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BEHIND THE

FRONTIERS
OF THE REAL
A Definition of the
Fantastic

David Roas

Behind the Frontiers of the Real

David Roas

Behind the Frontiers
of the Real
A Definition of the Fantastic

broadcasting. © Páginas de Espuma 2011. reprinting.co. trademarks. with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. Switzerland . that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use.uk Printed on acid-free paper This Palgrave Pivot imprint is published by Springer Nature The registered company is Springer International Publishing AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11. Spain Translated by Simon Breden Translation from the Spanish language edition: Tras los límites de lo real. the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. 6330 Cham. express or implied. recitation. service marks. Neither the ­publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty. or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed.1007/978-3-319-73733-1 Library of Congress Control Number: 2017964617 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018 This work is subject to copyright. Una definición de lo fantástico by David Roas. in this publication does not imply. All Rights Reserved. registered names. whether the whole or part of the material is concerned. The use of general descriptive names. ISBN 978-3-319-73732-4    ISBN 978-3-319-73733-1 (eBook) https://doi. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher.David Roas Literary Theory and Comparative Literature Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Barcelona. and transmission or information storage and retrieval. electronic adaptation. The publisher. Cover illustration: Détail de la Tour Eiffel © nemesis2207/Fotolia. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and ­institutional affiliations.org/10. reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way. reuse of illustrations. even in the absence of a specific statement. computer software. etc. specifically the rights of translation.

Contents 1 Introduction   1 2 Reality   3 An (Apparently) Stable and Objective Reality   5 Can There Be Literature of the Fantastic After Quantum Mechanics?   8 Is Reality Out There? (Postmodern Narrative and The Real)  13 The Fantastic Facing New Paradigms of Reality  14 3 The Impossible  23 The Threat of the Impossible  24 Hybrid Forms: The Christian Marvellous and Magical Realism  27 The Pseudo-Fantastic and Its Variants  34 Grotesque Laughter  36 4 Fear  45 From Fear to Anguish (Brief Psychological Notes)  46 Fear and the Fantastic  47 Physical and Metaphysical Fear  53 5 Language  63 The Realism of the Fantastic  64 At the Frontiers of Language  74 Fantastic of Perception / Fantastic of Language  77 v .

vi   Contents 6 The Fantastic in Postmodernity  83 The Case of Kafka  84 Fantastic Postmodernity  86 A Sample of New Spanish Writers of the Fantastic  92 7 Conclusions 107 Bibliography 115 Index123 .

CHAPTER 1 Introduction Abstract  The pages that follow offer a proposed definition in which I attempt to meld the various aspects which.org/10. acknowledging my debt to them. be understood as a rejection of the different concepts that are already available to us. in order to arrive at my own theory of the fantastic which conceives of said category as a discourse in constant intertextual relation with that other discourse that is reality. always understood as a cultural construct. © The Author(s) 2018 1 D. Keywords  Fantastic • Reality • Impossible • Language • Fear • Postmodernity The pages that follow offer a proposed definition in which I attempt to meld the various aspects which. meaning and effect of the fantastic. https://doi. Roas. however.1007/978-3-319-73733-1_1 . be understood as a rejection of the different concepts that are already avail- able to us. determine the function. This should not. This should not. in my opinion. meaning and effect of the fantastic. however. in my opinion. in order to arrive at my own theory of the fantastic which conceives of said category as a discourse in constant intertextual rela- tion with that other discourse that is reality. My ­intention here is to interrogate the precedents and definitions. determine the function. Behind the Frontiers of the Real. My intention here is to interrogate the precedents and defini- tions. always understood as a cultural construct. acknowledg- ing my debt to them.

These four concepts underscore the fundamental issues and problems that articulate any theoretical reflec- tion on the fantastic: its necessary relationship to an idea of the real (and therefore. ROAS In establishing this definition I have selected four central concepts that allow me to chart a fairly clear map of this terrain that we call the fantastic: reality.2   D. 6 of the book. in which. The analysis of these four central concepts is complemented by a reflec- tion on the validity and meaning of the fantastic in the postmodern age. this concept of the fantastic as an aesthetic category allows for a definition of a multidisciplinary nature which is valid for literature and film as well as theatre. . its emotional and psychological effects on the receiver and the transgression of language that is undertaken when attempting to express what is. via philosophy. Therefore. the idea of the fantastic that I propose in these pages has more to do with an aesthetic category than with a concept limited to the narrow confines and conventions of a genre. comics. by definition. the impossible. such as the marvellous. inexpressible as it is beyond the realms of the con- ceivable. its limits (and the forms that dwell there. TV series. if most of the examples raised here are literary or filmic. science and cyberculture. explored in Chap. science fiction or the grotesque). of the possible and the impossible). as a means of corroborating its validity. Likewise. I have explored multiple perspec- tives that are clearly interrelated: from literary and comparative theory to linguistics. magical realism. fear and language. By examining these concepts. videogames or any other art form that reflects on the characteristic conflict within the fantastic between the real and the impossible. I also examine the works of some Spanish authors born between 1960 and 1975  in order to establish the poetics of the contemporary fantastic.

 Dick Abstract  The fantastic is characterised by proposing a conflict between (our idea of) the real and the impossible. fantastic fiction has maintained since its origins a constant debate with extratextual reality. https://doi. doesn’t go away. visible. by means of contrast. bits of the irrational to form part of its architecture so as to know that it is false. Keywords  Reality • Impossible • Physics • Postmodernism © The Author(s) 2018 3 D. but we have allowed slight. CHAPTER 2 Reality We have dreamed the world. ubiquitous in space and firm in time. quantum mechanics. to the conventional and even arbitrary (but shared) view of the real that postmodernism pro- poses. Jorge Luis Borges. We have dreamed it resistant. For this. and eternal. because the fantastic will always depend. philosophy. Roas. “Avatars of the tortoise” Reality is that which. it is necessary to make a journey from the beginnings of the fantastic in the nineteenth century. marked by a stable and mechanistic (Newtonian) idea of reality. mysterious. on what we consider as real. Behind the Frontiers of the Real. For that reason. To understand the implications of this confrontation between the real and the impossible. This journey also serves to demonstrate the decisive influence that physics.1007/978-3-319-73733-1_2 . when you stop believing in it. this chapter examines what idea of reality we are dealing with.org/10. neurobiology or cyberculture have had in the development of our idea of reality (and fantastic). Philip K.

ruptures in cause and effect. that oddness that is the real sign of our condi- tion” (Merino 2004: 9). The fantastic tale replaces familiarity with strangeness. Because. Therefore. the fusion of dreaming and waking. Their own world. as such. the existence of an infinite book is impossible: as the protagonist says. there is nothing that is not odd. who had already foreseen this reaction (because he is of the same opinion). We want to accustom ourselves to the most comfortable of routines to forget that strangeness. an obscene thing that vilified and corrupted reality”. after examining it. destroys the convictions of the character and the receiver regarding what may be considered real. the protagonist concludes: “This is not possible”. “It is not possible. simulta- neous times and spaces. In the prologue to his book Cuentos de los días raros [Tales of Strange Days]. but it is”. to contemplate reality from an unexpected perspective. monsters. above all. The problem is that. And the fantastic is a perfect route to reveal this strangeness. there is one that is completely different from all the others: an infinite book. stated that “Faced with the overpowering feeling of the apparent and common normality that this society wishes to impose on us. pages). to which the Bible salesman. José María Merino. in our existence. Borges masterfully identifies the essence of all fantastic narrative: the problematic confrontation between the real and the impossible. Split individuals. impossible objects… the motifs that compose the universe of the fantastic are expressions of a subversive will which. the various experiments that the protagonist per- forms on it demonstrate its infinite dimension. neither from an ontological nor a circumstantial perspective. incomprehensible—that sub- verts the codes—the certainties—that we have designed to perceive and . whose own idea of reality is questioned. it places us initially in a normal everyday world (our own) which is immediately assaulted by an impossible phenomenon—which is. but it is”. one of the great masters of the fantastic in Spain. the blurring of the frontiers between reality and fiction. in spite of it all. That statement. Amongst the various volumes that he has on offer. the book is still there.4   D. a spine. An impossible presence that is also imposed on the real readers. seeks to transgress that homogenising reason that organises our perception of the world and of ourselves. Although in appearance it is normal (it possesses covers. “I felt that it was a nightmarish object. responds laconically: “It is not possible. literature must chronicle the unusual. In this scene from his story El libro de arena [The Book of Sand].1 Within the idea of the real that the characters of the story share. ROAS A man is paid a visit by a Bible salesman.

as previously mentioned. From this point on.  REALITY   5 understand reality. on what we consider as real. three explanations of the real had coexisted without too many problems: science. conceived as a machine that obeyed the laws of logic and was there- fore subject to rational explanation. Ultimately. we must first begin by examining what idea of reality we are dealing with. becoming the preponderant discourse determining the models for explaining and representing the world. because the fantastic will always depend. it could be said that belief in the supernatural continued to dominate until the Age of Enlightenment. To understand the implications of this confrontation between the real and the impossible. religion and superstition. elves and other supernatural phenomena were part of the conception of the real. two per- spectives that. which translated into a separation of reason and faith. the phenomena compiled in the books of prodigies. Reason became the fundamental explanatory paradigm. mechanical uni- verse. miracles. the individual would be free to believe or not believe. it destroys our conception of the real and places us in a state of instability and. miscellanies and treatises on demonology unquestioningly accepted the existence of such phenomena. . but not impossible. or at the very least were not mutually exclusive. by means of contrast. Ghosts. but in terms of knowledge reason became dominant (although this did not translate into a recognition of atheism). Thus. in absolute disquiet. therefore. Up until this point. An (Apparently) Stable and Objective Reality Literature of the fantastic was born into a Newtonian. In spite of significant scientific developments. in terms of religious matters. They were extraordinary. in the eighteenth century the relationship with the super- natural changed radically. The Rationalism of the eighteenth century had turned reason into the only means of understanding the world. However. this did not prevent the proliferation of works which—combining science and religion—attempted to demonstrate the genuine existence of a number of manifestations of the supernatural and the extraordinary. Although in the sixteenth century the critical development of the scien- tific mentality had already started to cast doubt on certain magical and superstitious explanations of reality (science arrived to “disenchant” the world). up until that point were integrated with each other.

due to their implausibility. took refuge in literature. This new aesthetic interest coincided with (and not by chance) the development in a taste for the horrible and the terrible. a lie which had no place in the narrative of the era which was fundamentally driven towards didacti- cism and morality. ROAS Thus. This “realistic” conception of verisimilitude and mime- sis in some senses was the trigger for one of the fundamental changes that took place in the aesthetic interests of the eighteenth century: the discov- ery of society as literary matter. Suffice it to recall that in the early years of the eighteenth century. the fairy tale). expelled from life. the new paradigm of mechanical philosophy became the essential tool used in order to understand reality: The universe is conceived as a series of elements whose relationships can be formalized by geometric or mathematical laws just like any other machine. The precepts of the Enlightenment in the second half of the eighteenth century brandished concepts of verisimilitude and mimesis as the fundamental weapons in exiling the presence of the supernatural and the marvellous from literary texts due to their lack of veracity. this did not lead to the disappearance of the emotion that it produced as the aesthetic embodiment of fear of death and the unknown (a feeling of the supernatural unlike that explored by. therefore. How could literature of the fantastic arise in such an apparently hostile environment? To respond to this question. laws that exist in nature because God has so willed it and knowledge of which makes it possible to see the world as a work full of beauty and har- mony that speaks to us of the existence of God with no need for any form of Biblical exegesis or revelation. but I’m afraid of them. (Fernández 2006: 630) This rejection of the supernatural also translated into the condemna- tion of its literary and aesthetic employment. we must bear in mind that although the development of rationalism eliminated the belief in the supernatural. The eighteenth-century novel shifted its purpose of imitation to focus on the reality that surrounded humanity and found the reason for its existence in expressing the everyday. for instance. Madame du Deffand’s famous phrase on the existence of ghosts sums this idea up perfectly: “Do I believe in ghosts? No. Pseudo-­ Longino’s On the Sublime was disseminated through Boileau’s (who had already translated it in 1674) and Bouhours’ commentaries.” The emotion of the supernatural. What reason could not explain was impossible and.6   D. a new sensibility— the sublime—that took horror as a source of enjoyment and of beauty. The category .

Thus. that which does not form part of the system established by the neoclassical beauty canons. noting how aesthetic pleasure can also be derived from the dispro- portionate. This is a clear sign of how at the very heart of the Enlightenment new ideas and aesthetic tastes were being devel- oped that Romanticism would claim as its own: the dreamlike. If for the enlightened only that which could be proven really existed. . such as On the Pleasure Derived from Objects of Terror (1773) by Anna Laetitia Aikin and John Aikin or Nathan Drake’s On Objects of Terror (1798). the macabre. but instead something more mysterious and less rational. Likewise. what went beyond the limits of reason was therefore irrational. was not the only instrument that human beings possessed in order to perceive reality. This idea was later developed by Edmund Burke in his essay A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1759). the sublime and the pictur- esque. Intuition and imagination could be viable alternatives. 1790). the Age of Enlightenment had also revealed a dark side of reality and of the self that reason could not explain. The Romantics. one of the most elevated passions (as Aristotle had already pointed out). Kant also explored such aspects in his treatise Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (1764. the nocturnal… In its defence of the rational. and translates into a sensation of terror. therefore. the universe was not a machine. illusory.  REALITY   7 of the sublime encompasses the extraordinary. A form of ‘phenomenology’ of the negative and the dark is thus formed”. postulated that reason. at the outset of the century. the sentimental. “the absence of ‘real’ danger gen- erates a ‘negative’ pleasure that Burke terms as ‘delight’. the greater the ‘panic’ stirred up in the intellect. After all. meaningless. the vision- ary. without rejecting the conquests of science. dur- ing this period various treatises were published which analysed the aesthet- ics of the horrible and the terrible. The infinite clearly imposes a sublime sensation because it fills the spirit with a ‘delightful hor- ror’: the delight grows. Joseph Addison in Pleasures of Imagination (1712) studied the notion of the beautiful. This dark side was precisely what gave rise to literature of the fantastic in its first manifestation: the gothic novel that arose in British fiction in the latter half of the eighteenth century. His reflection on the terrifying is illuminating when we consider the possibility of feeling pleasure faced with a terrible object as long as we are certain that we will not be harmed. just like the human mind. developed later in his Critique of Judgment. thus acting directly on the sensibility. as Franzini (2000: 121–122) points out. due to its limitations. the terrifying. the enlarged or the strange. the marvellous and the ­surprising.

