French child Simon, who has supernatural abilities, which, in turn, overlaps with magical realism. The interconnection between the two illustrates the literariness of the narrative mode as well as its porous nature by spilling over into other generic kinds. The magical realist elements relating to Simon contrast with the mythology concentrated in the final section of The Bone ­People, which resolves the plot points but appears more like a forced coda rather than an integral component of the overall narrative.

Notes 1 Keri Hulme, “One Whale, Singing,” in The Windeater / Te Kaihau, by Keri Hulme (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1987): 61–71. 2 Hulme, “One Whale, Singing,” 70–71. 3 Keri Hulme, The Bone People (1984; reprint, London: SPIRAL in association with Hodder and Stoughton, 1985); hereafter cited by page in the text. 4 James F. English, The Economy of Prestige (Cambridge, MA: Harvard ­University Press, 2005), 319. 5 John Bryson, “Interview with Keri Hulme,” Antipodes 8, no. 2 (1994), 132. 6 Christopher Warnes coined the term faith-based magical realism to denote an approach that “utilises the magical in order to expand and enrich already-­existing conceptions of the real,” and frequently to recuperate a non-Western cultural world view. Christopher Warnes, Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel: Between Faith and Irreverence (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 12, 14. 7 Simon During, “Postmodernism or Postcolonialism?” Landfall 39, no. 3 (1985), 369–370, 374. 8 Laura Wright, “Diggers, Strangers, and Broken Men: Environmental Prophecy and the Commodification of Nature in Keri Hulme’s The Bone People,” in Postcolonial Green: Environmental Politics and World Narratives, eds.

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’  131 Bonnie Roos, Alex Hunt, and John Tallmadge (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010), 66. 9 Margery Fee, “Inventing New Ancestors for Aotearoa,” in International Literature in English: Essays on the Major Writers, ed. Robert L. Ross ­(Chicago, IL and London: St James Press, 1991), 56. 10 Stephen Slemon, “Monuments of Empire: Allegory/Counter-Discourse/ Post-Colonial Writing,” Kunapipi 9, no. 3 (1987), 10, 12, 13. 11 Fredric Jameson, “On Magic Realism in Film,” Critical Inquiry 12, no. 2 (1986), 311. 12 Michael Valdez Moses, “Magical Realism at World’s End,” Literary Imagination: The Review of the Association of Literary Scholars 3, no. 1 (2001), 105–106. 13 Elizabeth DeLoughrey, “Ordinary Futures: Interspecies Worldings in the Anthropocene,” in Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities: Postcolonial Approaches, eds. Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Jill Didur, and ­A nthony Carrigan (London and New York: Routledge, 2015), 357. 14 Keri Hulme, Stonefish (Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2004), 90; hereafter cited by page in the text. 15 Graham Huggan, The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 28. 16 Ato Quayson, “Looking Awry: Tropes of Disability in Post-Colonial ­Writing,” in An Introduction to Contemporary Fiction, ed. Rod Mengham (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999), 63. 17 Fee, “Inventing New Ancestors for Aotearoa,” 53. 18 C.K. Stead, “Keri Hulme’s ‘The Bone People,’ and the Pegasus Award for Maori Literature,” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 16, no. 4 (1985), 107. 19 Christina Stachurski, Reading Pakeha (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009), 86. 20 Keri Hulme, “A Drift in Dream,” in The Windeater/Te Kaihau, ed. Keri Hulme (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1987), 195–209. 21 Terry Eagleton, “The Nature of Gothic,” in Figures of Dissent: Critical Essays on Fish, Spivak, Žižek and Others (London: Verso, 2003), 19. 22 Simon During, “Postmodernism or Postcolonialism?” Landfall 39, no. 3 (1985), 373–374. 23 Warnes, Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel, 3–4. 24 Amaryll Beatrice Chanady, Magical Realism and the Fantastic: Resolved Versus Unresolved Antinomy (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1985), 25–26. 25 Amaryll Chanady, “Magic Realism Revisited: The Deconstruction of Antimonies,” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 30, no. 2 (2003), 432. 26 Wendy B. Faris, Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004), 160. 27 Stead, “Keri Hulme’s ‘The Bone People,’” 108. 28 Antje M. Rauwerda, “The White Whipping Boy: Simon in Keri Hulme’s The Bone People,” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 40 (2003), 23, 25, 30. 29 Bryson, “Interview with Keri Hulme,” 132–133. 30 Eugene L. Arva, The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011), 5. 31 Quayson, “Looking Awry,” 66. 32 Keri Hulme, “Kiteflying Party at Doctor’s Point,” in The Windeater / Te Kaihau, Keri Hulme (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1987), 153, 156. 33 Quayson, 63.

132  ‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’ 34 Georges-Goulven Le Cam, “The Quest for Archetypal Self-Truth in The Bone People: Towards a Re-Definition of Maori Culture?” Commonwealth Essays and Studies 15, no. 2 (1993), 74. 35 Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987; reprint, London: Picador, 1988), 149, 164. 36 Bryson, 131.

Bibliography Primary Sources Hulme, Keri. The Bone People. 1984. Reprint, London: SPIRAL in association with Hodder and Stoughton, 1985. ———. The Windeater/Te Kaihau. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1987. ———. Stonefish. Wellington: Huia Publishers, 2004.

Secondary Sources Arva, Eugene. The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011. Bryson, John. “Interview with Keri Hulme.” Antipodes 8, no. 2 (1994): 131–135. Chanady, Amaryll Beatrice. Magical Realism and the Fantastic: Resolved Versus Unresolved Antinomy. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1985. ———. “Magic Realism Revisited: The Deconstruction of Antimonies.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 30, no. 2 (2003): 428–444. DeLoughrey, Elizabeth. “Ordinary Futures: Interspecies Worldings in the Anthropocene.” In Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities: Postcolonial Approaches, edited by Elizabeth DeLoughrey, Jill Didur, and Anthony Carrigan, 352–372. London and New York: Routledge, 2015. During, Simon. “Postmodernism or Postcolonialism?” Landfall 39, no. 3 (1985): 366–380. Eagleton, Terry. “The Nature of Gothic,” In Figures of Dissent: Critical Essays on Fish, Spivak, Žižek and Others, edited by Terry Eagleton, 17–23. London: Verso, 2003. English, James F. The Economy of Prestige. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. Faris, Wendy B. Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004. Fee, Margery. “Inventing New Ancestors for Aotearoa.” In International Literature in English: Essays on the Major Writers, edited by Robert L. Ross, 53–62. Chicago, IL and London: St James Press, 1991. Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins. London and New York: Routledge, 2001. Jameson, Fredric. “On Magic Realism in Film.” Critical Inquiry 12, no. 2 (1986): 301–325. Le Cam, Georges-Goulven. “The Quest for Archetypal Self-Truth in The Bone People: Towards a Re-definition of Maori Culture?” Commonwealth Essays and Studies 15, no. 2 (1993): 66–79. Morrison, Toni. Beloved. 1987. Reprint, London: Picador, 1988.

‘Heart, spirit, and inclination’  133 Quayson, Ato. “Looking Awry: Tropes of Disability in Post-colonial Writing.” In An Introduction to Contemporary Fiction, edited by Rod Mengham, 53–68. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999. Rauwerda, Antje M. “The White Whipping Boy: Simon in Keri Hulme’s The Bone People.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 40 (2003): 23–42. Rushdie, Salman. Shalimar the Clown. London: Jonathan Cape, 2005. Slemon, Stephen. “Monuments of Empire: Allegory/Counter-Discourse/Post-­ colonial Writing.” Kunapipi 9, no. 3 (1987): 1–16. Stead, C.K. “Keri Hulme’s ‘The Bone People,’ and the Pegasus Award for Maori Literature.” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 16, no. 4 (1985): 101–108. Stachurski, Christina. Reading Pakeha. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009. Valdez Moses, Michael. “Magical Realism at World’s End.” Literary Imagination: The Review of the Association of Literary Scholars 3, no. 1 (2001): 105–133. Warnes, Christopher. Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel: Between Faith and Irreverence. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Wright, Alexis. Carpentaria. Artarmon: Giramondo, 2006. ———. The Swan Book. Artarmon: Giramondo, 2013. Wright, Laura. “Diggers, Strangers, and Broken Men: Environmental Prophecy and the Commodification of Nature in Keri Hulme’s The Bone People.” In Postcolonial Green: Environmental Politics and World Narratives, edited by Bonnie Roos, Alex Hunt and John Tallmadge, 64–79. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010.

5 Mosquitoes and Malaria Counter-Science and Colonial Archives in Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome

Introduction: Amitav Ghosh’s Nebulous Magical Realism Amitav Ghosh is a sui generis among writers of magical realism, in a league of his own, due to his characteristic style of mixing fictional genres, as well as blending fiction and non-fiction, often within the same text. If a fundamental facet of magical realism is its capacity to break down borders, then Ghosh’s writing intensifies this aspect by virtue of its own mosaic-like literary architecture. Underlying this is the constant presence of the author’s perspicacious and trenchant observation of human behaviour, which is informed by his training in social anthropology.1 Attempting to describe the magical realism found in Ghosh’s work is further complicated by the fact that he employs the narrative mode in a relatively small portion of his work. Of his eight novels to date, only three of them contain magical realist elements. While magical realism is incidental to two of them, The Circle of Reason (1986) and Sea of Poppies (2008), the narrative mode is integral to the narrative structure throughout The Calcutta Chromosome (1995). Critical response to the presence of magical realism in Ghosh’s fiction has been patchy. Several critics note Ghosh’s use of the narrative mode in The Circle of Reason but do not go into much detail. Ghosh is described as having a “tendency to flirt” with magical realism.2 The novel has been variously labelled as “a postcolonial” magical realist text, 3 a “fantastic” magical realist book4 and the juxtaposition of “police fiction” with elements of fantasy or magical realism.5 Surprisingly, there is an absence of critical commentary about magical realism in Sea of Poppies. Yet the magical realism in each of these two novels is readily apparent.6 Critical discussion of magical realism in The Calcutta Chromosome has been limited in scope, with the few critics who have identified the narrative mode in the book dwelling on the central supernatural element: the discovery by Mangala, the Indian subaltern laboratory assistant, of a “weird strain” of malaria that can transfer human personality traits from one individual to another.7 Yet Ghosh employs magical realism to recuperate localised knowledge – in this case, Indian science – in

Mosquitoes and Malaria  135 order to challenge the orthodox British colonial version of history, which insists surgeon-scientist Sir Ronald Ross was the sole discoverer of the cause of malaria, the female anopheles mosquito, in the 1890s. Ross won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1902 for his ‘discovery.’ This aspect of the novel illustrates magical realism’s capacity to present alternative modes of knowledge production. But what differentiates Ghosh’s treatment is his portrayal of localised science, which is based on faith and intuition, coexisting with the British colonial science, which is derived from the European Enlightenment and underpinned by empirical rationalism. The suggestion is that both forms of knowledge develop through cross-cultural fertilisation. Ghosh’s fictionalised recovery of localised Indian science is achieved by rewriting history in an example of historiographic metafiction, which is common among magical realist texts, but in a manner that relies heavily on intertextuality. Ghosh writes against the grain of colonial history by constructing a counter-narrative, by reinterpreting various colonial texts, such as memoirs, diaries, letters, notebooks, histories, both actual and fictional, and by reimagining the spaces in between those texts. In doing so, Ghosh makes the novel quintessentially postcolonial. Moreover, it is the complex interplay of this mosaic of intertexts from which the ‘magical’ elements of the novel are derived. Across the whole of his fictional works, Ghosh is generally renowned for a mainly realist style, which fits particularly well with his sweeping historical narratives. Like a number of fiction authors who have employed magical realism – Toni Morrison and Peter Carey, for instance – Ghosh denies that the narrative mode is present in his work. Commenting on his debut novel, The Circle of Reason, he said, “I didn’t even think of it as magical realist.” But perhaps Ghosh protests too much, and, like some authors and critics, he still thinks of magical realism as a form of writing necessarily linked with non-Western societies and culture, with the exotic Other. For Ghosh maintains “the ordinary view” is that “magical realism … comes out of the non-European world.”8 In the same interview, Ghosh talks of a desire among Western publishers, when he first began to get published himself in the 1980s, to “reproduce” the commercial success that resulted from the Latin American “boom” with magical realist writers in India and South Africa. Unfortunately, this statement reflects a not uncommon misconception about magical realism that perseveres to this day, despite the proliferation of magical realist fiction from a multitude of postcolonial and other countries over the past four decades. Ghosh’s comment, while admittedly given in an interview and perhaps not premeditated, echoes what Michael Bell has dubbed an “ethnographic exceptionalism” within a particular perception of magical realist fiction that stubbornly persists.9 What Bell means by this term is that the influence of Latin American writers such as Gabriel García Márquez was so great during the emergence of magical realism, from the

136  Mosquitoes and Malaria 1940s to the 1970s, that for many people the narrative mode remains associated predominantly, if not exclusively, with South and ­Central American fiction. As I have been arguing, however, this view is not accurate; magical realism is an international form of writing embraced by writers from around the world. The Calcutta Chromosome is a pre-eminent example of magical realism being primarily a textual narrative mode, and not a contextual one. The novel is also central to why Ghosh should be regarded as a key figure among Indian authors of magical realism who write in ­E nglish. Although the most prominent, Salman Rushdie, invents a style of magical realism in his early works, in particular Midnight’s Children (1981) and The Satanic Verses (1988), that is noted for its enthusiastic clashes between East and West, overt supernatural elements, verbal pyrotechnics, swirling narratives and the literalisation of metaphor, Ghosh’s form of magical realism is, as Maggie Ann Bowers says, “less exuberant, and less ubiquitous” than that of Rushdie’s.10 It exhibits, by contrast, subtlety, understatedness, a mosaic-like structure and, above all, a strong textual core. In a broader literary context, Ghosh is considered to be “one of the central figures” of Indian English authors to emerge over the past four decades, especially after R ­ ushdie’s early success with his own kind of experimental writing opened up international Anglophone markets.11 This new breed, which also includes writers like Kiran Desai and Jeet Thayil, is characterised by writing about India as a country interconnected with other countries around the world.12 Ghosh has made the theme of interconnectedness paramount to his overall work, which is characterised by the porous nature of borders and boundaries, both external and internal, geographic and personal. What is particularly distinctive about Ghosh’s fiction is that it is more historically based than purely imaginative. That is, Ghosh supplements history as it is written in the official records with his fiction, adding another interpretive layer about what occurred, or might have occurred, in the past, particularly in India and nearby countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. Ghosh is one of those authors who, as A.S. Byatt notes, are drawn to historical “factual fiction” as a result of a “political desire to write the histories of the marginalised, the forgotten, the unrecorded.”13 Furthermore, Ghosh, in his fiction, recuperates a reimagined history for those people “who constitute the footnotes of history,” to borrow Brinda Bose’s phrase.14 The Calcutta Chromosome, for instance, is set in India at the height of the British Raj in the late nineteenth century. What is especially distinctive about the novel is that Ghosh exhibits an acute awareness of the intertextual nature of both history and fiction, and, in turn, explores the crossover between the two. History, as Linda Hutcheon reminds us, is only accessible through texts: “We know the past (which really did exist) only through its textualized

Mosquitoes and Malaria  137 remains.”15 In this novel, Ghosh mines the textual archive of the British Raj in order to create a fictional text that is itself a matrix of intertexts. Critics have mostly focussed on The Calcutta Chromosome as a work of science fiction, an approach that was reinforced after the book won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for the best science fiction novel in Britain in 1997. As is typical of his fiction, however, the novel traverses a wide range of genres, including also historical novel, quest narrative, detective story, thriller, gothic melodrama and ghost story. Yet what I propose is a magical realist reading of the novel, which offers an opportunity to reexamine our assumptions of how we conceptualise magical realism by comparing the narrative mode with science fiction, exploring where the two generic forms cross over within the text and where they diverge. This critical exercise will reveal the limitations of the conventional taxonomical approach to defining magical realism. Moreover, Ghosh’s novel has a core environmental aspect that is distinctly different to the environmental elements in the novels featured in earlier chapters of this monograph. Rather than foreground the environment as a physical, geographical setting, be it land or sea, The Calcutta Chromosome instead features the environment in biological terms. For the novel’s central motif is the chromosome of the title, which refers to the disease of malaria. In addition, the transmission of malaria by mosquitoes serves as a constant reminder that the health (or otherwise) of humans is entirely dependent on the natural world, including tiny organisms like flying insects. As I will demonstrate, the novel’s magical realist elements are inextricably tied to its environmental framework.

Indigenous Knowledge: Cross-Cultural Fertilisation of the Subaltern and the Colonial Ghosh develops a highly literary style of magical realism to create a fictionalised version of an alternative history, of a localised Indian knowledge that he posits coexisted with the official British colonial version of history, with the colonised cross-fertilising the coloniser. In this sense, The Calcutta Chromosome is very much a postcolonial novel, although Ghosh himself – often a contrarian when it comes to literary labels being applied to his own writing – denies the term is relevant to his work.16 The literariness of the novel primarily arises out of Ghosh exploring the gaps in the colonial archive. He delves into the in-between spaces of magical realism, those gaps that lie between the magical and the real, to depict a third plane of reality that in itself reveals fundamental truths about the extratextual world. Ghosh assembles a vast array of secondary texts, both actual and imagined, in order to compose a primary text that purports to be the real history of the discovery of the cause of malaria in Calcutta at the end of the nineteenth century. The Calcutta Chromosome, therefore, is a highly metafictional, or intertextual, novel,

138  Mosquitoes and Malaria and in this regard is typical of much postcolonial magical realist fiction that seeks to recover and reinstate the forgotten history of the marginalised or oppressed. Other examples that utilise a textual backbone to the story include Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), in which the gypsy Melquíades’s parchments are a history of the Buendía family written in advance in Sanskrit; and Australian author Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish (2001), in which the incarcerated convict William Gould (based on a real-life figure) writes in blood about his escapades in the nineteenth-century Van Diemen’s Land penal colony. The Calcutta Chromosome, then, is historiographic metafiction that foregrounds the artificial construction of fiction and history. Ghosh goes further than these examples by developing an excessive form of intertextuality that underpins the novel’s supernatural elements. The Calcutta Chromosome subscribes to the postmodern notion of a text as a network of other texts. As Roland Barthes suggests, “any text is a new tissue of past citations,” in that any text is an intertext, any text incorporates texts that existed previously and reflect the surrounding culture.17 In Ghosh’s novel the magical realism is intertextual as much as the intertextuality is magical realist, because the magical or supernatural elements arise from the intricate mosaic of intertexts that tie together the various narratives in the book. Ghosh subtly interweaves ‘real’ history with imagined history to such an intricate extent that it becomes difficult to tell where the one ends and the other begins. Put another way, the novel creates an in-between history that seems more plausible than either of the other two. The highly intertextual structure of the book accentuates hybridity in a postcolonial context, the interplay of multiple cultures, and underscores the multilingual and heterogeneous composition of magical realism. The key intertext is Ronald Ross’s actual Memoirs, which the novel reads “against the grain in order to deconstruct and displace it.”18 Ross published his Memoirs in 1923, more than two decades after he left India to return home to England.19 The Memoirs are, for the most part, a self-serving document in which Ross depicts himself as an isolated hero in a quest to solve the malaria riddle, battling an ignorant and uninterested bureaucracy in the Indian Medical Service, his then British employer, as well as other, European scientists whom he alleges at times plagiarised his malaria research. Ghosh acknowledges that in his own research for the novel he read Ross’s laboratory notes and diaries, focussing on how “most of the connections [that Ross made] came from his servants.”20 But Ghosh goes much further than just drawing on Ross’s original source documents, and creates within the novel a variety of fictional sources from different characters, such as journal entries, diaries, scientific notes, letters, emails and oral recollections. At face value, Ghosh’s simulation of a kind of colonial archive, which he invents alongside his raiding of the actual colonial archive, might seem to contradict

Mosquitoes and Malaria  139 magical realist norms, which tend towards chance and spasmodic events. Certainly the effort required of the reader to piece together the intricate, multiple storylines, enmeshed as they are within the various archived artefacts (both real and imagined), suppresses any spontaneity that may arise from specific episodes in the novel. Yet it would be a mistake to interpret Ghosh’s technique as cancelling out the magical realist elements. On the contrary, what Ghosh achieves is an intertextual framework upon which the magical realist elements can grow. The novel’s relative lack of spontaneity is partly due to the fact that the postcolonial fictional narrative, which challenges Ross’s colonial historical narrative, involves deconstructing this jigsaw of differing accounts, which is mainly done by the protagonist, the Indian L. M ­ urugan. He is obsessed with Ross, believing that “some person or persons” had ­“interfered” with the British scientist’s experiments to push his research into “certain directions.” Murugan calls this the “Other Mind” theory (36) and in 1987 writes an unpublished paper – another ­intertext – ­titled “An Alternative Interpretation of Late Nineteenth-­Century Malaria ­Research: Is There a Secret History?” His efforts, however, are ignored by the academic community, and he is regarded as a “crank and eccentric” (35). Undeterred, he travels from New York to Calcutta to continue his investigations in 1995 but disappears and is thought to have committed suicide (33). As it turns out, Murugan determines that Mangala, one of Ross’s lab assistants, discovered a “weird strain” of malaria plus an associated chromosome that exists only in non-regenerative tissue (or the brain) which can transfer human traits from one person to another (247). In other words, this chromosome, which Murugan dubs the Calcutta Chromosome, offers the possibility of reincarnation and hence immortality. The mysterious chromosome is not only the central ‘magical’ aspect of the novel but also the central environmental aspect of the text. I am here interpreting the concept of environment broadly. The mosquito, which transmits the malaria-bearing parasite to humans, represents the physical and the animal worlds in the novel, or the natural environment in a conventional sense. Yet, in the context of the story, the human body may be thought of as another kind of environment, a bodily environment, given that malaria infects the body and, more specifically, the strange chromosome enables the transference of a human personality from one bodily environment to another. By applying Lawrence Buell’s four criteria to determine whether a literary work is environmentally oriented, as outlined in my Introduction chapter, it becomes apparent that The ­C alcutta Chromosome definitely is. First, the non-human environment is both a framing device and a presence that suggests that human history is implicated in natural history because mosquito-borne malaria frames the narrative, and the ‘discovery’ of malaria’s cause enables humans to combat the disease, thereby altering the natural world’s history.

140  Mosquitoes and Malaria Second, the human interest is not the only legitimate interest as the Silence, or unseen cosmic power that drives Mangala’s discoveries, is portrayed as playing some kind of uber-conservation role for the universe. Third, human accountability to the environment is part of the work’s ethical framework, given that Mangala and her disciples are aware of the fragile dependency that human life has on the natural world. And fourth, the text implies that the environment is a process rather than a constant, through the constant evolution of a select number of human souls or personalities that are transferred from one bodily environment to another. For these reasons we can legitimately say that The Calcutta Chromosome is environmentally oriented. Indeed, Ghosh’s engagement with the environment as a literary topic has continued since this novel was published. The Hungry Tide (2004) is perhaps his best-known environmental work; it is set in the ­Sundarbans National Park that traverses India and Bangladesh, and consists of an “immense archipelago of islands” between the sea and the plains of ­B engal. 21 Although The Hungry Tide is written in a conventional realist style, and does not contain any elements of magical realism whatsoever, it is noteworthy in this discussion for its environmental ethic, which is embodied in the female protagonist, Piyali ‘Piya’ Roy, a young cetologist (or biologist of marine mammals). Piya, who was born in India but raised in the United States, returns to her family’s homeland to study the Gangetic dolphin and the Irrawaddy dolphin but has to overcome the collective resistance of government officials, bureaucracy and local villagers. Piya’s view is that all species of animals deserve to remain alive and that humans have no right to make any of them extinct. She asks rhetorically, revealing a truly biocentric outlook (301), Just suppose we crossed that imaginary line that prevents us from deciding that no other species matters except ourselves. What’ll be left then? Aren’t we alone enough in the universe? And do you think it’ll stop at that? Once we decide we can kill off other species, it’ll be people next. In addition, Ghosh attempts in this novel to portray the environment in geological or ancient time, presaging his later comments in The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (2016) that novelists ought to depict the longue durée of environmental changes to the planet. While Ghosh does not address climate change in The Hungry Tide – even though the plot reaches a climax during a cyclone in which one of the main characters dies – the text does remind the reader of the Earth’s constant geological and environmental evolution, pointing out that the Sundarbans are now located where the southern extremity of the Asian landmass was once attached to Australia and Antarctica, before India broke away to travel north about 140 million years ago (181).

Mosquitoes and Malaria  141 Fittingly, however, the novel also describes this geological event in partly mythical terms, saying that the Indus and Ganges rivers were once joined, which led to the evolution of the river dolphins that Piya studies and wants to conserve (182). The Hungry Tide shares the philosophy enunciated in The Calcutta Chromosome that humans are complicit in the future welfare of the planet’s environment simply by living and acting within it. Murugan recounts his theories to his former colleague Antar, an Egyptian-born programmer and systems analyst who lives in New York. Antar in effect becomes a fictional audience forced by circumstances  – his boss asks him to try and talk Murugan out of going to Calcutta – to listen to the main narrator’s story. In this technique, Ghosh follows Rushdie’s structure in Midnight’s Children, in which Saleem ­Sinai recounts his life story to his wife, Padma. Unlike Padma, however, ­A ntar ultimately becomes an active agent in the narrative, when, at the end, he is visited by a decomposing Murugan via an image created by Ava the supercomputer and is, presumably, absorbed into the mysterious world of interpersonal transference. Given the time in which The ­C alcutta ­Chromosome was published, in 1995, before the ubiquitous use of email and internet browsing, Ghosh was perspicacious in making the internet a central component of the quest narrative, which revolves around ­Murugan’s obsession to explain the supernatural chromosome. Ava the supercomputer keeps providing Antar with various documents and objects so that Antar can pursue the mystery of what happened to ­Murugan after he disappeared in Calcutta. By virtue of the supercomputer as a narrative device, Ghosh disrupts time and geographical space, as is typical in magical realist fiction, in order to foreground the notion of a timeless, spaceless world that mirrors the corporeal world. This is not a virtual world, however, in the sense of digital data that exists within computer servers but rather an ancient world of accumulated knowledge that is symbolised in the novel by the Silence. Ghosh uses Ross’s Memoirs as an intertext that he expands or amplifies into the author’s alternative, fictionalised history of the Indian subaltern. By applying Gérard Genette’s theories on poetics, we can explore more precisely the textual essence of this aspect of the magical realism operating in the novel. Genette defines “intertextuality” as “the literal presence … of one text within another.” Ross’s Memoirs are literally within The Calcutta Chromosome, given that Ghosh often uses real dates, characters, events and descriptions in the novel, often communicated by Murugan. Genette’s concept of “metatextuality,” which he defines as “the transtextual relationship that links a commentary to the text it comments on,” is critical here, because it reflects Ghosh’s fictional narrative as a commentary upon the Memoirs. 22 In other words, the in-between space that Ghosh mines among the colonial archives provides the metatextuality that underpins the book: a critical reassessment

142  Mosquitoes and Malaria of the colonial history of science. Ghosh’s achievement is made more nuanced by not having Ross appear as a character in the novel, only by reference. Instead, the author foregrounds the Indian subaltern characters in the race to solve the mystery of malaria. By the subaltern, I take Ranajit Guha’s basic definition of “the general attribute of subordination in South Asian society whether this is expressed in terms of class, caste, age, gender and office or in any other way.”23 In Guha’s words, what had been left out of the “un-historical historiography” of India was “the politics of the people” (original emphasis). By “people,” a term which Guha uses synonymously with the subaltern classes, he means “the mass of the labouring population and the intermediate strata in town and country.”24 In this sense, Mangala and her fellow laboratory assistant, Lutchman, become the primary representatives of the subaltern in the novel. Ghosh not only makes Mangala and the other ‘invisible’ subaltern characters visible, he also highlights that what is visible to the Indian subaltern eye is initially invisible to the British colonist’s eye – at least until Mangala as Ross’s lab assistant brings her discoveries to her boss’ attention. Where Mangala’s medical inquiries fall down, however, is in her inability to articulate the invisible made visible or the mosquito’s role in transmitting malaria. I am here drawing on Michel Foucault’s idea that the historical development of medical science is the process of the invisible being made visible, especially through the development of new language. The structure of medical advances, at both perceptual and epistemological levels, “is that of invisible visibility” (original emphasis). 25 Mangala, insists Murugan, is a “genius” who is not conventionally trained and so does not carry “a shit-load of theory in her head,” nor is she constrained by “formal classifications” (242–243). Mangala’s verbal limitations are revealed when the “illiterate” (143) lab assistant hands some slides to the American missionary doctor Elijah Monroe Farley. Even though she “knew exactly what they contained” (143), she cannot describe in medical scientific terms what the slides illustrate. Instead, she resorts to simplistic, everyday language, saying the slides show “the creature’s member entering the body of its mate, doing what men and women must do” (152). Taking Foucault’s analysis of the interplay between language and scientific discourse a step further, it becomes even more apparent how Ghosh portrays the nuances of colonial appropriation of subaltern knowledge. Just as Foucault depicts government-­sponsored teaching hospitals and medical research as concentrating medical knowledge in the hands of “a privileged group,” Ronald Ross represents this “esotericism of knowledge” by ‘discovering’ the cause of malaria on behalf of the British Empire before any of his European scientific rivals beat him to it and supposedly independent of his Indian lab assistants. 26 Most cultures that dealt with malaria, says Murugan, knew there was a “common connection” between the disease and mosquitoes (69),

Mosquitoes and Malaria  143 implying a degree of public knowledge. By contrast the real Ross, in his Memoirs, exhibits his proprietary attitude to scientific knowledge, claiming that “no one else was working at the mosquito theory” at the time he was (217) and describing his “Eureka!” moment (224) when he, as a sole agent, “discovered” the cause of malaria (225). The historical Ross formalises the effective privatisation of his scientific knowledge by writing up his discoveries in scientific journals, letters and, years later, his Memoirs. The publication of his writings is the process by which he can claim ownership of his ideas, through the Western legal concepts of copyright and intellectual property. Ghosh, however, turns this notion of individual ownership of intellectual property on its head by interrogating, in the novel, the validity of the real Ross’s writings and, more generally, the historical archives. In this respect, the novel plays out what Foucault describes as the “archaeology” of historiography, in that the investigation of history involves digging through the “archive” of historical documents that in themselves are “systems of statements” which may or may not be true. 27 The historical Ross quickly moved to commercialise his findings by quitting the Indian Medical Service and heading a tropical diseases unit at University College in Liverpool. In the novel, Murugan describes Ross as having the mindset of a “lone genius” (57) who sets out to “solve the scientific puzzle of the century” (56). Yet underlying Ross’s attitude is the ideology of the British Empire, that any discovery must be appropriated on behalf of the empire and exploited for both state and personal financial gain. Ideology, as Foucault reminds us, always retains a hold over scientific discourse, dictating where it is deployed and how it functions. 28 Ghosh details to a significant degree Ross’s methodology in exploiting his lab assistants. Claire Chambers points out how the British scientist mentions his Indian servant Lutchman in his Memoirs. In Ghosh’s book, Lutchman works alongside Mangala as a disciple. “Through his nuanced postcolonial science fiction Ghosh makes us realize that the kind of stories in which the tropical medicine of men such as Ross is ‘embedded’ are stories of exploitation and unequal power relations,” says ­Chambers. 29 The Lutchman link warrants analysis. In the novel, Murugan explains how Lutchman enters Ross’s life on 25 May 1895 and volunteers to be injected with his “dead-mosquito concoction” (73). ­Lutchman, says Murugan, worked for Ross until 1898 and pointed out the dappled-wing mosquitoes that led to Ross’s “first major breakthrough” (77). In the Memoirs, Ross marks the arrival of the real Lutchman on the same date in 1895, describing him as “a healthy looking” 20-year-old who claims to have never had a fever, hence making him an ideal subject for his malaria experiments (157). Ross describes Lutchman as a ­“dhooley-bearer,” meaning he is a government servant (165). Towards the end of their three-year professional association, Ross praises Lutchman as a “faithful” servant but laments that he never heard from Lutchman again after

144  Mosquitoes and Malaria they parted company in 1898 (360), implying that Ross would have liked to have maintained contact. Besides Lutchman, Ross also hints at the involvement of other Indians in his malaria research. For example, the scientist notes how he sources his mosquitoes from Abdul Kadir (160), and acknowledges that, prior to his own research, “some savants had suggested that the mosquito carries the infection in some way” (125) (original emphasis). In addition, Ross reveals how he inherited “a native laboratory-assistant” at Lieutenant-Colonel D.D. Cunningham’s laboratory in Calcutta, which Ross took over in 1898, and that while there he hired Mahomed Bux as another assistant, choosing him “out of about twenty applicants because he looked the most rascally of the lot and was therefore likely to have considerable intelligence!” (262). Ross could only have been interested in Bux’s intelligence if he had needed his help. Ross’s tantalising asides provide the basis for Ghosh to elaborate and build upon, to create a plausible, alternative history of localised knowledge that coexists with colonial science.

