Introduction: Daiquiri Birds and
Flaubertian Parrot{ie)s
A quota system is to be introduced on fiction set in South America. The intention
is to curb the spread of package-tour baroque and heavy irony. Ah, the propin-
quity of cheap life and expensive principles, of religion and banditry, of surprising
honour and random cruelty. Ah, the daiquiri bird which incubates its eggs on the
wing; ah, the fredonna tree whose roots grow at the tips of its branches, and whose
fibres assist the hunchback to impregnate by telepathy the haughty wife of the
hacienda owner; ah, the opera house now overgrown by jungle. Permit me to rap
on the table and murmur "Pass!" Novels set in the Arctic and the Antarctic will
receive a development grant.-lulian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot
Barnes has got it just right. His parodic pastiche of magical realism moves
back and forth, as do many of the literary texts we consider here, between
the disparate worlds of what we might call the historical and the imaginary.
Propinquity-Barnes' word-is indeed a central structuring principle of
magical realist narration. Contradictions stand face to face, oxymorons
march in locked step - too predictably, Barnes insists - and politics collide
with fantasy.
his reference to religion and banditry, and to the miracu-
lous impregnation of the hacienda owner's haughty wife (clearly the kind
of magical realist image he wishes would go away), Barnes implies that
bad politics has become an expected ingredient of the form. His images
reflect the popular perception of magical realism as a largely Latin Ameri-
can event.
ridiculing the forms and conventions of magical realism, Barnes
helps us distinguish them. As in all effective parody, he turns the form
against itself, uses its conventions to critique its conventions. His hyper-
bole parodies the hyperbole of magical realism, for excess is a hallmark
of the mode. His distillation of characters into types suggests the shift
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