This repre- sented the establishment of an order that escaped the limits imposed by reason and which could only be comprehensible by means of idealistic intuition. this must all be understood from a vision of the real. above all. the Romantic authors began to shift their stories to the present and. When the reader tired of those macabre tales set in ruined castles and the mists of the Middle Ages that was much too distant to be taken seriously. reached its highest expression with Poe and ended the century with the disquieting ambiguities of James and Maupassant. a much vaster reality than reason could have supposed (and which was considered a single reality). the fantastic). the unknown. This was a vision that Lovecraft was continuing to use in his famous essay Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927). and the human being. This process began with Hoffmann. categories defined by said laws. still trusted the idea of a stable universe with the order of fixed and immutable laws. ROAS A world of shadows began beyond the light of reason. now stripped of religion. which. in order to make the events nar- rated more believable and also more impactful. The Romantics abolished the frontiers between the internal and the external. exceptions and doubts. Can There Be Literature of the Fantastic After Quantum Mechanics? If we cross the frontier into the twentieth century.8   D. a single notion of reality based on radical empiricism against which the fantastic projects shadows. The supernatural event was perceived as such when projected against a backdrop of the “normal” and the “natural”. is it possible to recon- cile the notion of the real outlined in the preceding pages with the radical change of scientific paradigm that took place in the previous century? And. when he spoke of the “those fixed laws of Nature” and the “malign and particular suspension or defeat” of these that defines supernatural horror (that is. in spite of the aesthetic exceptions that make up the literary fantastic. between waking and dreaming. However. above all. The fantastic tale would go much further than the Gothic novel. which Goethe termed the demonic. therefore. to settings recognisable to the reader. The unknown was. confronted with this found no other defence than fear. In other words. does this concept of reality continue to work as a category with which to handle the fantastic in order to identify and define it? . between the unreal and the real. between science and magic.

nature. No. there are no internal wheels. Therefore. unpredictably alters its velocity and trajectory. pointed out. as to what happens. (Feynman 1995: 35) The indeterminism of the nature of subatomic particles (let us not forget that this is the world in which quantum mechanics moves) can be summed up by Heisenberg’s (1927) famous uncertainty principle: it is impossible to simultaneously measure the position and velocity of a sub- atomic particle given that to illuminate it the projection of at least one photon is required and this photon. . This is simply not true. as we understand it today. and we can measure when it has emitted light by picking up a photon particle. philosophers have said before that one of the fundamental requisites of science is that whenever you set up the same conditions. As another famous physicist. with several atoms. What is truly significant about this principle is not merely the fact that the scientist (the observer) can no longer carry out precise observations on the behaviour of the reality under analysis. the same thing must happen. in fact. The fact is that the same thing does not happen. This is a horrible thing. behaves in such a way that it is fundamentally impossible to make a precise prediction of exactly what will happen in a given experi- ment. it is not possible to predict exactly what will happen in any circumstance. on colliding with the particle. but above all. it is possible to arrange an atom that is ready to emit light. however. You may say that this is because there are some internal “wheels” which we have not looked at closely enough. For example. statistically. which we shall describe shortly. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity abolished the vision of time and space as universally valid concepts perceived identically by all individuals: the conception of these shifted towards becoming malleable structures whose form and means of presenting themselves depended on the position and motion of the observer.  REALITY   9 As is well known. quantum mechanics has revealed the paradoxical nature of reality: we have left behind the Newtonian world of certainties and we find ourselves in a world where probability and randomness play a fundamental role (contradicting Einstein’s famous statement that “God does not play dice”). reality ceases to be objective and “external” as it has been profoundly affected by the observer who inter- acts with it. Richard Feynman. We cannot. which one is going to. that we can find only an average. intervention decisively modifies the nature of what is observed. Meanwhile. it is not a fundamental condition of science. predict when it is going to emit the light or.

this means that the energy difference can be quite large. Clearly. since they have decohered from us. If we move from the subatomic level to the field of cosmology. Since the frequency of these waves is proportional to their energy (by Planck’s law). although we cannot ‘tune into’ them. it is still within the hands of literature of the fantastic and science fiction to cross those impassable limits. wormholes. Although these worlds are very much alike. such as the Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinber. Tlön and the infinite branching of paths of Borges’ gardens. Once again. or a “multiverse” according to the term proposed in 1957 by physicist Hugh Everett. . the waves of these various worlds do not interact or influence each other. Applying this sys- tem to the field of literature. For all intents and purposes. […] in our universe we are ‘tuned’ into the frequency that corresponds to physical reality. science has revealed the existence of “fantastic” entities or phenomena (some of them had never even been witnessed before) such as black holes. negative energy… or the idea that ten dimensions may exist (nine spatial and one temporal). concur): The catch is that we can no longer interact with them. admitting the possibility that a particle may be in a superposition of states prior to being observed: only the intervention of the observer or the measurement system determines the movement from quantum indeterminacy to a concrete reality of one of those states (just as was postulated in the famous paradox of Schrödinger’s cat). perhaps even more. we might add. And because each world consists of trillions upon trillions of atoms. this means that the waves of each world vibrate at different frequen- cies and cannot interact anymore. each has a different energy. But there are an infinite number of parallel realities coexisting with us in the same room. dark mat- ter. and many other parallel worlds or dimensions cease to be fantastic transgressions and enter the sphere of the real. we could therefore say that Lovecraft’s city of R’lyeh (where dead Cthulhu awaits in dreams). ROAS Another surprising phenomenon revealed by quantum mechanics derives from the function of particle waves. the dimension where the Cenobites reside in Hellraiser. of the possible. From this point another of the conceptual revolutions of quantum mechanics unfolds: the loss of a single “objective” reality in favour of sev- eral realities that coexist simultaneously.10   D. (Kaku 2005: 169–170) Luckily for us. as the Japanese physicist Michio Kaku points out (other physicists. the observer’s interaction modifies reality.

As Feynman once wrote: “[quantum mechanics] describes nature as something absurd from the perspective of common sense. I hope you may accept nature such as it is: absurd” (1995: 102). In other words. Antonio Damasio unhesitatingly states that the neural patterns and mental images corresponding to the objects and events outside the brain are its own creations relating to the reality that provokes its creations. and the other for the macroscopic world that we live in.  REALITY   11 Of course. the subatomic universe is based on principles that. And. If we leave behind the particular field of physics and examine neurobi- ology and the tenets of constructivist philosophy. reality also ceases to be conceived as an objective and apparently stable entity. not to say unbelievable. However. the images are also real. But it completely matches the experimental tests. above all. we cannot ignore an essential aspect: the magnitude of the phenomena that are studied by the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics are entirely alien to us because ultimately their properties are beyond our day-to-day experience of time and space. It is from this perspective that we must continue to evaluate fantastic fiction. and not passive speculative images that reflect said reality. The same occurs when we descend to atomic and subatomic scales: the conceptual framework of quantum mechanics “absolutely and unequivocally shows us that a number of basic concepts essential to our understanding of the familiar everyday world fail to have any meaning when our focus narrows to the microscopic realm” (Greene 2003: 83). in terms of our discussion on the notion of reality and its relationship with the fantastic. Thus. we coexist with two types of physics. […] It should be noted that this does not deny the reality of objects. This does not mean that it is not the theory that best explains the functioning of the real at a cosmological dimension. where electrons can seemingly be in two places at the same time. which appears to obey the commonsense laws of Newton” (2005: 155–156). from the perspective of our daily experience. Objects are real. Or fantastic. the images that we experience are cerebral constructions provoked by an object and not speculative images of the object. are strange. Since we do not move at the speed of light we cannot capture the distortions that demonstrate the theory of relativity. (2007: 189) . Therefore. Where does all of this leave us facing our comprehension of the func- tioning of the real? I once again rely on Michio Kaku’s wise explanations: as he states. Nor does it deny the reality of the interactions between object and organism. “one for the bizarre subatomic world.

Thus. However. Neuromancer. there is no “real reality”. We could apply the concept of “neural pattern” here as employed by Damasio. Paul Watzlawick (The Invented Reality. digital and holographic environments. published in 1984. Cyberculture has also provoked a change in our perception of the real. is a social construction. we have only to think of cyberpunk novels (first and foremost. but rather representations of reality. postulated in suggesting that reality does not exist prior to our consciousness of it. This is a vision of the real that coincides with what constructivist phi- losophers such as Nelson Goodman (Ways of Worldmaking. ROAS He adds an essential detail to this: There are a series of correspondences. have multiplied the levels of fic- tion as well as questioned the veracity of our perceptions. (2007: 190–191) Two fundamental ideas emerge from Damasio’s statement: (1) reality is conceived as a “subjective” construct. eXistenZ (1999). […] The neural pattern attributed to a particular object is built in accordance with the menu of correspondences. In other words. Avalon (2001). intensifying the difficulty in distinguishing between reality and fiction. the hypertext. 1986). 1978).12   D. selecting and assembling the suitable pieces. we do not know the world but rather the “ver- sions” that we manufacture of it: perception participates in the manufacture of what we perceive. Possible Worlds. but at the same time. but from this perspective understood as the pattern of reality shared by humans. Although I will not dwell on the point. virtual reality. based on new modes of communication. which turns it into a subjective construc- tion. all of which are narratives that coincide in questioning reality by means of the construction of stories whose protagonists live immersed in deceitful envi- ronments in which they cannot trust their senses. Watzlawick concludes. we are so similar to each other from the biological perspective that we build similar neural patterns of the same things. 1980) or Jerome Bruner (Actual Minds. which have been achieved throughout the long history of evolution. Reality. or the overrated and messianic Matrix (1999–2003). by William Gibson) and films such as Ghost in the Shell (1995). As Goodman states. between the physical characteristics of objects that are independent of us and the menu of the organism’s possible responses. Dark City (1998). Two separate worlds— “real” and virtual—between which the characters move with greater or . (2) it is socially shared.

Our judgements of what is or is not real always depend on the various expla- nations that are available to us. those who die in the digital world also die in the “real” world. Heim notes. However. It becomes evident that it is no longer possible to conceive (reconstruct) an absolute level of reality. as Baudrillard would say. an idea that also connects with the post-modern obsession with simula- crum (to which I will refer later).  REALITY   13 lesser conviction. philosophy and technology postulate new conditions in our dealings with reality. Postmodern narrative proposes a perfect transposition of these new ideas which are manifested in its questioning of the referential capacities of language and literature. As Matrix and Avalon demonstrate. and sometimes change as our explanations improve. as Calinescu (1987) warns us. we cannot be damaged by our environment (contrary to what happens in “real” reality). a construction. This therefore coincides with the post-­structuralist . contradicting the third of the hypotheses postulated by Michael Heim in The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality (1993) in relation to the differences between the real world and the virtual: in cyberspace. science. but our criteria and ideas about what should count as an explanation are gradually changing (improv- ing) too. As David Deutsch points out. the development of virtual realities forces us to examine our sense of reality. occasionally the borders between those worlds break down. So the list of acceptable modes of explanation will always be open-­ ended. or its definitive or infallible criteria. the image is used as a placement and dupli- cation to create (by digital means) a falsified and immaterial world. we may glean a recurring idea from all of these new per- spectives previously outlined: reality has ceased to be an ontologically stable and unique entity and has shifted to being perceived as a conven- tion. […] Not only do explanations change. In conclusion. and consequently the list of acceptable criteria for reality must be open-ended too. in the analogue reality. must affect the level of aesthetic consciousness. As the aforementioned Michael Heim warns us. a model created by human beings (or even. This in turn. (1997: 62) Is Reality Out There? (Postmodern Narrative and The Real) As we have just seen. In all of these narratives. a simulacrum).