The Faith of Science: Magical Realism as a Transgressive Mode The “counter-science” (103) depicted in the novel that derives from indigenous Indian knowledge critiques the European Enlightenment tradition of viewing the world in terms of a Cartesian duality and prioritising scientific rationalism. Ghosh’s book elevates the role that faith plays in science, and so counters the colonial version of scientific discovery by positing the importance of Indian scientific knowledge in assisting Ross’s findings. Yet it also counters the British colonial vision of Britain as a technologically advanced, rationalist society superior to ‘primitive,’ faith-based cultures. The Calcutta Chromosome decentres this “master narrative of Western science” – which, as Lou Ratté says, advocates that “science is benevolent” and “a powerful source of legitimation for empire” – by promoting the idea that Ross was aided in his discovery by people “who live beneath the radar of imperial ideology and outside the narrative of the history of science.”30 The text postulates that a poor, uneducated Indian woman, Mangala, guides Ross towards making the malaria discovery, thereby implying a colonial appropriation of localised scientific knowledge without attribution. Criticism of the European Enlightenment appears frequently in Ghosh’s work. For instance, in The Circle of Reason, Ghosh satirises the West’s preoccupation with scientific rationalism through the character of Balaram, a primary school teacher in an Indian village who is obsessed with the pseudo-science phrenology. In his non-fiction book The Great Derangement, Ghosh criticises the European Enlightenment’s intellectual discourse for having a “predatory hubris in relation to the earth and its resources,” arguing that the “men” who built the European empires “were trained to break

Mosquitoes and Malaria  145 problems into smaller and smaller puzzles until a solution presented itself,” thereby excluding external forces and the interconnectedness of the natural world. This approach is the antithesis to that of Mangala and her disciples. Moreover, Ghosh argues that exchanges in technology and knowledge, or a “continuous cross-pollination of ideas,” between ­Europe, the Middle East and India accelerated in the early modern period, from the sixteenth century, due to ancient trade connections. 31 In other words, Ghosh’s hypothesis of cross-cultural scientific exchange in The Calcutta Chromosome is supported by historical fact. A primary characteristic of magical realism, says Wendy Faris, is that “the text contains an ‘irreducible element’ of magic,” where the “‘irreducible element’ is something we cannot explain according to the laws of the universe as they have been formulated in Western empirically based discourse.”32 The irreducible element of magic in The Calcutta ­Chromosome is Mangala’s quest for immortality, which she pursues with Lutchman and other cult members. Murugan may believe Mangala to be a “genius” (242) and a “god” (249), but to the British colonial scientists she is a mere “sweep-woman” who is “a little touched” (141). Mangala, continues Murugan, has stumbled across “a technology for interpersonal transference” (106). This is no ordinary, human-made technology, however but a naturally occurring technology that can transfer information about a person – or “a matching symptomology of yourself” – from one individual to the next. This transference occurs chromosomally, allowing a person to “improve” in the “next incarnation” (107). The magical nature of this technology is that the chromosome is not transmitted normally by sexual reproduction but by a mysterious “process of recombination” that occurs in the non-regenerating tissue of the brain (247). In other words, Ghosh invents in Mangala’s supernatural technology a quest narrative for optimal self-actualisation, an ongoing process of a kind of reincarnation that ultimately results in a state of spiritual transcendence. Importantly, this so-called “interpersonal transference” is presented in a secular manner, with no suggestion of a divine being lurking in the background or controlling events. So why has Ghosh employed this particular magical realist narrative device? For what purpose? Mangala’s “technology,” I propose, serves as a metaphor for the self-improvement of the forgotten subaltern, striving to rise above their marginalised state of existence to attain a higher level of spiritual fulfilment. It is through their own knowledge system – not that of the indigenous political elite, nor that of the coloniser – that the subaltern may achieve this. This is the underlying political subtext of The Calcutta Chromosome, and so Ghosh is employing magical realism, as is typical of writers using the narrative mode, to convey a political message. After Mangala hits a cul-de-sac in her own theorisation about the cause of malaria, she pushes Ross towards making his own conclusions.

146  Mosquitoes and Malaria As Murugan says, Ross “thinks he’s doing experiments on the malaria parasite. And all the time it’s him who is the experiment on the malaria parasite” (original emphasis) (78). Ghosh’s fictional story has historical precedence. David Arnold, for instance, argues: It is hard to see how, even at a superficial level, Western science could have functioned in many parts of the world without being able to draw upon ‘local’ knowledge and ‘native’ agency of various kinds, without local savants, scribes, interpreters and artists, fisherman and forest-folk, to guide and inform it. Increasingly, in conscious reaction against such ethnocentricity, many of the scientific discoveries formerly claimed for the West have been traced back to earlier sources of indigenous knowledge.33 Note that Arnold’s reference to “savant” accords with Ross’s use of the term, mentioned earlier, to describe indigenous people who had some knowledge about the connection between mosquitoes and malaria. Murugan highlights the plausibility of this forgotten indigenous scientific history when he cites the Indian mathematician Srinivasa ­Ramanujan, who developed important mathematical theories without almost any formal training in mathematics. Murugan asserts that ­Mangala, like Ramanujan, is a natural “genius” unhampered by conventional theory (242). Ghosh reinserts ‘magic’ or faith back into science, placing belief and intuition in the foreground of scientific development, and dramatises the cross-cultural fertilisation of scientific ideas between the colonised and the colonisers. As a result, the transgressive narrative dissolves the ­Western binary categories of faith / science, intuition / intellect, ­belief / empiricism, colonised / coloniser, primitive / advanced, educated / ­uneducated, woman / man and inferior / superior. What is largely overlooked in critical discussion of the novel is how much of this holistic philosophy is present in Ross’s own writings. In other words, the actual, historical Ross complicates the novel’s representation of the B ­ ritish scientist as an empirical rationalist. Claire Chambers mentions that Ross, in his Memoirs, invokes “the Angel of Fate” as guiding him to his historic discovery, implying that “his science rests on conviction as much as on reasoning.”34 But Memoirs contains numerous, additional references to his research being akin to a religious quest. For instance, Dr Peter ­Manson, a London-based medical scientist who acted as a mentor to Ross, urges Ross to look at the cause of malaria as “a Holy Grail and yourself as Sir Galahad and never give up the search” (154). Ross tells Manson that “faith” carried him through all the years of turmoil and setbacks (285), and reflects that his breakthrough was “a miracle of luck” (227). Ross also had a literary bent, as a published poet and novelist, which reveals his trust in the imagination and the creative arts as

Mosquitoes and Malaria  147 much as empirical science.35 “To my mind art and science are the same,” wrote Ross in 1909, in the preface to the second edition of his collection of poems, titled In Exile.36 So why does Ghosh misrepresent Ross in his novel as a one-­dimensional character who is hidden off-stage? Why does the author raid the colonial archive only to deliberately distort the central figure in the quest narrative regarding the discovery of the cause of one of the world’s major diseases? In simple terms, the mischaracterisation of Ross serves Ghosh’s polemic: that British colonial forces suppressed the development of subaltern Indian people during the Raj and that the European colonists’ mentality was one of narrow-minded rationalism, whereas the subaltern world view was imbued with intuition and imagination plus a communal, rather than individualistic, vision of science. If Ghosh were to have attributed his fictionalised Ross with any artistic temperament or creative desire, it would have muddied the neat binary oppositions that his polemic requires. Moreover, Ghosh’s approach is typical of what often occurs in magical realism with an historiographic metafictional element, in that the author consciously alters some of the historical aspects in order to highlight the impossibility of really knowing exactly what happened in the past. Mangala also complicates the historical narrative as she is marginalised on multiple levels: gender, class and colonised status. As Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak observes, the subaltern woman is “doubly effaced” because of the dominance of the male in society due to the ideological construction of gender.37 Mangala’s complexity, therefore, makes her more than just a stand-in for the non-Western Other. Through her character, Ghosh foregrounds the complexity that exists within the subaltern components of Indian society, highlighting that the “subaltern” is anything but a homogenous sub-stratum. This indicates a conscious attempt by Ghosh to abide by the philosophy of the Subaltern Studies group, in that it is the responsibility of intellectuals to acknowledge and somehow recuperate for signifying registers the history and presence of the subaltern.38 Ghosh takes his postcolonial critique of the subaltern a step further by creating a counterpart for the colonised Mangala in post-­independence India. Urmila Roy, whom we see living in Calcutta in 1995, is in many respects Mangala’s antithesis: a young, single, urban, educated, highly literate professional woman who is financially independent from working as a journalist for a news magazine. Nevertheless, Urmila still struggles to evade the strictures of traditional society and family expectations: for example, Urmila supports her elderly parents and younger brother financially, and resists her mother’s attempts to marry her off and quit her “awful job” (131). Above all, Urmila acts rationally. Yet, whereas Ghosh initially sets up Urmila as a foil for Mangala, by the end of the novel the two characters effectively merge into the one. Murugan

148  Mosquitoes and Malaria concludes that Urmila is the person whom Mangala’s spirit has chosen to be reincarnated (304). So what is Ghosh saying about the subaltern in this Mangala-Urmila pairing from antithesis to synthesis? On a prosaic level, the counterpoint illustrates upward social mobility for women and the marginalised in a modern, capitalist society. But on a deeper level, Ghosh is suggesting that the subaltern knowledge from colonial India is something which ought to be inherited by, and passed on to, all Indians, and not just the subaltern, in the post-independence era. ­Urmila does not and cannot represent the subaltern as she is an ambitious, ­middle-class, white-collar worker. But Ghosh ingeniously employs the supernatural – in the form of the Silence and the interpersonal transference ­technology – and magical realist techniques to demonstrate that Urmila is the natural inheritor, or beneficiary, of Mangala’s knowledge. Moreover, that the rational Urmila ultimately accepts Mangala’s mysticism suggests a breaking down of the rational and the intuitive, the scientific and the spiritual. The novel’s metaphor of the “Silence” represents the history of subaltern knowledge that has remained silent due to colonial history’s dominating narrative of science.39 Although the Silence is never defined as such, we can infer that it is the unseen force or power behind Mangala and her “counter-science” disciples. The Silence is a metaphoric expression of religion, of a spiritual realm that guides the earthly believers and removes those who threaten to obstruct their progress. In the novel, the legendary Indian fiction writer Phulboni, who at 85 has spent his life searching in vain for the Silence, describes it as “that most secret of deities” and Mangala as its “mistress” (31). The Silence, says Murugan, is for its followers “a religion” and one that chooses a handful of people “every once in a while” to take that religion forward in time (216). The Silence plays an active role in Ross’s life. In 1898, the Surgeon-­Colonel D.D. Cunningham, a pathologist and Fellow of the Royal ­Society, who initially did not want Ross to transfer to Calcutta, abruptly retires, allowing Ross to take over his lab.40 On his way back to England, Cunningham stops in Madras to attend a mystic session and has a “psychotic” meltdown. Mme Salminen, who is conducting the session, says, “There is nothing I can do: the Silence has come to claim him” (211). The inference is that the Silence orchestrates events to secure the lab in which Ross makes his breakthrough with malaria. Yet if we do take the Silence as a synecdoche for total, or unattainable, knowledge, the novel’s ambiguous ending seems to offer a warning about this meta-knowledge, something inherently sinister, like Icarus flying too close to the sun. Antar, who has been investigating Murugan’s disappearance, eventually sees him in a hologram-type image generated by the supercomputer Ava. He has become a grotesque figure with “yellow, decaying teeth,” “grime-caked eyes,” a “swollen, distended belly,” thighs “caked with mud and excrement” and maggots in his hair. The

Mosquitoes and Malaria  149 bodily grotesque, as Jenni Adams points out, is “a recurrent feature” of magical realist fiction, and is the literary embodiment or representation of trauma.41 Curiously, Murugan’s hands are “bound together by a pair of steel handcuffs” (291–292). Why is he handcuffed? We don’t know. But we can presume that he did cross over to be reincarnated because he begged Urmila, who is Mangala reincarnated, to take him with her, and she promised to do so (304), thereby implying that Murugan becomes the latest incarnation of Lutchman. On the novel’s final page, Antar finds himself surrounded by a number of people. A “restraining hand” appears “upon his wrist” as voices whisper, “We’ll help you across” (306). Handcuffs and a restraining hand are hardly symbols of freedom. On the contrary, they imply confinement or captivity.

Through Alien Eyes: How Science Fiction Enables a Reassessment of Magical Realism In addition to being literary forms that came to the fore in the twentieth century, magical realism and science fiction also share the distinction of being nebulous literary terms, which presents problems for critics attempting to define them.42 One early appraisal of science fiction alludes to the genre’s crossover with magical realism. In 1966, C.S. Lewis outlined five “sub-species” of science fiction, the fifth of which involves a “pseudo-scientific apparatus” that might even be regarded as ­“supernatural.”43 This supernatural element is a clear link to magical realism. Patrick Parrinder, drawing on H.G. Wells, argues science fiction involves an “initial premise” that “requires of the reader no more than the willing suspension of his disbelief.” This initial premise is speculative, concerning either the anticipation of future possibilities, which is extrapolated from “contemporary social and technological trends,” or a “purely hypothetical scientific ‘fantasy.’” “Though backed up by a display of scientific patter, the premise, whether of time-travel, invisibility or (to take more recent examples) teleportation or telepathy, is comparable to the traditional marvels of magic and fairy-tale,” says Parrinder. “Once the premise is granted, however, its consequences are explored in a spirit of rigorous realism.”44 Taking Parrinder’s definition, science fiction is similar to magical realism in that both kinds of writing require the reader to suspend his or her disbelief, and both are embedded in, or an extension of, realism. Claire Chambers observes that Parrinder’s idea of the “initial premise” can be applied to the mysterious biology behind the interpersonal transference in The Calcutta Chromosome.45 While Parrinder’s definition of science fiction is a simple, workable one, a comprehensive definition that seems to gain most critical acceptance is that offered by Darko Suvin. Suvin argues science fiction is the “literature of cognitive estrangement.” Science fiction, he continues, is “a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the

150  Mosquitoes and Malaria presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the author’s empirical environment” (original emphasis). By cognition, Suvin means a reflecting both of and on reality. Cognition, he says, “implies a creative approach tending toward a dynamic transformation rather than toward a static mirroring of the author’s environment.” By estrangement, Suvin refers to fiction’s capacity to defamiliarise the familiar, to question the nature of reality. The process of defamiliarisation, of course, is a key characteristic of magical realism. But so, too, is the cognitive aspect, in that the unexplainable factor of magical realist fiction prompts the reader to reconsider the nature of the real world from which the unreal emanates. Suvin also provides a secondary definition of science fiction that is not too dissimilar from Parrinder’s “initial premise.” Science fiction, adds Suvin, “is distinguished by the narrative dominance or hegemony of a fictional ‘novum’ (novelty, innovation) validated by cognitive logic” (original emphasis).46 The “novum” in The Calcutta Chromosome is, again, the weird strain of malaria that enables interpersonal transference. Suvin’s definition of science fiction has been described as “foundational”47 and “pathbreaking.”48 Fredric Jameson considers Suvin’s concept of “cognitive estrangement” to be “influential,” and one that builds on the Russian Formalist notion of “making strange.” Indeed, Jameson zeros in on science fiction’s defamiliarising aspect to argue that the genre’s essential achievement is to “restructure our experience of our own present” (original emphasis). Contrary to much popular belief, Jameson asserts that science fiction does not imagine the future, but rather the genre’s “mock futures” transform our present “into the determinate past of something yet to come.” In other words, science fiction “enacts and enables a structurally unique ‘method’ for apprehending the present as history.” Science fiction, therefore, results in “a contemplation of our own absolute limits.”49 Jameson’s analysis has a direct bearing on The Calcutta Chromosome’s narrative. The novel creates a “mock future” around Antar, a programmer and systems analyst who used to work for the mysterious non-profit organisation LifeWatch, a global public health consultancy and epidemiological data bank (8, 34), and is now employed in New York by LifeWatch’s parent company, the equally mysterious International Water Council. Antar is investigating the disappearance of his former colleague Murugan, who was the principal archivist at LifeWatch, with the help of the supercomputer Ava. Antar’s investigations involve the ‘present’ – the year 1995, when the novel was published, and when Murugan travels from New York to Calcutta to complete his own research on Ronald Ross. But these two time periods – the near future and the ‘present’ – serve as the means by which to reassess the past, the forgotten history of localised Indian scientific knowledge. Critically,

Mosquitoes and Malaria  151 the initial premise or the pseudo-science – namely, the interpersonal t­ ransference – is not set in the future, in Antar’s era, but in historical time during the British colonial rule of India more than a century ago. This is a vital part of the novel’s construction because it makes the text quintessentially postcolonial, enabling as it does a reassessment of both the history of the British Raj in India and the supposed independence and dominance of colonial science. In addition, Jameson’s key insight and the novel’s construction challenge a commonplace misconception of science fiction that the genre mostly involves a future scientific invention or pseudo-science.50 The Calcutta Chromosome demonstrates, then, a central crossover between magical realism, science fiction and historical fiction (Ghosh’s predominant style of writing) in that all three rework temporal mapping and question received assumptions about time. In all three styles time ceases to be linear but is instead portrayed as a non-linear or holistic phenomenon, in which the past, present and future are ever-present. Furthermore, all three kinds of writing have the capacity to challenge orthodox approaches to historiography, by disrupting standard notions of cause and effect, and linear progression. The overlapping between magical realism, science fiction and historical fiction is not confined to just temporal mapping, however, for they share the additional characteristic of reimagining the basis of knowledge. Jameson’s description of science fiction as a genre that illuminates humankind’s “absolute limits” overlaps with magical realism’s capacity to present alternative knowledge systems and reveal the gaps in that in-between space that may be unknowable. Indeed, Kenneth Wishnia, in a rare critical attempt to examine the parallels between magical realism and science fiction, highlights that both generic forms are fundamentally about the unknown outside of the known, and the unknowable within the known, the ultimate limits of consciousness, perception, experience, or seeing our own world through ‘alien’ eyes to understand it better or at least to acknowledge its gaps. 51 In turn, historical fiction reconstructs the mindsets and attitudes of past times from a contemporary perspective that has the benefit of the accumulated wisdom of the intervening years. In The Calcutta ­C hromosome, the limits or gaps in mortal knowledge are dramatised as the Silence, which represents the history of localised Indian knowledge that has remained silent due to colonial history’s dominating narrative of science. Both science fiction and magical realism, then, postulate an unexplainable event or episode that enables the text to defamiliarise the present in order that the reader can apply a cognitive reassessment of the real world that leads to an understanding of the present in relation to the past.

152  Mosquitoes and Malaria This is particularly true of postcolonial magical realism, in which the narrative mode is employed to critique the ramifications of colonial rule. Science fiction writers, as Michelle Reid notes, are increasingly drawn to postcolonial approaches to the genre in order to explore “translation and transition in the margins between cultures,” the same in-between space that is frequently examined by magical realist authors. 52 Or perhaps, more broadly, this highlights the fact that magical realism and science fiction both work well as historiographic metafiction or texts that are self-aware and seek to critically rework history and fiction as “human constructs.”53 For as Karen Hellekson points out, science fiction, when used as a subgenre of “alternate history,” poses the central question “What if the world were different?” 54 Magical realism, on the other hand, poses the additional question “What if the world is different?” Or at least different from an orthodox perception. In conclusion, the richly hybrid nature of The Calcutta Chromosome offers a unique opportunity to reexamine our theoretical assumptions about how we conceptualise magical realism. By taking a generic approach to the novel, by comparing magical realism with science fiction, it becomes apparent that while a text may have magical realist tendencies, it will also have tendencies of science fiction and a range of other generic kinds. In other words, a text may participate in magical realism but not belong to magical realism, just as it may participate in science fiction and other generic kinds without belonging to any of them. ­Magical realism, therefore, can only be an effective tool for literary analysis if it is used by critics in conjunction with tools to examine other generic kinds that operate within the text. The corollary is that a critic can only classify a hybrid work of fiction like The Calcutta Chromosome within the concept of magical realism if the critic is simultaneously classifying the work against magical realism. Notwithstanding these limitations, the rubric of magical realism does produce intellectual gains for Ghosh’s novel because it illuminates how the text reinserts ‘magic’ or faith back into science, placing belief and intuition at the foreground of scientific development, and dramatising the cross-cultural fertilisation of scientific ideas between the colonised and the colonisers. Moreover, the rubric also reveals a specific kind of development of intertextuality from which the magical or supernatural elements are derived. The intertextual fabric of the novel demonstrates that magical realism can originate predominantly from a textual essence, thereby reinforcing the argument that magical realism is, at its core, an aesthetic that exceeds contextual delineations despite engaging them in reading practices. ­Finally, Ghosh’s novel illustrates how magical realism can function as environmental discourse in a different manner by featuring the environment in biological terms. In this case, the transmission of malaria to humans by mosquitoes and the plot’s related special chromosome serve as a salient reminder that the existence of humans is entirely dependent on the natural world.

Mosquitoes and Malaria  153

Notes 1 Ghosh says his anthropological training – he completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in social anthropology at the University of Oxford – taught him how to observe people and to “translate raw experience onto the page.” See Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Makarand R. Paranjape, “An Interview – Amitav Ghosh: In Conversation with Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Makarand R. Paranjape,” in In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings, eds. Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya (New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2013), 25. 2 Brinda Bose, “Introduction,” in Amitav Ghosh: Critical Perspectives, ed. Brinda Bose (Delhi: Pencraft International, 2003), 25. 3 Samrat Laskar, “Trapped in the Circle: A Postcolonial Critique of ‘Reason,’” in In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings, eds. Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya (New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2013), 103. 4 Marakand R. Paranjape, “Mutations of The Calcutta Chromosome? Amitav Ghosh and the Mapping of a “Minor” Literature,” in In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings, eds. Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya (New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2013), 41. 5 Anshuman A. Mondal, Amitav Ghosh (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 72. 6 The Circle of Reason has two overt magical realist events. The first occurs when villagers believe that a warplane that crashed in the grounds of Balaram’s school conceived the child of the schoolmaster’s wife. The plane was “a gigantic chrome-plated penis” that had “an element of the supernatural” (98). The second episode occurs when migrant workers in the Gulf port of al-Ghazira believe the ghost of a dead sheik saves Alu after a building under construction collapses on him. Alu is the only worker inside the Star at the time of the accident. He survives due to a “huge slab of concrete” coming to rest on two antique sewing machines, thereby preventing the rubble from crushing him (240). Although the rational explanation for the collapse is that the contractors mix too much sand in the cement, enabling them to sell the surplus cement offshore (244), the migrant workers believe Alu’s survival is a “miracle” enacted by the dead sheikh, whose grave lies under the site of the Star (275). The Star collapse has a particularly postcolonial theme, given that the new commercial site is “almost another country,” barely “minutes away from the border,” and designed to attract retail business away from the ancient Souq marketplace in the “heart of the old town” (194). The tale, as Robert Dixon points out, can be read as an allegory “about the cultural logic of global capitalism destroying the ancient trading cultures of the Middle East” (Robert Dixon, “‘Travelling in the West’: The Writing of Amitav Ghosh,” in Amitav Ghosh: A Critical Companion, ed. Tabish Khair (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003), 17). Ghosh utilises a more nuanced kind of magical realism in Sea of Poppies, and, although the magical realist incidents in this later novel are sparing, they are nevertheless germane to the overall plot. The central narrative is framed by the Indian poppy farmer Deeti’s supernatural vision of a British ship, the Ibis, sailing upriver in 1838. The text makes it clear that Deeti’s “apparition” in her mind’s eye is a form of premonition for she lives 400 miles inland, “had never seen such a vessel before” (3) and receives her vision when the ship lays anchor a great distance from her home. The narrator says (9), It was accepted [by the people of her village] that it was the river itself that had granted Deeti the vision: that the image of the Ibis had been transported upstream, like an electric current, the moment the vessel made contact with the sacred waters.

154  Mosquitoes and Malaria Even the children regard Deeti as “a witch” (5). Deeti eventually joins other migrants on the Ibis as it transports them to the island of Mareech, which provides the third and final part of the novel. The other main supernatural episode occurs when Baboo Nob Kissin believes his aunt and would-be lover, Ma Taramony, fulfils her deathbed promise that “your body will be the vessel for my return,” and that her spirit will manifest itself in him in order to “achieve the most perfect union.” Ten years after her death, ­Baboo Nob Kissin thinks he hears Ma Taramony’s voice telling him to sail on the Ibis (152). Once aboard, Baboo Nob Kissin feels her spirits “gestating within” him (388), causing him to free the imprisoned characters Raja Neel Rattan and Kalua on the ship (460). Thus Baboo Nob Kissin’s actions serve as catalysts for important plot points. 7 Amitav Ghosh, The Calcutta Chromosome (1995; reprint, London: John Murray, 2011), 247; hereafter cited by page in the text. 8 Frederick Luis Aldama, “An Interview with Amitav Ghosh,” World Literature Today 76, no. 2 (2002), 87. 9 Michael Bell, “Magical Realism Revisited,” in English Now: Selected Papers from the 20th IAUPE Conference in Lund 2007, ed. Marianne Thormählen (Lund: Lund University Press, 2008), 127. 10 Maggie Ann Bowers, Magic(al) Realism (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 55. 11 Mondal, Amitav Ghosh, 1. 12 Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya, “Introduction,” In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings, eds. Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya (New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2013), 3. 13 Antonia Susan Byatt, On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays (London: Chatto & Windus, 2000), 10, 11. 14 Bose, “Introduction,” 18. 15 Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (London and New York: Routledge, 1988), 119. 16 Ghosh says he has “no truck” with the term postcolonial and that it ­“completely misrepresents the focus of the work that I do.” Ghosh questions whether Homi Bhabha and other postcolonial theorists “have somehow invented this world which is just a set of representations of representations.” See Neluka Silva and Alex Tickell, “An Interview with Amitav Ghosh,” in Amitav Ghosh: Critical Perspectives, ed. Brinda Bose (Delhi: Pencraft International, 2003), 214–215. 17 Roland Barthes, “Theory of the Text” (1973), in Untying the Text: A Post-Structuralist Reader, ed. Robert Young (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), 39. 18 Mondal, 55. 19 Ronald Ross, Memoirs (London: John Murray, 1923); hereafter cited by page in the text. 20 Silva and Tickell, “An Interview with Amitav Ghosh,” 220. 21 Amitav Ghosh, The Hungry Tide (London: HarperCollins, 2004), 6; hereafter cited by page in the text. 22 Gérard Genette, The Architext: An Introduction, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 81–82. 23 Ranajit Guha, “Preface,” in Selected Subaltern Studies, eds. Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 35. Guha’s definition captures the underlying idea of the Subaltern Studies collective, of which he was founding editor, and which was formed in the 1980s to counter the historiography of Indian nationalism that had, up to that time, been dominated by elitism from both British colonialists and Indian bourgeois-nationalists. The collective’s objective was to write the subaltern back into Indian history.

Mosquitoes and Malaria  155 24 Ranajit Guha, “On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India,” in Selected Subaltern Studies, eds. Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 40. 25 Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception, trans. Alice M. Sheridan (1963; London: Routledge, 1993), 165. 26 Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic, 55. 27 Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith (1969; London: Routledge, 1992), 128, 130. 28 Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, 185. 29 Claire Chambers, “Postcolonial Science Fiction: Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome,” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 38, no. 1 (2003): 69. 30 Lou Ratté, “Unlikely Encounters: Fiction and Scientific Discourse in the Novels of Amitav Ghosh,” in History, Narrative, and Testimony in Amitav Ghosh’s Fiction, ed. Chitra Sankaran (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012), 17–20. 31 Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 56, 94. 32 Wendy B. Faris, Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative (Nashville, CT: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004), 7. 33 David Arnold, Science, Technology and Medicine in Colonial India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 13. 34 Chambers, “Postcolonial Science Fiction,” 68. 35 The real-life Ross was so committed to his literary aspirations that, years before his malaria discovery, he was seriously “thinking of taking to literature as a profession” after his first pension became due in 1897, having been inspired by Rudyard Kipling and other former British officers in India who had become successful writers of fiction. Although Ross did not live up to his literary dreams, he did realise limited achievement. In 1896, Ross’s novel Spirit of Storm, published by Methuen & Co, sold out its first edition of 2,000 copies. See Ross, Memoirs, 106. 36 Ronald Ross, In Exile (London: Harrison and Sons, 1931), v. 37 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Can the Subaltern Speak? Reflections on the History of an Idea, ed. Rosalind C. Morris (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 41. 38 Amitav Ghosh’s essay “The Slave of Ms.H.6” was first published in the Subaltern Studies journal in 1992. 39 Ghosh, when asked in an interview about what the Silence represents in The Calcutta Chromosome, replied: “I think silence is something which plays a very important part especially within Indian lives. … [T]here were so many sorts of events which are just constantly, as it were, wrapped in silence.” See Chitra Sankaran, “Diasporic Predicaments: An Interview with Amitav Ghosh,” in History, Narrative, and Testimony in Amitav Ghosh’s Fiction, ed. Chitra Sankaran (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012), 12. 40 The real-life Cunningham’s lab in Calcutta was, in fact, placed at Ross’s disposal after Cunningham, who was a Professor of Physiology, retired in 1898. The lab was where Ross made his critical malaria discovery. Ross describes the lab as “an isolated building close to a large European hospital, a native hospital and two jails. It has all necessary appliances.” See Ross, Memoirs, 259, 260, 262. 41 Jenni Adams, Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature: Troping the Traumatic Real (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 82. 42 Ghosh says his personal interest in science fiction, and science, was sparked in his childhood by the Bengali writer and filmmaker Satyajit Ray. See ­A mitav Ghosh, “Satyajit Ray,” in Amitav Ghosh: A Critical Companion, ed. Tabish Khair (Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003), 5.

156  Mosquitoes and Malaria 43 Clive Staples Lewis, “On Science Fiction,” in Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, ed. Walter Hooper (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1966), 68. Patrick ­Parrinder says that Lewis first delivered his analysis of science fiction subspecies at a talk given to the Cambridge University Club in 1955. See Patrick ­Parrinder, Science Fiction: Its Criticism and Teaching (London and New York: Routledge, 1980), xv. 4 4 Parrinder, Science Fiction, 11. 45 Chambers, 59. 46 Darko Suvin, Metamorphosis of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1979), viii, 4, 7–8, 10, 63. 47 Andrew Milner, Locating Science Fiction (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012), 23. 48 Carl Freedman, Critical Theory and Science Fiction (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2000), xvi. 49 Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (London: Verso, 2005), xiv, 286, 288–289. 50 The OED, for example, defines science fiction as: “Imaginative fiction based on postulated scientific discoveries or spectacular environmental changes, freq. set in the future or on other planets and involving space or time travel” (my emphasis). John A. Simpson and Edmund S.C. Weiner, The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., vol. XIV (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 649. 51 Kenneth Wishnia, “Science Fiction and Magic Realism: Two Openings, Same Space,” Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction 59 (1993), 30. 52 Michelle Reid, “Postcolonialism,” in The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, eds. Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sherryl Vint (London: Routledge, 2009), 256. 53 Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism, 4–5. 54 Karen Hellekson, “Alternate History,” in The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, eds. Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sherryl Vint (London: Routledge, 2009), 453.

Bibliography Primary Sources Ghosh, Amitav. The Circle of Reason. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1986. ———. The Calcutta Chromosome. 1995. Reprint, London: John Murray, 2011. ———. “Satyajit Ray.” In Amitav Ghosh: A Critical Companion, edited by Tabish Khair, 1–8. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003. ———. The Hungry Tide. London: HarperCollins, 2004. ———. Sea of Poppies. London: John Murray, 2008. ———. The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Secondary Sources Adams, Jenni. Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature: Troping the Traumatic Real. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Aldama, Frederick Luis. “An Interview with Amitav Ghosh.” World Literature Today 76, no. 2 (2002): 84–90.

