The Search for M…: Magic Realism in Doron Rabinovici and Benjamin Stein

Stähler, Axel (2013) The Search for M…: Magic Realism in Doron Rabinovici and Benjamin Stein. In: Symbolism. Symbolism. An International Annual of Critical Aesthetics . de Gruyter, Berlin and Boston, pp. 122-150. ISBN 978-3-11-029721-8. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

Magic realism has recently been recognized for its potential of facilitating instances of traumatic representation which would otherwise remain impossible. As such it has proved to be particularly productive in representations of the Holocaust. Although not Holocaust novels in the more narrowly defined sense, Doron Rabinovici’s The Search for M (1997) and Benjamin Stein’s The Canvas (2010) are discussed in this article as examples of Jewish writing in which this pattern is continued to subtly different effect. It is argued that within the larger context of coming to terms with the past, magic realism provides a vehicle for both less to articulate trauma but rather to engage with its (trans-)generational impact and to explore its nature. The magic realist inflection of The Search for M, and in particular its central phantom character of Mullemann, is read in relation to the trans-generational transmission of trauma and phantom theory, the concept of the carnivalesque, and the superhero comic. More specifically, it is argued that the Levinasian concepts of the other and the trace are useful for an understanding of Mullemann as well as the use of the magic realist mode in The Search for M. An important intertext for both Rabinovici’s and Stein’s novels is Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) which appears to have been read by both authors as a text suggesting the use of the magic realist mode. Stein’s novel, arguably inspired by Rabinovici’s, is moreover analyzed in particular in relation to Binjamin Wilkomirski’s controversial Fragments (1995). It is suggested that The Canvas offers a re-appraisal of the allegedly testimonial text, which has frequently been maligned after its authenticity – and that of its author – was challenged in 1998. It subverts the photographic hyper-realism of the earlier novel through what is, in effect, a transposition into the magic realist mode in order to admit alternative truths into the discourse on trauma. At the same time, Stein’s novel investigates the notion of a reality in which magic intervenes through the “poetic hand” of God. Exploring notions of guilt, memory, and identity both novels utilize magic realism in order to enquire into the nature of trauma in relation to which they gain a therapeutic dimension.

Item Type: Book section
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PT Germanic literature
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages > Comparative Literature
Depositing User: Axel Staehler
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2013 15:05 UTC
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2014 12:25 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/36812 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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