Thus. a self-referential simulacrum that replaces or pretends to be reality. The Fantastic Facing New Paradigms of Reality I must return to the definition outlined at the very beginning: the fantastic is characterised by proposing a conflict between (our idea of ) the real and the impossible. it is worth examining other essential aspects of this special and conflictive relationship that the fantas- tic maintains with the idea of the real. but is rather based on its own fictionality. 6 of the book will pick up on this question of the relevance and meaning of the fantastic in postmodernity. reality is seen as a virtual construct. reality can be seen as a composite of such fictional constructs as literature itself. This translates into the dissolution of the reality/fiction dichotomy. This is the reason for which Calinescu asks himself: Can literature be other than self-referential.14   D. linked to the scien- tific and philosophical theses previously explored. This explains why postmodern nar- rative rejects the mimetic contract (whose point of reference is reality) and manifests itself as a self-sufficient entity that does not require the confir- mation of an outside world (“real”) in order to exist and function. given the present-day radical epistemological doubt and the ways in which this doubt affects the status of representation? Can literature be said to be a ‘representation of reality’ when reality itself turns out to be shot with fiction through and through? In what sense does the construction of reality differ from the construction of mere possibility? (1987: 299) The literary work is therefore perceived as a verbal experiment with no direct relation to the reality external to the linguistic universe. This implies the assumption that there is no existing reality that may validate the hypotheses. In other words. Is it therefore possible to conceive at the heart of postmodern literature the existence of a category such as the fantastic. rea- son creates ideal cultural models which it then superimposes over a world it considers indecipherable. which is defined by its opposition to the notion of extratextual reality? Before attempting to answer this question. The Chap. it does not refer to reality. Thus. ROAS vision of reality which may be summed up by the notion that this is an artificial construct of reason: instead of explaining reality objectively. The basis for said conflict to generate a fantastic effect is .

any conflict between two orders. The fact that it is inexplicable is not exclusively determined by the intratext as it involves the very reader. at the same time. Linked to this is the inevitable effect of disquiet when faced with the inability to conceive of the coexis- tence of the possible and the impossible. this immanentist definition overlooks that the structural and thematic devices that are employed in the construction of narratives of the fantastic seek to involve the reader in the text using two main strategies: 1) The diverse formal devices employed in building the world of the text guide the interpretive cooperation of the reader/spectator to assume that intratextual reality is similar to their own. on our knowledge of it and the validity of the tools we have developed to understand and represent it. religious. moral…) could be described as fantastic. the integration of the receiver in the text implies a correspondence between their idea of reality and the idea of reality created by the intratext.  REALITY   15 not doubt or uncertainty. tell it apart from other non-mimetic literary and artistic manifestations. so it would not be necessary to put it in contact with the idea of extratextual reality in order to evaluate and. As I pointed out earlier. However. 2) Most importantly. This is why I do not agree with the immanentist definition which pos- tulates that the fantastic would simply emerge from conflict within the text between two different codes of reality. Hoffmann initiated this process (he replaced the exotic and distant worlds of Gothic literature with the reader’s day-­ to-­day reality) and the effect has continued to intensify. The appearance of the impossible in this familiar framework is a transgression of the paradigm of the real that governs the extratextual world. If we adhere literally to this immanentist concept. A world that is recognisable and where they may recognise themselves. and transgression of a “legality” installed in the text (be it physical. a point on which many theorists (since Todorov’s essay) continue to dwell. but the inexplicable nature of the phenomenon. This leads the receiver to evaluate the appear- ance of the impossible from their own codes of reality. Fantastic narrative—it is worth underscoring this—has maintained since its origins a constant debate with extratextual reality: its primary objective has been and continues to be to reflect on reality and its frontiers. All this with- out overlooking that the phenomena that embody this transgression . This determines that the world constructed in fantastic tales is always a reflection of the reality inhabited by the reader.

16   D. Not only that. as we have already seen. such as Machen and Lovecraft) should write fantastic tales to propose exceptions to the physical laws of the world which. ROAS touches on unconscious triggers which are also linked to the conflict with the impossible and which intensify its disquieting effect: as Freud states in “The Uncanny”. It does so by the only means possible. by means of mythic thought. Relating the world of the text to the extratextual world makes it possible to interpret the threat that the narrative represents towards beliefs regarding empirical reality. Therefore. facts and desires that cannot be mani- fested directly because they represent something forbidden that the mind has repressed or because they do not fit in normative mental patterns and so cannot be feasibly rationalised. The fantastic therefore is closely related to theories of knowledge and the belief-structures of a given era. literature of the fantastic consciously brings to light the realities. are also based on the con- text of reception and not just the intention of the author. the definition I am proposing does not imply a static con- ception of the fantastic. This explains that nineteenth-­ century writers (and also a few twentieth-century writers. In conclusion. but also the “unreality coefficient” of a work—to employ the terms coined by Rachel Bouvet (1998)—and its corresponding fantastic effect. once the idea of an absolute level of reality had been replaced by a vision of reality as a sociocultural construct. that is to say. at the same time. should write fantastic tales to deny patterns of interpreting reality and the self. Nevertheless. envel- oping the receiver in the narrative universe. the “pre-constructed certainties” (Sánchez 2002: 306) that we establish in our daily dealings with the real and by which we encode the possible and the impossible: . were considered to be fixed and rigorous. the fantastic always implies a projection towards the extratextual world as it demands cooperation and. but also what I have termed “regularities” (beyond ontological definitions). embodying in ambigu- ous figures all that in any given historical era or period could be considered impossible (or monstrous). as this evolves at the same pace as the relationship between humanity and reality is modified. whilst twentieth and twenty-first-century writers. the collective experience of reality influences the receiver’s response: we perceive the presence of the impossible as a transgression of our horizon of expectations with regards to the real. involving not only the previously described scientific and philosophical suppositions.

Ultimately. when we drink a glass of water. as if the process had stood still. We are not surprised that our rooms. like Clinio Malabar. that the clock is losing time and coffee is bitter. the “regularities” that make up our daily existence have led us to establish a series of expectations with regards to the real and on these we have built a convention that is tacitly accepted by all society. Erasing the chalk circle that “protects” us from the unknown. from the menacing. it is about questioning the valid- ity of the generally accepted systems for the perception of reality. that is with no distinctions. […] Daily routine also counts on the regularity of cycles. As Rosalba Campra . the protagonist of “El descubrimiento de la circunferencia” [“The Discovery of the Circumference”] by Leopoldo Lugones. we trust that things will maintain their properties. Clinio dies of terror. because this has been absorbed by the uniform and the different”. […] Likewise. have kept the same dimensions. on the following morning. but terror that the ceiling should cave in or the floors disappear beneath us is not continuous. As Claudio Magris (2001) warns us. we are grateful for our lives. a madman who can only feel safety by living within the borders of a circumference that he constantly draws around himself. When finally one of the doctors at the asylum where he is being treated rubs it out. We have drawn the borders that separate us from the unknown. We count on the existence of the outside world when we sit in a chair. We. outline our world to be able to function within it. We are all somewhat nervy. Biology speaks to us of genetic mutations and. Contemplating the world as a permanent miracle is a transient state or a religious vocation. would not cause admiration but terror.  REALITY   17 Our habitual movement indeed implies particular convictions. there is no form. but not every day. Gregor Samsa—I repeat again and again—must be viewed as an exception. “the frontier is a necessity. The purpose of the fantastic is precisely to destabilise the borders that provide us with a sense of safety and problematising those previously men- tioned collective convictions. like the character. (Rossi 1997: 34–35) In other words. between those of us who live with greater or lesser comfort. […] A friend who after twenty years were to have the same physical characteristics. there are few people who would view it as a triumph not to have turned into a beetle or a caterpillar overnight. no individuality and there is not even a real existence. Discovering that the street is identical produces a mediocre joy. because without it. when we lay down on a mattress. need to set boundaries for reality. however. at all hours. We are. that the walls have not collapsed. there is no identity. in spite of the differences.

the protagonist makes the following observation: “If there are infinite universes then all possible combinations must exists. but also (and above all) the questioning of said coexistence. subvert our codes of reality. amongst other things it tells the story of the exchanges that take place between the Earth and the inhabitants of a parallel universe (with different physical laws). . The poetics of fantastic fiction not only demands the coexistence of the possible and the impossible within the fictional world. It is only when such phenomena intervene in our universe and. the contact between both orders of reality is never problematised. everything must be true.” The character is clearly mistaken: the fantastic will arise whenever the code of reality for the world we inhabit is questioned. ROAS indicates. “the notion of the border. As Jackson (1981: 20) states. some- where. that the fantastic may take place. From this we may deduce that making the conflict the main focus is essential: the problematisation of the phenomenon is what finally deter- mines its fantastic quality. This transgression simultaneously makes reality turn strange. the fantastic demands the presence of a conflict that must be evaluated both within the text and in relation to the extratextual world. Therefore. In a scene from Fredric Brown’s novel What Mad Universe (1949). thanks to the technology of the time. Therefore. both within and without the text (Reisz 2001: 195–196). The aforementioned concept of the multiverse allows me to argue for this statement. it stands to reason that the fantastic resides in the necessary problematisation of this conventional arbitrary and shared vision of the real. What does it matter if there is a universe in which beings may replicate themselves. but rather establishes a symbiotic or parasitic rela- tionship with it. to cease to be familiar and to become something incomprehensible and thus threatening. therefore. Then. We may see Asimov’s novel The Gods Themselves (1972) in this light. That is why the fantastic does not appear in stories where the contact between parallel dimensions is made possible due to the conditions of real- ity on which the world of the text is built. the intervention of the fantas- tic acts as a transgression of this border” (2001: 161). Once the existence of two states of reality has been established. the fantastic recombines and inverts the real but cannot escape from it.18   D. vomit live rabbits (as Cortázar describes in “Carta a una señorita en París” [“Letter to a Young Lady in Paris”]) or possess infi- nite books. of an inviolable frontier for human beings is presented as an introduction to the fantastic. Thus. Set in the year 2070.

rather than proposing a possible transgression regarding our convictions of the real. which go against the conceptual or scientific system that we deal with on a daily basis” (Alazraki 2001: 277). the objective of neo-fantastic literature. The problem inherent in such situations—perfectly illustrated by Kafka’s Metamorphosis—is that its metaphorical dimension escapes us. the half-seen or the inter- stices of unreason that escape or resist the language of communication. which resists being labelled by ordinary language. this does not equal the creation of a fantastic effect. that would eliminate the vision of the fantastic as the “negative otherness” to the real: “Although the dichotomies continue to give form to our perceptions. according to these critics. This would justify that the situations proposed in these texts can be defined as “metaphors which seek to express glimpses. the conflict that is established regarding the extratextual . Of course. the neo-fantastic. which would no longer rest on a causal representation of reality because. To extend our perception. nevertheless. where the reader continues to per- ceive the rupture. As Nandorfy (2001: 261) indicates. how does this definition distinguish between contemporary fantastic from other manifestations such as surreal- ist literature that poses the playing down and extending of the concept of reality by means of the inclusion of unconscious mental states (dreams. which do not fit within the little cells built by reason. although on the surface it may appear to be based on a logical rupturing of the real.  REALITY   19 Alazraki and other theorists resolved to go beyond this conception of the fantastic based on this necessary confrontation with the real by postu- lating a new category. would cover the works of Kafka. significantly present in the stories considered to be neo-fantastic. they are no longer restricted to a forced choice between truth and illusion. The paradox resides in the fact that there is no other way of referring to this second reality. what these texts reveal is a “reality enriched by dif- ference”. We could therefore say that what is truly transgres- sive is that it grants the same validity and verisimilitude to both orders. Borges. Thus. they are now viewed as involved in the expansion of the imagination. would be to reveal to us that second reality which is hidden behind the everyday. what the stories clas- sified under this banner pursue is an extension to the possibilities of reality (said category. This effect is. However. from this perspective. as the absolutist focus dictated” (2001: 259). Cortázar and other twentieth-century authors). free association of ideas or madness) on the same plane of reality as the products of the conscious state? Surrealist literature constructs an autono- mous textual reality in which the borders of the real are extended by eras- ing the frontier with the unreal.

It is enough for it to produce an alteration in the recognisable. and the disruption this causes.20   D. has evolved towards new means of expressing the very transgression that defines it: many contemporary authors. ROAS notion of reality. to mistakenly widen the cat- egory of the fantastic to include surrealists texts or the literature of the absurd). The uneasy impossibility of the double or the vampire (to cite but two traditional motifs) is the same as Cortázar’s rabbit regurgitator or the individual who one morning wakes up metamorphosed into an insect. In this very short story. for instance. From this. A good example of this is “Continuidad de los parques” [“Continuity of the Parks”] by Cortázar. of this intersection between two irreconcilable orders between which there is apparently no possible continuity. The suspicion that another secret order (or disorder) can endanger the precarious stability of our worldview is enough. on a syntactical level as it were. but also its transgressive dimension inevitably goes beyond the textual: its objective is always to question the codes we have designed to interpret and represent the real: the appearance of the fantastic does not necessarily need to reside in the altering of a world ordered by the rigorous laws of reason and science on the part of strange elements. having exhausted the most tra- ditional devices. the appearance of an impossible phenomenon is no longer necessary as the transgression takes place by means of an unresolvable lack of a nexus between the different elements of the real.2 Thus. as I pointed out earlier. (Fernández 2001: 296–297) We may think. It is true that narrative of the fantastic. The surprise contained in Cortázar’s masterful story is that the day-­to-­day reality is invaded by the sphere of the world of the fiction: the final scene of the story depicts the protagonist about to be murdered by one of the characters of the novel he is reading. However. the narrative logic (this would require. kicks back in his favourite sofa and settles down to read a novel that tells the story of a pair of lovers who plot the death of her husband. in familiar order or disorder. . the narrator builds an ordinary reality made up of day- to-day activities which are apparently trivial: a man arrives at his home. of the use that is made of the device of meta- fiction in some contemporary fantastic stories. for instance. have opted for presenting said transgression by means of rupturing the organisation of the contents. that is. The fantastic effect emerges from the impact of this (impossible) metalepsis. it is also clear that these narratives do not only question syntax.

2. published translations have been referenced should the reader wish to seek a complete translation of any of the texts cited (Translator’s note). when these two orders—parallels. as these “are fed by the questioning of the very notion of reality and they deal with. . For more. just in case. opposites—encounter one another. the illusory nature of all ‘evidence’. Narratives of the fantastic always present two realities that cannot coexist: thus. absurd and unwelcoming. of all the broadcast ‘truths’ on which mankind in our era and our culture relies in order to create an internal model of the world and find one’s place within it” (Reisz 2001: 194). 5 and the works of Campra (2001) and (2008). alternatives. This is because ultimately. To conclude. Not only that: the impos- sible phenomenon is always posed as an exception to a particular logic that organises the story. the (apparent) normality in which the characters move (a reflection of the reader) turns strange. Bibliographical and page refer- ences to the original Spanish are maintained should the reader wish to con- sult the original. Erdal Jordan (1998) and Rodríguez Hernández (2010). The linguistic dimension of the fantastic is examined later. Where possible. Such is the confusion that Cortázar’s tale generates that when you finish reading it. you involuntarily turn to look behind you. when dealing with fantastic fictions. this intersection of lev- els of fiction calls into question our own (idea of) reality. All translations from Spanish–English of literary works originally written in Spanish are my own unless otherwise noted. The fantastic constantly demands for the described phenomena to be in contrast to the constructed logic in the text as well as that other logic— which is also constructed—that is our vision of the real. please see Chap. Notes 1. it is inevitable (and essential to their function) to put the intertextual and extratextual (the sociocultural horizon of the reader) worlds into contact. a logic that is none other than that of the extratextual reality. much more radically and directly than other literary fictions.  REALITY   21 the sense of the title emerges.