Mosquitoes and Malaria  157 Arnold, David. Science, Technology and Medicine in Colonial India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Barthes, Roland. “Theory of the Text.” In Untying the Text: A Post-­Structuralist Reader, edited by Robert Young, 32–47. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987. Bell, Michael. “Magical Realism Revisited.” In English Now: Selected ­Papers from the 20th IAUPE Conference in Lund 2007, edited by Marianne Thormählen, 126–136. Lund: Lund University Press, 2008. Bose, Brinda. “Introduction.” In Amitav Ghosh: Critical Perspectives, edited by Brinda Bose, 13–25. Delhi: Pencraft International, 2003. Bowers, Maggie Ann. Magic(al) Realism. Abingdon: Routledge, 2004. Byatt, Antonia Susan. On Histories and Stories: Selected Essays. London: Chatto & Windus, 2000. Chambers, Claire. “Postcolonial Science Fiction: Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 38, no. 1 (2003): 57–72. Dixon, Robert. “‘Travelling in the West’: The Writing of Amitav Ghosh.” In Amitav Ghosh: A Critical Companion, edited by Tabish Khair, 9–35. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2003. Faris, Wendy B. Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004. Foucault, Michel. The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception. Translated by A.M. Sheridan. London: Routledge, 1993. Originally published as Naissance de la clinique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1963. ———. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Translated by A.M. Sheridan Smith. London: Routledge, 1992. Originally published as L’Archéologie du savoir. Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1969. Freedman, Carl. Critical Theory and Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2000. Genette, Gérard. The Architext: An Introduction. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. Originally published as Introduction á l’architexte. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1979. ———. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Originally published as Seuils. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1987. Ghosh, Tapan Kumar, and Makarand R. Paranjape. “An Interview – ­Amitav Ghosh: In Conversation with Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Makarand R. ­Paranjape.” In In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings, edited by Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya, 23–31. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2013. Ghosh, Tapan Kumar, and Prasanta Bhattacharya. “Introduction.” In In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings, edited by Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya, 1–15. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2013. Guha, Ranajit. “On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India.” In Selected Subaltern Studies, edited by Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 37–44. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. ———. “Preface.” In Selected Subaltern Studies, edited by Ranajit Guha and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 35–36. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Hellekson, Karen. “Alternate History.” In The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sherryl Vint, 453–457. London: Routledge, 2009.

158  Mosquitoes and Malaria Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. London and New York: Routledge, 1988. Jameson, Fredric. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London: Verso, 2005. Laskar, Samrat. “Trapped in the Circle: A Postcolonial Critique of ‘Reason.’” In In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings, edited by Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya, 103–114. New Delhi: Orient Black Swan, 2013. Lewis, C.S. “On Science Fiction.” In Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, edited by Walter Hooper, 59–73. London: Geoffrey Bles, 1966. Milner, Andrew. Locating Science Fiction. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012. Mondal, Anshuman A. Amitav Ghosh. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007. Paranjape, Marakand R. “Mutations of The Calcutta Chromosome? Amitav Ghosh and the Mapping of a ‘Minor’ Literature.” In In Pursuit of Amitav Ghosh: Some Recent Readings, edited by Tapan Kumar Ghosh and Prasanta Bhattacharya, 33–63. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan, 2013. Parrinder, Patrick. Science Fiction: Its Criticism and Teaching. London and New York: Routledge, 1980. Ratté, Lou. “Unlikely Encounters: Fiction and Scientific Discourse in the Novels of Amitav Ghosh.” In History, Narrative, and Testimony in Amitav Ghosh’s Fiction, edited by Chitra Sankaran, 17–32. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012. Reid, Michelle. “Postcolonialism.” In The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sherryl Vint, 256–266. London: Routledge, 2009. Ross, Ronald. Memoirs. London: John Murray, 1923. ———. In Exile. London: Harrison and Sons, 1931. Sankaran, Chitra. “Diasporic Predicaments: An Interview with Amitav Ghosh.” In History, Narrative, and Testimony in Amitav Ghosh’s Fiction, edited by Chitra Sankaran, 1–15. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2012. Silva, Neluka, and Alex Tickell. “An Interview with Amitav Ghosh.” In ­A mitav Ghosh: Critical Perspectives, edited by Brinda Bose, 214–221. Delhi: ­Pencraft International, 2003. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Can the Subaltern Speak? Reflections on the History of an Idea, edited by Rosalind C. Morris, 21–78. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. Suvin, Darko. Metamorphosis of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1979. Wishnia, Kenneth. “Science Fiction and Magic Realism: Two Openings, Same Space.” Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction 59 (1993): 29–41.

6 Purity and Parody Mo Yan’s Resistance to Western Magical Realism in Pursuit of His Own Chinese Style “Re-examine my experiences afresh”: Inspiration Rather Than Imitation Although Mo Yan has been regarded as one of China’s foremost contemporary novelists for the past three decades, his win of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature provided a salient reminder that writers of magical realism from Asia are often left out of critical scholarship on magical realist narrative. Irrespective of the prize, Mo Yan ought to hold a central position in the global canon of magical realism because his utilisation of the narrative mode is distinctly Chinese, and, as such, he develops the narrative mode in new directions. While Mo Yan was influenced by foreign authors early in his writing career, in particular Gabriel García Márquez, I argue that he uses their explorations in magical realism as an inspiration rather than as examples to be imitated. Not only are the magical realist elements highly idiosyncratic to Mo Yan’s literary style, they also change over time and overlap with traditional Chinese literary influences. Underlying these domestic influences is the impact of Taoism on Chinese philosophy and, as a consequence, classical Chinese literature. Taoism’s basis upon the natural world and forces of the physical universe are apparent in the environmental aspects of Mo Yan’s fiction. Therefore, it is particularly difficult to accurately explain the kinds of magical realism in his works, and prompts the question whether magical realism adequately describes what is present in them. This may be partly why critics have given various magical realist labels to his fiction, such as “fantastical realism”1 and “carnivalesque magical realism,”2 or the Swedish Academy’s cognate term, “hallucinatory realism.”3 Mo Yan’s early novels exhibit elements of the kind of magical realism derived from García Márquez, which Jeanne Delbaere says “accommodates the supernatural, relies heavily on superstition and primitive faith and has its source in popular myths, legends and folklore as well as in the oral tradition.”4 Mo Yan draws on cultural and folkloric beliefs, particularly from the Shandong province in North-East China, where the author was born, and which serves as the location for most of his fiction. This is particularly evident in novels like Red Sorghum (Hong

160  Purity and Parody gaoliang, 红高粱, 1987) and The Garlic Ballads (Tiantang suantai zhige, 天堂蒜薹之歌, 1988). Mo Yan utilises the supernatural in order to reimagine an alternative historiography that challenges the official version of Chinese history. Yet, as his literary career progressed, the presence of magical realist characteristics became more spasmodic in his works. This was largely due to Mo Yan adopting an experimental realist style in historical novels like Big Breasts & Wide Hips (Fengru feitun, 丰乳肥臀, 1995) and Sandalwood Death (Tanxiang xing, 檀香刑, 2001). This pattern was interrupted, however, with the trenchantly satirical The Republic of Wine (Jiu guo, 酒国, 1992), which employs magical realism as metafiction in order to critique rampant materialism of a post-Mao, market-oriented China, and exploitation of peasants. Mo Yan’s novel is similar to Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromome (1995) in that both books are constructed upon a complex mosaic of intertexts, and it is from the interplay of these intertexts that the magical elements are derived. In this chapter, I will demonstrate how Mo Yan in The Republic of Wine employs intertextuality to develop the traditional literary trope of cannibalism as a satirical vehicle, which, in turn, creates a grotesqueness that is typical of much magical realist fiction. What we find in Mo Yan, then, is a writer similar to Ghosh in that he utilises magical realism for some books but not for others, and amid a range of literary styles that are often difficult to categorise. Mo Yan (born 1956) emerged as a writer in the 1980s with the “root-seeking” group of Chinese writers who aimed to probe “the roots of national character through local folk culture” and to recover a sense of national identity and cultural spirit by looking back to the past. 5 These writers produced “subversive historiographies” as a reaction against Maoism-Marxism and reimagined Chinese history in literature.6 Authors like Mo Yan who grew up during Mao Zedong’s reign began to question what their country’s true history actually was, by injecting their own subjective take on China’s past and writing parodies of the Chinese Communist Party’s grand narrative of national history. Magical realism, with its Bakhtinian capacity for enabling multiple discourses and alternative points of view, was an attractive antidote to Mao’s stultifying socialist realism.7 Mo Yan and other writers of his generation benefitted from a relaxation of ideological rigidity and an opening up to the West under Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms following Mao’s death in 1976. After three decades of foreign literature being effectively shut out of China, literary imports quickly flowed in. Mo Yan says he “welcomed the ideological emancipation and literary fervour.”8 China experienced a revival in ­Chinese translations of Western books. Among them was García Márquez’s seminal magical realist work, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), which became “an inspirational model” for many Chinese writers who were keen to produce literature that could “move toward the world”

Purity and Parody  161 without losing its Chinese character.9 Magical realism, which in Chinese is known by its literal translation, mohuan xianshizhuyi (魔幻现实主义), was soon adapted by many Chinese authors.10 Mo Yan acknowledges he was “greatly inspired” early in his career by García Márquez, especially the Colombian’s fictional locale of Macondo, which prompted him to create his own “literary domain” of North-East Gaomi Township, where most of his fiction is set.11 On the other hand, Mo Yan claims he was “shocked and angry” when he first read García Márquez, because “I felt that I already possessed what Márquez had. If I had known it earlier, I would have written fiction that way. However, he really inspired me to re-examine my experiences afresh.”12 I take this remark to mean that Mo Yan recognised magical realist elements in his own work once he had objectively identified, through the Colombian’s fiction, what magical realism was as a literary style. The epiphany Mo Yan describes is important because it supports my contention that while magical realist elements can be identified in Mo Yan’s fiction, the underlying artistic expression that produced these elements may often have more to do with Mo Yan’s individual style and his Chinese literary heritage rather than a conscious attempt to adapt a ‘foreign’ generic kind of magical realism. Any description of Mo Yan’s own style of magical realism is further complicated by the issue of translation. Although most of the key authors in this monograph write in English, Mo Yan and Taiwanese author Wu Ming-Yi, who features in the next chapter, write in their respective native languages. Indeed, Mo Yan is monolingual as he neither speaks nor reads any language other than Chinese (specifically, Mandarin). This has a dual significance: he absorbed foreign magical realist fiction through translations, and his own fiction is read by an international audience mostly through translations. Translation has been a paramount concern for Mo Yan as he has long desired “a large readership,” which, on a global scale, necessarily requires translations in multiple languages.13 Consequently, his work has been published in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese, among other languages.14 Despite this, Mo Yan’s work has so far received more critical attention in China than in the West.15 Chinese fiction, unfortunately, still suffers from being pushed to the periphery of world literature. Critics have suggested this may be partly explained by an imbalance in translations, whereby many Western literary works are available in Chinese while “few excellent” Chinese works are translated into foreign languages,16 or by the attitudes of some large publishers, which are dominated by Western corporations, perceiving Chinese fiction to be “little known” and therefore “unlikely to attract audiences.”17 Nevertheless, I argue that Mo Yan’s fiction, due to its extensive availability through multiple linguistic translations, ought to be positioned within the context of world literature, following David Damrosch’s definition of world literature as “a mode of circulation and of reading” rather than an “infinite, ungraspable canon of works.” In

162  Purity and Parody other words, the fact that Mo Yan’s fiction is published in a wide variety of different languages accords with Damrosch’s observation that a work of world literature circulates out into a broader world beyond its “linguistic and cultural point of origin.”18 Enhanced availability, however, is not necessarily correlated with cross-cultural understanding. Even though, as Mo Yan optimistically says, “translated language carries a trace of the original,” translations can never fully convey the nuances and subtleties of the primary text.19 As Emily Apter states, “Something is always lost in translation. Unless one knows the language of the original, the exact nature and substance of what is lost will always be impossible to ascertain.”20 This truism complicates critical analysis of Mo Yan’s fiction for those who do not read Chinese, since elements in the original text may not be conveyed in the translated version. For example, the close and long-standing relationship between Mo Yan and his English-language translator, Howard Goldblatt, who began collaborating with the author in 1988, suggests Goldblatt’s translations incorporate a significant degree of the translator’s artistic licence. Mo Yan says Goldblatt’s translations have “made my novels better,” although I take this to be a self-deprecatory statement confirming Goldblatt’s translations significantly modify his Chinese texts. 21 Goldblatt says it is his “duty” as a translator to “faithfully reproduce … my interpretation of what the author meant – and not necessarily what he wrote” (my emphasis). 22 Goldblatt’s comment emphasises the translator’s role to be that of an interpreter. Walter Benjamin, in discussing the difference between the roles of the poet (which I take as author) and the translator, says, “The task of the translator consists in finding that intended effect [Intention] upon the language into which he is translating which produces in it the echo of the original.” Benjamin’s argument is that while the poet (or author) is concerned with the “totality” of language, the translator is focussed on “specific linguistic contextual aspects.” As a result, the translator produces an “echo,” or reverberation, of the original work.23 When it comes to translations of Mo Yan’s fiction, the scholar of magical realism must be mindful of both the echoes created by the translator and the original cultural elements that were not, or could not, be translated. Linguistic and cultural differences also figure in the overlap between magical realist fiction and classical Chinese literature, which informs Mo Yan’s work. One of the key themes of this monograph is to explore the difficulties in applying magical realism as a rubric with which to analyse non-Western fiction. Mo Yan’s novels highlight how problematic this can be. Lena Rydholm offers a salutary warning against automatically applying Western theories of genre, style and fiction to Chinese literature, which has its own distinctive features and qualities as a result not only of the language, literary conventions or aesthetic values, but also from

Purity and Parody  163 its deep roots in China’s cultural, philosophical, political and historical background that neither Western theories nor terminology can completely cover. 24 Nevertheless, Chinese scholars have remarked on similarities between magical realism and classical Chinese fiction. David Der-wei Wang, for example, argues that while Mo Yan’s fictional characters “are extremely difficult to box into any kind of generalization,” their actions “not only express the special traits of magic realism and the influence of traditional Chinese legends of the strange, but also display a startling similarity between these two very different literary genres.” Notice that Wang emphasises the “very” difference between magical realism and Chinese legends of the strange (called chuanqi) yet at the same time draws attention to their similarities: for example, with characters undergoing metamorphosis and being reincarnated. 25 Ming Dong Gu asserts that magical realist elements – in the form of the supernatural, the grotesque and the fantastic – are present in five of the “six commonly acknowledged masterpieces” of classical Chinese fiction.26 Elsewhere, he argues that classical Chinese literature, with its “strange and extraordinary things or events,” and its “blurring of the real and the unreal,” actually “anticipated the modern technique of magic realism” (my emphasis). 27 His choice of the word “anticipated” is critical, for Ming Dong Gu does not claim that magical realism existed within classical Chinese literature but that classical Chinese literature was a kind of antecedent to magical realism. However, Ming Dong Gu concludes that classical Chinese fiction “differs fundamentally” from magical realism due to the preponderance of underlying cultural factors that are not characteristic of the narrative mode. In particular, he says, classical Chinese fiction can be traced back to Taoist epistemology, an idea I will discuss in more detail later. Instead, he argues that what exists in classical Chinese fiction might ­ supernatural be more accurately described as “mythical realism” or “ realism.”28 In short, both David Der-wei Wang and Ming Dong Gu observe similarities between magical realism and classical Chinese literature while at the same time emphasising their differences as generic kinds. My purpose here is to raise the likelihood that magical realism shares similarities with classical Chinese literature. Rather than equate magical realism with classical Chinese literature, it would be better to invoke Ludwig Wittgenstein’s concept of “family resemblances,” which concerns phenomena that do not have any one thing in common but are related to one another in many different ways, and which I referred to in the Introduction. Wittgenstein describes “family resemblances” as “a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail.”29 By applying ­Wittgenstein’s theory, I argue that the magical realist elements present in classical Chinese literature resemble those elements that exist in modern

164  Purity and Parody magical realist fiction. The elements are not necessarily the same, but they do belong to the same family. They overlap and criss-cross. The corollary is that Mo Yan draws on two streams of influence in relation to magical realist literary elements, one domestic and the other foreign. In addition, the comments by David Der-wei Wang and Ming Dong Gu support my argument that the genealogy of magical realist fiction ought to be based on polygenesis, arising from different cultures at different times. Another feature that distinguishes Mo Yan from many other writers of magical realism is his use of the narrative mode in a communist or, more accurately, post-communist society. Relatively few writers of magical realism from communist states have been the focus of literary criticism in the West: Mikhail Bulgakov (of the former Soviet Union) and Vaclav Havel (of the former Czechoslovakia) are among that small group. Whereas most of the other key authors in this monograph write against the political domination and social injustices faced by their own people in a postcolonial context, Mo Yan often writes against the oppression of Chinese people by his country’s authoritarian regime, the Chinese Communist Party. My contention is that magical realism enables Mo Yan to portray a fractured society during historical crises, of which China has experienced continuously over the past century, and to circumvent internal censorship. Although the indirect language of metaphor, allegory or parable is a time-tried means of eluding censorship in China, 30 magical realism provides Mo Yan with a convenient mode of writing to address important social and political themes by challenging the nationalistic narrative promoted by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) without incurring the wrath of the censors. Nevertheless, he has had to carefully time his interventions. For example, he could have written about China’s controversial one-child policy at any time since it was introduced in 1979 to slow population growth. Yet he chose not to do so until the publication of Frog (Wa, 蛙, 2009) three decades later, once the regime had begun to relax the policy in certain situations. 31 Frog’s central character, the obstetrician and zealous Party member Aunt Gugu, becomes wracked with guilt in her 60s about performing more than 2,000 abortions as a result of enforcing the one-child policy. “I’ll never again soil my hands with that atrocious act!” declares Gugu. Stylistically, the novel is written mostly in a realist style, portraying the death of pregnant women who were forced to undergo botched abortions in a documentary-like manner, thus focussing on the physical and emotional consequences. Yet the novel includes a single magical realist sequence in which Gugu is confronted by phantasmagoric imagery that encapsulates what she had dedicated her life to. After a dinner celebrating her retirement, she is attacked by “tens of thousands of frogs” that nearly strip her naked as she walks home, drenching her in what she believes is semen. The attacking

Purity and Parody  165 frogs serve as a metaphor as tadpoles, or baby frogs, are said to resemble the human foetus in the first trimester. In this scene they enact revenge on Gugu’s conscience. Moreover, the Chinese word for frog, wa (蛙), sounds the same as that for baby, wa (娃), although the Chinese characters are different. Of course, both Chinese words correspond onomatopoeically to the sound of a baby’s cry.32 Frog illustrates how Mo Yan operates in a “gray zone,” that amorphous area in which “many” writers and artists in China “bend or even flout the rules to evade the PRC’s censorship mechanisms, but do not confront the government outright,” says Jeffrey Wasserstrom. “Instead, they make careful judgment calls about how far they can push before the authorities will push back.”33 Another critic describes challenging the Chinese censors as a “game.”34 Howard Goldblatt says Mo Yan “avoids direct, overt criticism of established institutions and policies while revealing social pathologies and what he characterizes as a devolution of attitudes and behaviors in the Party.” What may grate with Western sensibilities is Goldblatt’s admission that Mo Yan applies a pragmatic “self-censorship.”35 I take Goldblatt’s comment to mean Mo Yan protects himself from charges of sedition or anything else that might land him in jail. Salman Rushdie, however, labelled Mo Yan a “patsy for the regime” because he had refused to sign a petition for the release of Liu Xiaobo, the literary critic and human rights activist who was imprisoned in 2009 and who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, and because Mo Yan had reportedly said, after winning his Nobel, that defamation and rumours “should be censored.”36 I propose that Mo Yan’s position is that of both an insider and an outsider. His outsider status is derived from being the child of rural peasants, who were classed as “upper-middle peasant” during the ­Cultural Revolution (1966–1976). This class was out of favour politically at that time, and so Mo Yan was denied an education beyond grade five and forced into manual labour as a teenager. He joined the ­People’s ­Liberation Army in 1976 essentially to escape rural life, employed initially as a soldier and later as a teacher and member of the literary and cultural division. 37 “I may look like a writer, but deep down I’m still a peasant,” he says. 38 Mo Yan’s identification with a peasant consciousness informs the political nature of his fiction for it subverts both the Chinese Communist Party’s narrative of history and domestic literary conventions. Mo Yan maintains that, since the establishment of the PRC, “the workers have had a better life and a higher political status than peasants,” and that the “peasants have been discriminated against in society.” He questions, therefore, whether the peasants have actually been liberated, as the official narrative states. 39 In his fiction, Mo Yan reimagines the past and the present from the point of view of those on the lowest stratum of society, reconstructing history from the lives who have been written out of it. His humanisation of peasants contrasts

166  Purity and Parody with the literature of the May Fourth Movement in China in the early twentieth century, which largely imagined peasants “as faceless beings” and presented them as the alien “other.” His fiction also undermines the “model” worker-peasant-­soldier literature of the Maoist era, in which socialist heroes overthrow the ruling class.40 Mo Yan’s self-perception as a peasant outsider is reflected in his pen name, Mo Yan (莫言), which means “don’t speak.” The writer born as Guan Moye (管谟业) describes his nom de plume as “an ironic expression of self-mockery” because he has a “natural desire” to talk41 and reveal “the unvarnished truth.”42 Mo Yan deploys magical realist techniques involving the supernatural in many of his novels partly as a strategy to reimagine an alternative historiography for China, thereby questioning the official history constructed by the Party. The historical point of view in Mo Yan’s work is frequently fictionalised from a peasant’s perspective. In order to create an historical counter-narrative, however, Mo Yan required new forms expression between author and reader that would encapsulate China’s profound historical upheavals. In magical realist fiction, the ‘magic’ acts as an adjunct or supplement to the rational world that is frequently “summoned by reason in moments of crisis.”43 This is evident in several of Mo Yan’s novels that depict ongoing social upheaval in China since Mao’s reign. In Big Breasts & Wide Hips (1996),44 the peasant ­Shangguan ­Jintong refuses to grow into a mature man, harbouring an obsession with women’s breasts, surviving on milk until his teens (342) and not experiencing sex until the age of 20 in a bizarre act of necrophilia with the corpse of a woman he had spurned (424). Jintong’s childlike existence, which is reminiscent of Oskar in Günter Grass’s magical realist German novel The Tin Drum (1959), is resistant to the Party’s official narrative of a country ‘maturing’ by virtue of Mao’s industrialisation programmes and Deng Xiaoping’s market reforms. Even when, in 1991, Jinton manages to turn his breast fixation into commercial success in his mid-50s as the chief executive of a bra company, he is doomed to fail: his new wife takes over the business and divorces him (522–526). His childish naivety is a handicap in a commoditised economy. China’s post-communist era is characterised by “imbalance, disparity, conflict, and contradictions,” which, in turn, has led to a “general disintegration of a real or imagined national political, intellectual, and cultural discourse,” says Xudong Zhang.45 The corollary is that discursive practices in China are “caught in an ironic tension” that no longer achieve a national consensus, says Xiaobing Tang.46 Mo Yan highlights this ironic tension of a lack of consensual discourse in the satirical Life and Death are Wearing Me Out (Shengsi pilao, 生死疲劳, 2006). ­Drawing on Buddhist ontology, the narrator, Ximen Nao, is executed for being a landlord and keeps being reincarnated, as a donkey, ox, pig, dog and monkey, only to witness successive injustices being perpetrated against his family.47 Mo Yan blurs the distinction between humans and

Purity and Parody  167 animals as Ximen Nao is forced to witness society on a level below that of the peasant. While the narrative is mostly set during Mao’s reign, it continues until 1991, with the endless calamities befalling the narrator’s family undermining the notion of teleological progress as proselytised by both communism and capitalism. The Garlic Ballads (1988)48 upends Maoist ideology by portraying peasants as the victims of government ineptitude and corruption rather than as victorious socialist heroes. Based on an actual event, the novel depicts a revolt by garlic farmers against corrupt local government officials.49 The novel proved so controversial it was temporarily banned following the Tiananmen Square massacre of student and worker protestors in 1989.50 Throughout the novel a frisky chestnut colt keeps reappearing as a symbol of liberation and freedom, in contrast to the peasants’ effective servitude even under a state-controlled capitalist economy. In one magical realist scene, the colt tries to prevent Fang Jinju from hanging herself by licking her hand as tears well up in both the colt and the pregnant woman (139). Meanwhile, Jinju’s unborn yet conscious son shouts at his mother that he wants to stroke the colt’s head, representing a desire to be freed from the womb. But Jinju, worn down by a lifetime of oppression, and distraught that her garlic farmer lover is on the run from the police due to the revolt, kills herself and thus the child, too (140). The subtext of this phantasmagoric incident is that peasants, even unborn ones, remain subjugated and are prevented by the new social order from attaining freedom. Although Sandalwood Death (2001) is mainly written in an experimental realist style, it includes supernatural elements that represent indigenous Chinese beliefs and customs that stand in resistance to the foreign powers, such as Germany, that dominated the Qing Dynasty, China’s last imperial regime, at the time of the Boxer Rebellion around 1900. 51 The supernatural elements include a tiger’s whisker that enables a person to see someone else’s true form as an animal (another transgression of the human-animal divide) (4), a fox spirit that instructs a woman how to ensnare the love of a magistrate (127), a ghost (50–51) and an executioner with “small demonic hands” that are “red as hot cinders” (26–27). My particular focus, however, is Mo Yan’s revelation in an author’s note that he “jettisoned” from an early draft any passage which might have a “resemblance to magical realism [that] was too obvious to miss.” The result, he maintains, is “a purer Chinese style” (406) in the final version. Exactly how the text is ‘purer’ he does not say. Yet it seems he excised “borrowings from Western literary trends” (407) and increased the importance of the Maoqiang opera, a local folk opera style unique to the Shandong Peninsula, which acts as a narrative device by commenting on the novel’s action. Mo Yan’s desire to publicly distance himself from magical realism is a topic I shall return to with The ­Republic of Wine.

168  Purity and Parody

“Music of the universe”: The Land as Spirit in Red Sorghum This interplay between magical realist elements and a “purer” Chinese literary style is especially evident in his debut novel, Red Sorghum.52 Mo Yan deploys the supernatural and folkloric characteristics to underpin the first-person narrator’s reimagining of his family’s history, which, in turn, mirrors a broader reassessment of China’s history throughout the twentieth century. Although the novel is nominally an historical romance and family saga spanning three generations, the narrative’s reinterpretation of historical events, in particular the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), offers an alternative historiography from the perspective of morally ambiguous anti-heroes, namely the narrator’s grandfather (Yu Zhan’ao) and grandmother (Dai Fenglian). The passionate, libertarian and individualistic lives of his grandparents cut across the Party’s nationalistic narrative and the Maoist doctrine of revolutionary heroes. Their characters also draw on a legacy of bandits who once roamed Mo Yan’s native Shandong province.53 Grandfather is a murderer (at 18, he kills the Taoist monk lover of his mother, and at 22 he kills the first husband, a supposed leper, of the narrator’s grandmother); he is a ­“ruthless” bandit involved in looting, vengeance and “cruelty” (273); he is politically independent, equally contemptuous of both Mao’s ­Communists and the Chinese Nationalists; and he is a philanderer who has a relationship with grandmother’s maid. Grandmother, who is described as “one of the true beauties of her time” (90), is pragmatic and shrewd, married off by her own father at 16, taking over the running of the winery of her deceased first husband immediately after he is murdered by her lover (grandfather); she later initiates an affair with a rival bandit to spite grandfather because of his infidelity. Despite their flaws, the narrator’s tumultuous yet spirited grandparents are depicted as revered leaders of their local community in North-East Gaomi Township. Red Sorghum is also an environmental work in that the natural world permeates every layer of the textual world, as is particularly evident with the book’s title. Indeed, nature and the ‘magical’ inform one another in a reciprocal relationship. The sorghum plant not only serves as a metaphor for the Chinese spiritual purity that the narrator seeks by recovering his family history, the ubiquitous agricultural sorghum fields also act as the mise en scène of the narrative action. The sorghum plant takes on a life-affirming symbolism, sustaining the local populace both nutritionally and spirituality. But it is the natural red sorghum of the narrator’s ancestors that is prioritised. At the end of the novel the narrator laments the hybrid sorghum that has begun to dominate the landscape, indicating societal change and a dissolution of traditional cultural values, which he is attempting to preserve. The hybrid sorghum might be “highyield,” but it has “a bitter, astringent taste,” “is the source of rampant

Purity and Parody  169 constipation” and “never seems to ripen.” The narrator complains: ­“Being surrounded by hybrid sorghum instills in me a powerful sense of loss” (358). Red sorghum, on the other hand, represents strength, vitality and a rooted connection with the natural world. The narrator says of his grandfather’s peers: “The young men of his generation were as sturdy as North-East Gaomi sorghum, which is more than can be said about us weaklings who succeeded them” (43). Moreover, he says his forebears “ate sorghum out of preference, planting as much of it as they could.” Yet his representation of the plant is influenced by historical events in the narrative, especially the heroic fighting against the Japanese occupiers. In late autumn, the “vast stretches of red sorghum” are said to have “shimmered like a sea of blood,” portending the bloodshed he is about to recount. At the same time, the sorghum symbolises what the narrator believes to be the essence of his grandparents’ characters. “Tall and dense, it reeked of glory, cold and graceful, it promised enchantment, passionate and loving, it was tumultuous” (4). Sorghum is not only praised for its nutritional value as a food, the plant is also prized as the basic ingredient for locally produced wine. ­Grandmother inherits from her dead husband’s family a successful winery business that uses the cheap grain to make “high-quality” wine (39). ­Although a novice, the young widower demonstrates her astute commercial skills from the start, ordering her foreman, Uncle Arhat, to delay purchasing sorghum during a bumper harvest year so they can buy surplus stock cheaper than the rival wineries (146). Mo Yan introduces a magical realist factor when grandfather, as a new employee of grandmother’s, ­urinates into a wine vat out of spite due to her lack of attention to him (148). The extra ingredient, however, gives the wine a “unique fragrance” (150) that, in turn, stimulates its popularity and sales. As an aside, Mo Yan parodies this scene in The Republic of Wine in a passage of self-­ mockery that protests the urine-infused wine being read as magical realist, and which I will discuss in more detail later. ­Nevertheless, the wine becomes part of the sorghum ecosystem that imbues the v­ illagers with intangible powers and enables sociopolitical transgressive behaviour. The narrator reflects on his grandparents and their workers: “The alcohol enlivened them and instilled them with the courage to face danger fearlessly and view death as a homecoming. They abandoned themselves to pleasure, living an existence of moral degeneracy and fickle passions” (273). Sorghum has additional supernatural properties as the grain is accredited with healing powers as a medicine and a disinfectant, both to humans and to animals. After the murder of her first husband, who allegedly had leprosy, grandmother orders her staff to disinfect the house and its contents with sorghum wine (130–131) as “Uncle Arhat believed that sorghum wine was an effective disinfectant for all kinds of dangerous germs” (114). Grandfather mixes the crumbled roots of sorghum stalk with gunpowder and dirt to heal a wound after fighting the Japanese

170  Purity and Parody (175–176), and eats cooked sorghum to cure himself of typhoid fever (208). Dr Zhang uses sorghum wine to sterilise a needle and a testicle wound that the narrator’s father incurred when killing a rabid dog (223). And the dog in question, Red, the family’s formerly domesticated pet, rolls around in sorghum chaff to get rid of scabies (214). Sorghum, then, both enables life and sustains life. Moreover, the sorghum fields provide a sanctuary, allowing the Chinese villagers to ambush and attack the colonising Japanese under cover, and a refuge in which to escape the invaders. Nowhere is the sanctuary concept more evident than in the dual counterpart scenes of the conception of the narrator’s father and the death of grandmother. After the act of mariticide, grandmother and grandfather as adulterers do “the phoenix dance in the sorghum field” that leads to the birth of their son (99). Interestingly, during the act of procreation grandmother “could hear the sounds of growth” amid the sorghum plants (70). The narrator attributes the setting with mystical connotations. “My father was conceived with the essence of heaven and earth, the crystallization of suffering and wild joy,” he claims, reinforcing the link between ‘magic’ and the natural world (71). The same sorghum fields, however, operate in opposition to birth as the site for grandmother’s death. Having been riddled with bullets from Japanese machine guns, while delivering lunch to grandfather and his Chinese soldiers, her spirit departs her corporeal body under the watch of the sorghum plants. The passage is worth quoting at length, for it portrays the plants as some kind of ancestral spirits, agonising at what has befallen the Chinese peasants. It is the music of the universe, and it emanates from the red sorghum. She gazes at the sorghum, and through the dimness of her vision the stalks turn crafty and surpassingly beautiful, grotesque, and bizarre. They begin to moan, to writhe, to shout, to entwine her, they are demonic one minute, intimate the next, and in her eyes they coil like snakes. But then they suddenly stretch out like spikes, and it is beyond her power to describe their brilliance. They are red and green, they are black and white, they are blue and green, they are laughing heartily, they are crying pitifully. Their tears are raindrops beating against the desolate sandbar of her heart. The blue sky shines through the spaces between the sorghum stalks. … Grandma feels as though heaven and earth, man, and the sorghum are intertwined, huddled beneath a gigantic canopy. … A flock of white doves swoops down and perches on the stalks’ tips … The doves’ red eyes, the size of sorghum seeds, are fixed on her. She smiles with genuine affection, and they return her smile. My darlings! She cries silently. I don’t want to leave you! The doves peck at the sorghum grains, their chests slowly expanding, their feathers fanning out like petals in the wind and rain. (73)

