In comments below the question What style are Kafka's novels?, Peter Shor said,

Kafka has been characterized as "magical realism". On the other hand, there are lots of people who disagree with that. (...)


Is The Metamorphosis magical realism? It depends on how you define magical realism. If you define it as "fiction that contains supernatural events which are unexplained," it most certainly is. On the other hand, if you define it as "fiction where the supernatural events are an objective correlative to the characters' emotions or to other events in the book," which describes the archetypical magical realist novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (along with many other magical realist novels), then The Metamorphosis is arguably not magical realism.

What arguments have scholars used to characterise Kafka's short story The Metamorphosis as magic realism or magical realism? Based on the examples of magical realism that I have read in the past (e.g. Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes as a precursor of magical realism, Hubert Lampo's De komst van Joachim Stiller, Johan Daisne's De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen were presented to me as examples of magical realism when I was at school) and the works by Kafka that I read at university and later, I had the impression that Kafka represented an entirely different type of world, without ever actually putting my finger on that difference. Peter Shor pointed out that it has to do with how one defines "magical realism". How have scholars defined magical realism in a way that

  1. excludes Kafka's work, notably "The Metamorphosis", or
  2. includes "The Metamorphosis"?

I intentionally insist on definitions from academic papers and books, not Wikipedia or websites that help students do their homework.

  • So I've read Le Grand Meaulnes (long, long ago) and unless I'm remembering wrong, I wouldn't classify it as magical realism, either. But maybe the generally accepted definition of magical realism is different in German, in English, and in Spanish (I'm assuming that you went to school in a German-speaking country).
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 18:35
  • @PeterShor I went to school in Belgium, but I don't think that's very relevant, since the question is about Kafka, not Le Grand Meaulnes.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 20:03
  • Another comment — I think "magical realism" may mean different things in different languages. French Wikipédia classifies William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (Le Bruit et la Fureur) as magical realism. I've never seen it classified this way in English, and I don't see any justification for it. So either réalisme magique means something different in French or The Sound and the Fury wasn't translated very faithfully to French.
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 0:30
  • @PeterShor Which is why I'm looking for answers based on scholarly publications, not Wikipedia ... Do you think I should narrow down the question to German scholarly publications?
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 8:55
  • I've reread Le Grand Meaulnes since I wrote my comment above, and I still don't see how it can be classified as magical realism. it does have an exotic/rarefied atmosphere, but that wouldn't be enough for English-speaking critics to classify it as magical realism. So with that and the Faulkner, I'm puzzled
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Apr 15 at 17:42


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.