“Try again: draw a long breath. the theoretical proposals have all proliferated—from different perspectives—to bring them together under the same label (the fantastic).” “I dare say you haven’t had much practice.1007/978-3-319-73733-1_3 . © The Author(s) 2018 23 D.org/10. because it is surprising. when these categories. Christian marvellous. Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There Abstract  This chapter focuses on the study of several non-mimetic ­categories that. essential for the definition of the fantastic. and the grotesque works. CHAPTER 3 The Impossible “I can’t believe that!” said Alice.” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things. I always did it for half-an-hour a day. sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. this chapter examines how science fiction. despite postulating a rupture of the conventions of the real. Thus. Behind the Frontiers of the Real.” Lewis Carroll. and shut your eyes. do not produce a fantastic effect because they do not pose the possi- ble–impossible conflict. Roas. Why. “There’s no use trying. “When I was your age. do not generate a fantastic effect because that rupture of the mimetic does not seek to subvert our idea of reality.” Alice laughed. “Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone.” said the Queen. magical realism. https://doi. that although there are four very different categories. while propos- ing different ways of transcend mimetic realism. therefore.

The mere presence of the impossible does not necessarily imply that a work should be considered fantastic. as I already pointed out. which is not affected by either human time or space. the fantastic is built on the con- flict that arises from the coexistence of the real and the impossible. The fantastic. This is not only due to the impossibility of its presence but also because of its special nature.24   D. This transgressive dimension is what gives it weight in the fantastic tale. Therefore. in contrast. built based on the idea that we share of the real extratextual world. Greek epic poems. that which is inconceivable (inexplicable) according to the said conception of the real. that is. but this is not a binding condition for the existence of such genres. thus rupturing the borders between two discontinuous orders of reality and as a result posing a complete transgression of our codes as to how the real functions. ROAS Keywords  Impossible • Science fiction • Christian marvellous • Magical realism • Grotesque The Threat of the Impossible As we have seen in the previous chapter. what we consider to be impossible in relation to our idea of the real) does not enter into conflict with the context in which the events take place. based on the conception of the real that both characters and receivers share: the impossible is that which—as in Borges’ book of sand— cannot be. the stories of knights errant. utopian narratives. The condition of impossibility of the fantastic phenomenon is established. Let us consider for instance one of the traditional devices employed in the classic fantastic story: the ghost. the ghost is a being that returns from beyond in incorporeal form and joins the land of the living. the fantastic does not occur: neither divine beings (from whatever religion . one of the basic conditions for the fantastic to work: the necessary setting of the events narrated in a world similar to our own. fairy tales or science fiction may contain elements which (at first glance) we would describe as impossible (super- natural). in turn. If we set aside for one moment the terror inspired by this figure (the next chapter will focus on the emotional— and intellectual—impact of fear as a basic effect of the fantastic). we must be clear that when the impossible (or rather. is the only aesthetic category that cannot function without the impossible. This also determines.

ordered hierarchical world where. The reader in turn also accepts this because there is nothing in the text that forces them to confront what is taking place within it against their own experience of the real: the spaces in which fairy tales or The Lord of the Rings take place are autonomous worlds which do not call into question our notion of reality. On the other hand. and this explains why characters—and the narrator—accept what is happening unquestioningly. all the elements so common in fairy-stories. the ghost. This situation defines what has come to be termed the marvellous: The familiar “Once upon a time” from the fairy tale places the narrated ele- ments out of the present and prevents any realistic association. no rupture takes place in the world views that we have developed to allow us to think of and explain reality. because it is normal and natural. structured. metamorphoses. impossible. omnipotence of thoughts. the “unnameable thing”.   THE IMPOSSIBLE    25 produces them). the paranormal event. as we have learnt. for instance. for. This dichotomy between the fantastic and the marvellous has already been explored by Sigmund Freud in his article “The Uncanny” (1919): In fairy tales. parallel to it. ultimately breaks into a familiar. miracles. animation of inanimate objects. that feeling cannot arise unless there is a conflict of judgement whether things which have been “surmounted” and are regarded as incredible are not. (1919: 249–250) . The fairy. secret powers. unbe- lievable. Thus. the apparition. can exert no uncanny influence here. nor genies. and this problem is eliminated from the outset by the postulates of the world of fairy tales. thus preventing any contamination. ordinary/extraordinary. sprites and other extraordinary creatures that appear in folk tales can be considered fantastic in the sense that the said tales do not apply our idea of reality to the stories told. real/unreal) do not take place: charms. uncertainty. (Bessière 1974: 32) The world of the marvellous is a completely made-up space in which the basic confrontations that generate the fantastic (possible/impossible. the elf or the spirit from the fairy tale moves in a completely different world to our own. be possible. the world of reality is left behind from the very start. all is possible within the physical parameters of this mar- vellous space. any fault or “slip” seemed impossible and inadmissible. Wish-fulfilments. There is no possibility of transgression in them and therefore no fantastic effect on the reader. after all. up until the point of the fantastic crisis. and the animistic system of beliefs is frankly adopted.

I trust. (Fitz-James O’Brien. All of the narrator’s efforts are. as Freud says. All this of course while remembering that—as I pointed out in the previous chapter— the phe- nomenon of the impossible is always posed as an exception given that otherwise it would become something normal and would no longer be taken as a transgression or a threat. I confess. This is the fundamental raison d’être of the fantastic story: to reveal something that is going to unbalance our conception of the real. But he relates them precisely for that reason. in as simple and straightfor- ward a manner as I can compass. which is produced when we leave behind the commonplaces of reality and face the impossible. I have. are wholly unparalleled. For the fantastic effect to take place. therefore. with considerable diffidence that I approach the strange narrative which I am about to relate. the narrator is fully conscious that the events he is about to tell contradict what the reader recognises as their universe. when. directed towards overcoming the expected incredulity of the reader (who knows that such things do not happen in their world) and ensuring that the impossible event is accepted and that its presence becomes feasible. Admitting its supernatural source does not equal explaining it or under- standing it. after mature consideration. something that we had always assumed was a simple fantasy appears before us as something real (1919: 249). I accept all such beforehand. above all in those published throughout the nineteenth century: IT is.26   D. “What Was It?” 1859: 390) As we can see. the world constructed within the text must offer signals that can be interpreted based on the reader’s experi- ence of the world. . even if it cannot be explained. the literary courage to face unbelief. I have. the unfamiliar). some facts that passed under my observa- tion in the month of July last. resolved to narrate. and which. in the annals of the mysteries of physical science. due to this contradiction. The events which I purpose detailing are of so extraordinary and unheard-of a character that I am quite prepared to meet with an unusual amount of incredulity and scorn. ROAS In contrast to this sort of tale would be those which produce the effect of the uncanny (unheimliche: literally. This conflict is often explicitly stated by the narrators of the fantastic in the first lines of their stories. This allows the reader to compare the opposing natures of the narrated events and understand their relationship of conflict.

Even if we do not know if the ghosts who accost the protagonist of The Turn of the Screw are real or a projection of her neurosis. where the existence respectively of vampires and the infinite book is never questioned even if it is never understood. the inability to explain it reasonably. the supernatural.   THE IMPOSSIBLE    27 This occurs both in stories where evidence of the fantastic is not in any doubt as well as in those where the ambiguity cannot be resolved since all stand by the same idea: the incursion of the impossible in the real world and. The con- trary is true of the fantastic as Susana Reisz points out: It does not allow itself to be reduced to a prp (‘possible according to what is relatively plausible’) encoded by the dominant theological systems and reli- gious beliefs. as there are hybrid categories that share elements from both forms but which function differently and produce different effects. the Virgin Mary. This is true of the Christian marvellous and magical realism. Thus. in referring to an existing codified order (religion). it does not permit itself to be labelled by any of the conven- tionally accepted forms—only questioned in each era by an educated . In addition. ceases to be perceived as fantastic by the reader as there is a pragmatic framework that coincides with the literary framework. By the Christian marvellous I refer to those literary works—usually in the form of a legend—where supernatural phenomena have a religious explanation (be it the intervention of God. The same occurs with any narration that has a scientific explanation. the effect is the same as that which is produced by Dracula or the aforementioned The Book of Sand. above all. be it by means of doubts or a supernatural manifestation. angels or similar entities). reality (our conventions of the real) can never be the same again: how can we go on facing it when our systems of perception have been cancelled out by showing us the (exceptional) possibility of the impossible? This situation does not occur in the categories that I am going to move on to describe. as they go beyond the frontiers of the fantastic whilst also displaying clear connections to it. None of these phenomena can be explained rationally. Hybrid Forms: The Christian Marvellous and Magical Realism The frontiers between the fantastic and the marvellous are not watertight.

never quite disappears. In this case. nevertheless.28   D. As Soldevila (1998: 78–79) warns us. developed after Romanticism. the explicit causality of the extraordinary phenomenon (the numinous) prevents it from sparking the transgression we would expect from the fantastic. this . once the nature of the event as a wonder has been established (owing to a direct or indirect divine intervention of the interference of diabolic pow- ers. The “normalization” of the supernatural phenomenon neutralises its fantastic effect: Miracles are considered and consequently presented as factual. the supernatural events have a clear explanation: they are understood (and admired) as a manifestation of God’s omnipo- tence. it is also true that those who do so place themselves beyond the spiritual scope they are born within. albeit subject to a causality different from our own and unintelligible from a rational perspective. What stops us from placing legends inspired by Christianity within the specific field of the purely fantastic? Although it is true that it employs a “realistic” setting (the world of the text is an everyday space similar to the real and not a marvellous space). added a certain fantastic component to the said narratives and set the edifying intention of the original in the background in order to grant greater prominence to the supernatural. Within this horizon […]. As true as it may be that such stories may be read as fiction. ROAS minority—of manifestation of the supernatural in daily life as is the case of the miraculous appearance in the context of Christian belief or metamor- phosis in the context of Graeco-Latin thought. (Reisz 2001: 196) This explains another of the essential characteristics of the Christian marvellous: the absence of wonder in the narrator and characters. which we also take for granted take place with God’s consent). unlike the fantastic. it is one of those factual events which is not expected nor explainable and in taking place against all odds it extends the notion of reality as it forces the inclusion of events previously considered to be impossible or unlikely in the field of real possibilities. The religious explanation. the miracle does not destabilise anyone’s sense of security even when dealing with a struggle against the devil and even if this takes the form of a dragon that threatens the Virgin Mary: both the producer and the receiver are believers in one of the versions of the ‘legend’ of Saint George. as we can see in some of Charles Nodier’s and Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer’s stories. (Reisz 2001: 199) Although we must bear in mind that the literary rewriting of such leg- ends. as occurred events. This fight—which could well be material for a fantastic narrative—has genuinely taken place.

the narrated events are considered real compared to the obvious unreality of the marvellous tale (the phrase “Once upon a time” places it in another world which is deemed not to exist). refers the story to the reader given that it is an extraordi- nary. The supernatural phenomenon (the miracle. they consider the legendary an event that has genuinely taken place. . However.   THE IMPOSSIBLE    29 ceases to be scandalous as it can be explained within the Christian world view. This paradoxically both distances and brings the legend closer to the fairy tale given that. as it has been “relegated to a remote mythical plane on which anything is possible” (Risco 1982: 64). and the secondary narrator (intradiegetic) tells the main narrator a legend that is told in the area where they are located and which is always set in the distant past. whatever the circumstances may be. The literary embodiment of this sort of story—which is very common in nineteenth-century literature—often possesses a recurring structure (which we might also find in legends which are not inspired by Christianity): the main narrator arrives at any rural settlement and once there. Supernatural phenomena form part of the domain of faith as extraor- dinary but not impossible events. becomes the recipient of a legend set many centuries before and whose incredible events are always justified by means of divine or diabolic intervention. who do not problematise the events they are facing because they do not contradict their vision of the world. even though as I have already pointed out. The difference between both narrators is that the former tends to be a sceptical individual (or at least takes a non-committal stance to the super- natural). who is in most cases openly sceptical. this narrative framework produces a distancing from the events with regards to the main narrator and the reader that enables acceptance without being conditioned by the ­supernatural. they have not lived the experience directly. at the same time. the divine punish- ment or the diabolic intervention) is therefore completely accepted by the intradiegetic narrator and by the characters within the narration. whilst the latter believes in the truth of what is narrated. Moreover. We often do not hear the voice of this intradiegetic narrator but instead it is the main narrator who explains to us in their own words the legend that they themselves have been told by the secondary narrator. What is most interesting about this situation is that none of the voices who narrate the events have been in touch with the supernatural: the nar- rator (extradiegetic) refers us to what they have been told at a particular time. The main narrator. event. and sometimes terrifying. on the one hand.