Purity and Parody  171 Several key points warrant closer examination. The phrase “the music of the universe” implies a spiritual dimension to the natural world that is independent of humans and one that is secular – in other words, nothing like the Christian concept of nature being ‘God’s creation.’ Red ­Shorghum, then, promotes the idea that the natural world has its own, intrinsic legitimate interest, to borrow Lawrence Buell’s terminology. S­ econd, the assertation that “heaven and earth, man, and the sorghum are intertwined” denotes a view of the spiritual world and the natural world as being inextricably conjoined, which reinforces a magical realist perspective that the ‘magical’ is embedded within the real. Moreover, I take “man” to mean humans in a non-gender sense and “sorghum” as a metaphor for life or vitality, as discussed earlier. It follows, therefore, that humans and their life-affirming forces are part of this holistic cosmos. In conceptual terms the proposal is similar to what the Māori elder Koro articulates in his magical realist speech in Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider, as discussed in Chapter 3. Third, the reference to the sorghum “laughing” and ­“crying” imbues the plants with emotional human qualities, which, in turn, suggests that they are, or represent, ancestral spirits. This fits within the novel’s broader environmental philosophy that the natural world nurtures and enables human life, both in an existential (meaning physical survival) and a spiritual sense. Fourth, the description of the doves eating sorghum and having eyes both the colour of sorghum (red) and “the size of sorghum seeds” involves a dismantling of the binary division between the animal world and the plant world, which, in turn, is not only consistent with the holistic cosmos but also a magical realist characteristic of transgressing and dismantling binaries. At the end of this passage grandmother “floats upward” to fly away with the doves (73), further reinforcing the merging of conventional binary opposites, in this case animal and human. As a Western scholar of magical realism working within the Anglo-­ American academy, it is tempting to label these dual scenes of conception and death in Red Sorghum as examples of magical realism, given that the text accords supernatural powers to the sorghum fields. However, it is probably more accurate to point out that the scenes exhibit the influence of classical Chinese fiction, upon which Mo Yan draws for his work. Classical Chinese fiction reflects the influence of Taoism on Chinese philosophy. Of particular interest in regard to the Red ­Sorghum passage analysed earlier is Taoism’s metaphysical premise of the tao (道), which translates as the “way” or “road,” and which is “the all-­embracing first principle through which all things are brought into being.” Fung Yu-lan, in A History of Chinese Philosophy, explains: Tao is what has brought the universe into being, and hence in one way it may also be said to be Being. For this reason Tao is spoken of as both Being and Non-being. Non-being refers to its essence; Being to its function. 54

172  Purity and Parody In other words, the tao is non-being (wu 無), while objects are being (you 有). One of the primary texts of Taoism, the Laozi (老子) or ­Daodejing (道德经), proclaims in Chapter 42: Tao produced Oneness. Oneness produced duality. Duality evolved into trinity, and trinity evolved into the ten thousand (i.e., infinite number of) things. The ten thousand things support the yin and embrace the yang. It is on the blending of the breaths (of the yin and the yang) that their harmony depends. 55 The message here is that both being and non-being are issued from the tao, hence the nomenclature of the Oneness. This belief in the interconnection of all things in the universe is evident in the scene of grandmother’s death amid the sorghum fields, and indeed Mo Yan’s description of “the music of the universe” may be said to be a poetic metaphor for the tao. Moreover, the concept of the ‘Oneness’ inherent within nature is a trope that constantly reappears in magical realist fiction, such as Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider. Mo Yan’s conception / death motif in Red Sorghum, then, follows in this tradition of Taoist ontology. The novel highlights how literary critics ought not to apply magical realism as a universal rubric and, instead, should, at the first instance, investigate the cultural influences and traditions that shape a work of fiction. It also illustrates how Mo Yan strives for a “purer” Chinese style that is independent of, yet perhaps partly inspired by, non-Chinese literature. In addition to the eponymous metaphor of sorghum, other environmental elements imbue the novel. For instance, the text includes a diverse array of environmental similes in relation to the narrator’s grandparents, such as grandmothers “eyes were as moist as autumn rains” (52), grandmother “floating toward them like a gorgeous red butterfly” (63), grandmother “mused that human existence is as brief as the life of autumn grass” (89), the grandparents’ lives being “as close as fish and ­water” (91) and grandfather loving “my father as a magpie loves the last remaining egg in its nest” (182). These similes underscore the notion that the narrator’s grandparents lived their pre-Mao era lives in close communion with nature, in contrast to the narrator’s contemporary urban life that he has fled in order to reconnect with his family’s history. ­Furthermore, the novel contains various representations of the cycle of life in nature, such as crabs crawling out of the river to eat cow dung and the carcasses of dead animals (7); the grandparents and Uncle Arhat turning uneaten crab meat into salted crab paste and, in turn, using the crab paste as mulch for poppies once it goes bad (8); and swarms of locusts, “sensing the change of season,” exiting the sorghum fields to lay eggs (91). These reminders of the cycle of life are consistent with the view that the environment is a process rather than a constant.

Purity and Parody  173 The cycle of life, however, is particularly evident in numerous scenes of death that are juxtaposed with flora, often scented flowers. Typically these have a magical realist quality. Besides grandmother’s death amid the sorghum fields, as described earlier, another example is when grandfather executes his soldier Big Tooth Yu. “The white lotus blossom, its stem broken and trailing several white threads, lay next to his hand. Father could smell its perfume” (58). A more notable example, however, is grandfather’s murder of his mother’s lover, the monk, beside Pear Blossom Creek, at which the pear blossom trees filled “the area with their delicate fragrance” (103). The sensuousness of the location is contrasted with the savageness of the killing, with a teenage grandfather using a short sword that a blacksmith friend had made for him. The magical realist factor is inherent in the sword, which “shrieks” to him at night beneath his pillow in the lead up to the homicide (107), and which emits a “high-pitched shriek” on the actual night (108). While the juxtaposition of fragrant flowers with murders clearly symbolises continual rebirth, or the cycle of life, the shrieking sword, I contend, is a narrative device to denote young grandfather’s inner psychological make-up, an objective correlative to portend the litany of killings that grandfather will commit throughout adulthood and which will form the foundation of his reputation as a bandit and fighter of the Japanese. Mo Yan utilises various folkloric supernatural elements throughout Red Sorghum, which both reinforces the Chinese stylistic character of the novel and amplifies the theme of searching for an authentic Chinese spirit. One of the more obvious recurring examples is the possession of Passion, grandfather’s lover and grandmother’s (former) maid, by a weasel spirit. The first instance of possession occurs in 1931 while Passion is digging up sorghum plants in a field. She is cured by a Taoist exorcist named Mountain Li who administers a ‘magic’ potion, and Passion later beats the actual weasel to death when it tries to steal a chicken (19). However, this initial event becomes a harbinger for the Japanese soldiers as if the weasel spirit symbolises a foreign invasion of the sorghum sanctuary. During the Japanese massacre of the village eight years later, one of the six Japanese soldiers who pack rape a pregnant Passion and bayonet her young daughter to death is described in unambiguous terms as the same weasel that Passion had killed. “His ratlike features and crafty expression were transformed into the black-mouthed weasel that had died at her hands. His pointy chin, his black mustache above a pointy mouth, and his sly look were the spitting image of the weasel” (319). As Passion lays dying, she is again possessed by the weasel spirit, and again the same Taoist monk is summonsed to exorcise the demon, with a potion and dance. But this time it is unclear whether his rituals work, because it is said that “when she was placed in the coffin she was still cursing and kicking the lid” (356). The implication is that the destructive behaviour of the Japanese occupiers has ongoing ramifications beyond an individual Chinese person’s death.

174  Purity and Parody Another prime example of a folkloric supernatural element is the fox that licks the 18 wounds on Old Deng after he has been bayoneted 18 times by the Japanese in a sorghum field. The fox’s tongue, “coated with a miraculous substance,” enables Old Deng to survive (310). Not only is the veteran fighter’s tale symbolic of a Chinese spirit protecting against foreign invaders – it also becomes a critique of Mao’s communist regime, with Old Deng representing a ‘purer’ Chinese way of life before Mao took power. This is evident in the peripheral character’s postscript, which occurs in 1973, during the traumatic Cultural Revolution. ­Financially destitute and starving, on his 80th birthday the war hero is forced to burn the “fox-spirit tablet,” to which he had been giving offerings for 36 years, in desperation for warmth. He no longer receives the regime’s “five guarantees” of food, clothing, medical aid, housing and burial because of local government neglect (341). Outside the commune hall’s gates, where he watches people entering with an abundance of food, including pigs, fish, chickens and ducks, Old Deng pleads for help but is ignored. The next morning his corpse is discovered “stark naked” and frozen (344). Old Deng’s story, while incidental to the main narrative, is nevertheless important, placed as it is as the third last story at the end of the novel, which implies Mo Yan wants readers to remember it. My contention is that Old Deng’s fate illustrates Mo Yan’s ongoing political critique of Maoist and post-Maoist China throughout his body of work as well as his consistent focus on the welfare of peasants. In this case the subtext is that Mao’s regime, despite its lofty rhetorical promises, did not adequately look after the peasants, let alone war heroes. The political aspect of Red Sorghum is inherent in the narrator’s reimagining of his family’s history, for it reflects the novel being a part of the “root-seeking” Chinese literary movement of the 1980s by striving to recover a sense of Chinese national and cultural identity through reaching back to the past. This school of fiction was an iteration of the earlier “native soil” writers that Lu Xun identified in 1920s ­Chinese fiction: authors writing about their home regions from which they had been uprooted, the separation causing their imagination to play just as important a role as their lived experience. Consequently, these writers developed an “imaginary nostalgia,” to borrow David Der-wei Wang’s term. 56 Their nostalgia is posited artificially because they were not alive during the era they write about. In Red Sorghum, the narrator’s ­reimagining of his grandparents’ lives during one of the most tumultuous periods in modern Chinese history is akin to Marianne Hirsch’s concept of “postmemory,” which denotes the remembrance of “personal, collective, and cultural trauma” through stories, images and behaviours by the generation that comes after the generation that witnessed the trauma. “These experiences were transmitted to them so deeply and affectively as to seem to constitute memories in their own right. ­Postmemory’s connection to the past is thus actually mediated not

Purity and Parody  175 by recall but by imaginative investment, projection, and creation,” says Hirsch (original emphasis). 57 One could align the narrator’s imaginative historical reconstructions with the Swedish Academy’s comment that Mo Yan “with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.”58 The Nobel custodians’ term is remarkably close to “hallucinatory magical realism,” a kind of the narrative mode that is characterised, as Wendy Faris says, by “fragmentary invocations and creates difficulties in ascertaining which events have happened, which are imagined, and which are dreamed.”59 Hallucinatory magical realism appears, for instance, in Ben Okri’s The Famished Road (1991), with Azaro the abiku child’s visions of grotesque phantasms that symbolise corruption in post-­independence Nigeria, and in D.M. Thomas’s The White Hotel (1981), in which ­Sigmund Freud’s patient, Lisa Erdman, suffers from telepathic visions that foretell future Holocaust atrocities committed against Jews in Ukraine. In Red ­Sorghum, however, the narrator’s historical reimaginings are not so much hallucinations as partially informed emotional recollections of other peoples’ lives; in other words, postmemories. ­Critically, the narrator mines the past in order to make sense of his present. Red Sorghum spans from 1923 to 1976, encompassing the warlord era, the Japanese invasion, the Communists’ defeat of the Nationalists in the civil war and the Cultural Revolution. The narrator returns to his home town of North-East Gaomi Township ostensibly to research a family chronicle, but his real motivation is to recover a sense of an honourable life among rural peasants, having become disdainful of his ­“hypocritical” life in the city (365) and believing that humanity is caught in a “regression” (4) due to an “increase in prosperity and comfort” (334). Like many narrators in magical realist fiction, such as S­ aleem Sinai in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (“To tell the truth, I lied”)60 and Herbert Badgery in Peter Carey’s Illywhacker (“I am a terrible liar and I have always been a liar”),61 the narrator in Red Sorghum confesses that he is unreliable. “Someone said that the little goatherd was me, but I don’t know,” he says (4). He scours the official county records for historical information on the Japanese enslavement of Chinese people to build the Jiao-Ping highway (14) but ends up relying on oral history, mostly from his father (37), his mother and a “confused” 92-year-old woman who survived the village massacre in 1939 (13). Since the narrator was only two on the single occasion he met his grandfather, he has no direct account from the novel’s main protagonist (78). Faced with incomplete or unreliable historical records, the narrator is forced to imagine what happened. He has the ability to not only envisage past events but also to verbalise how his ancestors, especially his paternal grandparents, thought and felt by inhabiting their consciousness. The narrator constantly switches between the first person and the third person; the latter enables him to portray the inner mind of other characters. This

176  Purity and Parody frequent switching between the narrative voices – a favourite technique of Mo Yan’s throughout his work – decentres the authorial centre or any claim of omniscience. The novel’s ‘magic,’ then, mostly lies in the narrator’s imaginative recreation of the past in contrast to the “boring and petty” realism of his present.62 However, the narrator often alters what he has been told by witnesses in order to suit his own preferred version of historical events, for which he was not present. For example, in building the dramatic tension before grandfather’s ambush of Japanese soldiers, the narrator states: From the dike, the view to the south was of an endless panorama of sorghum, level and smooth and still, a sea of deeply red, ripe faces. A collective body, united in a single magnanimous thought. Father was too young then to describe the sight in such flowery terms – that’s my doing. (24) In other words, the narrator overtly reveals his penchant for embellishing purported history. In addition, he offers contradictory assessments about his own sources of information. He describes the nonagenarian woman’s account (which she sings) of the 1939 massacre of villagers by Japanese troops as “choppy and confused” (13) yet also proclaims that “She told it exactly like it was” (14). At times the narrator discloses when the telling of an historical event is the version of a direct witness, such as his father’s recollection of Uncle Arhat being literally skinned alive in front of the villagers by the local butcher on the orders of the Japanese (37). This is even more apparent in the short, three-page, sixth section of Chapter 3 (“Dog Ways”) that switches to the first-person narrative by the narrator’s mother. She describes in vivid detail how as a 15-year-old she survived the massacre by hiding down a well (205). In essence, the metafictional narratological techniques of Red Sorghum point to the artifice of recorded history and the fluid crossover between that and fiction. One of the novel’s key features is the constant intercutting between past and present as the narrative switches between the narrator’s point of view and that of his forebears. In this respect, the stylistic influence of García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is apparent in regard to the use of time, stream of consciousness and telling a story from multiple points of view. Although the disruption of time and place is a key characteristic of magical realist fiction, what Mo Yan achieves artistically in Red Sorghum is distinctly his own. He devises a method of spatialising and dissecting history into what David Der-wei Wang calls “historical space,” by creating a three-dimensional discourse on space, time and history. In this historical space, located within North-East Gaomi Township, there are “virtually unlimited possibilities for strange and fantastic narrative mutations.”63 This fracturing of time, however, is entirely absent from the film version, which catapulted Mo Yan to international fame after it won the

Purity and Parody  177 prestigious Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1988. Director Zhang Yimou’s Chinese-language film Red Sorghum (1987) takes a different approach to history and style than Mo Yan’s book. The film is based on the first two chapters of the novel and does not reference events in the book’s last three chapters. Consequently, the film focusses on the dramatic episodes of the novel concerning the early romance of the narrator’s grandparents; grandmother taking over the winemaking enterprise; and grandfather’s ambush of the Japanese troops, which provides the film’s climactic conclusion. In a sense, Zhang Yimou’s selection of the first two chapters need not be an issue given that the novel is the compilation of five novellas Mo Yan had previously written. But as Wilborn Hampton notes, the film provides only a “broad outline of the stories” in the novel.64 The movie script is a drastically simplified version of the book and selects only a narrow part of the novel’s narrative. The film leaves out major episodes like grandfather becoming a bandit, his fights with the communist and nationalist troops, and his murder of grandmother’s first husband. Of importance for this discussion is that the film is shot for the most part in a realist style, and the film script progresses in a linear fashion, with none of the jump-cuts between different times that is such a distinctive feature of the book. Vincent Canby, in his review for The New York Times, describes the film as an “exotic fable” but then concludes that “the point of view is still that of socialist realist cinema” and that the film’s style is “decidedly old-fashioned.”65 In other words, the various avantgarde stylistic devices that set the novel apart from Maoist-era socialist realist fiction are abandoned in the film. The magical realist aspects of the book – the folklore, animal spirits, spirit possessions and exorcisms, supernatural events and Grandma’s spirit flying through the sky as she dies – are absent from the movie. However, the film version does share the dominant imagery of the sorghum fields. My conclusion, therefore, is that unlike the Whale Rider movie being a successful film adaptation of the magical realist elements of Witi Ihimaera’s novel, Zhang Yimou’s film version of Red Sorghum does not translate the magical realist elements of Mo Yan’s book. This is not to say that magical realism has any inherent limitations on being adapted from book to screen, only that in this case the director, perhaps to make the film more easily digestible for audiences, chose to make a linear, realistic film version and deviate substantially from the novel’s structure and style.66

Human Animals: Metafiction and Satire in The Republic of Wine While Red Sorghum is a rural novel that earnestly looks back to the past in search of a ‘pure’ Chinese culture, The Republic of Wine is an urban novel that casts a satirical eye over contemporary political corruption. However, I use the term ‘urban’ loosely as the latter book is set in the

178  Purity and Parody fictional city of Liquorville, the capital of the equally fictional Liquorland. In this section I shall examine the environmental aspects of The Republic of Wine in two ways: first, as an urban space that represents the social and political consequences of China’s rapid economic expansion since the 1980s; and second, as the animal kingdom in which the species divide between human and animal is broken down through alleged cannibalism. I argue that both these environmental themes fall within the novel’s highly metafictional structure that enables Mo Yan’s strategy to undermine political and social discourse as well as to question at an existential level epistemological discourse and the basis of ideation. In turn, the intertextual complexity inherently involves the novel’s idiosyncratic style of magical realism, in a structurally similar, but stylistically very different, manner to Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome. ­Moreover, The Republic of Wine also satirises the concept of magical realism by parodying Mo Yan’s debut novel, which suggests the author is uneasy about critical associations between the narrative mode and his work. Mo Yan has consistently used the city as a site for corruption throughout his fiction. For instance, in The Garlic Ballads the oppressed garlic farmers riot at the city government offices in protest against artificially low garlic prices, the government’s inconsistent purchasing of garlic and excessive taxation. As one character remarks: What puzzles me is how senior officials can eat like kings, dress like princes, and have the medical care of the gods … But take a look at our old farmers. They work all their lives, raise a couple of worthless sons, never eat good food or wear decent clothes, and in their nineties they’re still out in the fields every day.67 Growing cynicism about economic reforms ushered in by Deng ­X iaoping is reflected in the attitude of a guard at a labour-reform camp in 1988. The guard has decided to quit and become “an entrepreneur.” He advises his colleague: “In times like these, if you’re smart you’re an official. But if you can’t manage that, make some money any way you can” (286). Mo Yan also directly satirises Deng’s profound changes in the 1980s in Big Breasts & Wide Hips. The character Jintong is mentored by his older lover Old Jin, who, in turn, hires him as the general manager of her business. Jintong masters “the arts of … passing out bribes, and evading taxes” (486). The trope of the city or urban centre as being associated with corruption and unethical behaviour, standing in contrast to an implied ‘goodness’ of rural areas, is common in contemporary Chinese fiction following the market reforms over the past four decades. A prime magical realist example is The Explosion Chronicles by Yan Lianke (born 1958), who, like Mo Yan, was also originally a peasant who joined the army as a soldier. The Explosion Chronicles, which was originally published in Chinese

Purity and Parody  179 in 2013, satirises China’s rapid economic development. The novel has a metafictional structure in that the author, named Yan ­Lianke, accepts a commission in 2007 to write the chronicles of ­Explosion, tracing its development over three decades from the early 1980s, from a small rural town to a giant metropolis with 20 million residents. Explosion acts as a metonym for contemporary China. The mayor, Kong Mingliang, initially fuels the town’s hyperbolic growth through the prostitution of its women residents and reinvests the proceeds in factories and companies, symbolising social and individual trauma and the upheaval inherent in China’s economic development. Eventually, however, nepotism, corruption and hubris bring Explosion’s trajectory to a halt. The mayor’s brother, a former military man appointed head of a mining corporation, overreaches by pushing for Explosion to become a sovereign nation state and planning to destroy a United States aircraft carrier fleet to invade the American west coast. In an overt criticism of the United States, The Explosion Chronicles portrays US investment in Chinese companies as “American imperialism.”68 The mayor’s brother is driven by what he regards as “the arrogance and prejudice with which the United States and Europe viewed China” (438). Key points in the narrative are punctuated by magical realist events: Explosion’s residents all experience the same dream of an old man (the mayor’s father) telling them that the first thing they see will determine their fate; when ­Explosion is upgraded by the authorities from a village to a town, dead plants in the mayor’s office come back to life; and the mayor’s younger brother decides to reunite him with his estranged wife after picking up shards of moonlight and stacking them next to an almanac. Magic events help actualise ­Explosion’s ever-increasing economic targets, thereby imposing cyclical time over economic development’s more teleological linear time. Yet, by the end of the narrative, when Explosion’s expansion comes to an abrupt end, time literally descends on the city in the form of broken clocks and watches that its residents have thrown out, making the city’s destiny to be “a suspension of time, beyond which all is void.”69 Intriguingly, while Lan Yianke recognises in an author’s note the influence of García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude on his own work and contemporary Chinese fiction in general (454), he does not describe his own style as magical realist but rather coins the term ­“mythorealism.” Lan Yianke defines mythorealism as “literature that uses an innovative set of techniques to reveal an otherwise invisible region beneath perceivable reality” (452). Mythorealism, he adds, “captures a hidden internal logic contained within China’s reality” in such a way that “contemporary China’s absurdity, chaos, and disorder  – together with non-realism and illogicality – all become easily comprehensible” (456). It is noteworthy that Lan Yianke consciously distances himself from magical realism and emphasises indigenous Chinese literary techniques, much as Mo Yan insists that he strives for a purer Chinese style.

180  Purity and Parody However, it is undeniable that what Yan Lianke describes is, in effect, a literary style that is similar to magical realism in that they both foreground the non-real and ‘illogical’ in order to make sense of absurdity and chaos in the contemporary world. Mo Yan exploits the illogical and the absurd in The Republic of Wine, especially through its experimental metafictional structure. Like Red Sorghum, The Republic of Wine is structured as a work-in-progress novel in that a narrator or character is engaged in the act of writing. While in his debut novel, the narrator is a fictional character writing a family history, in The Republic of Wine the structure is much more complex. The writers include a fictional Mo Yan, an actual Mo Yan and a protagonist named Li Yidou who sends letters and short stories to the fictional Mo Yan. Although Mo Yan is not often considered a satirist,70 this novel is indisputably a satire on various levels, interweaving multiple narratives that poke fun at the materialistic greed and corruption in post-­communist China, the “grossly elaborate” official banquets that are emblematic of corruption71 and the Chinese tradition of eating and drinking in large social groups. The book also satirises a range of literary styles, both domestic and foreign, and in particular magical realism itself, even though the narrative mode is a central component of the novel’s structure. The novel’s highly metafictional style is also partly due to the need for Mo Yan to employ an indirect way of criticising China’s political regime without incurring the displeasure of domestic censors. For it is likely that the author wrote the book in response to the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing on 4 June 1989. The regime’s brutal crackdown on protesting students and workers, who were agitating for improved democracy in China and an end to “rampant corruption and abuses of power,”72 had profound ramifications. Sentiment among the general populace and intellectuals alike turned into “repressed rage” and “subdued antagonism toward the state.”73 Mo Yan recalls that, as a postgraduate literature student in Beijing, he did not feel like attending classes when “the student movement erupted.”74 It is likely that he wrote The Republic of Wine “as a response to the government crackdown against the demonstrators,” as Shelley Chan suggests.75 Mo Yan signposts a thematic link by setting the narrative in the same year, 1989.76 In an essay in the original 1992 Taiwan edition, the author reveals he started writing the novel three months after the Tiananmen demonstration. Also in that edition, the last three words of Ding Gou’er’s epitaph signals Mo Yan’s serious intent: “Brothers, do not judge your own blood brother in times of confusion and corruption” (hunluan he fubai 混薍與腐敗). Tellingly, Mo Yan softened the last three words in the mainland Chinese edition of 1993 to “romance and affection” (langman duoqing 浪漫多情).77 In the mainland edition he also deleted the acerbic final chapter, with its ­Joycean stream of consciousness that refers to Mao’s Great Leap ­Forward and historical cannibalism in China.78

Purity and Parody  181 These minor acts of self-censorship and the fact that he originally published the novel in Taiwan suggest Mo Yan was initially wary of what he might be able to get away with.79 My argument is that he adopted a style of extreme, rambunctious satire in order to circumnavigate the regime’s political sensitivities about Tiananmen. Moreover, Mo Yan keeps the novel’s satirical sights aimed firmly at local officials – such as the mine director, Party secretary and deputy head of propaganda – rather than senior political figures. The novel’s setting, Liquorville, is deliberately fantastical rather than real.80 With these self-imposed parameters Mo Yan stays inside “the confines of the safe zone” in his attacks on the PRC. “He can be caustic about the corrosive effects of government corruption on communities, albeit taking aim at local officials only – a far safer target than national ones,” says Jeffrey Wasserstrom.81 Mo Yan even satirises himself on this survival strategy. In The Republic of Wine, the fictional author Mo Yan admonishes the aspiring writer Li Yidou for criticising “those in power” in his short stories. “That’s a no-no,” advises the fictional Mo Yan. “Society is shaped like a pagoda, getting progressively smaller toward the top; that makes it easier to link the characters in your story with real-life people.” Instead, the fictional Mo Yan suggests Li Yidou modify his short story “Donkey Avenue” by giving the main characters “a less illustrious background” and their father a “diminished official position” (135). The novel’s self-conscious artifice is a key feature, including its parody of numerous literary styles, in particular magical realism. Li Yidou is a doctoral student at Brewer’s College in Liquorland, which in itself is part of the satire as his bombastic pronouncements represent a widespread disillusionment of intellectuals in contemporary China. F ­ ollowing the Cultural Revolution and market reforms, intellectuals today are displaced from the privileged position they held at the centre of feudal power in China for centuries.82 Li Yidou proclaims that he uses “literature to awaken the populace” and expose corrupt officials, comparing himself to the May Fourth intellectual and pioneer of modern Chinese literature Lu Xun (55). Yet Li Yidou is neither an intellectual nor a good writer. He combines his two interests – literature and liquor – in his academic research, giving his PhD thesis the title: “Latin American ‘Magic ­Realist’ Novels and the Distilling of Liquor” (282). Thus, the text pokes fun at literary scholars who frequently link Mo Yan with García Márquez. Moreover, the hypothesis of Li Yidou’s research is “How are a distiller’s emotions manifested in the physics and chemistry of the distilling process, and how do they affect the overall taste of a liquor?” (282–283). This can be read as Mo Yan parodying himself, referring to grandfather urinating in grandmother’s sorghum wine in Red Sorghum, which has the unintended ‘magical’ effect of endowing the wine with a distinctive flavour that makes it highly popular among customers. In addition, Li Yidou claims there is archaeological evidence in a painting that liquor

182  Purity and Parody had been produced in Liquorville for thousands of years “and corresponds perfectly to a description of the process in the chapter ‘Sorghum Wine’ in the novel Red Sorghum by my mentor, Mr Mo Yan” (317). Li Yidou’s thesis and testimony creates the impression Mo Yan is trying to distance himself from the literary concept of magical realism, similar to his author’s note in Sandalwood Death. Yet the author’s apparent protestations might actually constitute pretend parrying, a sort of jocular jousting, involving the playful denial of a narrative technique that he is self-consciously adapting and deploying. Li Yidou confesses to being an unreliable narrator, in the tradition of unreliable narrators in magical realist fiction, including that of Red Sorghum. In a letter to the fictional Mo Yan, Li Yidou admits to having “too rich an imagination” (209), which subsequently throws into doubt the veracity of views in Liquorland. Li Yidou’s unreliability serves to question the authenticity of all discourse. Indeed, The Republic of Wine is symptomatic of the rise of avantgarde fiction in China that was characterised by self-reflexivity and intertextuality in the 1990s. This kind of metafictional writing “revealed a deep distrust of existing interpretive systems in both political and cultural terms,” says Kenny K.K. Ng. Mo Yan, he adds, engages with metafictional styles in order to address “the heightened control of political discourses, the tightened censorship of literary activities, and the lack of freedom of expression.”83 I propose The Republic of Wine goes further than indirectly criticising political discourse and censorship in China, in that the book also questions the basis of ideation, personal identity and communication in general. The novel, as Shelley Chan says, “lay[s] bare a world deprived of all truth, value, reason, and meaning, a world in which people are senseless, helpless, grotesque, and absurd.”84 Metafiction, to borrow Patricia Waugh’s definition, is writing that “self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artefact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality.” Rather than ‘represent’ the world, the writer of metafiction seeks to represent the discourses of the world.85 The Republic of Wine is a critique on multiple discourses: the creation of fiction, the nature of investigation and intellectual inquiry, political narratives, the suppression of truth and the relativity of pluralistic ‘realities.’ At face value, the novel is a pastiche of a detective novel. Ding Gou’er, a hapless special investigator, is dispatched to Liquorland to determine the veracity of allegations that the region’s officials are eating children as gastronomic delicacies. As the main narrative progresses, however, it becomes apparent that Ding Gou’er’s detective story is merely the framework for a much more intricately designed metafictional text that incorporates pastiches of a variety of other literary styles and genres. The novel is based on an epistolary structure and a metanarrative of three distinct narrative threads, each of which are separate from, but at the same time are

Purity and Parody  183 related to, the others as part of a unified whole. The narrative threads are: first, the fictional author Mo Yan’s novel about Ding Gou’er’s special investigation in Liquorland; second, Li Yidou’s ten letters to the fictional Mo Yan and, in response, Mo Yan’s nine letters to Li Yidou; and third, Li Yidou’s nine short stories that he sends to the fictional Mo Yan for feedback. The three narrative threads each comment on one another in such a way that the meaning of any individual narrative thread is unclear if read in isolation from the rest. This creates a dialectical friction that increasingly blurs the distinction between what is fiction and non-­ fiction, and what is real and unreal, which drives the overall narrative “to the brink of collapse” until all three narrative threads eventually converge in the final chapter. 86 The brilliantly inventive unstable nature of the book’s narrative reflects the social disruptions of post-­communist China, the rampant materialism and individualism brought on by the embracing of capitalist markets and the consequent erosion of traditional Confucian values of community and social order. In this respect, Mo Yan follows in the Confucian tradition of social criticism being “a major function” of Chinese literature, with writers criticising injustice and speaking up for ordinary people.87 Mo Yan’s Confucian inheritance is not surprising given that Confucius (551–479 B.C.) and the legendary Confucian scholar Mencius (372–289 B.C.) were born in Mo Yan’s native ­Shandong Peninsula.88 On another level, the metanarrative is constructed around nine chapters, which is encapsulated in the book’s Chinese title: Jiu guo (酒国), which literally means “country of wine,” is a play on words as jiu means the number “nine (九)” as well as “wine (酒).” The tenth and final ­chapter switches to the first person of the character Mo Yan as the fictional Mo Yan merges with the actual Mo Yan. The last six pages consist of a rambling, incoherent, stream of consciousness passage – as a pastiche of the famous Molly Bloom chapter in James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) – ­emanating from the mind of ‘Mo Yan.’ One of the challenges in deciphering Mo Yan’s work is exploring the intertextual networks present in all of his fiction, but this is especially true of The Republic of Wine. Given that Mo Yan habitually exploits cross-cultural intertexts, the critic must engage in a process that ­Maiping Chen calls “co-contextualization,” that is, examining a text in the context of its original language as well as the context of its trans­ hinese, lation into another language. For the critic who does not read C however, this process is doubly difficult, for the worst outcome is “mis-­ contextualization,” by which “the reader will not understand the ­context of the translation at all” due to the linguistic barrier. At a pragmatic best, the non-Chinese critic may strive for “re-­contextualization,” which is an approximate understanding of a translated text in terms of its original context and cultural background. “When Mo Yan is read intertextually in the context of modern Chinese literary history and social history,

184  Purity and Parody then we can see that Mo Yan has a deeper and more unique insight into Chinese history,” says Maiping Chen.89 The intertextual networks of The Republic of Wine reach both inwards and outwards. The inward-facing intertexts generate much of the novel’s magical realist elements, and are mostly associated with Li Yidou’s series of interconnected short stories. The quality of Li Yidou’s stories “can properly be described as creatively bad writing” in that each story parodies major styles and topical concerns of contemporary ­Chinese literature. “These short stories constitute a semisystematic parody of the major paradigms of modern Chinese literary history,” says Xudong Zhang. “But in a more immediate sense, these stories seem to mock the breathless chase of the international literary trends throughout the Chinese Reform era in the name of ‘innovation’ and ‘modernization.’”90 The stories are described by either Li Yidou or the fictional Mo Yan as “grim realism” (55), “demonic realism” (110) and “neo-realist” (210). The story most like magical realism is “Child Prodigy,” of the socalled ‘demonic realist’ genre, which features a demon boy riddled with a skin disease that erupts in scales. The demon boy tries unsuccessfully to free the babies at the Culinary Academy before they are eaten (95–110). Li Yidou’s stories also refer back to Chinese literary traditions. Kenny K.K. Ng suggests that Li Yidou’s “fairy tales and romantic stories resemble the two ancient Chinese narrative genres,” the zhiguai and the chuanqi.91 The zhiguai (志怪), or “weird account,” is a pithy narrative of some strange event, creature or person, while the chuanqi (传奇), or “strange story,” is a short story with developed plots and characterisation. Chinese literary classics such as Pu Songling’s Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio (Liaozhai zhiyi, 聊斋志异), which was first printed posthumously in 1766, bring together these two traditional storytelling traditions.92 Both the zhiguai and the chuanqi were revived during China’s cultural and intellectual renaissance in the 1980s after being suppressed during the Maoist era, which imposed socialist realism as the dominant literary aesthetic.93 I have already mentioned David Der-wei Wang’s remark about similarities between the chuanqi and magical realism. These similarities are especially evident in Li Yidou’s stories in regards to the gallery of grotesque characters, such as the demon boy; Li Yidou’s mother-­in-law, who slaughters babies for eating; and Yu Yichi, the dwarf tavern proprietor. The grotesque is not only a common characteristic of magical realist fiction,94 it also conveys an anarchic style of storytelling that amplifies and distorts reality “to make it more credible.” Moreover, this sort of “hyperbolic distortion,” as Jeanne Delbaere-Garant says, “creates a sense of strangeness through the confusion or interpenetration of different realms like animate / inanimate or ­human / animal.”95 This type of distortion is evident, for instance, in Ben Okri’s The Famished Road, with the publican Madame Koto and her monstrous-looking customers who symbolise the political corruption of post-independence

Purity and Parody  185 Nigeria. The grotesque is also fundamental to satire, as Northrop Frye reminds us: “Satire demands at least a token fantasy, a content which the reader recognizes as grotesque, and at least an implicit moral standard, the latter being essential in a militant attitude to experience.”96 In The Republic of Wine, Mo Yan accentuates the grotesque most prominently in the trope of cannibalism. Ironically, for a subject intrinsically abhorrent, anthropophagy underpins the book’s black humour and, by virtue of it being prompted by gluttony rather than famine, becomes the satirical tool by which Mo Yan represents “human a­ bsurdities.”97 The grotesqueness of adults eating babies for pleasure parallels the grotesqueness of the social and political upheavals that Chinese people have had to endure in recent history, including the cult of Mao, the Cultural Revolution, forced abortions as part of the one-child policy and rapid economic growth combined with social dislocation. The trope is an example of what David Der-wei Wang describes as “the familiarization of the uncanny.” Wang argues the series of calamities inflicted upon the Chinese population since the mid-twentieth century makes the conventional literary technique of defamiliarisation – that is, the “aesthetic and conceptual distancing of a familiar subject in order to restore its perceptual newness” – inappropriate for contemporary Chinese fiction. Insofar as it aims to ‘make strange’ things that otherwise seem familiar, defamiliarization would have to mean, in the Chinese context, not an outrage or a revolution to subvert the tedium of the familiar but either a refamiliarization of the trivial or a creative deformation of the unbearable. says Wang. It is the latter category, I propose, into which The ­Republic of Wine falls. The familiarisation of the uncanny refers to the aesthetic practice of those contemporary Chinese writers like Mo Yan who highlight the normalcy of the grotesque elements of society, implying they ought to be considered abnormal. “Precisely because reality is already too bizarre and grotesque, the writers’ greatest challenge lies in how to make it more plausible rather than more strange,” says Wang.98 In The Republic of Wine, the consumption of babies is presented not only as plausible but even as laudable: residents have grown “tired” of eating beef, lamb, pork, chicken, dog, donkey and the more exotic meats of other animals and are looking for new delicacies (100). Cannibalism spawns an entire industry, in which parents purposely breed children to be sold for eating; abattoirs are set up to kill the children; and the state runs a Culinary Academy to enhance the entire process, from production to plate. Cannibalism is inextricably tied to the novel’s satirisation of literary forms and its intertextual networks. Although common to many countries and cultures around the world and a topic in various literatures

186  Purity and Parody throughout the ages, in including that of the West, cannibalism has a long ­ hinese tradition as a trope in Chinese literature. It appears in classical C fiction such as Wu Cheng’en’s Ming Dynasty novel, Journey to the West (Xi youji, 西游记, 1592), in which demons seek to eat human flesh to prolong their life, especially the hearts or livers of children.99 Yet the key Chinese intertext for The Republic of Wine in relation to cannibalism is Lu Xun’s canonical short story “Diary of a Madman” (­“Kuangren riji,” 狂人日记, 1918).100 In an attempt at “re-contextualization,” I want to now explore how Mo Yan builds on Lu Xun’s pre-communist story in order to apply similar themes and insights to post-communist China. Lu Xun’s paranoid “madman” narrator believes that people in his village have been practising cannibalism for 4,000 years, in particular during times of famine (31, 41). So convinced is he that cannibalism has been a normal behavioural trait among Chinese people since “ancient times,” he believes the practice is written “between the lines” (original emphasis) in history books (32). To reinforce his argument, the madman refers to a story in the early philosophical text Guan Zi which attests that the cook Yi Ya boiled his son and served him to Duke Huan of Qi (685–643 B.C.) because the meat of a child was one of the few delicacies his ruler had not tasted (38). “Diary of a Madman” is generally considered to be a figurative tale containing the delusional fantasies of a madman, and is usually read as being symbolic of Chinese rulers in the late and post-imperial period consuming their subjects and peers in order to survive. The madman, says Key Ray Chong, accuses “the traditional Confucian culture of being a man-eating (ch’ih-jen) society.”101 Fredric Jameson likewise advocates a “figural” reading of the story, arguing that all levels of this “exceedingly hierarchical society,” from peasants to the bureaucratic elites, “must devour one another ruthlessly to stay alive.” Yet Jameson also suggests the madman’s belief in societal cannibalism involves “an unveiling or deconcealment of the nightmarish reality of things, a stripping away of our conventional illusions or rationalizations about daily life and existence.” What Jameson is referring to is the revelation of a “terrifying objective real world” that lies beneath “the appearances of our own world.” Jameson compares this literary effect in Lu Xun’s short story to some processes of Western modernism, especially existentialism, “in which narrative is employed as a powerful instrument for the experimental exploration of reality and illusion.”102 I argue the literary effect that Jameson identifies in “Diary of a Madman” is similar to Wang’s concept of the familiarisation of the uncanny; it is a “creative deformation of the unbearable” that highlights the normalcy of people devouring their competitors for self-preservation. The deconcealment of a nightmarish reality is experienced by both Lu Xun’s madman and Ding Gou’er. Both characters think they may be losing their minds as a result of their conviction that cannibalism is occurring in their respective

Purity and Parody  187 societies. Indeed, Yenna Wu’s observation about “Diary of a Madman,” that its attraction “lies in the tension in the complex interplay between the literal and the figural, between normalcy and madness, and between blindness and insight,” equally holds true for The Republic of Wine.103 In other words, both texts function within that in-between state which is characteristic of magical realist fiction. In addition to a figurative reading of Lu Xun’s short story, an opposite, or literal, reading is also possible, prompted by the ending, which presages an imminent, near-universal cannibalism with the narrator’s plea, “Save the children” (410). The dissident novelist and journalist Zheng Yi reads “Diary of a Madman” through such a literal interpretation, for he believes it points to actual cannibalism throughout Chinese history, including modern times.104 Zheng Yi makes the comment in light of his exposure of an outbreak of mass cannibalism in the Guangxi ­Autonomous Region in Southern China in 1968, at the height of the Cultural ­Revolution.105 Key Ray Chong defines this type of behaviour as “learned cannibalism,” which is institutionalised and culturally sanctioned, and driven by a diverse range of circumstances, such as hate, punishment, love, loyalty, religion, a belief in the medical benefits of human flesh or simply desire for human meat as a delicacy, as in The Republic of Wine. The other type, “survival cannibalism,” is borne out of “an act of desperation” and is “normally a prohibited” behaviour that occurs only in a crisis situation as a result of natural disasters like famine, drought or flood, or of man-made disasters like war.106 Interestingly, an episode of indirect survival cannibalism occurs in Red Sorghum when village dogs roam the sorghum fields, eating the remains of their former masters who had been massacred by Japanese troops. The feral dogs attack the survivors, so the narrator’s father and grandfather resort to shooting the dogs in self-defence, eating the animals’ corpses for “necessary nutrition.” Years later, the narrator reflects that “eating a winter’s supply of fatty dog meat was, for Father, the same as eating a winter’s supply of human flesh … indirectly, he had cannibalized his own people” (my emphasis) (271).107 Yet this episode is presented in a positive light because of the need for survival and continuing the fight against the Japanese. Key Ray Chong says learned cannibalism was “often practiced” in ancient China “for culinary appreciation” to satiate the “jaded upper-class palate.”108 The existence of learned cannibalism in China’s ancient and recent history suggests “Diary of a Madman” and The Republic of Wine warrant both a figurative and a literal reading. While I am not suggesting either Lu Xun’s or Mo Yan’s texts portray actual incidents of cannibalism, the underlying historical presence of anthropophagy imbues their fictional works with the kind of familiar grotesqueness that Wang identifies. Mo Yan was not alone in utilising cannibalism as a trope at the time he wrote his novel, which demonstrates its metaphorical power in Chinese literature throughout the ages. Another leading contemporary writer,

188  Purity and Parody Yu Hua, similarly reached back into domestic literary tradition by fashioning his short story “Classical Love” (“Gudian aiqing,” 古典爱情, 1988) on a traditional chuangi or strange story.109 Set during a famine and economic hardship at an indeterminate time, the would-be scholar Willow witnesses two incidents of cannibalism: first, a man sells his wife and young daughter to two butchers, who immediately take an axe to the females and sell their flesh to a throng of waiting customers (37); second, a waiter in a tavern cuts off the leg of a live woman with an axe, then serves her flesh to a hungry merchant (44). Willow recognises the woman in the tavern as a beautiful maiden he had previously met, which may or may not be her ghost. Yu Hua’s story, which has magical realist elements, focusses on the mistreatment of women and the capacity of people to literally devour each other when survival is precarious. The Republic of Wine differs, however, in that the cannibalism occurs during an era of material comfort and plentiful food, suggesting the Party is consuming China’s own citizens and particularly the nation’s youth. Mo Yan’s novel is an overt satirical homage to “Diary of a Madman.” Li Yidou claims to have adopted “Lu Xun’s style of writing” and that his own short story “Meat Boy” is “a latter-day ‘Madman’s Diary’” (55). ­Despite the claim, “Meat Boy,” in which a father sells his young boy to the Special Purchasing Section of the Culinary Academy to be eaten, is also a parody of another short story by Lu Xun, called “Medicine” (1919).110 In “Medicine,” a father purchases a mentou (steamed bread roll) soaked in the blood of an executed criminal to feed to his son, who is ill with tuberculosis (he dies anyway), indicating once again that people have become inured to cannibalising others in order to survive.111 Yet Mo Yan takes elements of “Diary of a Madman” and develops them further in The Republic of Wine. The metafictional structure of Lu Xun’s short story – the narrator discovers the madman’s diaries – is ­transformed into a complex mosaic of letters, short stories and a novel in Mo Yan’s book. The madman recovers from his insanity and is employed in an official post (29), implying normalcy inevitably involves collaboration in a cannibalistic society, whereas Ding Gou’er fails to break free of his descent into the corrupt world of Liquorland and dies in a literal and figurative cesspit, suggesting the overwhelming and destructive nature of institutionalised corruption in post-Mao China. A re-contextualisation of The Republic of Wine, however, involves more intertextual references than Lu Xun’s short stories: the novel also refers to cannibalism with Yi Ya and the Duke Huan of Qi (78); Liu Bei (161–223), a warlord during the Han Dynasty whose army resorted to cannibalism during battle; and Liu Kui, a cannibalistic character in the sixteenth-century classical Chinese novel Water Margin (Shui hu zhuan, 水浒传). In addition to the Chinese intertexts, the key foreign intertext is Anglo-­ Irish satirist Jonathan Swift’s essay A Modest Proposal (1729), which is referred to in Lu Xun’s “Diary of a Madman” but not directly in Mo

Purity and Parody  189 Yan’s novel.112 Even though Mo Yan claims he has not read Swift,113 the resemblances are striking, not least because the two texts share a caustic humour for satirical purposes and present seemingly credible arguments for eating babies. Northrop Frye’s comment about Swift’s tract could as easily apply to Mo Yan’s novel. Frye says: The argument of Swift’s Modest Proposal has a brain-softening plausibility about it: one is almost led to feel that the narrator is not only reasonable but even humane; yet the ‘almost’ can never drop out of any sane man’s reaction, and as long as it remains there the modest proposal will be both fantastic and immoral.114 Swift proposes that Britain rid itself of the children of poor people and Catholics by selling their young babies to be consumed as meat in a critique of the English colonisation of Ireland and the poor state of the colony’s economy. The emphasis on babies as a culinary delicacy runs across both texts. Swift maintains that one-year-old babies are delicious and nourishing, and can be cooked in a variety of ways, either stewed, roasted, baked or boiled (10). In Mo Yan’s text, Ding Gou’er is served an “incredibly fragrant little boy” on a platter (52), and the child dishes are devised by Liquorland’s chefs, who are described as “extraordinarily talented, uncanny masters” (77). Cannibalism arises as a gourmet’s titillation: Swift maintains it provides pleasure for the rich (23); in ­Liquorland the rationale is one of “aesthetic appreciation” (220). There is also an economic imperative. Swift devises a tiered payment scheme and suggests women keep breeding babies for human consumption (12). In Li Yidou’s short story “Meat Boy,” the Special Purchasing Section of the Culinary Academy buys babies in bulk numbers (72) and compels parents to guarantee that they have bred their child specifically as “a special product” to sell to the academy (73). The above re-contextualisation of The Republic of Wine, then, illustrates how the novel follows in two different literary traditions that deploy cannibalism as a trope to critique political and social issues, one Chinese and the other Western. Thus Mo Yan’s novel ought to be positioned within a world literature context, rather than be regarded as just a pre-eminent example of contemporary Chinese fiction. Much of the magical realist elements in the novel are inherent in the heightened ambiguity about whether or not the alleged cannibalism in Liquorland actually occurs. Special investigator Ding Gou’er is unable to prove conclusively if Party officials are eating babies. His confusion is amplified by the hallucination-like episodes he experiences in Liquorland, which are induced by the excessive imbibing of alcohol. In a magical realist touch, drunkenness in the novel exists amid the in-betweenness of consciousness (sobriety) and unconsciousness (dead drunk). Drunkenness represents a loss of control in a bacchanalian

190  Purity and Parody sense, as well as the Bakhtinian carnivalesque, in that characters temporarily let slip their identities to reveal hidden truths and repressed selves. For example, Ding Gou’er becomes so intoxicated at his first banquet in Liquorland that his consciousness is “stripped from his body” (43) and flies with wings around the dining hall (45). When he is presented with the “famous dish” of a boy (75), he panics and shoots the boy’s head. His host, Liquorland’s Deputy Head of Propaganda, Diamond Jin, provides a rational explanation that the “boy” consists of lotus root and melon for the arm, ham sausage for the leg, processed suckling sow for the torso, silver melon for the head and strings of hirsute vegetables for the hair (82). Ding Gou’er’s confusion is compounded when he eats an arm and is overwhelmed by the exquisite taste (83). Consequently, the special investigator is led further and further into an “epistemological puzzle” in which he is increasingly doubtful about what constitutes reality, satirising the Maoist concept of a universal socialist realism.115 These kinds of sequences create the “surrealistic and hallucinatory metaphors and much magic realism” of the novel, as Jeffrey Kinkley points out.116 Later, the special investigator begins an affair with a woman known only as the “lady trucker,” who turns out to be Diamond Jin’s wife. She pleads with Ding Gou’er to take her away from Liqourland, claiming her husband and other officials “eat infants” (195), and that Diamond Jin had eaten “every one of the aborted foetuses” from the five pregnancies he had forced her to terminate (197). Although it seems their liaison is an entrapment, designed so that Diamond Jin can photograph Ding Gou’er in a compromising position, the lady trucker’s claims nevertheless add to the plausibility of cannibalism and the investigator’s confusion. It is tempting to describe Ding Gou’er’s inability to solve his investigation as reflecting a hesitation typically experienced by the reader when confronted with two seemingly contradictory elements – the magical and the real – in a magical realist text. “The reader may hesitate (at one point or another) between two contradictory understandings of events – and hence experiences some unsettling doubts,” says Wendy Faris. The hesitation occurs before the reader determines if there is an “irreducible element” of magic in the text – that is, something which cannot be explained according to the laws of the universe as understood.117 But is the term hesitation appropriate for Chinese fiction? I think not. Ming Dong Gu argues that classical Chinese fiction reflects Chinese philosophy and, in particular, Taoism. He says that the Taoist ontology’s holistic view of the interconnectedness of all things in the universe leads to subject and object not being cognitively separated. Taoism perceives the universe as “growing out of nothing,” an idea encapsulated in the phrase wu zhong sheng you (蕪中生有), which is translated as “being in nonbeing,” or “the real in the unreal.” By contrast, Western philosophy, as a legacy of Cartesian dualism and scientific rationalism, usually separates subject and object. Ming Dong Gu maintains that classical Chinese

Purity and Parody  191 fiction reflects Taoism’s binding of wu (nonbeing) with its “opposite” you (being). In other words, classical Chinese texts can hold what is not true as also being true, to the extent that this tendency to portray the unity of paradoxes “completely defies the law of probability.” While Ming Dong Gu concedes that Western fiction can also hold the nontrue as being true, he argues that the Chinese tradition “surpasses its Western counterpart in intensity.” He adds that within Chinese fiction, “the fantastic elements cannot be adequately explained in terms of a hesitation on the part of the reader,” nor “resolved as the results of imagination or illusion” because they “are part and parcel of the plot development.”118 Similarly, Andrew Plaks argues that Chinese narratives reintegrate perceived dualities into a “conceptual unity.” The “Chinese solution” is to conceive a universe in which sensory and intellectual opposites are “contained,” and in which “poles of duality are seen as complementary,” says Plaks. Polarities are not seen as opposites but as points along “a series of axes, or continua.”119 The Republic of Wine reflects Chinese narratives in that the novel reintegrates perceived dualities into a conceptual unity, such as the fictional and the real; drunkenness and sobriety; corruption and purity; and, in relation to cannibalism, human and animal or body and meat. Ding Gou’er remains indecisive about whether cannibalism is occurring in Liquorland. “Who could guarantee it wasn’t a hoax?” he thinks at one point (115). Yet his indecision ought to be read more in the context of a Chinese narrative’s tendency to unify dualities rather than constitute hesitation. Ambivalence, or even ambiguity, may be more apt, for what underpins Ding Gou’er’s reluctance to make up his mind is his belated recognition that he himself is being increasingly dragged into the corrupt world which he was sent to investigate. If he accepts the corruption of the external world, he has to face up to the corruption within himself. In holding what is true to be untrue, Ding Gou’er is both ethical and corrupt. The Republic of Wine, therefore, illustrates how the concept of hesitation that underpins the poetics of magical realism does not adequately capture the cultural dynamics of the text. An inherent tension exists between the satirical portrayal of the allegations of cannibalism and the ‘evidence’ produced, principally through Li Yidou’s letters and short stories. I propose that Mo Yan introduces this tension in order to encourage the reader to explore the deeper undercurrents of the book. Two of Li Yidou’s stories, in particular, give credence to the cannibalistic behaviour: “Meat Boy,” which I discussed earlier, and “Cooking Lesson.” In the latter, Li Yidou’s mother-in-law demonstrates to students at the Culinary Academy how to efficiently “slaughter” a baby boy without ruining the meat. The scene starts as satire but ends as grotesque horror. The mother-in-law tells her students that, “owing to the rapid development following the four modernizations and the constant upping of people’s living standards, eating is no longer simply something to fill one’s stomach, but an aesthetic appreciation” (220).

192  Purity and Parody Immediately, she shows the class how to anaesthetise the “little animal” (220), suspend him from a rack and cut an artery in a foot (225). In his story, Li Yidou describes the demonstration in such precise detail that it is reminiscent of the torturous execution scenes that involve skinning a person alive in Mo Yan’s Red Sorgum and The ­Sandalwood Death. Why are such gruesome details included in The Republic of Wine? ­I mportantly, the mother-in-law says of the babies: “They are not human. They are little animals in human form” (220). Mo Yan once again blurs the distinction between humans and animals, suggesting humans are no better than animals, and reaffirming the theme of Red Sorghum that the human spirit degenerates in inverse proportion to rising material prosperity. In The Republic of Wine, the mother-in-law’s clinical slaughter of an infant indicates Mo Yan wants the reader to understand that such a nightmarish scenario is not only possible under an authoritarian regime, it is also representative of what has actually occurred in China’s history. I propose that the cannibalism trope in Mo Yan’s novel is an example of the “traumatic imagination” inherent in much magical realist fiction. Eugene Arva’s concept, which I introduced in Chapter 1, highlights how magical realism frequently incorporates “an empathy-driven consciousness that enables authors and readers to act out and / or work through trauma by means of magical realist images.” Historical events that are too extreme to be portrayed through realism – such as massacres, genocide or natural disasters – are instead depicted as experiences rather than as they might have actually occurred.120 Trauma, as Cathy Caruth defines it, is “the response to an unexpected or overwhelming violent event or events that are not fully grasped as they occur, but return later in repeated flashbacks, nightmares, and other repetitive phenomena.”121 The historical trauma that Mo Yan wishes to address is not episodes of actual cannibalism but the ongoing social upheavals throughout the Maoist era and state-controlled capitalism. Cannibalism is the magical realist image for the “traumatic imagination.” Yet the satirical version of cannibalism in the novel is so extreme, so distorted, so grotesque that it becomes humorous and palatable to the reader. In short, it is digestible. A parallel occurs in the epilogue of Canadian writer Yann Martel’s magical realist novel Life of Pi (2001).122 The two government officials interviewing the teenage Pi, who drifted for 227 days in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat, decide not to believe his ‘alternative’ story of survival by cannibalism (of a crew member) because the truth is too difficult to bear. Instead, they choose to believe Pi’s tale of “traumatic imagination,” of being saved by a (metaphoric) Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, who becomes the “awful, fierce thing that kept me [Pi] alive” (285). The historical Richard Parker was one of four sailors shipwrecked in the South Atlantic in 1884, and the only one to be eaten by the other crew.123 Pi, who starts out as a religious vegetarian, gives his alter-ego the name of the sailor because he realises that unless he grows into a predator himself, he will become a victim.

Purity and Parody  193 So what is Mo Yan attempting to say in The Republic of Wine? And why does he employ a magical realist treatment of cannibalism to say it? German writer Patrick Süskind’s canonical magical realist novel, Perfume (1985), provides a clue.124 Although the central character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, does not eat humans directly, the eighteenth-century French perfumer ingests them in an olfactory sense by murdering virgin “girls just approaching womanhood” (143) and distilling their essences into perfumes. Grenouille’s perfumes endow him with superhuman power over others. Eventually, he is attacked in a cemetery by 30 people who cut him into pieces and eat him, performing their frenzied act “out of Love” (186). Perfume is often read as a metaphor for Hitler’s dictatorial rise in Nazi Germany and his power over an enthralled populace. But I want to highlight that Grenouille’s monstrous essence remains living within the people who cannibalised him, as Howard Goldblatt notes.125 Similarly, in The Republic of Wine the perpetrator becomes one with the victim; the crime of cannibalism involves the whole of society, not just those who directly participate in it. The longer Ding Gou’er stays in Liquorland, the more he becomes corrupted by its environment. He is an anti-hero who subverts the Maoist literary requirement for a socialist hero of action. He not only fails in his investigation but is physically absorbed into Liquorland’s cesspit, sinking into an open-air “privy” along with his “sacred panoply of ideals, justice, respect, honor, and love” (330). This notion of collective responsibility for cannibalism in a metaphoric sense has a more profound resonance in the Chinese language than in English. The Chinese word for “to eat,” chi (吃), has wider connotations than its English counterpart because eating in Chinese also relates to “various economic, political, social, and cultural codes.” Moreover, the Chinese word rou (肉) means both “flesh” and “meat,” and so applies to both human flesh (renrou, 人肉) and different kinds of animal meat, such as pork (zhurou, 猪肉) and beef (niurou, 牛肉). “When rou is combined with chi in the verb-object structure of chirou, it literally locates human consumption of rou and the human body itself in the order of carnivora,” says Yue Gang (original emphasis).126 Mo Yan plays with this linguistic ambiguity or crossover between human flesh and animal meat in two particular passages in The Republic of Wine, in order to reinforce the novel’s overall theme of cannibalism and collective social culpability. The first passage occurs during Ding Gou’er’s inaugural banquet at Liquorland, when the special investigator has become so drunk that he has an out-of-body-experience and observes himself as a separate identity or being. The English translation reads: He saw the shell of his body, slouched in a chair like a hunk of dead meat, his neck pressing against the chair back, like an overturned gourd. From his vantage point on the ceiling, he wept over the halfdead body he had left behind. (my emphasis) (84)

194  Purity and Parody The English translation clearly spells out a demarcation between the human “body” and the “meat” one might associate with a dead animal. The simile “like a hunk of dead meat” brings to mind the carcass of a dead cow hanging from a butcher’s peg. The translated phrase “shell of his body” in the original reads “ziji de qu qiao” (自己的軀殼).127 The word qu (軀) means “human body,” so at this point there is no ambiguity about Ding Gou’er’s physicality. The qu is qualified by qiao (殼), meaning “shell,” which introduces the nuance of Ding Gou’er staring at the carapace or outer layer of his corpus. The translated phrase “hunk of dead meat” matches the Chinese text: dui rou (堆肉) literally means “pile” (or “heap”) of “meat.” But in the second reference, to Ding Gou’er’s “half-dead body,” the original text differs from the English translation, which fails to convey the subtlety of meaning or ambiguity. The Chinese text refers to a half-dead routi (肉體). The two Chinese characters combined mean “physical body,” but the combination word consists of two separate Chinese characters: rou (肉), meaning “flesh” or “meat,” and ti (體), meaning “body.” Mo Yan’s use of the word routi, therefore, introduces the idea that Ding Gou’er’s human body is also flesh or meat that may be eaten. This concept is reinforced when he sees his inebriated routi as half “si” (死), meaning “dead.” That is, the special investigator’s meaty body is already halfway to the abattoir. In the second passage, Ding Gou’er has just had sex with the lady trucker and, already confusing the demarcation between humans and animals, feels like he is “an animal in the wild.” At the post-coital moment, the English translation reads, “Opaque steam rose from the lady trucker’s body, like a freshly steamed fish” (my emphasis) (195). The Chinese text refers to the lady trucker’s “shen” (身), which not only means “body,” but also “life” as well as “morality” or “conduct.” It is clear that the original text explicitly refers to a human body, yet there is the additional overtone of a living body, perhaps partly because she is a woman capable of giving birth, and the Confucian idea that the inhabitant of this body has moral obligations. Of course, the lady trucker implores Ding Gou’er to arrest her allegedly criminal husband. ­Nevertheless, Ding Gou’er’s response is to view her like a freshly cooked piece of meat to be eaten, or a “zheng yu” (蒸魚), literally “steamed fish.” Ding Gou’er’s mental or spiritual degeneration into cannibalism is reinforced moments later. “Gazing back at the lady trucker, he saw her as a target of flesh belonging to Diamond Jin” (my emphasis) (195). The Chinese text here uses “rou” (肉), meaning “flesh” or “meat,” making it unambiguously clear that Ding Gou’er has crossed the mental threshold into viewing his lover as a consumable delicacy.128 Even allowing for Mo Yan’s satirical humour at this juncture, in which he employs the cliché of lovers devouring their paramours, it is nevertheless clear that Ding Gou’er has himself psychically entered the world of cannibalism.