the main narrator introduces a sceptical perspective towards the anecdote that causes the reader to receive a distanced vision of the text: “I care little if you believe it or not. (Risco 1982: 64) This presents us with another interesting paradox in associating this unbelieving reception posed in the prologue with the various narrative devices deployed to make the story narrated real or “believable”. a space that neutralises the supernatural). There are. if for no other reason than to pass the time” (Bécquer 1994: 87). to strip them of their critical perspective and thus get them to accept the most surprising of supernatural phenomena without even realising. It is no longer a question of persuading the reader as to the truth of the events. What is narrated in the legendary story is not perceived as a threat. my father told me and I am telling you now. that is. and considers the story a simple and naïve popular tradition. in a form of prologue or epilogue) places themselves on the same plane. but rather constructing a coherent story that makes it possible.30   D. To conclude. all of the stylistic devices that the narrator employs (and which. the temporal distance of the events and the religious explanation for them prevent the reader from putting the events of the text in contact with their conception of the world. cannot be attributed to an ignorant peasant) tend to rigorously impose the acceptance of the events. looking at its disquieting dimension and effect. and as such it is consumed by the reader. to enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of the supernatural. the distanced verbalisation of the story (two narrators who have not experienced what they are discussing). from a distanced (unbelieving) and above all safe perspective regarding the actual possibilities of the narrative. I will analyse this story in detail in Chap. 4. due to their virtuosity. as most narratives of the fantastic intend. also legendary stories such as Bécquer’s “El monte de las ánimas” [“The Mountain of Souls”] that transcend their religious inspiration (Beatriz suffers eternal damnation by the divine hand in pun- ishment for her malevolence) and end up creating an ominous impression on the reader. The author (outside of the text. . A game of unbelieving thus begins which contradicts the basic rules of the fantastic: This may in fact represent a clever artifice to disarm the reader. once the story begins. the rural space (rarely do the events of a legend take place in a large city. ROAS Thus. of course. My grandfather passed it down to my father. thus turning villages and hamlets into the ideal environment for the credulous reception previously described. However. that of empirical reality.

achieved by means of a form of magical perception when representing the real. Derain and Carrà as examples of the style. but rather that in these narrations the unreal appears to be a part of reality.   THE IMPOSSIBLE    31 As is well known. and the essential characteristics he identified are as follows: a sense of the magical (surprise when facing the familiar and everyday). as in the case of the marvellous. It is. . in litera- ture. normalisation of the strange. Thus. Magical realism quickly began to appear in literature too: Bontempelli. as this is based on the always problematic confrontation between the real and the impossible. The vague expression that acts as the title to the story perfectly sets out what the narrator’s attitude will be: simply to describe what the characters are thinking. doing and saying. Boris Vian… many European authors of the 30s and 40s culti- vated a form of narrative where the real and the extraordinary integrate and are equalled. this means overcoming the possible/impossible opposition on which the fantastic effect is built. marvellous literature which sets stories in an everyday world down to its smallest details. From here it leapt to Latin American literature where it found its highest expression. Beckmann. primitivism (return to the myth). Buzzati. the prodigies are presented as if they were commonplace.1 Magical realism poses the unproblematic coexistence of the real and the supernatural in a world not unlike our own. De Chirico. and on the other hand. This situation is achieved by means of a process of normalization and persuasion that grants a truthful status to what does not exist. This distinguishes it from literature of the fantastic. therefore. Ultimately. that is absolutely everyday and “recognisable” to the reader. thus implying a realist mode of expression. The story is set in a Caribbean settlement and revolves around the apparition of a strange being in the patio of a married couple’s house: a very old man with enormous wings. a reality as I was saying. A perfect example of this type of narrative would be Gabriel García Márquez’s “Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enorme” [“A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”] (1968). a metaphysical dimension (often the magical transforms the real into some- thing disquieting). this became an impassive narrator who is surprised by nothing). the German critic Franz Roh coined the term magical realism in 1925 to refer to a new avenue of visual expression that followed the avant-garde and which identified a return to the objective world but not as a mere duplicate of reality but rather as a recreation of it. a cold and impersonal tone (elimination of the artist’s emotions. objectivity (a reproduction of the visible of the highest precision). Roh drew on Picasso. not a case of creating a world radically different to that of the reader.

addressing his flock. Once again. they have never actu- ally seen one and so they cannot know for sure if some of them might possess such unusual extremities. 14). Father Gonzaga. What he depicts (and we as readers end up absorbing) is none other than this: a very old man with enormous wings. ROAS but expressing no surprise and above all not commenting on what is ­happening. “they soon overcame their shock and ending up feeling quite at home” (García Márquez 1972: 12). potentially dangerous)? The news of the presence of an (alleged) angel awakens the interest— how could it not—of the village preacher.32   D. the old man does not appear to understand and secondly because his appearance is simply not majestic (“he resembled a giant decrepit chicken”) and has little to do with the dignity of angels. Pelayo and his wife lock the old man up in the chicken coop: where else would a winged being feel comfortable. Firstly because when he speaks in Latin (the language of God according to the priest). within the “possible according to what is relatively plausible”. Later on we discover that the bishop he speaks to arrives at no conclu- sions. then much less could it be so to recognise an angel” (p. This time the religious thought “normalises” the strange being as it places him. Just as logical is the neighbour’s reaction on seeing him. . that they should not be so naive. who after examining him. as Reisz would say. 13). he promises to get in touch with the highest echelons of the church so that they might determine the nature of the strange being. immediately suspects him of being a fraud. Thus. Proceeding with their logical behaviour. on hearing him talk in a strange tongue. In spite of his conclusion. a stranger and so. who also happens to be foreign (that is. identifying him as an angel. To this he adds. that the devil takes advantage of the gullible and sums up as follows: “He argued that if wings were not the essential element to distinguish between a hawk and an aeroplane. This leads him to conclude that “he is too human” (p. asking himself after considering various options “if he weren’t sim- ply a Norwegian with wings”. although at first are shocked by the presence of the old man (the narrator describes it as a “nightmare”). The process of normalization is also experienced by Pelayo and his wife who. although they “overlooked the inconvenience of the wings”. encoded by their own beliefs. A logical conclusion. they would not mention them). whilst they know of the existence of Norwegians (if not. crushing logic is applied: from this sentence it may be deduced that. they deduce that they are dealing with a foreign shipwreck survivor.

the appearance within it a being we would not hesitate in describing as impossible in the real world is not only accepted by the characters. infected by the narrator’s familiar tone and the lack of won- der both he and the characters display. This is another manifestation of the aforemen- tioned phenomenon of normalisation and the “logical” behaviour of the characters. after a few days.   THE IMPOSSIBLE    33 Meanwhile. the efforts of the narrator contribute to all of this: the devices deployed are geared towards integrating the ordinary and the extraordinary in a single representation of the world. The reader. but he presents them to the reader as if they were something commonplace. As I mentioned earlier. but even normalised and adapted to various different logics (natural. It is never considered a transgression in the conception of the intertextual reality. The story ends when. 20). the pathos of her story. legendary). which she relates herself (her monstrous appearance—the body of a tarantula with the head of a “sad maiden”—is the result of a divine punishment for hav- ing run away from her parents home in order to go to a dance). after being ill for most of the winter. larger and more luxurious house with iron bars on the windows “to keep the angels out” (1972: 18). nor does he express an opinion ­regarding the phenomena he is relating. Pelayo and his wife build a new. religious. We must not forget that it is not the only phenom- enon of this nature. a new monster arrives in the vil- lage—a spider woman— replacing the winged old man for two reasons: one. Pelayo decides to make the most of his neighbour’s interest in the old man and begins to charge for entry to see him. As becomes clear. What we see flying off into the sky is nothing more than what it appears to be: a very old man with enormous wings. ends up accepting the narrative as something natural. He makes quite a sum in this way until. Although the world presented in the text is similar to the real world (there are even real extra- textual references: we know that it takes place somewhere in the Caribbean and explicit mention is made throughout the text of Rome. the ticket is cheaper and two. as we also have the woman who has become a tarantula. one spring morning. He not only displays no amazement whatsoever. With the money he earns. a story of this nature does not comply with the con- ventions of the fantastic which I have been describing. but is instead accepted for its oddity. Martinique. . Latin language and the Norwegians). the old man spreads his wings and flies away “with the perilous flapping of a senile vulture” (p.

and those of the authors who have been classified as “sentimental gothic” (to differentiate them from the truly supernatural variant exemplified by the works of Lewis or Maturin) have a clearly moralistic dimension: her novels are tales of com- ing-of-age and narrate the process of initiation for a protagonist into the secrets and pains of life. An early example of this rationalisation by mechanical means can be found in the eighteenth century in the gothic novels of Ann Radcliffe. motifs and devices of the fantastic. where at the end of the story we discover that the apparently impossible phenomena that terrorised the protagonists are created by means of mechanical trickery. a hallmark of the fantastic genre. above all. The quality of the fantastic in a text is never deductive. It becomes clear therefore that we cannot decide in advance that a story is fantastic simply because its pages contain apparently impossible phenom- ena. ROAS The Pseudo-Fantastic and Its Variants As we have seen. or their presence is merely an excuse to create a satirical. we find what in other works I have named—for want of a better phrase—“the fantastic explained”. Radcliffe’s intentions. Firstly. but rather is established as we read on. and (2) the phantasmatic. grotesque or allegorical story. the Christian marvellous and magical realism move away from the fantastic as they do not pose a conflict between the real and the impossible which defines said genre.34   D. in the narratives that we could classify under the general term of the pseudo-fantastic. a route that will eventually lead to self-­knowledge . the necessary transgression of our idea of the real caused by the incursion of the impossible. This term refers to those works that employ the structures. as is. and which identifies all fictional narra- tives in which (apparently) impossible phenomena end up having a ratio- nal explanation. These are texts which either rationalise the alleged supernatural phenomena. and even when it does it is very much relegated to a secondary consideration. in the end becomes a very different sort of narrative given that its intention moves away from altering our notion of the real. This conflict also does not arise. but their treatment of the impossible distances them from the effect and purpose of the genre. What initially appears to be a fantastic story. Normally this takes place in one of two ways: (1) rationalisation by mechanical means. The effect of the uncanny is therefore absent. We may speak of three major groupings of pseudo-fantastic narratives based on their objectives and effects.

and must face—to obtain an inheritance—a number of apparently supernatural phenomena controlled by a frightening hooded figure (I won’t reveal his identity) by means of trapdoors. the final rationalisation. An early exam- ple would be The Cat and the Canary (1927) by Paul Leni. given that nothing . However. and so on. hallucinations (caused by fever or drugs). the explanation of the (alleged) impossible phenom- ena. a big Broadway hit. House on Haunted Hill (1959) by William Castle (with a 1999 remake of the same name directed by William Malone). generating similar effects of suspense and anxiety as in a pure fantastic story. However. such fiction exposes the dark corners of experience. these narratives do not rationalise the narrated phenomena (those classified as phantasmatic do). the use of the supernatural explained “was also sparked by the moral principles of the ‘sentimental gothic’: in the same way that hero- ines must learn to control their delusions. posing prophetic dreams as an example. given that both play with ambiguity in making the reader doubt between the super- natural explanation or if the character suffers from mental illness. Turning to the phantasmatic. clearly rooted in the gothic tradition. they must also correctly perceive reality and understand it according to rationalist principles of cause and effect. the term (derived from psychoanalysis) represents the direct expression of psychological or psychopathological phenomena such as dreams. based on John Willard’s stage play. The “fantastic explained’” was cultivated throughout the nineteenth century but to very different ends: to scare the reader and play with their expectations when faced with an apparently fantastic story. Fabre is mistaken when. secret passageways and other mecha- nisms. Vincent Price starred in an interesting version of this story. those that come true. Thus. illuminating them with the light of Reason” (Cueto 1999: 16). that is. In this case we are dealing with narratives where the (false) fantasy functions provisionally while reading. Cinema has also constantly resorted to this sort of story. abandoning the corrupting flights of fancy caused by superstition and ignorance. Contrary to what Fabre indicates. in which the characters are locked in a claustrophobic mansion. Fabre (1992: 121) states that it would be too simplistic to conclude that the fantastic and the phantasmatic are completely ­incompatible. eliminates the fantastic effect and produces a clear disappointment in the reader. obsession.   THE IMPOSSIBLE    35 and moral perfection (similar to the realist methods of novelists such as Jane Austen). he suggests narratives like “The Horla” by Maupassant or Henry James’ Turn of the Screw as examples. in defining the function of madness and the fantastic.

disarms the fantastic effect. the reader would unhesitatingly pick the second explanation (the apparently impossible events could be explained. but rather should be interpreted as symbolic warnings sent to send him back to the “right” path. which immerse the reader in an atmosphere of psychotic delirium where the borders between the real. in doubting between a supernatural and a natural explanation.36   D. Ligotti’s literary goal is to suggest that other realm which we glimpse either through dreams or. a rational explanation that. In this way. we must not forget that it all appears to take place in dreams. but is instead used as a means to intensify its moral effect on the reader. as in for instance Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. This presupposes that the impos- sible component of the narrated story is not intended as a menacing trans- gression of the real as occurs in literature of the fantastic. the oneiric and the hallucinatory are blurred: “The focus of all Ligotti’s work is a systematic assault on the real world and the replacement of it with the unreal. worse. Also. the (apparently) impossi- ble component of Dickens’s story is not used as a means for transgression but as a means to intensify the moral effect of the story on the reader. stumble upon by accident in obscure corners of this world” (Joshi 2001: 245). Grotesque Laughter Something very similar happens in the texts that make up the third group of pseudo-fantastic stories that I wish to explore: grotesque tales that play with supernatural elements. as the effects of a hal- lucination or of madness).2 The grotesque is an aesthetic category that depends on the combina- tion of two essential elements: laughter and horror (or feelings akin to . ROAS within them allows us to pick between either explanation. Another variant of pseudo-fantastic narrative can be found in those works that use a shape similar to that of the fantastic story as an “excuse” to create an allegory of a moral nature. for instance. this demon- strates the verisimilitude or even the realism with which the events are portrayed: if the treatment of the supernatural were unbelievable. A good example of this type of fantastic narrative can be found in many of Thomas Ligotti’s stories. The reader can find several revelatory examples in the book The Nightmare Factory (1996). as previously men- tioned. Therefore. the dreamlike. The presence of ghosts in this novel who come to torment poor Scrooge does not represent a will to trans- gress. and the hallucinatory […] Accordingly.

it is linked to the morbid states of consciousness that during nightmare or delirium phenomena. Castex points out that “the fantastic is marked by a brutal intrusion by mystery within the framework of real life. such as disquiet. One of the leading voices in generating this confusion was Wolfgang Kayser with his seminal essay The Grotesque in Art and Literature (1957). which was the first contemporary study that aimed to create a general theory of the grotesque and discovering its essence. particularly in its modern incarnation. given that the said elements do not appear in similar proportions in all works: each era has employed the grotesque to accentuate the terrible or humor- ous register without drowning either out. the grotesque is the expression of the progressive and inexorable paralysis of man facing the invasion of anonymous (irrational) forces that dislocate and destroy the real and the structures of consciousness. disgust or the abject). after proposing this idea he paradoxically advocates a limited vision of the gro- tesque linked to a romantic conception. The grotesque has never shied away from resorting to elements and situ- ations characteristic of the fantastic to intensify its dual effect on the reader. Thus. Although throughout his essay Kayser makes efforts not to forget about humour as a basic element of the grotesque since its origins. which highlights the sinister expres- sion of an alienated world where the familiar has become strange in both terrifying and comic senses at the same time. This has caused a great deal of con- fusion amongst critics who have attempted to study both categories. he clearly struggles to fit it into his defini- tion. black humour or the absurd. an unbelievable intrusion into the real world which is almost unbearable. . It should also be noted that this category has not remained unchanged throughout history. since when this occurs then strictly speaking the work departs the field of the grotesque to emerge in bordering categories and genres such as the fantastic.   THE IMPOSSIBLE    37 these. he insists on discussing fear as a response to a reality that loses its coherence. a rupture. This means that at some points he appears to be defining the fantastic: to Kayser. If we compare this definition to Castex’s and Caillois’s c­ ontemporary thoughts on the fantastic. which has manifested itself in different forms throughout the ages. meanwhile Caillois (1966) argues that the fantastic is the manifestation of a scandal. generally speaking. the mixture that—erroneously—takes place between the grotesque and the fantastic in Kayser’s essay becomes clear. Kayser departs from the idea that the grotesque is a “trans-historic” aes- thetic category (given that it has various recurring elements). project images of its anxieties or terrors before it” (1951: 8). However.

which presents the world as something terrible and alien to human beings.38   D. Ultimately. Both critics thus make the same mistake. where the conception of the grotesque is also pre- sented as general and systematic but incurs in a reductionism similar to Kayser’s thesis. This implies that their theories are only valid to study particular aspects of the history of this category. a particular type of manifestation at an equally particular point in history in which the said manifestation is dominant in the cultivation of the grotesque (although it is worth insisting it is not the only one). Kayser’s drift towards the terrible and the sinister in his thesis has tainted a significant number of later critics who have considered many grotesque works to be fantastic simply because they employ motifs and devices that are common in the fantastic. at the same time it is necessary for the receiver . or in other words. they both offer a reductionist vision of the grotesque as they privilege one of its historical manifestations and marginalise the rest. but rather a grotesque mode of expression that has been modulated and transformed according to the essential aesthetic and philosophical changes in Western culture. recognise as such: Kayser overlooks humour and stresses the uncanny effect while Bakhtin rejects the terrifying-anxious effect in favour of the comic and the carnivalesque inversion. although of an opposite nature. Bakhtin dwells on its carnivalesque dimension where the emphasis is placed on the bur- lesque and the scatological. paradoxically. In spite of their will to deal with the problem generally. Whereas the German critic pushes the grotesque towards the fantastic and the sinister. overlooking one essential fact: the distancing effect of laughter. As Bergson (1900). fears and inhibitions of human beings. This leads him to advocate laughter as an essential effect (virtually exclusively) of the grotesque in detriment of the terrible. this is a popular and universal laughter where everyone laughs at everything which is radically opposed to roman- tic laughter that is steeped in irony and sarcasm (“sombre and malignant” according to the Russian critic). ROAS Kayser’s definition completely contradicts Mikhail Bakhtin in Rabelais and his World (1965). laughter is a source of liberation from the tensions. and to avoid dwelling any further on this controversy. However. as they marginalise one of the characteristic elements of the grotesque which they also. According to Bakhtin. Freud (1905) and Bakhtin (1965) all point out. Thus the specificity of the gro- tesque runs the risk of being lost. my opinion is that there is not an authentic grotesque and a series of possible bastardised grotesques.

  THE IMPOSSIBLE    39

to feel emotionally safe from the comical object: between the laughing
subject and the object of laughter there may be no nexus of terror (in the
Aristotelian sense) or of pity; that is, nothing that may awaken the empa-
thy of the former. As Baudelaire said in his essay On the Essence of Laughter
(1855), when we laugh at someone who trips on the street, we do so
because we feel superior to the fallen person (someone else is the victim of
misfortune). Obviously, not all humour depends on this feeling of superi-
ority given the laughter also emerges, as Kant pointed out, from the
incongruence (the frustrated expectation) between what is thought and
what is perceived, between what is expected and what happens.
Thus, an (emotional) distance is required between the reader and the
humorous object for laughter to flow freely. However, the necessary
involvement of the reader in the narration that is required by the fantastic
thus disappears.
In the case of the grotesque, the distance is intensified by hyperbole and
its inherent distortion: thus, the beings, objects and situations presented
are always located in a lesser position in relation to the receiver. Vax
(1960), therefore, says that one does not laugh at the grotesque in the
same way as one laughs at the comic, because although humour is an
essential element in all the historical variants of the grotesque, it is clear
that we are not dealing with a simple version of the comic where laughter
is its effect and primary objective: this special combination of the comic
and the terrible only takes place in the grotesque. Perhaps black humour
leans closer to the grotesque, although its objective is different and is
more closely linked to countering the fear of death and pain.
Numerous works of the grotesque have resorted to the motifs and
devices more typical of fiction of the fantastic, and tend to be related to
fear and the uncanny (the double, the ghostly apparition, metamorphosis,
the animation of objects…). Occasionally, the grotesque and the fantastic
may even share the same will to deny rational discourse and therefore an
objective vision of the world.
There is, however, an essential difference between both categories that
may be explained in similar terms to those employed by Rosalba Campra
to distinguish between the fantastic and the absurd:

Fantastic strangeness is the result of a crack in reality, an unexpected void
which manifests in the lack of cohesion of the story on a causal level. I also
believe that this draws the line between the fantastic and the absurd, with
which contemporary literature of the fantastic has so much common ground

40   D. ROAS

(as well as a certain chronological syncing), as becomes clear to any reader
of Beckett, Ionesco or Arrabal. Where in the absurd the absence of causality
and finality is an intrinsic condition of the real, in the fantastic it derives from
an unforeseen breach in the rules that govern reality. In the absurd there is
no alternative for anyone; there is a desolate certainty that not only involves
the protagonist but all human beings. From here we also find the highly
symbolic dimension of the character of the absurd and, on the contrary, the
characterisation of the hero of the fantastic as a victim of a purely environ-
mental situation. (1991: 56)

As occurs with the absurd, the absence of two essential elements of the
fantastic within the grotesque outlines its frontiers with the said genre:

1) As I have been exploring, the fantastic is based on a confrontation
between the real and the impossible, where the impossible is defined
as that which transgresses our idea of how the world functions. On
the other hand, the works of the grotesque are not fuelled by this
confrontation, but rather their objective is to spark a wry smile on
the reader’s face, at the same time as revealing the disquieting
absurd horror of the real.
2) The distortions created by the grotesque eliminate the strict identity
between the reality of the reader and the world presented in the text
(what we see is a distorted reflection), something which, on the
other hand, is essential for a fantastic story to work as it requires the
reader—as previously mentioned—to compare the events narrated
in the text to their own experience of the everyday world. This
explains why grotesque works ignore the realistic and day-to-day
construction of the world that is inherent to the fantastic, where the
narrator always deploys all sorts of strategies to make their stories
believable, as they know that the presence of the impossible will
inspire scepticism in their readers. Grotesque texts that use impos-
sible elements go further in the creation of a fantastic impression as
hyperbole and distortion lead the story towards a different sort of
effect: the narrator does not try to make the reader accept the
impossible event that is narrated, and the reader does not consume
it considering if it is actually feasible. It is, therefore, about distort-
ing the borders of the real, pushing them towards caricature, not
creating the disquiet inherent to the fantastic but rather to inspire
the reader to laugh at the same time as being negatively impressed

  THE IMPOSSIBLE    41

by the monstrous, macabre, sinister or simply repugnant nature of
the beings and situations described. In my view, this is always done
with the objective of revealing the absurd and senselessness of the
world and of the self. In both fields—transmitter and receiver—
humour and the distortion establish what we could call a “safe dis-
tance” between the supernatural and prevents the possible fantastic
effect of the work from taking hold.

To all this we must also add that the distancing effect of the grotesque
translates into a disbelieving reading of the story which, once again, dis-
tances this sort of work from the essential objectives of the fantastic: of
making the reader believe in the presence or possibility of the impossible.
It therefore boils down to a matter of the dominant, to employ a con-
cept coined by the Russian Formalists. Jakobson defined the dominant as
the central component of a work of art that governs, determines and trans-
forms the rest of it. If we apply this idea to literature of the fantastic, we
could say that their essential function is to transgress the conception of the
real that the receivers possess. When this transgression disappears or moves
into a secondary position and is replaced by another function—in this case
the grotesque—it loses its potential fantastic effect on the reader. I will
return to this point in the Chap. 6 of the book, as contemporary narrative
of the fantastic is creating a surprising fusion of the fantastic with irony
and parody where, significantly, humour is never more important than the
disquieting, but rather becomes an intelligent and provocative means of
heightening it.
A paradigmatic example of the pseudo-fantastic grotesque story can be
found in Edgar Allen Poe’s “Loss of Breath” (1832). The starting point
of the story is an impossible event, which, instead of disquieting the reader,
provokes hilarity and surprise. Narrated by its protagonist Mr. Lackobreath,
the story describes how as a result of an argument with his wife he loses his
ability to breathe but this does not cause his death. After a fruitless search
for it around the house, he decides that the best thing to do is to leave his
wife, his city, his friends—in short, his day-to-day world—as he has become
a strange being, a monster

alive with the qualifications of the dead—dead with the propensities of the
living—an anomaly on the face of the earth—being very calm, yet breath-
less. (Poe 1984: 152)

instead of stopping the vehicle and seeking help. it becomes increasingly absurd and senseless. and a multitude of ladies were carried home in hysterics. as it does not take into account an element which I believe is . however. Windenough who was passing beneath his window the day the protagonist argued with his wife and had involuntarily caught his breath. which com- bined with his lack of breath. he rehearses a guttural noise that will allow him to express himself orally. there is a strong physical resemblance and no one notices the difference). the protagonist escapes from his coffin and runs into a living man who is affected by another strange malady: he has a double breath. In the confusion. “Preliminaries being at length arranged. two cats pounce and fight over his nose. he begins his journey and embarks on a series of increasingly hilarious adventures. I will avoid going into Marie Bonaparte’s (1933) psychoanalytical interpretation here (a single hint will suffice: according to the author.42   D. cuts off his ears (while an apothecary and friend of his applies electric shocks with a galvanic bat- tery). the loss of breath is Poe’s unconscious confession of the loss of his sexual potency). arriv- ing at a denouement where the grotesque hyperbole reaches its maximum expression: taken to the cemetery. Thus. sells him for ten dollars to a surgeon who. The first takes place on the carriage he takes out of the city: stuck between two very fat men. Several gentlemen swooned. The populace encored. It is his neighbour Mr. becomes an unequivocal symptom of his death for the rest of the travellers who. for which (having carefully examined it) I gave him afterwards a receipt”. The owner of the tavern finds him and believing him to be a corpse (he is still unconscious). Brought round by the pain and trying to escape from the doctor’s rooms. As the tale unfolds. the protagonist throws himself from the window with the misfor- tune of landing on a carriage transporting a murderer on his way to the gallows. he puts on a startling show: My convulsions were said to be extraordinary. amongst other things. which in fact fixes his dislocated neck. Once perfected. ROAS Before fleeing. toss him out opposite a tavern. my acquaintance delivered me the respiration. My spasms it would have been difficult to beat. Prostrate on the dissection table. In order “to give the crowd the worth of their trouble”. the prisoner escapes and the protagonist is hung in his place (to top it all off. The story ends with both characters escaping the cemetery once their original natures have been restored. he suffers the dislocation of several bones and passes out.