Purity and Parody  195 The special investigator’s transformation reflects the figure of the cannibal, who is “neither inhuman nor fully human.” The cannibal cannot entirely be a monster because he or she “occupies a liminal site that belongs to neither the inside nor the outside: it constantly threatens the binary opposition on which the stability of the self hinges” (my emphasis).129 The cannibal’s liminal place, which lies between being inhuman and fully human, parallels the liminal space occupied by magical realist fiction, which exists at the interpenetration of the real and the unreal. It is precisely the liminality of cannibalism in The Republic of Wine that reveals to the reader the interconnection between corrupt officialdom and a compliant and complicit citizenry. In other words, the monster is not necessarily an external figure but lives within all of us. Not only does The Republic of Wine break down binaries of the external and internal, of the ethical and corrupted, it also dissolves the notion of an autonomous self, of an individual identity both separate from, and assimilated within, the rest of humanity. The novel employs metafiction to question the limits of realism and the basis of ideation, by exploiting the postmodern notion of a text as a network of other texts in such a way that the boundaries between the real and the unreal are dissolved, and the concept of an objective, universal truth is subverted. The novel elevates the ‘magical’ element of textual reality to the same level as extratextual reality, thereby throwing doubt on the epistemological status of both, and suggesting that ‘reality’ is plural, subjective and unstable. In the tenth and final chapter, the character Mo Yan intrudes into the action of the main narrative by becoming a participant. The real-life Mo Yan went on to use this technique again in Life and Death are Wearing Me Out (2006), in which ‘Mo Yan’ appears as a character in the narrative. The final chapter of The Republic of Wine begins in the third person, written by the actual Mo Yan, who claims that the character Mo Yan “disgusts me” (332). The actual Mo Yan says the two of them have “many similarities” but “many contradictions” as well. “I’m a hermit crab, and Mo Yan is the shell I’m occupying,” says the actual Mo Yan (331). This passage is reminiscent of the short story “Borges and I” (1960) by Jorge Luis Borges, whom some critics regard as a pioneer of magical realist fiction. The writer of Borges’s story says the “other” Borges is “the one things happen to,” implying that is the famous writer. But the last line confuses who is which Borges and whether they are indeed separate identities: “I do not know which of us has written this page.”130 Similarly, what initially appears to be separate identities of the two Mo Yans in The Republic of Wine’s last chapter unify when the writer says that the character and he “merge into one” (332). Thereafter, the narrative switches from the third-person to the first-person as the merged Mo Yan disembarks from a train at Liquorland. The merged actual-fictional character Mo Yan ostensibly travels to Liquorland to devise a better ending than Ding Gou’er falling into the

196  Purity and Parody open-air privy (334), thereby highlighting not only the artifice of the construction of fiction but also the highly intertextual nature of this novel. By allowing the ‘author’ to actively intrude into the text, Mo Yan elevates fictional reality to the same level as extratextual reality. Jon Thiem identifies the transportation of an author (or sometimes reader) “into the world of a text” as a process that he terms “textualisation.” Textualisation, he adds, is “the paradigmatic topos of magical realism” because it demonstrates “the interpenetration of irreconcilable worlds” – that is, the actual world and the textual world. As a result, readers are prompted to question the ontological basis of both the fictional and extratextual worlds.131 The fictional Mo Yan’s intervention in the main narrative encourages the reader to question the complicity of society as a whole in regard to corruption as ‘Mo Yan’ ultimately realises that he has become as embroiled in the corrupt world of Liquorland as Ding Gou’er. Mo Yan meets Li Yidou, who had invited the author to his hometown, as well as Diamond Jin and other characters of Liquorland. But rather than discover a new ending, Mo Yan falls into the same trap as Ding Gou’er by becoming hopelessly drunk at the officials’ banquet. Indeed, Mo Yan becomes the ending as, in his stream of consciousness rant in the final pages, he has an epiphany that Li Yidou is a “con man” and “evil-doer” (355), and a vision that Mo Yan reunites with his “shadow” and “true brother” Ding Gou’er (355–356). Mo Yan’s narrative journey, therefore, exposes the representation of discourse but in such a way as to demonstrate the limitations of realism. For Mo Yan has no more success than Ding Gou’er in establishing the truth about cannibalism in Liquorland. Mo Yan fails in his bid to devise a better ending, and hence absolute truth is shown to be a fiction. In conclusion, Mo Yan is a writer who presents a quandary for scholars of magical realism. On the one hand, there are identifiable magical realist elements throughout much of his work. One can trace a development in his deployment of various magical realist techniques, from those that draw on the supernatural and folkloric beliefs in Red ­Sorghum and The Garlic Ballads to a different kind of magical realism that incorporates metafictional techniques, especially intertextuality, in The ­Republic of Wine. On the other hand, Mo Yan publicly resists attempts to label his works magical realist, or himself as a writer of magical realism. Indeed, there is a degree of truth in his assertion that what might be perceived as magical realist elements in his fiction are more likely his own adaptations of traditional Chinese literary techniques. Moreover, Chinese literary scholars attest to the similarities between magical realist fiction and classical Chinese literature, even though they are different generic kinds. Chinese cultural and philosophical influences in Mo Yan’s fiction are particularly evident in the Taoist ontology that underpins the environmental aspects of Red Sorghum, which is integrated into the natural world, as well as the environmental elements (in a broad sense) of

Purity and Parody  197 The Republic of Wine, in terms of the city being a site for corruption and the metaphysical unity of opposites. From a literary critical point of view, therefore, one should only analyse Mo Yan’s fiction through the rubric of magical realism if done in conjunction with caveats. Mo Yan’s fiction demonstrates, perhaps more than the work of any other key writer in this monograph, the amorphous nature of magical realism in that it frequently shares similarities with other elements, especially cultural and from individual artistic expression, which may be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to tell apart.

Notes 1 Sabina Knight, “The Realpolitik of Mo Yan’s Fiction,” in Mo Yan in Context: Nobel Laureate and Global Storyteller, eds. Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huan (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2014), 96. 2 Hongtao Liu, “Mo Yan’s Fiction and the Chinese Nativist Literary Tradition,” trans. Haiyan Lee, World Literature Today 83, no. 4 (2009), 31. 3 Swedish Academy, “Nobel Prize in Literature 2012, press release,” October 11, 2012, accessed June 5, 2018, www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/ laureates/2012/press.html. 4 Jeanne Delbaere, “Magic Realism: The Energy of the Margins,” in Postmodern Fiction in Canada, eds. Theo D’haen and Hans Bertens (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1992), 76. 5 Howard Y. F. Choy, Remapping the Past: Fictions of History in Deng’s China, 1979–1997 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 12. 6 Choy, Remapping the Past, 9. 7 Socialist realism refers to the literary dogma that originated in the Stalinist Soviet Union and which was enforced by Mao. In effect, it was a communist propaganda tool confining fiction writers to employ literary realism in order to represent the struggle for socialism in a positive manner. 8 Mo Yan, “Storytellers: Nobel Lecture, December 7, 2012,” trans. Howard Goldblatt, Chinese Literature Today 3, no. 1/2 (2013), 13. 9 Yi-tsi Mei Feuerwerker, Ideology, Power, Text: Self-Representation and the Peasant “Other” in Modern Chinese Literature (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), 191. 10 The Chinese term mohuan xianshizhuyi consists of mohuan (魔幻), meaning “magical,” and xianshizhuyi (现实主义), meaning “realism.” 11 Yan, “Storytellers,” 13. 12 Laifong Leung, Morning Sun: Interviews with Chinese Writers of the Lost Generation (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1994), 150–151. 13 Suman Guptak, “Li Rui, Mo Yan, Yan Lianke and Lin Bai: Four Contemporary Chinese Writers Interviewed,” trans. Xiao Cheng, Wasafiri 23, no. 3 (2008), 32. 14 Shelley W. Chan, A Subversive Voice in China: The Fictional World of Mo Yan (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011), 4. 15 Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huan, “Introduction,” in Mo Yan in Context: Nobel Laureate and Global Storyteller, eds. Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huan (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2014), 6. 16 Ning Wang, “Cosmopolitanism and the Internationalization of Chinese Literature,” in Mo Yan in Context: Nobel Laureate and Global Storyteller, eds. Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huan (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2014), 175.

198  Purity and Parody 17 Julia Lovell, “Chinese Literature in the Global Canon: The Quest for Recognition,” in Global Chinese Literature: Critical Essays, eds. Jing Tsu and ­David Der-wei Wang (Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill Academic ­Publishers, 2010), 203. However, an alternative view is offered by Wang Ning, who argues that Chinese literature opened up to the world in 1919 during the May Fourth Movement, becoming part of world literature as a result, and was followed by a “second high tide of ‘openness’” after the Cultural ­Revolution ended in 1976. “Chinese literature is no longer an isolated one, but rather involved in the mainstream of world literature and manifests itself with its unique grandeur and appeal in the forest of world literatures.” Wang Ning, “Globalizing Chinese Literature: Toward a Rewriting of Contemporary C ­ hinese Literary Culture,” in China’s Literary and C ­ ultural Scenes at the Turn of the Twenty-­ First Century, ed. Jie Lu (London: Routledge, 2008), 111. 18 David Damrosch, What Is World Literature? (Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2003), 5–6. 19 Guptak, “Li Rui, Mo Yan, Yan Lianke and Lin Bai,” 32. 20 Emily Apter, The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature (Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006), 210. 21 Mo Yan, “My 3 American Books,” trans. Sylvia Li-chun Lin, World Literature Today 74, no. 3 (2000), 473. At the time of writing, Goldblatt had translated 10 of Mo Yan’s 12 novels into English. 22 Howard Goldblatt, “A Mutually Rewarding Yet Uneasy and Sometimes Fragile Relationship between Author and Translator,” in Mo Yan in Context: ­Nobel Laureate and Global Storyteller, eds. Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huang (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2014), 34. 23 Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn, ed. Hannah Arendt (1955; London: Fontana Press, 1992), 77. 24 Lena Rydholm, “Chinese Theories and Concepts of Fiction and the Issue of Transcultural Theories and Concepts of Fiction,” in True Lies Worldwide: Fictionality in Global Contexts, eds. Anders Cullhead and Lena Rydholm (Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter, 2014), 19. 25 David Der-wei Wang, “The Literary World of Mo Yan,” trans. Michael Berry, World Literature Today 74, no. 3 (2000), 492. 26 Ming Dong Gu, “Toward a Transcultural Poetics of Fiction: The Fusion of Narrative Visions in Chinese and Western Fiction Studies,” in True Lies Worldwide: Fictionality in Global Contexts, eds. Anders Cullhead and Lena Rydholm (Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter, 2014), 216. 27 Ming Dong Gu, Chinese Theories of Fiction: A Non-Western Narrative System (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006), 83. 28 Gu, Chinese Theories of Fiction, 188, 193, 194. 29 Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Oxford, 1967), Sections 66 & 67. 30 Richard Curt Kraus, The Party and the Arty in China: The New Politics of Culture (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), 127. 31 China finally scrapped the one-child policy in 2015, although couples are restricted to two children. In previous years, the one-child policy had been relaxed in rural areas and certain situations to allow two children. Patti Waldmeir, “China scraps one-child policy after more than three decades,” Financial Times, October 29, 2015, accessed August 28, 2018, www.ft.com/ cms/s/0/4f966d1a-7e2d-11e5-98fb-5a6d4728f74e.html?ftcamp=crm/ email/20151030/nbe/BusinessEducation/product#axzz3pwllSq9Z. 32 Mo Yan, Frog, trans. Howard Goldblatt (2009; London: Hamish Hamilton, 2014), 248, 251–252, 259.

Purity and Parody  199 33 Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 94. 34 Kraus, The Party and the Arty in China, 108. 35 Goldblatt, “Mutually Rewarding,” 31. 36 Alison Flood, “Mo Yan accepts Nobel prize, defends ‘necessary’ censorship,” The Guardian, December 11, 2012, accessed June 5, 2018, www. theguardian.com/books/2012/dec/11/mo-yan-nobel-prize-censorship. 37 Laifong Leung, Morning Sun, 146–149. Shelley Chan says the Chinese Communist Party during Mo Yan’s childhood was “meticulous” about class status. Upper-middle peasants were marginalised and politically alienated, “even though they were not much better off than the poor and lower-middle peasants.” See Chan, A Subversive Voice in China, 9. 38 Mo Yan, “My 3 American Books,” 476. 39 Kenny K.K. Ng, “Critical Realism and Peasant Ideology: The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan,” Chinese Culture 39, no. 1 (1998), 122–123. Original source Mo Yan, “Wode ‘nongmin yishi’ guan” (My Conception of the ‘Peasant Consciousness’), trans. Kenny K.K. Ng, Wenxue pinglunjia 2 (1989), 39–43. 40 Ng, “Critical Realism and Peasant Ideology,” 110, 121–122. 41 Yan, 12. 42 Mo Yan, Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh, trans. Howard Goldblatt (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2001; 2011), xii. 43 Tamás Bényei, “Rereading ‘Magic Realism,’” Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 3, no. 1 (1997), 158. 44 Mo Yan, Big Breasts & Wide Hips, trans. Howard Goldblatt (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2004); hereafter cited by page in the text. 45 Xudong Zhang, Postsocialism and Cultural Politics: China in the Last Decade of the Twentieth Century (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 10, 5, 3. 46 Xiaobing Tang, “The Function of New Theory: What Does It Mean to Talk About Postmodernism in China?” Politics, Ideology, and Literary Discourse in Modern China, eds. Liu Kang and Xiaobing Tang (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 294. 47 Mo Yan, Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, trans. Howard Goldblatt (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2012). 48 Mo Yan, The Garlic Ballads, trans. Howard Goldblatt (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2012); hereafter cited by page in the text. 49 In a personal interview on March 26, 2000, Mo Yan said the plot of The Garlic Ballads is based on a real revolt of garlic farmers in 1987 in his native Shandong. Jeffrey C. Kinkley, “Modernity and Apocalypse in Chinese Novels from the End of the Twentieth Century,” in Contested Modernities in Chinese Literature, ed. Charles Laughlin (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 119, Footnote 29. 50 Yan, The Garlic Ballads, back cover. 51 Mo Yan, Sandalwood Death, trans. Howard Goldblatt (2001; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013); hereafter cited by page in the text. 52 Mo Yan, Red Sorghum, trans. Howard Goldblatt (1987; London: Penguin, 1994); hereafter cited by page in the text. 53 Chan, 8. 54 Fung Yu-Lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy: Vol. 1. The Period of the Philosophers, trans. Derk Bodde (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1952), 178. 55 Yu-Lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy, 178.

200  Purity and Parody 56 David Der-wei Wang, “Imaginary Nostalgia: Shen Congwen, Song Zelai, Mo Yan, and Li Yongping,” in From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China, eds. Ellen Widmer and David Wang (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 109, 112. 57 Marianne Hirsch, The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 5. 58 Swedish Academy, (no pagination). 59 Wendy B. Faris, Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004), 100. 60 Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children (1981; Reprint, London: Picador, 1982), 443. 61 Peter Carey, Illywhacker (London: Faber and Faber, 1985), 11. 62 Wang, “Imaginary Nostalgia,” 125. 63 Wang, “The Literary World of Mo Yan,” 488. 64 Wilborn Hampton, “Anarchy and plain bad luck,” The New York Times, April 18, 1993, BR28. 65 Vincent Canby, “Social realist fable of 1930s China,” The New York Times, October 9, 1988, 74. 66 One assumes Mo Yan was comfortable with the film version of Red Sorghum because director Zhang Yimou later made a screen adaptation of the novel Shifu yuelaiyue youmo (Shifu, you’ll do anything for a laugh, 1999) titled Happy Yimes (Xingfu shiguang, 2000). 67 Yan, 71; hereafter cited by page in the text. 68 Yan Lianke, The Explosion Chronicles, trans. Carlos Rojas (London: Chatto & Windus, 2017), 299; hereafter cited by page in the text. 69 C.A.O. Xuenan, “Mythorealism and Enchanted Time: Yan Lianke’s Explosion Chronicles,” Frontiers of Literary Studies in China 10, no. 1 (2016), 108. 70 Chan, 181. 71 Kinkley, “Modernity and Apocalypse in Chinese Novels,” 112. 72 Yue Gang, The Mouth That Begs: Hunger, Cannibalism, and the Politics of Eating in Modern China (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 225. 73 Zhang, Postsocialism and Cultural Politics, 38. 74 Mo Yan, Change, trans. Howard Goldblatt (London: Seagull Books, 2010), 83–84. 75 Chan, 197. 76 Ding Gou’er is 48 (1) and was born in 1941 (11), implying the novel is set in 1989. 77 Yenna Wu, “Pitfalls of the Postcolonialist Rubric in the Study of Modern Chinese Fiction Featuring Cannibalism: From Lu Xun’s ‘Diary of a Madman’ to Mo Yan’s Boozeland,” Tamkang Review 30, no. 3 (2000), 51–87. 78 Kinkley, 112. 79 Translator Howard Goldblatt says: “The Republic of Wine was considered extremely subversive, and could be published in China only after a Taiwanese edition appeared in 1992.” See Mo Yan, The Republic of Wine, trans. Howard Goldblatt (New York: Arcade Publishing, 2012), v. 80 The Chinese title, Jiu guo (酒国), is also fantastical as it literally means country or nation (guo) of wine or liquor (jiu). Howard Goldblatt’s English translation, The Republic of Wine, may play on the concept of a ‘republic’ in the People’s Republic of China, but this is a nuance introduced by his interpretation. The title has also been translated into English as Wineland and Boozeland, which are more literal translations than Goldblatt’s.

Purity and Parody  201 81 Wasserstrom, China in the 21st Century, 95–96. 82 Xia Li, “Li Yidou’s Credo: Intellectuals in the Post-Mao Literary and Cultural Landscape,” Interlitteraria 1 (2009), 54–55. 83 Kenny K.K. Ng, “Metafiction, Cannibalism, and Political Allegory: Wineland by Mo Yan,” Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese 1, no. 2 (1998), 121, 124. 84 Chan, 180. 85 Patricia Waugh, Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction (London and New York: Routledge, 1984), 2, 4. 86 Zhang, 240. 87 Chi-ying Alice Wang, “Mo Yan’s The Garlic Ballads and Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out in the Context of Religious and Chinese Literary Conventions,” in Mo Yan in Context: Nobel Laureate and Global Storyteller, eds. Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huan (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2014), 128. 88 Chan, 8. 89 Maiping Chen, “The Intertextual Reading of Chinese Literature: With Mo Yan’s Works as Examples,” Chinese Literature Today 5, no. 1 (2015), 34–36. 90 Zhang, 242–243. 91 Ng, “Metafiction, Cannibalism, and Political Allegory,” 124. 92 Pu Songling, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, trans. and ed. John Minford (London: Penguin, 2006), xii–xiii. 93 Jianguo Chen, “The Logic of Phantasm: Haunting and Spectrality in Contemporary Chinese Literary Imagination,” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 14, no. 1 (Spring 2002), 234. 94 Jean-Pierre Durix, Mimesis, Genres and Post-Colonial Discourse: Deconstructing Magic Realism (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1998), 146. 95 Jeanne Delbaere-Garant, “Psychic Realism, Mythic Realism, Grotesque Realism: Variations on Magic Realism in Contemporary Literature in English,” in Magic Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 256. 96 Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (1957; Reprint, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000), 224. 97 Chan, 185. 98 David Der-wei Wang, “Afterword: Chinese Fiction for the Nineties,” in Running Wild: New Chinese Writers, eds. David Der-wei Wang and Jeanne Tai (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 243–245. 99 Yang Xiaobin, The Chinese Postmodern: Trauma and Irony in Chinese Avant-Garde Fiction (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002), 22. 100 Lu Xun, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories, trans. William A. Lyell (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990); hereafter cited by page in the text. 101 Key Ray Chong, Cannibalism in China (Wakefield, New Hampshire: Longwood Academic, 1990), 142; hereafter cited by page in the text. 102 Fredric Jameson, “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism,” Social Text 15 (1986), 70–71. 103 Wu, “Pitfalls of the Postcolonialist Rubric,” 63. 104 Yi Zheng, Scarlet Memorial: Tales of Cannibalism in Modern China, trans. T.P. Sym (1993; Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), 149; hereafter cited by page in the text. 105 Zheng Yi estimates that during an 11-day period 3,681 people were either beaten or persecuted to death throughout Guangxi, and many of them, although exact numbers are unknown, were eaten by fellow residents (14).

202  Purity and Parody

06 1 107

08 1 109 110

111 112 113 114 115 116 117

118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130

In Wuxuan County alone, he concludes at least 100 people were victims of cannibalism (114), and up to 20,000 people in the county had engaged in eating the flesh of other people (116). The frenzied outbreak occurred after the Party called for a crackdown on “class enemies” (10). Horrors included cutting out a person’s organs and frying them in oil while the victim was still alive (64). Chong, Cannibalism in China, 1, 2. Mo Yan also includes brief references to cannibalism in the novels Thirteen Steps (Shisan bu, 十三步, 1989) and The Herbivorous Clan (Shi cao jiazu, 食草家族, 1993), neither of which had been translated into English at the time of writing. See Shelley Chan, 188. Chong, viii–ix. Yu Hua, The Past and the Punishments, trans. Andrew F. Jones (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996); hereafter cited by page in the text. Xudong Zhang, “‘Demonic Realism’ and the ‘Socialist Market Economy’: Language Game, Natural History, and Social Allegory in Mo Yan’s The Republic of Wine,” in Postsocialism and Cultural Politics: China in the Last Decade of the Twentieth Century, ed. Xudong Zhang (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 243. Xun, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories. Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal (1729; Reprint, London: Weaver Bickerton, 1730); hereafter cited by page in the text. Kinkley, 119, Footnote 31. Kinkley cites a personal interview with Mo Yan on March 23, 2000. Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, 224. Wu, 73. Kinkley, 112. Wendy B. Faris, “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 167, 171. Gu, Chinese Theories of Fiction, 83, 187, 182, 191–194, 214–215. Andrew H. Plaks, “Conceptual Models in Chinese Narrative Theory.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 4, no. 1 (1977), 34–35. Eugene L. Arva, The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011), 5. Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 91. Yann Martel, Life of Pi (2001; Reprint, London: Canongate, 2012); hereafter cited by page in the text. Chong, 18. Patrick Süskind, Perfume, trans. John E. Woods (1985; London: Hamish Hamilton, 1986); hereafter cited by page in the text. Howard Goldblatt, “‘The Saturnicon’ Forbidden Food of Mo Yan,” World Literature Today 74, no. 3 (2000), 478. Gang, The Mouth that Begs, 11, 28. Mo Yan, Jiu guo (酒国) (The Republic of Wine) (Taipai: Hongfan Shudian, 1992), 102. Yan, Jiu guo, 232. Gang, 25. Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings, trans. James E. Irby, eds. Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby (London: Penguin, 1970), 282–283.

Purity and Parody  203 131 Jon Thiem, “The Textualization of the Reader in Magical Realist Fiction,” Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, eds. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 235, 240, 244. Thiem says a second type of textualisation occurs “when the world of a text literally intrudes into the extratextual or reader’s world” (236).

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204  Purity and Parody Arva, Eugene. The Traumatic Imagination: Histories of Violence in Magical Realist Fiction. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011. Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Edited by Hannah Arendt. Translated by Harry Zohn, London: Fontana Press, 1992. Originally published as Schriften. Frankfurt-am-Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1955. Bényei, Tamás. “Rereading ‘Magic Realism.’” Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 3, no. 1 (1997): 149–179. Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. Edited by Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby. Translated by James E. Irby, London: Penguin, 1970. Canby, Vincent. “Social Realist Fable of 1930s China.” The New York Times, October 9, 1988. Carey, Peter. Illywhacker. London: Faber and Faber, 1985. Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996. Chan, Shelley W. A Subversive Voice in China: The Fictional World of Mo Yan. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011. Chen, Jianguo. “The Logic of Phantasm: Haunting and Spectrality in Contemporary Chinese Literary Imagination.” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 14, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 231–265. Chong, Key Ray. Cannibalism in China. Wakefield, New Hampshire: Longwood Academic, 1990. Choy, Howard Y.F. Remapping the Past: Fictions of History in Deng’s China, 1979–1997. Leiden: Brill, 2008. Damrosch, David. What Is World Literature? Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2003. Delbaere, Jeanne. “Magic Realism: The Energy of the Margins.” In Postmodern Fiction in Canada, edited by Theo D’haen and Hans Bertens, 75–104. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1992. Delbaere-Garant, Jeanne. “Psychic Realism, Mythic Realism, Grotesque Realism: Variations on Magic Realism in Contemporary Literature in English.” In Magic Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 249–263. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Duran, Angelica, and Yuhan Huan. “Introduction.” In Mo Yan in Context: Nobel Laureate and Global Storyteller, edited by Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huan, 1–19. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2014. Durix, Jean-Pierre. Mimesis, Genres and Post-Colonial Discourse: Deconstructing Magic Realism. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998. Faris, Wendy B. Ordinary Enchantments: Magical Realism and the Remystification of Narrative. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004. ———. “Scheherazade’s Children: Magical Realism and Postmodern Fiction.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 163–190. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Feuerwerker, Yi-tsi Mei. Ideology, Power, Text: Self-Representation and the Peasant “Other” in Modern Chinese Literature. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.

Purity and Parody  205 Flood, Alison. “Mo Yan accepts Nobel prize, defends ‘necessary’ censorship.” The Guardian, December 11, 2012. Accessed June 5, 2018. www.theguardian.­com/ books/2012/dec/11/mo-yan-nobel-prize-censorship. Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. 1957. Reprint, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000. Goldblatt, Howard. “A Mutually Rewarding Yet Uneasy and Sometimes Fragile Relationship between Author and Translator.” In Mo Yan in Context: ­Nobel Laureate and Global Storyteller, edited by Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huang, 23–36. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2014. ——— “‘The Saturnicon’ Forbidden Food of Mo Yan.” World Literature Today 74, no. 3 (2000): 477–485. Gu, Ming Dong. Chinese Theories of Fiction: A Non-Western Narrative System. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006. ———. “Toward a Transcultural Poetics of Fiction: The Fusion of Narrative Visions in Chinese and Western Fiction Studies.” In True Lies Worldwide: Fictionality in Global Contexts, edited by Anders Cullhead and Lena Rydholm, 203–226. Berlin and Boston, MA: DeGruyter, 2014. Guptak, Suman. “Li Rui, Mo Yan, Yan Lianke and Lin Bai: Four Contemporary Chinese Writers Interviewed.” Translated by Xiao Cheng. Wasafiri 23, no. 3 (2008): 28–36. Hampton, Wilborn. “Anarchy and plain bad luck.” The New York Times, April 18, 1993. Hirsch, Marianne. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. Jameson, Fredric. “On Magic Realism in Film.” Critical Inquiry 12, no. 2 (1986): 301–325. ——— “Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism.” Social Text 15 (1986): 65–88. Kinkley, Jeffrey C. “Modernity and Apocalypse in Chinese Novels from the End of the Twentieth Century.” In Contested Modernities in Chinese Literature, edited by Charles Laughlin, 101–120. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Knight, Sabina. “The Realpolitik of Mo Yan’s Fiction.” In Mo Yan in Context: Nobel Laureate and Global Storyteller, edited by Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huang, 93–105. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2014. Kraus, Richard Curt. The Party and the Arty in China: The New Politics of Culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. Leung, Laifong. Morning Sun: Interviews with Chinese Writers of the Lost Generation. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1994. Lianke, Yan. The Explosion Chronicles. Translated by Carlos Rojas. London: Chatto & Windus, 2017. Liu, Hongtao. “Mo Yan’s Fiction and the Chinese Nativist Literary Tradition.” Translated by Haiyan Lee. World Literature Today 83, no. 4 (2009): 30–31. Lovell, Julia. “Chinese Literature in the Global Canon: The Quest for Recognition.” In Global Chinese Literature: Critical Essays, edited by Jing Tsu and David Der-wei Wang, 197–217. Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill Academic Publishers, 2010. Maiping, Chen. “The Intertextual Reading of Chinese Literature: With Mo Yan’s Works as Examples.” Chinese Literature Today 5, no. 1 (2015): 34–36.

206  Purity and Parody Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. 2001. Reprint, London: Canongate, 2012. Ng, Kenny K.K. “Critical Realism and Peasant Ideology: The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan.” Chinese Culture 39, no. 1 (1998): 109–146. ———. “Metafiction, Cannibalism, and Political Allegory: Wineland by Mo Yan.” Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese 1, no. 2 (1998): 121–148. Ning, Wang. “Globalizing Chinese Literature: Toward a Rewriting of Contemporary Chinese Literary Culture.” In China’s Literary and Cultural Scenes at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century, edited by Jie Lu, 103–118. London: Routledge, 2008. Plaks, Andrew H. “Conceptual Models in Chinese Narrative Theory.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 4, no. 1 (1977): 25–47. Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children. 1981. Reprint, London: Picador, 1982. Rydholm, Lena. “Chinese Theories and Concepts of Fiction and the Issue of Transcultural Theories and Concepts of Fiction.” In True Lies ­Worldwide: Fictionality in Global Contexts, edited by Anders Cullhead and Lena ­Rydholm, 3–29. Berlin and Boston, MA: De Gruyter, 2014. Songling, Pu. Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. Translated and edited by John Minford. London: Penguin, 2006. Süskind, Patrick. Perfume. Translated by John E. Woods. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1986. Originally published as Das Parfum. Zürich: Diogenes ­Verlag, 1985. Swedish Academy. “Nobel Prize in Literature 2012, press release.” October 11, 2012. Accessed June 5, 2018. www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/ laureates/2012/press.html. Swift, Jonathan. A Modest Proposal. 1729. Reprint, London: Weaver Bickerton, 1730.Tang, Xiaobing. “The Function of New Theory: What Does it Mean to Talk about Postmodernism in China?” In Politics, Ideology, and Literary Discourse in Modern China, edited by Liu Kang and Xiaobing Tang, 278–299. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993. Thiem, Jon. “The Textualization of the Reader in Magical Realist Fiction.” In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, 235–247. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995. Waldmeir, Patti. “China scraps one-child policy after more than three decades.” Financial Times, October 29, 2015. Accessed August 28, 2018. www. ft.com/cms/s/0/4f966d1a-7e2d-11e5-98fb-5a6d4728f74e.html?ftcamp=crm/ email/20151030/nbe/BusinessEducation/product#axzz3pwllSq9Z. Wang, Chi-ying Alice. “Mo Yan’s The Garlic Ballads and Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out in the Context of Religious and Chinese Literary Conventions.” In Mo Yan in Context: Nobel Laureate and Global Storyteller, edited by Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huang, 123–137. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2014. Wang, David Der-wei. “Imaginary Nostalgia: Shen Congwen, Song Zelai, Mo Yan, and Li Yongping.” In From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China, edited by Ellen Widmer and David ­Der-wei Wang, 107–132. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. ———. “Afterword: Chinese Fiction for the Nineties.” In Running Wild: New Chinese Writers, edited by David Der-wei Wang and Jeanne Tai, 238–258. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Purity and Parody  207 ———. “The Literary World of Mo Yan.” Translated by Michael Berry. World Literature Today, 74, no. 3 (2000): 487–494. Wang, Ning. “Cosmopolitanism and the Internationalization of Chinese Literature.” In Mo Yan in Context: Nobel Laureate and Global Storyteller, edited by Angelica Duran and Yuhan Huan, 167–181. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2014. Wasserstrom, Jeffrey N. China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Waugh, Patricia. Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction. London and New York: Routledge, 1984. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe, 3rd ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Oxford, 1967. Wu, Yenna. “Pitfalls of the Postcolonialist Rubric in the Study of Modern Chinese Fiction Featuring Cannibalism: From Lu Xun’s ‘Diary of a Madman’ to Mo Yan’s Boozeland.” Tamkang Review 30, no. 3 (2000): 51–87. Xia, Li. “Li Yidou’s Credo: Intellectuals in the Post-Mao Literary and Cultural Landscape.” Interlitteraria 1 (2009): 50–68. Xuenan, C.A.O. “Mythorealism and Enchanted Time: Yan Lianke’s Explosion Chronicles.” Frontiers of Literary Studies in China 10, no. 1 (2016): 103–112. Xun, Lu. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories. Translated by William A. Lyell. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990. Yang, Xiaobin. The Chinese Postmodern: Trauma and Irony in Chinese AvantGarde Fiction. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002. Yu, Hua. The Past and the Punishments. Translated by Andrew F. Jones. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. Yu-Lan, Fung. A History of Chinese Philosophy: Vol. 1. The Period of the Philosophers. Translated by Derk Bodde. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952. Yue, Gang. The Mouth That Begs: Hunger, Cannibalism, and the Politics of Eating in Modern China. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999. Zhang, Qinghua. “The Nobel Prize, Mo Yan, and Contemporary Literature in China.” Translated by Andrea Lingenfelter. Chinese Literature Today 3, no. 1/2 (2013): 17–20. Zhang, Xudong. “‘Demonic Realism’ and the ‘Socialist Market Economy’: Language Game, Natural History, and Social Allegory in Mo Yan’s The Republic of Wine.” In Postsocialism and Cultural Politics: China in the Last Decade of the Twentieth Century, edited by Xudong Zhang, 240–265. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008. Zhang, Xudong. Postsocialism and Cultural Politics: China in the Last Decade of the Twentieth Century. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008. Zheng, Yi. Scarlet Memorial: Tales of Cannibalism in Modern China. Translated by T.P. Sym. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996. Originally published as Hongse jinianbei (红色纪念碑). Taipei: Huash Cultural Publishing House, 1993.

Film Red Sorghum. Director Zhang Yimou. Xi’an Film Studio, 1987.