we are distanced. There is a clear parodic intention here (by means of the grotesque deformation) of the macabre and necrophilia-related tales that appeared in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine and which were very popular at the time. of a world that we control (in a manner of speak- ing). This turns . Valle-Inclán or even Lewis Carroll. Unlike the grotesque. as Bozal (2001: 72) notes. it turns them into things and thus. Poe’s own letter to John P. implausibility and the absurd have a clearly comic intention (that coexists with the impression of the “terrible”) eliminating the possible fantastic dimension of the phenomenon.   THE IMPOSSIBLE    43 essential to understanding one of the basic purposes that Poe has in mind in composing his tale. Kennedy (11 February 1836) confirms this: “Lionizing and Loss of Breath were satires properly speaking—at least so meant—the one of the rage for Lions and the facility of becoming one—the other of the extrava- gancies of Blackwood” (Walter 1995: 532). which is the original subtitle that the text bore: “A  Tale Neither In nor Out of ‘Blackwood’”. However. This distorted and caricaturesque vision of reality presents the characters as puppets or car- toons. We must not forget. (and it is worth underscoring this point) that the said sensation of superiority and/or distancing. As Todorov (1970: 78) states in relation to another masterful story on the theme of mutilation—“The Nose” (1835) by Nikolai Gogol—Poe’s text is the pure embodiment of absurd: like the world he portrays (our own). the fantastic places us initially within the frontiers of a world we recognise. but because of his reactions on taking in his new conditions and trying to adapt to them. however. as also happens—using other techniques—in the works of Kafka. Stories such as this place us clearly in the field of grotesque hyperbole where exaggeration. only lasts for as long as it takes us to realise that the others are in fact ourselves. and that other world is nothing more than a deformed reflection of our own. we become conscious of our superiority and we laugh. on contemplating the other as a thing. the story also resists all our attempts to interpret it by means of rational logic. the evident parodic intention is not the only meaning of the story. This is not merely because the protagonist loses his breath and is still alive. whose Alice novels could be read as the more friendly counterpart to the Kafkaesque nightmare. a reality that is illogical and caricaturesque. in order to at once shatter it with a phenomenon that alters the natu- ral and habitual way in which this day-to-day world operates. What is presented to us in this grotesque story is a world in reverse.

please see Abate (1997) and Llarena (1997).44   D. who offer a comprehensive summary of the wide variety of approaches to marvellous realism. Regarding such diverse terminology. unexplainable and incomprehensible. therefore. . Asturias and Uslar Pietri amongst others—as to whether we should understand the genre as a means of recre- ating a mythical vision of reality that was believed to be characteristic of the indigenous people of America in opposition to European models of thought. its history and so on. reveals its true face: chaotic. on the other hand. For more. ridiculous and senseless. The grotesque. a transgression of those reas- suring regularities to which I was referring earlier. I do not enter here into a discussion as to whether we should speak of magi- cal realism or marvellous realism as Chiampi (1980) maintains. Notes 1. 2. the fantastic phenomenon creates an alteration in the reader’s familiar world. much less the thoughts—postulated by Carpentier. ROAS the phenomenon into something impossible and. In other words. please see Roas (2009) and (2010).

who would be incapable of standing up to it. anxiety. Roas.org/10. since this occurs when our idea of reality is subverted. To clarify the relationship between the fantastic and fear. the fear felt by primitive man when he stepped out of the light of his fire into the dark. https://doi. the primeval fear of a hostile environment felt by a lonely man—that is an experience unknown to modern man. The term metaphysi- cal fear refers to an impression unique to the fantastic. it may perhaps have been drugged for thousand years—but we carry about a terrifying sleeper in our brain. Leo Perutz.1007/978-3-319-73733-1_4 . although usually manifested in the characters. it does not stir and shows no sign of life. But fear. Master of the Day of the Judgement (1923) Abstract  The fantastic destroys our conception of reality and puts us into instability and therefore into total anxiety. aroused by the fantastic is a very special experience: it is an impression. when lightning flashed from the clouds. CHAPTER 4 Fear Fear. when the cries of antediluvian saurian re-echoed from the swamps. death and the materially horrifying. But the nerve capable of reviving is not dead. Behind the Frontiers of the Real. The first of them is related to physical threats. which may be suf- fered by the characters but is aimed directly at the receiver as it takes hold when our convictions regarding the real cease to function. Keywords  Fear • Physical fear • Metaphysical fear © The Author(s) 2018 45 D. it directly affects the receiver. it will be useful to refer to the distinction between physical fear and metaphysical fear. real fear.

anxiety. As Delumeau1 points out. in the strictest and most limiting sense of the term is an emotion that is frequently preceded by surprise and is caused by awareness of a present and oppressive danger which we believe threatens our self-preservation. ROAS The purpose of the fantastic. out of convenience and economy. as these are two poles around which revolve words and psychiatric facts that are related and at once very different. The former leads to the recognisable. I have pre- ferred to use the term fear throughout this work. is to destabilise the codes we have created to understand and represent the real. it is not unusual that day-to-day language confuses fear and anguish. From Fear to Anguish (Brief Psychological Notes) I am aware that my use of the term fear may seem problematic given the confusion that is usually caused by the use given to this concept and others that are considered synonymous: terror. There is no other reaction to this than fear. shock. For this reason it is harder to bear than fear” (Delumeau 1978: 31). Being able to tell between fear and anguish does not. in this case. As Delumeau says. horror. As Jackson (1981) points out. Anguish does not. melancholia belong to anguish. the fantastic always means the introduction of dark areas made up of something completely “other” and hidden: the spaces that lie beyond the limiting structures of the “human” and the “real”. the habit within a group of humans of fearing one or another threat (real or imaginary)” (Delumeau 1978: 30). the latter to the unknown. equal ignoring their links in human behaviour. Having clarified the distinction between fear and anguish. unease. (individual) fear. and it is experienced as a painful wait for a danger that is all the more fearsome when it is not clearly defined: it is a global sense of uncertainty. Therefore. however. “Scare. unconsciously under- scoring the close-knit relationship of these two experiences. appre- hension.46   D. anguish. what human beings do—given that it is . unease… Psychology may help us to outline the use of this term. panic and terror belong to fear. as has been established in the preceding chapters. disquiet. In a less rigorous and wider sense than individual experiences—in a “collective” sense—“it covers a scope of emotions that range from being scared to apprehension to the most vivid of terrors. On a collective level (which is essentially relevant to our interest in the fantastic) the distinction that psychiatry makes between fear and anguish on an individual level can be very useful. Fear has a particular object which can be opposed. Fear is.

and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (Lovecraft 1927: 7). To make his point. the unknown etymologically includes a feeling of threat towards the human being: “The German word unheimlich is the opposite of heimlich (‘intimate’). it can be inferred that it is terrifying because it is not well-known (bekannt) nor familiar” (1919: 220). Freud employs other languages seeking a translation for unheimlich with similar results: locus suspectus (an uncanny place). lugubre. vertraut (‘famil- iar’). lúgubre. What is fascinating about the film is that although it includes a number of terrifying scenes.  FEAR   47 impossible to survive for long when facing an infinite and undefined anguish—is to transform and fragment anguish into more precise fears (about something or someone) which are easier to confront. the fantastic has become the best tool for symboli- cally expressing the threat of the disconnection from the real. mal à son aise. intempesta nocte (on an uncanny night). Fear and the Fantastic From its beginnings. objects that move for no apparent reason and little else… There is one particularly unforgettable scene. This would be. the justification—now entering the field of literary and cinematic fiction—for the various monsters and impossible phenomena that populate narratives of the fantastic: symbolically embody- ing our most universal terrors. embodied as previously mentioned in horrible monsters or impossible phenomena. horrifying beings or predict- able jump scares. As Freud revealed. The protagonist (played by George C. sospechoso. in my view. sinistre. unheimlich coincides with ‘demonic’ and ‘horrendous’. as anyone who has seen Peter Medak’s The Changeling (1980) will remem- ber. it avoids resort- ing to the gimmicky presence of monsters. although this is only revealed once the plot has advanced a great deal. dismal. heimisch (‘domestic’). uneasy. Scott) is working in his office when he hears noises on the stairs (it should be noted that he knows he is alone . a repul- sive fellow. On occasions. it even appears in objects as apparently innocent as a child’s ball. ghastly. siniestro. de mal agüero. uncanny. The oppressive atmosphere that the film is steeped in is built by means of unexplained noises. haunted. inquiétant. uncomfortable. synthesised in the archetypal fear of that which escapes our understanding: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear. The story revolves around the motif of a house haunted by the ghost of a boy who had died there a long time ago. gloomy. in Arabic and Hebrew.

And as he enters. Why does this “simple” little ball produce this disquieting effect? Clearly the chosen scene from The Changeling is much less spectacular than a vampire attacking or. When he steps into the corridor he is surprised to find that the noise is caused by a children’s ball rolling down the stairs. or the recognisable. On crossing a bridge. but I don’t think that anyone who has seen this moment of the film could do so without a chill running down their spine. sensations which refer to anxieties and fears of primitive men faced with incomprehensible situa- tions such as sickness and death.48   D. The protagonist (who knows who it belonged to). Anguish at the imminence of a possible danger and fear of the unknown—as Lovecraft underscores—. even worse. leaves the house. “You only really fear what you don’t understand”. a ‘thing’ that is beyond the game of understand- ing. But it inspires fear in the character and the viewer. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu. he sees the ball rolling down the stairs again… and it is wet. which employs a variety of terms to refer to the fantastic (a term he never uses although it was already in wide usage at the time): “tale of preternatu- ral horror”. because the justification is also beyond our idea of the possible. far from containing the simplest of messages. He returns home. gets into his car and drives away. he throws the ball into the river. This anguish perhaps refreshes those archaic fears by means of the confrontation—be it intellectual and/or visceral—with a place. The fantastic arouses the perplexity of the character and the reader and forces us to seek an explanation or a meaning to what is happening. (Bozzetto 2002: 336–337) Lovecraft is very revealing on this issue in his aforementioned essay. provokes what Hubert Juin has termed the ‘fantas- tic chill’ and which refers to—in the day-to-day world—to an encounter between anguish and fear. This enterprise is doomed to failure and sparks the fear of the receiver: The unimaginable generates a particular emotion which. of knowledge. This is because what we are seeing is beyond all explanation. “tale of cosmic fear”. I am not sure if my description will have done justice to the scene. picks it up. ROAS in the house and by this stage in the film he has already witnessed some poltergeist activity). “literature of supernatural horror”. ­“literature of cosmic terror”… all of these expressions draw attention to the two essential elements which define the category for Lovecraft: horror . of the comprehensible. a situation. And this impossible meaning translates into disquiet: as one of the characters from Maupassant’s story “Fear” states. a figure. To state that the cause of the ball’s return is the ghost of the dead child is use- less.

Todorov (1970) argues for his rejection of this based on a confirmed fact: fear is not exclusive to the fantastic. Finné. This is why he differentiates between the said effect and what he describes as fear of a physical nature (which is linked to fear of the materially horrifying). (Lovecraft 1927: 11) Thus. To sum up. Thus. there are some who think that this emotion is always present in this sort of works (Penzoldt. In other words. of that most terrible conception of the human brain—a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space. the truly preternatural story must contain: A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer. It is a form of horror that is absent. Faced with such sto- ries. unknown forces must be present. To briefly sum this up. He adds (the structuralist position of his essay becomes clear here) that defining the said category based on the receiver’s reaction would imply that the fantas- tic nature of the text does not depend on its formal and thematic charac- teristics but rather on real reader’s ability to control their emotions. expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject. and there must be a hint. Caillois. however. Bessière or Jackson) whilst others such as Todorov. not all theorists have the same perspective on the presence and function of fear in the fantastic. as he points out—agreeing with what I explained in the previous chapter—in those stories where supernatural elements appear (and fear is even employed) but where the purpose is to depict or produce a social effect. Lovecraft centrally locates the emotional dimension and psycho- logical effect in his definition: the fear provoked by the fantastic is what defines and distinguishes it from other aesthetic categories. However. what I termed in the previous chapter as the “pseudo-fantastic”. because it is its essential effect and is a product of that . Lovecraft provides us with an excellent definition of the fantastic based on a psychological perspective that puts the emotional effect generated by the story front and centre. is not to define the fantastic based on fear. My objective is to prove that fear is a necessary condition for the creation of the fantastic. leading them to reject it as a defining criteria for this category. Baronian or Belevan deny that fear is a necessary condition for the fantastic. or where the horror has a rational explanation. and this is none other than fear. for instance. My intention here.  FEAR   49 and the supernatural (the impossible).

Stevenson or Maupassant. Otto Rank points to the precedents of said motif: on the one hand it can be traced to the story of Narcissus (nar- rated by Ovid in Metamorphoses) and in other classical versions of this fig- ure (where there is no fantastic or uncanny content). the unified perception of the self disap- pears. they break it. and on the other. vampires. unknown and as such incomprehen- sible and above all uncontrollable. via Gautier. Therefore all fantastic tales—contradicting Todorov—provoke the reader’s disquiet. a symbol of evil. say. Let us not forget that Dracula is the living dead and. one of the central motifs of the fantastic universe where the terrifying presence—for lack of a better term—of. the “other”. From Hoffmann and Poe to Borges and Calvino. in a multitude of legends and superstitions related to the shadow and the reflection (both in Western culture and in poorly named “primitive” cul- tures). is always related to death or the devil. therefore. ROAS transgression on our idea of the real which I have been discussing at length. Thus. They do not fit the mould. to our identity. which is an innovation with regards to the Romantic tradition of vampires that Stoker took from central European legends according to which not having a reflection means being dead. Thus. In his essay The Double (1914). that which cannot be divided). for instance. . the duplicated character. The idea of a duplicated being makes us doubt not just the coherence of the real (the duplication is impossible). Let us.50   D. Rank points out that the shadow and the reflection are representa- tions of the immortality of the human soul (as a narcissistic reaction to the fear of death). It is significant. the absence of a shadow or a reflection becomes a bad omen. a monster. for instance. the non-human (or even the anti-human). They threaten common knowledge” (Carroll 1990: 86). the great masters of the fantastic have written tales about the double. something beyond the natural order. that Dracula is not reflected in mirrors. ghosts and other supernatural monsters is usually absent. Thus. The importance and taste for this motif can be explained based on an essential element: the double is related directly to what is most inti- mate about ourselves. mon- sters are not just physically threatening. but also ruptures the conception that we have of ourselves as unique indi- viduals (etymologically. This explains. The double. consider the example of the double. the self becomes strange. is also a monster because it is beyond the norm: “Monsters are anti-natural in relation to the cultural patterns of nature. they are also cognitively threaten- ing. By postulating the rupture of the principle of identity.