7 Planetary Perspective Addressing Climate Change in Wu Ming-yi’s The Man with the Compound Eyes

Taiwanese author Wu Ming-yi’s The Man with the Compound Eyes, which was originally published in 2011, reflects a growing trend among many novels in the new millennium to take a global focus about environmental concerns, rather than a regional or national one, and to address the ecological crisis of the past half-century.1 Furthermore, this particular novel participates in an “increasing production of climate change literature,” thereby demonstrating that the novel as a genre possesses an elastic capacity to adapt and evolve in order to absorb and reflect pressing public issues of the moment. 2 The conscious planetary perspective of The Man with the Compound Eyes distinguishes it from most other key texts examined in previous chapters that largely address environmental themes on a local basis, except Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider (1987). This fundamental characteristic, therefore, makes the book an appropriate work of fiction to conclude this monograph, for it enables an investigation into the tensions between local culture and environmental knowledge on the one hand, and the need for a global ethical imperative on the other. In addition, the novel’s transnational philosophy and aesthetics reflect the increasing internationalisation of much magical realist fiction as writers adapt the narrative mode to portray domestic issues and events within the broader context of global political, economic and cultural forces that often override the sovereign wishes and intentions of individual nation states and their citizens. Wu Ming-yi utilises magical realism as a narrative strategy for two purposes: first, to create a distinctive style of Taiwanese nature writing that is different from conventional nature writing in the West; second, to blend myth and literary realism in order to magnify the catastrophic scale of environmental degradation across the Earth. In this chapter I will build on Ursula Heise’s concept of “eco-cosmopolitanism” and her contention that contemporary environmental fiction ought to contain a planetary consciousness as a form of resistance. I also propose that The Man with the Compound Eyes should be read as world literature, or indeed as what Heise calls “environmental world literature,” because, even though it is a novel set in Taiwan and imbued with Taiwanese culture, above all it is a work of fiction that seeks to instil a sense of urgency in

Planetary Perspective  209 the reader about the fragile and deteriorating state of our planet, an existential crisis that traverses territorial borders. Wu Ming-yi has emerged as a Taiwanese writer of note, well beyond his homeland borders, especially after being longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2018 for his novel The Stolen Bicycle (2015). Yet widespread recognition began earlier. The Man with the Compound Eyes was the first Taiwanese novel to be translated into ­English by a major trade publisher (Random House imprints in Britain and the United States), and made “a modest splash” among reviewers and critics, which is all the more commendable given the marginal status of Taiwanese fiction in the world literary marketplace. 3 At the time, some commentators singled out the book’s magical realist or magical properties. ­Shiuhhuah Serena Chou dubbed it a “magical-realist novel” with a “planetary scale.”4 The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it “a heady mix of science fiction, fantasy, environmental fable and magical realism” that “defies categorization.”5 Both The Times Literary Supplement and The Guardian likened Wu Ming-yi’s style of writing with the pre-­ eminent Japanese writer of magical realism, Haruki Murakami, with the latter publication remarking on the book’s “semi-magical events.”6 What these reviews and journal articles reaffirm is magical realism’s continuing relevance and legitimacy in the second decade of the new millennium as well as commentators’ willingness to apply the narrative mode as a tool for literary criticism to literature from territories not usually associated with it – in this case Taiwan. In his home country, however, Wu Ming-yi is renowned as an environmental writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Chou argues Wu Ming-yi localises the Western literary genre of nature writing, which emerged in Taiwan in the 1980s, and that he incorporates Taoist and Taiwanese meanings “to suggest an enduring record of and testimony to nature’s process of evolution and regeneration.” Moreover, he examines environmental exploitation as a consequence of economic expansion under Japanese colonialism (1895–1945) and, later, domestic regimes since the 1980s amid “the pull of global economic tides.”7 Both of these ­characteristics – nature’s capacity for regeneration and the effects of domestic economic growth – are evident in The Man with the Compound Eyes, which I shall examine in detail shortly. Wu Ming-yi himself positions his work amid Taiwanese nature writers who have sought to develop “a new ethics” based on a local focus on the history of the land and its indigenous peoples, taking into account environmental, economic and political conditions. In this respect, he argues contemporary ­Taiwanese nature writing is distinguished from traditional Western nature writing that expresses lyrical sentiments and features nature as a backdrop. In The Man with the Compound Eyes, Wu Ming-yi adopts Alfred ­Crosby’s notion of ecological colonialism in both a narrow and a broad sense by depicting colonialism through the prism of Japanese colonisers exploiting the natural

210  Planetary Perspective environment of the colony as a tool for invasion and by portraying economic imperialism through postwar Taiwan as the country embracing foreign investment to drive economic growth and material affluence. “The nature of Taiwan’s economy was never capitalism pure and simple; it was an export economy of transnational corporations and hired labor controlled by international superpowers,” he says. As a result, Taiwan’s riches are at the expense of an “environmental debt,” making Taiwan a “nation of imported toxins.” Taiwanese nature writers, he argues, resist and challenge this economic model.8 Resistance in the novel, which is mostly set in Taiwan, is symbolised in the central magical realist conceit, the eponymous man, who is briefly alluded to early in the novel but does not appear in detail until towards the end, in Part IX of the eleven-part book. The man with the compound eyes serves as a metaphor for a holistic, environmental and multispecies perspective, one that acknowledges the interconnectedness of all things in the universe and their interdependence upon one another. In other words, his “composite vision of nature,” as Darryl Sterk describes it, is the antithesis to an anthropocentric singular perspective of the universe.9 The man’s “amazing” eyes are depicted as being like an insect’s with “innumerable ommatidia” (255), the optical units that make up the compound eye of an insect. Even though his eyes are no larger than the average person’s, he has “at least tens of thousands of ommatidia in each of his compound eyes, each so tiny as to be invisible to the naked eye” (278). When the man appears to the mountaineer Thom Jakobsen, a Dane who has emigrated to Taiwan, and who lies dying after falling from a cliff at night, his eyes “seem to change from moment to moment in hallucinatory permutations and combinations.” Thom realises “the scene in each of the tiny ommatidia that compose every compound eye is completely different with each passing instant.” Thom is “helplessly mesmerised by the instantaneous images playing in each ommatidium: could be an erupting undersea volcano, might be a falcon’s-eye view of a landscape, perhaps just a leaf about to fall. Each seems to be playing a kind of documentary” (276). The implication, therefore, is that the man with the compound eyes sees, and has seen, everything in the natural world. The imagery, however, has another purpose beyond the man being an omniscient being of nature, and that is the technological reference to the documentary-like images. which, in turn, suggest television broadcasting or internet streaming. The man, therefore, not only represents nature, but he also emanates out of postwar techno-capitalist Taiwan, as Sterk emphasises. As a result, the title character complicates the reader’s understanding of the global environmental crisis, acting as a reminder that our analysis and comprehension of environmental degradation in the twenty-first century is inevitably filtered – if even only partially – through contemporary technology that has a global reach and application. Put another way, environmental problems are so extensive

Planetary Perspective  211 and pervasive that only a global perspective offers any potential solutions as localised views are no longer sufficient to address cross-border or transnational factors. The man’s purpose, however, is not to act but to observe. He tells Thom that he can neither help anyone (254) nor intervene (282). Yet his central role is to be a messenger, to remind humans that the environmental crisis is basically their fault. The man gives Thom a mini-lecture on different types of memory, concluding that the human species’ capacity for memory is generally “no different from any other animal” (278). The one essential difference, however, is humans are the only species that have the ability to record memory, in writing (281). Despite this advantage, the irony is that humans disregard the memories of other species, to their own and the world’s detriment. The man states: Humans are usually completely unconcerned with the memories of other creatures. Human existence involves the wilful destruction of the existential memories of other creatures and your own memories as well. No life can survive without other lives, without the ecological memories other living creatures have, memories of the environments in which they live. People don’t realise they need to rely on the memories of other organisms to survive. (281) In one respect, the man with the compound eyes’ speech is similar to the Māori elder Koro’s in The Whale Rider in that both characters advocate humans should recognise that their place in the world is only one element that is dependent on all other elements, rather than humans being an independent, controlling central force. Also, both speeches are concerned with forgetting memories that are essential for survival. On the other hand, Wu Ming-yi’s title character places the emphasis on memories of non-human organisms as being pre-eminent for survival. As a consequence, he inverts the Enlightenment or anthropocentric notion of humans being at the top of a species pyramid. The curious thing about the man in the novel is that he conveys his message only to Thom, who is about to die from his fall, and so the imparted knowledge seems to be of no practical use. Yet he does also appear briefly earlier in the text to Dahu as a young boy, while he is learning to hunt with his father in the Bunun tradition; Bunun being an aboriginal group of Taiwan who live in the mountains. Instead of shooting the ear of a deer or a roebuck, as he is meant to, the adolescent Dahu shoots the ear of a goat, which, according to cultural tradition, signifies he is not a hunter. Separated from the hunting party, Dahu comes across “a man” with “compound eyes composed of countless single eyes, the eyes of clouds, mountains, streams, meadowlarks and muntjacs, all arranged together.” The man ‘speaks,’ although his mouth does not move, much

212  Planetary Perspective like the ancestral Māori spirits protesting against an environmentally damaging development proposal to the local council in Keri Hulme’s short story cited in Chapter 4. The man tells Dahu he is “fated … never to be a good hunter” (186). Given Dahu is Thom’s friend and finds his body in the mountains, there is a connection between the man’s appearances to both of them. There is a deeper link to Thom, however, through his son Toto, whose mother is Alice Shih, a literary professor who is Taiwanese but has Han Chinese ancestry, as distinct from an aboriginal Taiwanese background. From birth Toto is portrayed as having a spiritual affinity with insects and a preternatural connection to nature, but ultimately he morphs into it, suggesting he may be some kind of incarnation of the man with the compound eyes. Although Toto does not have compound eyes, he does have “the most beautiful blue eyes” with “a hidden depth that made the boy look at once innocent and aged” (65). Despite being diagnosed with “growth retardation” (75) – physical abnormalities are common in magical realist protagonists – by ten years of age Toto becomes “a skilled rock climber and mountaineer who knew more about alpine forests than the average forestry graduate.” Indeed, his mother believes “Toto belonged to the mountains” (19). While there is no doubt about his intelligence, Toto does not speak in complete sentences until he is three, and is unable to express himself in any of the languages of his ­parents – Mandarin, Danish and English – because “speaking was like trying to force something too large for the passage up through his throat” (75). N ­ evertheless, Toto has “amazing visual acuity” (75) and becomes obsessed with insects. His first overt connection with the man with the compound eyes occurs on the night Thom falls off the cliff. As Toto waits for his father in a tent, he dreams he is running after a deer along a cliff and the deer turns into a goat, behind which stands a man, echoing Dahu’s adolescent story (226). The next day, Toto attempts to climb down the cliff to his father but gets stuck halfway. At that point he hears the man with the compound eyes talking about him to Thom, saying, “He didn’t die by the regular definition, only he wasn’t alive any more.” Toto “suddenly feels his body grow light” (285), and he ascends to the top of the cliff. There, he becomes fixated with a scarab beetle. But from that moment on, he feels everything start to get ‘blurry’, not ‘blurry’ in the regular, visual sense but a kind of blurriness that people could never imagine. It is as if he is transforming into a leaf, an insect, a birdcall, a drop of water, a pinch of lichen, or even a rock. (286) In other words, Toto does not die but rather merges physically and spiritually into the natural world, his body never to be found by rescuers. The inference is that Toto is some kind of nature spirit and that he and

Planetary Perspective  213 the man with the compound eyes are somehow intertwined. Yet the fact that Toto is born to human parents dismantles the human and non-­ human binary. The man with the compound eyes’ message that humans disregard the memories of other organisms, even though they possess the singular ability to record memories in writing, is reinforced by Alice writing a short story and a novel, both of which are titled The Man with the Compound Eyes, in an attempt to overcome her grief at her son’s presumed death (291). Although the storylines of Alice’s twin works are not disclosed, they are about Toto, the implication being that Alice demonstrates the way forward for humanity by recording in writing the life of her son, who appears to have the capacity to understand the memories of non-human organisms. The subtext of Wu Ming-yi’s novel is that ecological memory among humans is often, if not typically, passed down the generations through cultural ties – a theme that has occurred repeatedly in the key texts explored in this monograph. In The Man with the Compound Eyes, environmental knowledge is embodied in the indigenous Taiwanese Bunun people, which is exemplified in their ecotourism initiative called the Forest Church located in the mountains. The nomenclature denotes spirituality rather than religion as the ‘church’ is not a building but rather consists of primeval forest in which the Bunun had always hunted and which was purchased privately before developers could get their hands on it (260). The Forest Church is one of many devices throughout the novel used by Wu Ming-yi repeatedly, highlighting how human environmental memory is at risk of disappearing on multiple fronts. On a macro scale the main culprit is imperial forces, which include colonialism. The book’s references to Japanese colonisers appropriating natural resources for economic profit in Taiwan provide a counterpoint to most of the other key texts in this monograph that, by contrast, are concerned primarily with European colonial powers, especially the British Empire. The Man with the Compound Eyes, therefore, acts as a reminder that colonisation throughout the ages is a recurring global phenomenon, not a regional one originating in Europe. Japan’s growth of the forestry, sugar and farming industries, as well as hydroelectric power, led to inevitable impacts on local ecosystems in Taiwan.10 Dahu’s father, for instance, recalls how “during the colonial era the Japanese kept forcing the Bunun to move around for fear we would unite against the authorities,” revealing the continual displacement of aboriginal people, deliberately separating them from their traditional hunting grounds, in order to prevent an uprising. Moreover, the Japanese forced the Bunun to cultivate rice, replacing their traditional hunting society with “paddy agriculture” in an effort to eradicate their culture. Interestingly, Dahu’s father instructs his son that “the first thing to hunting isn’t learning how to hunt but getting to know the mountains” (183). In other words, it’s not so much

214  Planetary Perspective the physical act and skill that is critical but an intimate and spiritual knowledge of the terrestrial landscape. This is a political as much as it is a survival imperative, for, as Kathryn Yalan Chang notes, “knowing [the] mountains is a way to resist colonialism.”11 Yet the novel also portrays environmental degradation of Taiwan in a wider historical arc, tracing the connection between prolonged Japanese colonisation, an influx of Han Chinese people, and postwar economic expansion. Alice contemplates the notion of successive colonisations and associated dispossession of land for indigenous peoples. Taiwan, she reflects, “had belonged to the aborigines. Then it belonged to the Japanese, the Han people and the tourists” (17). The last two categories of non-aboriginal Taiwanese refer to the mainland Chinese Nationalists who migrated to Taiwan after Mao Zedong took control of China in 1949, and foreign short-stay visitors since the late twentieth century. In general terms, the novel depicts successive waves of ‘foreigners’ descending on the island for varying lengths of time, which inevitably impacts the environment: terrestrial, marine and atmospheric. There are repeated references to offshore economic interests polluting the Taiwanese environment. For example, Alice’s grandmother’s small oyster farm becomes unviable after petrochemical firms build refineries to the north and south, producing oil slicks and hazy skies (137). A developer backed by a corrupt mayor “shovelled away part of the mountain” to build an amusement park until an earthquake made the rides inoperable and the development company filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying compensation (22). One of the things that makes The Man with the Compound Eyes distinctive among magical realist fiction as environmental discourse is that it literally gives voice to nature, thereby extending the narrative mode’s characteristic of giving voice to the voiceless, usually oppressed or marginalised groups of humans but in this context the marginalised environment. Wu Ming-yi foregrounds this concept at the start of the novel, when engineers, attempting to bore through Taiwan’s sacred mountains to build a new highway, are spooked by “an immense but also somehow distant sound” deep within the mountains (9). Again, technology is pitted against nature as the engineers, many of them foreign, experiment with a then new tunnel boring machine as an alternative to the traditional drilling and blasting method (197). However, one of the engineers, Detlef Boldt, as a professor decades after the project, reflects that “each mountain had its own unique ‘heart’” and, in hindsight, it might be preferable for a road to go around a mountain rather than to bore through it (203). Detlef remains haunted by that inexplicable “huge noise, a noise Detlef had never heard before in his entire life” many years before (206). It is important to note that the novel presents Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range as not only “a national icon” (18) but also an environmental and spiritual sanctuary, which is symbolised by it being

Planetary Perspective  215 the habitat for the man with the compound eyes. Wu Ming-yi employs this notion of nature howling against the pain of incessant damage inflicted upon it again later in the novel when a giant wave crashes on to the shores of Taiwan, dumping incalculable rubbish that has been floating around the Pacific, an event I shall explore in more detail later. At this point, however, it is worth mentioning that the tsunami produces a “sonic force” that is described as “a cosmic voice” (130). This sonic leitmotif complicates the concept of the Anthropocene era because it accords nature has having agency, of being a geological agent. The idea of the Anthropocene, on the other hand, proposes that since the advent of the industrial age humans have had the most significant geological impact. As Darryl Sterk states: “Narratively and stylistically, then, Wu is challenging the Western philosophical assumption that only humans are agents.”12 Sterk argues that the sonic forces, the giant wave dumping rubbish on to its originating source and other similar factors depicted in the novel indicate nature fighting back against environmental degradation.13 This may be so up to a point. However, I would ­counter-argue that the novel’s overwhelming sense is that of a planet stressed by unprecedented and ubiquitous pollution. The subtext is that human technology still retains the upper hand, mostly in a negative and destructive way. This is especially evident in the book’s imagery of the Trash Vortex, which becomes metonymic for the planet as a whole. The Man with the Compound Eyes is particularly acerbic about the devastating environmental degradation caused by industrialisation, and in this respect the book counters Amitav Ghosh’s complaint, first mentioned in my introduction chapter, that there is a paucity of fiction which addresses climate change. Wu Ming-yi’s novel demonstrates that this is a growing category. In contrast to the positive imagery of the man with the compound eyes, the Trash Vortex operates as a negative polar opposite. Sometimes referred to as the Plastic Continent, the Trash Vortex is an actual gigantic floating rubbish dump, estimated to be at least two millions tons, that circulates around the Pacific Ocean between the coast of California and Japan. The vortex, which absorbs hazardous chemicals that enter food chains, consists of rubbish dumped into the ocean by ships, oil rigs and Pacific Rim nations (121–122). Although the Trash Vortex is a real phenomenon, Wu Ming-yi accords it mythical status by linking it with the second main magical realist element of the novel, the teenage boy Lasu Kiyadimanu Atile’i from the fictional Pacific island of Wayo Wayo. Atile’i represents spiritual communion with nature and a pristine environment, coming from a small island whose inhabitants are dependent on the sea for sustenance and whose idiosyncratic religion is based on the natural world, with Kabang as their monotheistic deity. Wu Ming-yi’s narrative strategy is to merge the two worlds – the real and the mythical – through Atile’i. As a second son, he is compelled to leave his home by a tiny craft

216  Planetary Perspective that is like a canoe because of a cultural tradition designed to prevent overpopulation and an irreversible depletion of resources on the island. Although Atile’i is not expected to survive, he does, ironically, by taking temporary refuge on the Trash Vortex. Atile’i’s brief sojourn there allows a detailed, physical description of how this extraordinary yet grotesque wasteland destroys the environment. Atile’i dubs it “the land of death” (40) after discovering sea animals, such as turtles, that eat bits of the island inevitably die (39). The vortex consists of “coloured bags” (31), clothing, bottles (32) and “rot-resistant materials” like metal rods (39). The island’s mythological status is reinforced by its physicality, being “even more immense” in size underwater than on the surface. Moreover, “the island was translucent and in a constant state of change” (35), signifying perpetual metamorphosis, much like ongoing environmental deterioration of the planet. Interestingly, Wu Ming-Yi’s floating trash island recalls the “extraordinary floating island of rubbish” in Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria (2006) and the rubbish-less floating island in Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi (2001), both of which are also novels with significant magical realist elements. In Carpentaria, the Indigenous Australian activist Will Phantom survives by being washed up on to the floating refuse island off Australia’s north coast that consists of the detritus of Desperance, the fictional town synonymous with white colonialism, after a hurricane.14 In Life of Pi, the shipwrecked Indian boy Pi takes temporary refuge in the Pacific on an island with no soil but dense vegetation, until he realises the island is carnivorous. The island, he believes, is “a chimera, a play of the mind.”15 My point is that in all three novels a protagonist, bereft and drifting on the open seas, survives by staying briefly on a floating island that represents the toxic waste of modernity (the island in Life of Pi is more symbolic rather than literal waste, suggesting the cannibalistic nature of modern society, preying on the weak). The Trash Vortex, I contend, acts as a metaphor – albeit a literal one – for the inaction by humans to adequately tackle the extreme, harmful environmental effects of the Anthropocene era. In this respect, the giant floating island of rubbish exemplifies what Karen Thornber calls “ecoambiguity,” by which she means “the complex, contradictory interactions between people and environments with a significant nonhuman presence.” Thornber’s term captures the ambiguous attitude humanity as a whole has towards environmental destruction, increasingly demanding more of the planet and its finite natural resources in order to constantly ‘improve’ material living standards without wanting to acknowledge the environmental consequences. This kind of ambiguity extends to “confusion about the actual condition of the nonhuman,” “contradictory human behaviors toward ecosystems” and “inadvertently harming the very environments one is attempting to protect,” among other things.16 Moreover, The Man with the Compound Eyes portrays humanity’s ecoambiguity as being pervasive on a global scale, given that the Trash

Planetary Perspective  217 Vortex is an environmental catastrophe that ignores geographical and territorial borders, and destroys arguably one of the world’s last great commons: the ocean. In this respect, Wu Ming-yi’s novel ought to be regarded as a work of world literature, and, more specifically, environmental world literature. “Environmental world literature,” as Ursula Heise defines the term, “conjures up texts from the 1800s to the present that have inspired environmentalist thinkers and movements beyond their own context of origin to stand up for the conservation of the natural world.”17 Yet this is only one of four categories of environmental world literature that Heise identifies. The other three are works that do not engage with nature directly but presuppose certain views of nature as they focus instead on issues of selfhood, sovereignty or nationality; works that explicitly address humans’ relation to nature but not in a specific, environmentalist sense of threats to the environment or non-human species; and works that principally, although not exclusively, focus on the ecological crisis of the past half-century and which are “translated and circulated through a variety of languages and cultures.”18 Wu Ming-yi’s novel, I propose, falls within Heise’s first and fourth categories, although it is the latter one that is most relevant to my discussion here. In her essay, Heise focuses on novels in which “questions of ecology are inextricably entangled with questions of racial, ethnic, gender, national, or international politics that shape particular individuals’ and communities’ engagements with environmental crisis.”19 The Man with the Compound Eyes is structured around a range of different characters’ personal narratives, chief among them being Alice’s and Atiele’i’s, all of which are to do with environmental crisis. The narratives of Alice, Dahu and other Taiwanese residents revolve around encroaching environmental degradation of Taiwan and the concomitant erosion of indigenous environmental knowledge and culture. The twin narratives of Thom the Dane and his son Toto revolve around Taiwan’s mountains as a spiritual and environmental sanctuary. But the novel contains other, non-­Taiwanese narratives as well that enable the text to transcend its primary location and engage with a planetary environmental consciousness. Among these is Sara the Norwegian marine biologist who is married to Detlef the engineer. Sara’s scientific background makes her fully aware of climate change as an acute and accelerating global phenomenon. She takes an interest not only in the Trash Vortex (201) but also in the melting of ice in the Arctic (200, 233). Sara uses her scientific skills to fight “the criminal subterfuges of state agencies or capitalists” that hide behind environmental protection regulations in order to exploit and damage the environment for economic gain (266). It is through these disparate narratives that the novel explores different conceptions of the ‘environment’ as well as different engagements with environmental crisis. In this respect, Wu Ming-yi reframes environmental degradation within a planetary consciousness, thereby encouraging the reader to likewise

218  Planetary Perspective view the twenty-first environmental crisis as a borderless issue that requires a global response. Wu Ming-yi takes the narrative structure a step further by introducing a magical realist aspect in the form of merging the aforementioned literary realism narratives and the mythical narrative of Atile’i. The effect is to imbue the text with a timeless quality that positions the story, which acquires a fable-like sensibility, outside of its contemporary Taiwanese setting. The point of conjunction between the ‘real’ and the mythical occurs when the Wayo Wayoan is transported by a tsunami that dumps a large part of the Trash Vortex on the Taiwanese coast. Although giant waves are not uncommon in the Pacific, the text builds up the event with supernatural significance. Following a hailstorm, a cloud is described as “like a floating myth” and “an overwrought line of epic verse,” which is unprecedented according to coastal aboriginal villagers. The “monster wave” that brings Atile’i and the trash generates a “sonic force” and speaks with “a cosmic voice, as if the risen moon had been silently storing up sound ever since time began and now let it out, all at once, in one great burst” (130). Afterwards Alice finds a wounded Atili’e and nurtures him back to health, continuing the blending of the mythical and the real into the overall narrative. Yet their relationship is complex, involving cross-cultural and linguistic barriers, as neither understands what the other is saying at the outset, although, over time, they do learn to communicate and pick up bits of each other’s language (Alice teaches him Mandarin). On one level Atile’i’s narrative purpose is to console Alice as she grieves for her lost son, which, in turn, enables her to write her stories about Toto in order to memorialise him in writing. Atile’i, therefore, becomes a temporary substitute son for Alice, but more importantly both he and Toto are children of nature, adept at communing with animals and plants. So, to an extent, her writings about Toto reflect her interactions with Atili’e. An ironic twist, however, is that Atile’i’s Wayo Wayoan culture does not have writing, which makes his people the exception to the man with the compound eyes’ sermon about humans being unique among species in their capacity to record memories in writing. The ‘illiterate’ Atile’i enables Alice to undertake writing about her son. Wu Ming-yi also plays on the concept of writing and communication by depicting audio-visual recording as being inadequate to record environmental catastrophes. A TV crew that has spent big money to hire a helicopter – a guzzler of fossil fuels – to shoot aerial footage of the giant wave and “capture … the moment when the vortex hits the shore” (116) misses out, like everyone else, when they have to run for cover the escape the hailstorm (130). The technology inherent in shooting audio-visual footage is thus deemed to be inferior to the ancient technology of handwriting that Alice employs to memorialise people and events. Moreover, the novel here underscores and dramatises Rob Nixon’s concept of “slow violence,” or “violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence

Planetary Perspective  219 of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space.” Nixon coined his term to convey the elongated effects of environmental degradation, in particular climate change, and his concept is symbolised in this novel by the Trash Vortex. Nevertheless, another aspect of Nixon’s theory that receives less attention among critics is his critique of the mass media in the twenty-first century as being unable, or unwilling, to document and prioritise the environmental crisis and climate change. Nixon laments the “attosecond pace of our age” and the “rapidly eroding attention spans” induced by an increasingly insatiable media intent on a continuous quest for ever quicker sensation. 20 While the Trash Vortex represents the slow violence of environmental degradation, the TV crew’s inability to film the giant wave carrying the Trash Vortex at impact on the shoreline satirises the effectiveness of twenty-first-century media reporting obsessed with sound-bite sensation. Wu Ming-yi’s novel, then, demonstrates an overt environmental ethic, promoting an environmental consciousness from a global perspective. As Shiuhhuah Serena Chou says, “One of the critical appeals of Wu’s magical-realist novel is indeed the planetary scale and the cultural and ethical possibilities is sketched out for global ecology as a new model for environmental citizenship.”21 The question, however, is what form this environmental citizenship should take. In an attempt to answer, I shall draw on Ursula Heise’s concept of “eco-cosmopolitanism,” which she defines as “an attempt to envision individuals and groups as part of planetary ‘imagined communities’ of both human and nonhuman kinds.”22 By imagined communities Heise is building on Benedict Anderson’s frequently quoted idea that nation states are essentially imagined because even members of the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members and yet the image of their communion lives in each of their minds. 23 Wu Ming-yi’s invention of Wayo Wayo is a fictional representation of an imagined community that lies outside – literally and ­metaphorically – of the so-called First World countries, a community that is likely to bear the brunt of climate change. The novel, of course, advocates a multispecies perspective that embraces both the human and the non-human, the animate and the inanimate. Crucially, Heise’s notion of an “eco-cosmopolitan awareness” involves reorienting environmentalist discourse “toward a more nuanced understanding of how both local cultural and ecological systems are imbricated in global ones,” resulting in “an increased emphasis on a sense of planet.”24 The flipside of this is the need for a deterritorialisation of local knowledge, to focus less on a sense of territorial place and more on a systemic sense of planet. In a context of rapidly increasing connections around the globe, what is crucial for ecological awareness and environmental ethics is arguably not so much a sense of place as a sense of planet—a sense of how political, economic, technological, social, cultural, and ecological networks shape daily routines. 25

220  Planetary Perspective Indeed, The Man with the Compound Eyes demonstrates how this tension between local environmental knowledge and a planetary environmental consciousness may play out, depicting the increasing marginalisation of indigenous Taiwanese environmental and cultural practices against the broader backdrop of transnational and economic imperial environmental degradation. The book’s planetary message is reinforced by the constant references to climate change, especially in relation to rising sea levels. This is underscored by the text’s island motifs, with the three narrative settings being three different kinds of islands: large and real (Taiwan), small and mythical (Wayo Wayo), and gigantic and real yet also extraordinary (Trash Vortex). Each of them are subject to different kinds of effects from ­human-produced pollution. What is interesting from a stylistic perspective is that Wu Ming-yi portrays the various manifestations of climate change in the style of literary realism, putting the supernatural or ‘magical’ properties to one side in these passages. Even when the mythical boy Atile’i sojourns on the Trash Vortex his supernatural properties are suspended so that the narrative focusses instead on the detail of the insidious pollutants leaking into the ocean and marine life. Why does the author do this? Partly it may be a deliberate strategy to raise public attention to the extent of what is actually happening to the planet, thereby inducing alarm and a sense of urgency among readers, so they overcome their ecoambiguity and do something about it. For instance, the section where Atile’i is on the Trash Vortex often reads like reportage, and indeed the author resorts to mimicking a newspaper report over two pages to explain the historical background to the vortex (121–122). But this is not to say that magical realism as a narrative device is inappropriate to address climate change, for Alexis Wright proves it is possible to employ the narrative mode in this context in The Swan Book (2013), as I discussed in Chapter 1. Another part of the answer may lie in habit, in a benign sense of the word. Given that Wu Ming-yi is renowned as much for his non-fiction environmental writing as his fiction, it may be that his instinct was to gravitate towards realism when depicting extreme environmental degradation and climate change in particular. Another interesting facet of the novel’s treatment of climate change is the concomitant ecoambiguity demonstrated by various characters, even those who champion the environment but, for whatever reasons, feel inhibited about doing something about it, thereby endowing the planetary problem with a normative status. For example, fishermen acknowledge that “the coastal currents had become erratic, and the water temperature had changed, too, all year round,” yet all Alice can think is “But we’ve got used to it, right?” (70), implying a cognitive normalisation of the situation rather than a fight-back plan. Similarly, “when the ocean started rising a couple of years ago,” the vast majority of residents living on the

Planetary Perspective  221 same stretch of coast as Alice “moved uphill” in an attempt “to get as far away from the ocean as possible, like it was the plague” (139–140). The sea, then, has transformed in human eyes from a natural, pristine environment that provides sustenance to a kind of fatal contagious disease. In addition, rather than organise a collective, planetary response to the sea waters, it is implied the Taiwanese residents merely adjust their mode of living and leave it at that. Businesses, too, simply give up and surrender to the effects of industrialisation. The failed amusement park’s “cable-car pylons and Ferris wheel [look] stranded” due to “the rising sea level and the encroaching shoreline” (22). And industry capitalises on the damage it has inflicted: maritime cargo freight benefits from the shrinking ice of the Northwest Passage, once unnavigable during winter but now passable year-round (233). The possible exception is Sara the marine biologist, who remains an energetic environmental activist. Sara is one character who lives strictly by her environmental ethics, to the point of deciding not to have children because she disagrees with humans covering “the entire planet” and interfering with the environment in the process (200). Contrary to the ecoambiguity exhibited by other characters, Sara realises that to think and act on a planetary scale people need to first adapt their behaviour as individuals. “I do all I can to avoid unnecessary waste,” she says. “Better to do what you can than not try at all” (199). In the novel, the Trash Vortex is the most obvious symbol of the cause of climate change – industrialisation – and also acts as a potent example within what Lawrence Buell calls “toxic discourse.” Toxicity in this context means “expressed anxiety arising from perceived threat of environmental hazard due to chemical modification by human agency.” Buell proclaims that the goal of toxic discourse is to call “for a way of imagining physical environments that fuses social constructivist with environmental restorationist perspectives.”26 In other words, to encourage people to overcome their ecoambiguity and devise ways to revitalise polluted environments with the support of social frameworks and institutions. In this respect, The Man with the Compound Eyes is a work of toxic discourse because it piles image upon image of the toxic effects of industrialisation in Taiwan, highlighting not only damage to the environment but also damage to Taiwanese society and traditional ways of living by drawing on natural resources. Yet Wu Ming-yi uses the particular (Taiwan) to address the general (global climate change). As Christine Marran states, “Wu’s Taiwan is a snapshot of a planet in crisis.”27 It is uncertain whether the aboriginal Pangcah people will be able to continue their fishing culture given the pollution from the Trash Vortex (156). And the novel ends with the bleak picture of a second tsunami, this one possibly caused by military testing of a nuclear bomb in the ocean, that picks up another piece of the Trash Vortex and literally wipes into “oblivion” Atile’i’s island home of Wayo Wayo and its entire

222  Planetary Perspective population (298–299). As Ursula Heise says, narratives of toxic discourse involve “a broader analysis of the rhetoric of environmental and technological risk” in an attempt to grasp the planetary implications. 28 The message from Wu Ming-yi’s novel is unambiguous: reverse the toxic environmental damage caused by industrialisation and embrace the ecological memories of other species, or face extinction. The risks could not be greater.

Notes 1 Wu Ming-Yi, The Man with the Compound Eyes, trans. Darryl Sterk (London: Harvill Secker, 2013); hereafter cited by page in the text. 2 Stef Craps and Rick Crownshaw, “Introduction: The Rising Tide of Climate Change Fiction,” Studies in the Novel 50, no. 1 (Spring 2018), 1. 3 Darryl Sterk, “The Apotheosis of Montage: The Videomosaic Gaze of The Man with the Compound Eyes as Postmodern Ecological Sublime,” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 28, no. 2 (Fall 2016), 184. 4 Shiuhhuah Serena Chou, “Wu’s Man with the Compound Eyes and the Worlding of Environmental Literature.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 16, no. 4 (September 2014), 3. 5 Heather Terrell, “Eyes Wide Shut Taiwanese Author Never Lets the Reader Out of His Sight,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 2, 2014, B-7. 6 Laura Profumo, “Fiction in Brief,” Times Literary Supplement, December 6, 2013, 22. Tash Aw, “The Man with the Compound Eyes– Review,” The Guardian, September 28, 2013, accessed June 22, 2018, www.theguardian. com/books/2013/sep/28/man-compound-eyes-wu-mingyi-review. 7 Shiuhhuah Serena Chou, “Sense of Wilderness, Sense of Time: Mingyi Wu’s Nature Writing and the Aesthetics of Change,” in East Asian Ecocriticisms: A Critical Reader, eds. Simon C. Estok and Won-Chung Kim (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 145, 149, 150. 8 Wu Ming-yi, “The Mysterious Revelations of Nature Writing,” in The ­C olumbia Sourcebook of Literary Taiwan, trans. Michelle Yeh, eds. Sungsheng Yvonne Chang, Michelle Yeh, and Ming-ju Fan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 447. 9 Sterk, “The Apotheosis of Montage,” 188. 10 Karen Laura Thornber, Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012), 85. 11 Kathryn Yalan Chang, “‘If Nature Had a Voice: A Material-Oriented Environmental Reading of Fuyan ren (The Man with the Compound Eyes),” in Ecocriticism in Taiwan: Identity, Environment, and the Arts, eds. Chia-ju Chang and Scott Slovic (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016), 103. 12 Sterk, 186. 13 Sterk, 187. 14 Alexis Wright, Carpentaria (Artarmon: Giramondo Publishing, 2006), 493–502. 15 Yann Martel, Life of Pi (London: Canongate, 2012), 257, 281. Originally published in 2001. 16 Thornber, Ecoambiguity, 1, 2, 6. 17 Ursula K. Heise, “World Literature and the Environment,” in The Routledge Companion to World Literature, eds. Theo D’haen, David Damrosch, and Djelal Kadir, 404–412 (London and New York: Routledge, 2012), 404. 18 Heise, “World Literature,” 404–405.

Planetary Perspective  223 19 Heise, 405. 20 Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor ­(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), 2, 8. 21 Chou, “Wu’s Man,” no pagination. 22 Ursula K. Heise, Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 61. 23 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London and New York: Verso, 1983), 6. 24 Heise, Sense of Place, 59. 25 Heise, 55. 26 Lawrence Buell, Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 31, 45. 27 Christine L. Marran, Ecology without Culture: Aesthetics for a Toxic World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 2. 28 Heise, 139.

Bibliography Primary Sources Wu, Ming-Yi. The Man with the Compound Eyes. Translated by Darryl Sterk. London: Harvill Secker, 2013. ———. “The Mysterious Revelations of Nature Writing.” In The ­C olumbia Sourcebook of Literary Taiwan. Edited by Sung-sheng Yvonne Chang, ­M ichelle Yeh, and Ming-ju Fan. Translated by Michelle Yeh, 446–448. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014.

Secondary Sources Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London and New York: Verso, 1983. Aw, Tash. “The Man with the Compound Eyes – Review.” The Guardian, September 28, 2013. Accessed June 22, 2018. www.theguardian.com/ books/2013/sep/28/man-compound-eyes-wu-mingyi-review. Buell, Lawrence. Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U.S. and Beyond. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001. Chang, Kathryn Yalan. “If Nature Had a Voice: A Material-Oriented Environmental Reading of Fuyan ren (The Man with the Compound Eyes).” In Ecocriticism in Taiwan: Identity, Environment, and the Arts, edited by Chia-ju Chang and Scott Slovic, 95–109. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016. Chou, Shiuhhuah Serena. “Sense of Wilderness, Sense of Time: Mingyi Wu’s Nature Writing and the Aesthetics of Change.” In East Asian Ecocriticisms: A Critical Reader, edited by Simon C. Estok and Won-Chung Kim, 145–163. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. ———. “Wu’s Man with the Compound Eyes and the Worlding of Environmental Literature.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 16, no. 4 (September 2014): 3. Craps, Stef, and Rick Crownshaw. “Introduction: The Rising Tide of Climate Change Fiction.” Studies in the Novel 50, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 1–8.

224  Planetary Perspective Heise, Ursula K. Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. ———. “World Literature and the Environment.” In The Routledge Companion to World Literature, edited by Theo D’haen, David Damrosch, and Djelal Kadir, 404–412. London and New York: Routledge, 2012. Marran, Christine L. Ecology without Culture: Aesthetics for a Toxic World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017. Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. London: Canongate, 2012. Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011. Profumo, Laura. “Fiction in Brief.” Times Literary Supplement, December 6, 2013, 22. Sterk, Darryl. “The Apotheosis of Montage: The Videomosaic Gaze of The Man with the Compound Eyes as Postmodern Ecological Sublime.” Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 28, no. 2 (Fall 2016): 183–222. Terrell, Heather. “Eyes Wide Shut Taiwanese Author Never Lets the Reader out of his Sight.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 2, 2014, B-7. Thornber, Karen Laura. Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012. Wright, Alexis. Carpentaria. Artarmon: Giramondo Publishing, 2006.

8 Conclusion

Japanese-American author Karen Tei Yamashita’s debut novel, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (1990), is another environmental magical realist work that takes a planetary perspective.1 Like The Man with the Compound Eyes, Yamashita’s book contains a central image that symbolises the global nature of the environmental crisis, in this case the Matacão plateau, a vast rock-like plate located in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Similar to Wu Ming-yi’s Trash Vortex, Yamashita’s Matacão serves as a graphic reminder of humanity’s treatment of the Earth as a gigantic rubbish dump. In the novel, scientists verify that the Matacão had been formed mostly in the twentieth century and is made up of non-biodegradable garbage – such as “the more common forms of plastic, polyurethane and styrofoam” – stored in landfalls in populated areas around the planet. These buried toxins “had undergone tremendous pressure, pushed even farther into the lower layers of the Earth’s ­mantle. The liquid deposits of the molten mass had been squeezed through underground veins to virgin areas of the Earth” (202). The Matacão, however, is found to have numerous qualities that make it commercially profitable, as it is: stronger than steel, resistant to extremely high temperatures, malleable in terms of shape and magnetic. As a result, the miraculous material is dug up and exploited for an “infinite” range of commercial purposes to manufacture buildings, cars, furniture, plants and magnetised credit cards, among other things. The plastics derivative is even used by plastic surgeons for facial rebuilds (113, 141–143). Through the Arc of the Rain Forest satirises the link between capitalism and environmental degradation through the New York-based multinational corporation GGG Enterprises. The company’s Matacão operations are run by a three-armed American businessman, Jonathan B. Tweep, his extra limb representing the imperialist-like reach of large capitalist organisations. As Begoña Simal points out in his insightful analysis of the novel’s crossover of magical realist and environmental elements, the text “exposes the connivance of governments and transnational corporations, and their profound responsibility for the ecological crisis.”2 Indeed, the novel becomes, to borrow Lawrence Buell’s phrase again, a narrative of toxic discourse through both the existence of the

226 Conclusion Matacão as a plastics by-product and GGG’s exploitation of it. For even though Tweep hypocritically claims that “GGG is committed to environmental conservation,” he is quick to jettison environmental concerns in blind pursuit of economic profit, even though he thinks the extraction of the Matacão could result in an environmental catastrophe on par with the Exxon Alaskan oil spill in 1989 or the destruction of rainforests (113). As it turns out, however, the Matacão eventually disintegrates, along with all the products made out of it, because it is susceptible to a certain kind of bacterium. While on one level the Matacão signifies how globalisation means all parts of the world are interconnected, and that there are precious few areas of pristine wilderness remaining, on another level the trope suggests that, because the plastics have been transformed by geological processes, “the very terms ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ seem no longer to apply.”3 Put another way, the novel collapses the distinction between things formed by nature and things produced by humans; it dissolves the boundaries between the non-human and human, reflecting magical realist fiction’s capacity to break down and subvert binaries. In addition, Yamashita’s book complicates the concept of the Anthropocene, in a similar way as The Man with the Compound Eyes, because it suggests nature remains an active geological agent, and that humans may not actually be the primary geological agent, even after the inception of industrialisation. This reading of Through the Arc of the Rain Forest is reinforced by the depiction of “an enormous parking lot, filled with aircraft and vehicles of every sort of description” located outside the Matacão. Abandoned for decades, “the undergrowth and overgrowth of the criss-crossing lianas had completely engulfed everything,” meaning the rainforest had begun to recapture its terrain, while the metallic transport vehicles were crumbling “into a fine rusty dust” (99). As Karen Thornber says, this part of the novel illuminates how “even literature focusing on massive human destruction of environments emphasizes that much of the nonhuman ultimately survives, albeit often in changed configurations.”4 Besides the Matacão, the novel’s other key magical realist factor is the unconventionally odd narrator, which is a “strange ball” that continuously whirls “a few inches” from the forehead of Kazumasa Ishimaru, in a bizarre kind of friendship that started when Kazumasa was a boy in Japan (4). Kazumasa moves to Brazil and, after winning multiple lotteries, becomes a rich investor with holdings in international real estate, hotel chains, islands and corporate stocks, including the major shareholding in GGG Enterprises (87). Through Kazumasa’s interest in GGG the ball-narrator gains a comprehensive understanding of the Matacão and its ramifications, which it later imparts to the readers of Yamashita’s novel. Ursula Heise partly reads the non-human narrator as “a miniature replica of the Earth itself, the voice that emerges from the depths of geology.” Such a reading underscores an interpretation of the

Conclusion  227 narrative as reasserting the dominance of nature over humans, thereby complicating the Anthropocene concept. Yet Heise also acknowledges the ambiguity of a simple ecocentric reading of the spinning ball, given that it is made out of the same plastics by-product as the Matacão. Moreover, the ball’s constant orbiting around a human head may “signal the inevitability of anthropocentrism.”5 In her broader analysis of the novel, Heise says Yamashita’s magical realism “is designed specifically to highlight the way in which conceptions of the local and national are bound up with global processes.”6 This interconnection between the local and global is foregrounded both through the Matacão’s origins in the First World and through some of the commercial uses for which it is used that involve exporting to varying countries. In a slightly different take, Simal argues that Through the Arc of the Rain Forest demonstrates the inclusive nature of magical realism, visible from the start in the incredible ball-narrator of the story, that makes possible the intimation that everything is interrelated. The complicity between received, commonly accepted perceptions of realities and interconnected, pernicious human constructions is dismantled by the world-creating mimetic approach exhibited by magical realism, which allows such interconnections to be fully disclosed.7 In other words, magical realism as a non-realistic form of writing enables the author to reveal interconnections that might not be perceptible through literary realism. In this case, the multifarious links between human and non-human, natural and artificial, organic and inorganic, commerce and pollution, and so on, are made evident through the ‘magical’ elements that are embedded within the extratextual world. For this reason magical realism once again exemplifies its capacity to act as environmental discourse. Yamashita’s novel does not receive its own chapter in this monograph because its geographical settings of the Americas lie outside parameters of this study – that is, literature in Asia and Australasia. On the other hand, the novel does deserve a mention because it is one of many possible examples of environmental magical realist fiction from regions beyond those chosen for examination here. In other words, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest highlights that this study could be continued and expanded to include other writers and texts from areas such as the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. As with any monograph, the parameters for this book were set to provide not only a scholastic focus on new and original research, but also, on a pragmatic level, to delineate a topic of discussion appropriate for the requisite word count in terms of length. Consequently, I do not make any claims that this study is either exhaustive or definitive on the matter of magical realism as

228 Conclusion environmental discourse. On the contrary, the area offers an abundance of topics for further exploration. One is the prospect of developing a genealogy of magical realism based on polygenesis. I have proposed that magical realism should be conceived as a narrative technique that appears in a multitude of literatures from different countries, different cultures and at different times in history. In Chapters 1 (Alexis Wright) and 5 (Mo Yan), I touched on comments by several scholars that there are similarities between contemporary magical realist fiction and Indigenous Australian Dreamtime narratives as well as classical Chinese literature, although this is not to suggest they are generically the same. In the Introduction, I highlighted similar comments by scholars linking magical realism with ancient Roman and Japanese literature, and European fiction before the mid-­t wentieth century. Among scholars of magical realism, Christopher Warnes, as mentioned, has pioneered this aspect of discussion by tracing magical realism’s genealogy back to the historical romance, suggesting the German Romantic poet and philosopher Novalis developed a related concept of “magical idealism” at the end of the eighteenth century.8 In order to further explore the notion of polygenesis it might be best done as a multi-disciplinary exercise involving scholars of magical realist fiction, specialist literary critics of fiction from areas such as Indigenous Australia, China and Japan, classics and anthropology, among other areas, and testing the hypothesis against close readings of selected texts. A more thorough investigation into possible polygenesis of the narrative mode would also make interventions in world literature and comparative literature scholarship. In regard to magical realism as environmental discourse, Jennifer Wenzel’s concept of “petro-magic-realism,” which I raised in Chapter 1, can be applied more broadly to any physical commodity processed from natural resources, as I attempted to do in relation to Alexis Wright’s fiction and iron ore mining. In turn, this opens up the debate to examine more closely links between the pursuit of economic profit underpinning the global capitalist economic system and the concomitant environmental exploitation and destruction involved with the consumption of natural resources and pollution of all kinds. In addition, the rapidly growing subgenre of literature dubbed climate change fiction, as exemplified by Wu Ming-yi’s The Man with the Compound Eyes, offers ample scope for a detailed analysis of how magical realism functions in this category alone. Another topic that warrants a closer look is how magical realism as environmental discourse operates in film. Although I consciously chose to focus on the novel as the primary genre for this study, scholarship of magical realism ought to range across multiple genres, in particular film, given its importance and ubiquity in twenty-first-century life and c­ ulture – the advent of internet streaming makes this even more compelling. Although

Conclusion  229 I touched on two film adaptations of magical realist books with environmental themes – Witi Ihimaera’s The Whale Rider and Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum – demonstrating how the narrative mode may be successfully translated from page to screen but in varying degrees, a more detailed study of magical realism in film need not confine itself to book adaptations. Nevertheless, the outstanding success of the movie version of Yann Martel’s Book Prize-winning Life of Pi illustrates how persuasive this area is as a research topic. Questions might include whether the comparatively simpler format of a screenplay, compared to a fictional text with tens if not hundreds of thousands of words, typically results in a narrative that is more streamlined; whether the poetics of magical realism change (if at all) from one medium to the other; and whether film directors, screenwriters and producers conceptualise magical realism as a narrative technique in different ways from novelists, if at all. For this study I have attempted to examine the strong and multiple links between magical realist fiction and environmental literature, showing how the two kinds of writing overlap and share a variety of characteristics. I have argued that there are four key commonalities of the narrative mode and ecocritical fiction. First, a postcolonial perspective, with writers frequently reacting against colonial legacies. Second, a desire by authors to develop new forms of expression and language in order to portray ideas and ways of seeing the world that counter dominant ontologies and epistemologies, usually the scientific rationalism of the European Enlightenment, which views humans and the environment as being separate. Third, a biocentric perspective that portrays the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. And fourth, a transgressive nature that dismantles binaries, such as human and non-human, and animate and inanimate. I have also argued that, in the Anthropocene era and given the climate change crisis, magical realist fiction, as one of the most established aesthetic forms of world literary genres, can play a critical role in enabling writers to offer alternative visions of how humans may live in the world in order to limit, if not reverse, environmental degradation. This is possible by the conjunction of the magical and the real, allowing a reimagining of the world, possibilities of what may be rather than what is or has been. In addition, I have attempted to expand the scope of scholarship on magical realism by expanding the generally accepted canon and examining texts from Asia and Australasia, two areas under-represented in criticism of the narrative mode. My argument is that a geographical bias in extant scholarship, which focusses primarily on Latin America, North America, the Caribbean, Europe, West Africa, South Africa and India, has resulted in an understanding of the narrative mode that is too narrow, too limited by the cultural and philosophical frameworks of these regions. My aim has been to broaden the scope of magical realism, to modify and expand our collective conception of the narrative mode by

230 Conclusion investigating contemporary fiction from two different important regions of the global literary map. I hope to have shown how the key writers and texts in this study challenge not only how we read magical realism, but also our expectations of it. At a theoretical level, I have argued that magical realism has porous borders, constantly changing boundaries that make it inherently unstable as a generic kind. Each new work changes the nature of the narrative mode. What is required, therefore, is a flexible and minimalist definition of magical realism that allows it to be applied across a wide variety of texts from around the world. I have built on Jacques Derrida’s concept that every work of fiction participates in a genre, or genres, without ever belonging to any particular genre. In this respect, a work may participate in magical realism without belonging to it. In addition, I have drawn on Derrida’s notion that every genre has a single, common trait. This common trait forms the basis for my definition of magical realism, as literature that represents the magical or supernatural in a quotidian manner and which is embedded within literary realism. Rather than formulating a list of supposedly common characteristics among magical realist texts, as many critics do, I have instead proposed a family resemblances model. In other words, magical realist texts may share some similarities, but not all, and the only one thing they have in common is the solitary trait. Magical realism plays a vital role in literary criticism because it allows comparative analysis between separate literatures that enable us to recognise continuities and similarities within different literary cultures that the established genre systems, which are essentially derived from Western literature, might not capture. Put another way, magical realism identifies the underlying dynamics of certain literatures that orthodox genres do not. On the other hand, I have also shown how Western philosophical ideas quite often do not adequately capture non-Western ontologies. As a result, magical realism as a rubric is sometimes insufficient as a tool for literary analysis to explain the cultural sources or individual artistic expression inherent within a particular text. As I write these final words, the world is beset by a trend of worrying events in which major political and regulatory achievements to limit ongoing environmental degradation and hopefully contain global warming have either been rolled back or challenged. In particular, the United States’ withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement, in which almost 200 nations signed up to jointly combat climate change and deal with its effects, the United Kingdom’s proposed exit from the European Union, which raises questions over Britain’s commitment to maintain the equivalent of EU environmental standards, and Australia’s relatively quick reversal of a legislated carbon tax due to a new government are all examples of political manoeuvrings that highlight how tenuous advancements in environmental protection can be. In addition, the rapid rise of

Conclusion  231 overt nationalism in many Western nations as well as prolonged widespread reactions against economic globalisation typically mitigate and actively work against attempts to encourage individual people to think on a global or planetary scale. Ironically, there is another mini-trend of billionaire tech titans (all white males), who made their fortunes by reimaging how the world could operate, zealously advocating interplanetary space travel and settlement as the best option to ensure the survival of the human species. If only they would use the same ingenuity to ensure the survival of the only planetary home they currently have. Meanwhile, polar ice caps continue to melt at an alarming rate, and each successive summer ushers in unprecedented heat waves and extreme bush fires. Any attempt, therefore, to advocate for the environment, no matter how small, must be welcomed, supported and acted upon. I started this book with an Introduction chapter titled “A Crisis of Imagination,” and deliberately so. I borrowed the phrase from Amitav Ghosh, who correctly points out that the crisis of climate change is essentially a crisis of the imagination. Even though Ghosh was specifically referring to novelists, the argument applies generally to humans as a species. The old beliefs of humans having dominion over the environment, of natural resources having an infinite life for extraction and consumption, and of the prioritisation of private economic profit over public and planetary health have led to this crisis. What is needed is a reimagining of how best to live within and in harmony with the natural world.

Notes 1 Karen Tei Yamashita, Through the Arc of The Rain Forest (London: Scribners, 1990); hereafter cited by page in the text. 2 Begoña Simal, “Of a Magical Nature: The Environmental Unconscious,” in Uncertain Mirrors: Magical Realisms in US Ethnic Literatures, eds. Jesús Benito, Ana Ma Manzanas, and Begoña Simal (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009), 223–224. 3 Ursula K. Heise, “Local Rock and Global Plastic: World Ecology and the Experience of Place,” Comparative Literature Studies 41, no. 1 (2004), 135. 4 Karen Laura Thornber, Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012), 203. 5 Heise, “Local Rock,” 147. 6 Heise, 145. 7 Simal, “Of a Magical Nature,” 221. 8 Christopher Warnes, Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel: Between Faith and Irreverence (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 20.

Bibliography Primary Source Yamashita, Karen Tei. Through the Arc of the Rain Forest. London: Scribners, 1990.

232 Conclusion Secondary Sources Heise, Ursula K. “Local Rock and Global Plastic: World Ecology and the Experience of Place.” Comparative Literature Studies 41, no. 1 (2004): 126–152. Simal, Begoña. “Of a Magical Nature: The Environmental Unconscious.” In Uncertain Mirrors: Magical Realisms in US Ethnic Literatures, edited by Jesús Benito, Ana Ma Manzanas, and Begoña Simal, 193–237. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2009. Thornber, Karen Laura. Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012. Warnes, Christopher. Magical Realism and the Postcolonial Novel: Between Faith and Irreverence. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Index

Adams, Jenni 10, 20, 149 Anderson, Benedict 48, 219 animal consciousness 102–3, 113 Anthropocene era 5–6, 26, 30–1n20, 215–16, 226–7 anthropocentricism 3, 4, 83, 101, 210–11, 227 Apter, Emily 105–6, 162 Arva, Eugene 10, 57, 128, 192 Asturias, Miguel Angel 2, 118 Australia: bicentenary 79–80; genocide and Indigenous Australians 56–7; as an imagined political community 48; Indigenous Australian Dreamtime 7, 10, 11, 24, 42–3, 50, 65; Indigenous Australian Law 9, 11, 43–4, 45–6, 65; Indigenous Australian literature 42–3, 46; terra nullius 53 Bathes, Roland 138 Bell, Michael 13, 21, 135 Benjamin, Walter 162 Bényei, Tamás 22 Bhabha, Homi 3 biocentrism 3, 4, 9, 83, 101 Boehmer, Elleke 3, 60 Bontempelli, Massimo 4 Booker Prize 32n43, 80, 114, 209 Borges, Jorge Luis 195 Bortolussi, Marisa 18, 23 Bowers, Maggie Ann 13, 136 Buell, Lawrence 26–7, 29, 139–40, 171; environmental unconscious 42; toxic discourse 54, 221–2, 225–6 Byatt, A.S. 136 Carey, Peter 18, 80, 83, 135, 175 Carpentier, Alejo 2, 13, 14, 100, 118 Caruth, Cathy 192

Chakrabarty, Dipesh 5–6 Chambers, Claire 143, 146, 149 Chanady, Amaryll Beatrice 18, 126 child abuse 127–8 China: Boxer Rebellion 167; censorship 164–5, 180–1; classical Chinese literature 23–4, 159, 163–4, 171–2, 184, 186, 190–1; contemporary Chinese literature 160–1, 174, 182; Confucius 183; Cultural Revolution 174–5, 181, 185, 187; Deng Xiaoping 160, 178; Mao Zedong 160, 167, 168, 174, 185, 214; Shandong Peninsula 159, 167, 183; Sino–Japanese War 168, 173; Tiananmen Square 167, 180–1; Xi Jinping 5 climate change 5, 6, 7, 9, 29, 61, 62, 66, 120, 140, 220–1 climate change fiction 6–7, 62, 208, 215, 228 Crosby, Alfred 3, 82, 209 Crutzen, Paul J. 5 cultural appropriation 79–81 Damrosch, David 12, 161–2 Delbaere, Jeanne 159 Delbaere-Garant, Jeanne 184 DeLoughrey, Elizabeth 99, 119 Derrida, Jacques 15–16, 56 Dimock, Wai Chee 7, 65 ecocriticism 4, 27 environment: bodily environment 139; commercial exploitation of 2, 7, 51–4, 60, 61, 68n44, 81–2, 119–21, 213–15, 221, 225–8; and technology 210–11, 214–15, 217; urban environment 178

234 Index environmental crisis 6, 211, 217, 221, 225, 231 environmental criticism 27 environmental literature 26–8, 209–10 environmental memory 211, 213 European Enlightenment 3, 11, 66, 77–8, 85–7, 101, 135, 144, 211

Hulme, Keri 11, 97, 104, 114; The Bone People 113–18, 120–2, 123–8; “A Drift in Dream” 124–5; “Kiteflying Party at Doctor’s Point” 129; postcolonial strategy 114; Stonefish 119–20, 122–3; “Whale, Singing” 113 human extinction 5, 29, 222

Faris, Wendy 10, 12, 14–15, 18, 20, 47, 63, 77, 145, 175, 190 feminism 97, 99, 121 Flanagan, Richard 11, 73, 91n22; Death of a River Guide 2, 19, 74–6, 78, 81–2, 83–5, 87, 90; Gould’s Book of Fish 2, 19, 76–8, 81, 85–8, 89–90, 138; The Narrow Road to the Deep North 79, 80–1; A Terrible Beauty: History of the Gordon River Country 84; Wanting 78 Flores, Angel 13–14 Foucault, Michel 20, 142–3

Ihimaera, Witi 97; postcolonial strategy 104; Pounamu, Pounamu 101; The Whale Rider 2, 8, 19, 97–105, 171–2, 211; Whale Rider (film) 106–7, 177 India: colonisation by Britain 147, 151; Indian literature 136; Indian mathematics 145; Indian mythology 141 intertextuality 138, 141, 160, 178, 183–4, 185–9

García Márquez, Gabriel 1, 5, 29, 45, 47, 49, 59, 118, 135, 138, 159, 160, 161, 176, 179, 181 Garrard, Greg 89 genre 15–17, 74, 115, 119, 124, 134, 137, 230 Ghosh, Amitav 11, 80, 134, 153n1, 231; The Calcutta Chromosome 17, 19, 134–40, 141–9, 150–2, 160, 178; The Circle of Reason 134, 135, 153n6, 144; The Great Derangement 6, 9, 62, 141, 144; The Hungry Tide 140–1; on magical realism 135; postcolonial strategy 134–5, 137–8, 143, 144–5, 151, 154n16; Sea of Poppies 134, 153–4n6 Glotfelty, Cheryll 27 Gothic 115, 125–7, 137 Grass, Günter 166 Hegerfeldt, Anne 12, 15, 18, 20, 22 Heise, Ursula 28, 208, 217, 219, 222, 226–7 Hirsch, Marianne 174–5 historiographic metafiction 20, 47, 135–6, 138, 147, 152 historiography 5–6, 151, 160 Huggan, Graham 3, 18, 80, 123

Jameson, Fredric 9, 21, 118, 150, 186 Lewis, C.S. 149 Lu Xun 174, 181, 186–8 magical realism: canon 10, 12–13, 90, 114, 123, 159, 229–30; Chinese literature 160–1, 162–4; commodity magical realism 52; cynicism 18; definitions 9, 13–18, 20–2, 123, 126, 152; film 106–7, 176–7, 228–9; internationalisation 14–15, 135–6; literary realism 15, 17, 21–2, 123, 149, 196, 220, 227; magic 21–2, 44–5, 74–5; metamorphosis 77, 85, 86–7, 90; narrative mode 15; postcolonialism 2, 11–12, 14, 19, 77–8, 81–2, 118–19, 152; polygenesis 15, 22–5, 51, 163–4, 228; unreliable narrator 76, 175; world literature 9, 11–12, 28, 161–2, 189, 208–9, 217, 228 Malouf, David 80 Martel, Yann 192, 216, 229 metafiction 76–7, 81, 137–8, 160, 176, 178, 179, 180, 182–9, 195–6 Ming Dong Gu 23–4, 163–4, 190–1 Mo Yan 11, 160–1, 165–6; Big Breasts & Wide Hips 160, 166, 178; cannibalism as a literary trope 185–96; Frog 164–5; The

Index  235 Garlic Ballads 160, 167, 178; Life and Death are Wearing Me Out 166–7, 195; Red Sorghum 2, 20, 159–60, 168–76, 181–2, 187, 192; Red Sorghum (film) 176–7; The Republic of Wine 20, 160, 169, 177–8, 180–96; Sandalwood Death 160, 167, 192 Moretti, Franco 25–6 Morrison, Toni 19, 47, 49, 127, 129–30, 135 Murakami, Haruki 10, 209

Simal, Begoña 4, 225 Siskind, Mariano 9, 13, 23 Slaughter, Joseph 63 Slemon, Stephen 16, 19, 32n53, 58–60, 78, 104, 117 Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty 147 Stoermer, Eugene F. 5 subaltern 142, 145, 147–8, 154n23 sublime 88–9 Süskind, Patrick 193 Suvin, Darko 149–50 Swift, Jonathan 188–9

New Zealand: colonisation by Britain 96; Māori culture 99; Māori history 96–7, 99; Māori language 103–5; Māori literature 96–7, 114; Māori mythology 95, 97–9, 101, 102–3, 106, 114, 115–18, 122; Pākehā 97, 100, 102, 104, 106, 114, 115, 117–18, 121, 123, 128; postcolonialism 106, 114–15, 123–9 Nixon, Rob 7–8, 218–19 Nobel Prize in Literature 2, 5, 12, 30n7, 32n46, 49, 159, 165 nuclear war 7, 61 nuclear weapons 102, 221

Taiwan: aboriginal Taiwanese 211–14, 221; colonisation by Japan 209, 213–14; Taiwanese nature writing 209–10 Takolander, Maria 62 Taoism 159, 171–2, 190–1, 209 Tasmania: convicts 78, 81, 84; culture 74, 78–9; Indigenous Tasmanians 75–6, 78–9; island 87–8; South-West Wilderness 73, 83–4, 88, 89–90 Thornber, Karen 11, 12, 26, 216, 226 Tiffin, Helen 3, 82 translation 103–6, 161–2, 183–4, 193–4, 209, 218 Trash Vortex 215–21

Okri, Ben 2, 175, 184–5 Pacific Ocean 95, 215–16, 218 Parrinder, Patrick 149 Pietri, Arturo Uslar 13 planetary 6, 8, 28, 208–11, 217, 219–20, 222, 225, 231 postcolonialism 77, 95–6, 117 Quayson, Ato 18, 22, 47, 59, 65, 123, 128–9 Reynolds, Henry 48, 57 Roh Franz 4 Ross, Ronald 135, 138–9, 141–8 Rueckert, William 4 Rushdie, Salman 10, 13, 14, 25, 47, 49, 63, 107, 119, 128, 136, 141, 165, 175 Sasser, Kim Anderson 10, 17 science 144–7 science fiction 119, 137, 143, 149–52, 209

United Nations: Paris Agreement 5; Universal Declaration of Human Rights 62–3 Upstone, Sara 10, 14 Wang, David Der-wei 23, 163–4, 174, 176, 185 Warnes, Christopher 3, 15, 25, 82, 126, 130n6, 228 Wenzel, Jennifer 52, 228 wilderness 88 Wittgenstein, Ludwig 21, 163–4 Wright, Alexis 11, 42, 104; Carpentaria 2, 7, 19, 44–5, 48, 50–6, 58, 60, 65, 128, 129, 216; Chinese heritage 48–9; colonisation of Indigenous Australians 49, 56; Plains of Promise 49, 57–8; postcolonial strategy 47–8, 58; The Swan Book 7, 9, 19, 29, 45–6, 60–4, 66, 127, 128; swan myths 64; Waanyi nation 42, 50

236 Index Wu Ming-yi 11, 209; The Man with the Compound Eyes 8, 208–22, 225, 226; The Stolen Bicycle 209

Yan Lianke: The Explosion Chronicles 178–80 Young, Robert 58 Yu Hua 188

Yamashita, Karen Tei: Through the Arc of the Rain Forest 225–7

Zamora, Lois Parkinson 14–15 zoocriticism 86–7, 103, 113