(2003: 24) Beyond his more or less monstrous appearance. he had a displeasing smile. he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and bold- ness. who upon losing his shadow (that is. Utterson regarded him. however. both psychological as well as physical. but not all of these together could explain the hitherto unknown disgust. Although Stevenson’s novel has at times been read as a moral tale (the struggle between good and evil) or as an indict- ment of the hypocrisy of Victorian society. and he spoke with a husky. it goes much farther because of its universal value. he gave an impression of deformity with- out any nameable malformation. as a reflection of his evil iden- tity. what is essential about Hyde is his symbolic weight: what Stevenson wants to communi- cate to us is that the monster (the irrational. where the motif of the double is related as much to the horror of the loss of identity as to the possibility of our natural repressed impulses coming to light. whispering and somewhat broken voice. Hyde was pale and dwarfish. Hyde embodies the hidden impulses that reside in Jekyll. has a sinister appearance. The transformation of Jekyll into Hyde is. This is also expressed in other traditional tropes such as the lycan- thrope or d ­ uplication by means of bestialisation—with a strong psycho- analytical focus—such as in Jacques Tourneur’s film Cat People. note that cinema has exaggerated what in Stevenson’s novel was no more than an impression into a real presence. the hardships suffered by the protagonist of Peter Schlemihl’s Miraculous Story (1814). a monster from whom all flee in terror. his instinctual side. loathing and fear with which Mr.— all these were points against him. his soul which he has sold to the devil in exchange for a bag of gold that is always full) becomes a strange being.  FEAR   51 for example. Hyde (1886). As Louis Vax points out: . Dr. This not only corresponds to his behaviour but also with his physical appearance: Hyde. Therefore. the unknown) lives within us. as Hyde’s descriptions are very vague and at no point illustrate the physical monstrosity that is common to cin- ematic adaptations (suffice it to remember Fredric March’s sinister appear- ance in the version directed by Rouben Mamoulian in 1931): Mr. therefore. I must. Jekyll’s research is aimed at artificially separating the dual nature (good and evil) possessed by all human beings. by Adalbert von Chamisso. As we will remember. This becomes even clearer in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.

we are horrified as if it were something so alien to us that we believe it to have come from beyond. at first glance. doubles and all the other tropes and motifs of the supernatural imaginary—is related to the collective fears that entrap human beings with all that goes beyond the limits of reason. where the action takes place in the everyday and is a clear reflection of the world of the reader and therefore they become terrifyingly impactful. “Tlön. It already had a form in the darkest places of our being while we pretended that it was beyond our existence. the monster and the victim symbolise the dichotomy of our being. on the other hand. educated and harder to scare.52   D. ghosts. Uqbar. our unspeakable desires and the horror they inspire in us. (1960: 11) Thus. naturally so. Reason. the fantastic—by means of vampires. and when it reveals itself within the civilised beings that we pretend to be. which differentiated between things and subdivided space. In narratives of the fantastic. How can we describe the impression caused in the reader by the possibility (and significance) of an individual . We can witness this in the substantial shift from the Gothic novel to Hoffmann’s tales and from these to the works of Poe or Maupassant. an unacceptable tendency for our reason. ­tendencies that aspire to the free enjoyment of our own life. From there we move to the works of Kaf ka. but also to seek out new ways of communicating those previ- ously described fears to the reader. Orbis Tertius” by Borges and “Letter to a Young Lady in Paris” by Cortázar. fear does not seem to play a particularly important role: Kaf ka’s The Metamorphosis. to cite just the key figures in the history of literature of the fantastic throughout the nineteenth century. Borges. as the monster is within us. The evolution of the fantastic—from its remote origins in the English gothic novel of the eighteenth century—has been characterised not just by its progressive and unremitting heightening of verisimilitude (which has led stories of the fantastic to install themselves in simple and prosaic day-­ to-­day life). ‘Beyond’ in the fantastic is actually very close. ROAS [The monster] represents all of our perverse and homicidal tendencies. Authors have been forced to hone their imaginations to surprise and startle an audience that is increasingly scepti- cal. Therefore we translate this ‘moral’ outrage in terms that express ‘physical’ outrage. gives rise to the magical mentality. Let us examine three very well-known stories where. Calvino or King. we must not forget that the tools in order to objectivise the impossible and—therefore—spark fear in the receiver have changed over time. However. Cortázar. The mon- ster can walk through walls and reaches us wherever we are.

 FEAR   53 waking up one day and discovering they have become an insect? Or for objects from a fictional world to begin to appear in the real world (and end up replacing the world we conceive of as real)? Or for an individual to throw up little rabbits. although it is beyond question that the basic fears of human- ity are always active (of death. Accustomed to certain motifs and formal devices of present-day horror films. ceases to engage the reader/spectator. but its effect on the reader is attenu- ated due to the aging of the formal tools used to represent it. it will be useful to refer to the distinction I proposed in an earlier work between physical fear and metaphysical fear (Roas 2006). the impossible). They wear off as the reader begins to recognise them” (Borges 1989: 191). the technical limitations and “over-the-top” performances (belonging to silent movies and expres- sionistic aesthetic codes) provoke a critical distancing—unforeseen by the work—that can turn images which were once terrifying for their audiences into comical. Alongside this. and his attempts to hide them by all means instead of asking himself why he is throwing them up? The clear transgression of our idea of the real (projected in the text) is linked to an inevitable sense of disquiet in the reader. revive them or reactivate them in order to generate disquiet in the reader. we must not forget another essential aspect: the fantastic is a category defined by a series of conventions that any author and receiver must be aware of. Physical and Metaphysical Fear To clarify the relationship between the fantastic and fear. however charming they may be. I have seen the laughter of some of my students at poor old Nosferatu created by Murnau. to not lose their virtue. the unknown. When these conditions become automated (to use the expression coined by the Russian formalists). . however slightly. “The emotions that literature generates are perhaps eternal. the plot or story become predictable and. Horror films are a perfect example of the poor aging of one of the tools of the fantastic. but the means must change. The history of the fantastic has been defined by the need to surprise a receiver who is increasingly knowledgeable about this sort of narrative (much more so with the arrival of cinema). and this forces writers to hone their wits to come up with uncanny motifs and situations that can rupture audience expectations.2 Therefore. The figure of the vampire continues to be transgressive (as it does not lose its impossible nature). new tools and different subtler techniques have become necessary over time to communi- cate them. thus.

which may be suffered by the characters but is aimed directly at the receiver as it takes hold when our convictions regarding the real cease to function. It is a common effect in the fantastic (albeit not in all its manifestations) and is also present in some literary and cinematic works which manage to scare the receiver by natural means: this is the case of thrillers. As previously mentioned. With the term metaphysical (or intellectual) fear I am referring to an impression I consider unique to the fantastic (in all of its variants). A good example of the fear considered to be characteristic of traditional literature of the fantastic can be found in the central events of Bécquer’s famous short-story “El monte de las Ánimas” [“The Mountain of Souls”] (1861). On this level.). spiders. natural disasters. outlined a similar differentiation to the one I am explaining now. The reader—emotionally projected in the text—shares the anguish experi- enced by the characters when facing violence and/or death. when we lose our footing in a world that had heretofore been familiar. ROAS Physical (or emotional) fear is related to physical threats. Lovecraft in his inimitable style. death and the materially horrifying. The notion of metaphysical fear is very useful as a counterargument to Todorov. the vampire and the serial killer function in the same way: they are scary because they kill or. Alazraki and other critics who deny the presence of fear in con- temporary literature of the fantastic. that of the actions. at least.54   D. unlike what happens in most of the narratives of the fantastic of the nineteenth century where the charac- ters constantly express their fear and the narrators verbalise their astonish- ment at something that cannot be happening. by pitting “physical fear” against what he terms “cosmic terror”. as occurs in the Gothic novels of Ann Radcliffe—as we saw in the previous chapter— or in The Cat and the Canary and other films of similar construction and effects. animal attacks (viruses. etc. based on the lack of amazement experienced by characters in the works of Kaf ka or Cortázar when dealing with events that are evidently impossible. It is also an impression experienced by the characters which is communicated—emotionally—to the reader or specta- tor and is a product of what is taking place on the most superficial level of the text. sharks. they represent a threat to the physical integrity of the characters they are facing. where various effects are exploited very efficiently to explore the . or pseudo-fantastic narratives articulated around constant jump-scares where the denouement brings the apparently supernatural towards the real (the events are given a rational explanation). ants. bats. dinosaurs. stories about psychopaths.

blaming it on the wind. “but far off. her sense of guilt). are worth tran- scribing in full: First a few and then others closer by. strangled sighs. As usual. Bécquer gives us a masterclass in tell- ing a scary story. the latter with a long and grating lament. which is moaning through the windows. The narrator’s suggestive description of the noises that Beatriz hears. After having mocked her cousin’s gullibility at the supernatural. an involuntary shudder announcing the presence of something that cannot be seen but. Afterwards. Beatriz manages to get him to return to the mountain in search of a ribbon she was going to give him and which she had supposedly lost when they were strolling through the very place ear- lier that afternoon.  FEAR   55 subjective experience of horror both in the character facing the supernatural and in the reader. with the monotonous gurgle of distant water. (Bécquer 1994: 122) . on which the terrifying atmosphere of the scene is based. all of the doors that led to her room began to sound in order: the former with a muted and grave noise. a silence full of strange murmurs. After falling asleep and experiencing disquieting dreams (caused by concern and. laboured breath that could almost be touched. he creates an uncanny atmo- sphere in a crescendo that is rarely equalled in Spanish literature of the fantastic. the silence of midnight. the far-off barking of dogs. very far off. In spite of her sceptical mindset. Beatriz faces pure horror alone. Hours later. Beatriz awakens to the sound of the bells tolling midnight (the horror story cliché of the hour). we assume. In the aforementioned events. blurred voices. the crackle of clothes dragging along the floor. between which she believes she hears a voice saying her name. with a strangled and pained voice” (Bécquer 1994: 122). Alonso has not returned and Beatriz is becoming con- cerned. nevertheless. its progress through the darkness can be perceived. She shrugs the phenomena off. In Chapter III of the story. as with surprising economy of means (a scared woman—on which the narrator focalises—a darkened room and a few sounds) and showing nothing terrifying in explicit terms. when he expresses fear at spending the night on the Mountain of the Souls (it is told that ghosts arise there). who emotionally shares the character’s disquiet. the character tries to rationalise events. silence. Beatriz cannot repress a growing sense of fear as she hears how all the doors that lead to her room open one at a time. unintelligible voices. the echo of steps coming and going.

the monotonous sound of the fountain. The greatest achievement in building this scene is that the reader. the feeling of terror grows. “bloody and ripped” (p. 123). With this. frightened to death” (p. but her panic does not allow her to as what could pass for an illusion is in fact real: “something” is in her room and is moving towards her bed: “the sound of the footsteps was muted. white-lipped. metaphors that seek to express glimpses. 123). almost imperceptible. The narrator adds nothing further (he cannot. 122). The terrifying impression is borne of suggestion. This situation agonisingly continues for several hours. her servants enter her room to bring her terrible news—Alonso has been found devoured by wolves in the bushes on the Mountain of Souls—and they find her “motionless. given that the focalisation is internal and fixed on Beatriz. and as we would expect the sunlight evaporates Beatriz’s nocturnal terrors. both hands gripping one of the ebony columns of the bed. this sort of narrative of the fantastic (and the use of fear within it) is exclusive to the nineteenth century and was replaced in the following century by what he described as the “neo-fantastic”. but Beatriz tries to draw strength and behave rationally once again. Hidden behind the curtains of her bed. for the most part. so is guided by her sense of hearing. with Beatriz in bed not daring to move or peer through the curtains. According to Alazraki. that he was the cause of the noises that terrified her throughout the night. her eyes wild. tense. her whole body rigid. of all the things the reader can imagine—just like Beatriz—based on those noises. is kept at her same level of perception (they are as “blind” as she is). on opening the curtains of her bed. as it must be to Beatriz. comparing herself to the superstitious peasants: “Am I as fearful as these poor people whose hearts flutter in terror under their armour when they hear old wives’ tales?” (p. ROAS And as “it” draws closer. as the protagonist is the focal point). but it is evident to the reader. half-seen details or interstices of senselessness that escape or resist the language of communication and do . But then. The wind battering the windows. Shortly afterwards.56   D. but constant and as it moved the rustle of wood or bone could be heard” (p. 122). and this sparks a profound emotional involvement in the events on the part of the receiver. she attempts to sleep. At last dawn arrives. the distant barking and the sound of the bells—elements that repeat themselves throughout the story—are her only companions through a sleepless night. mouth half-­ open. Beatriz can see nothing and dares not look. where the purpose is not to cause fear but rather perplexity or disquiet “given the uncanny nature of the situations narrated […] they are. she finds with horror the blue ribbon Alonso had gone to look for.

Besides. the motifs. It is the permanent alteration of that “invariable cycle”. Although he accepts this as “normal”. the story does not focus on understanding the phenomenon but on the protagonist’s problems when the frequency of the vomiting changes. I knew that I was going to throw up a rabbit. a fact that does bother him: Between the first and the second floor. I had thrown up a rabbit and I was safe for a month. we must bear in mind that the events are not down to a mental breakdown. Let us compare then Bécquer’s story to “Carta a una señorita en París” [“Letter to a Young Lady in Paris”] (1951) by Cortázar. images and situations that populate the neo-fantastic have been created not to cause fear. Although it is narrated in first person. perhaps) because only two days previously. the method. . or go against the conceptual or scientific system that we deal with on a daily basis” (2001: 277). fear caused by the surprise. but rather what anguishes him and will cause his ultimate suicide is the increased frequency of vomiting that spirals out of his control. Furthermore.  FEAR   57 not fit the compartments created by reason. as critics all agree in pointing out. exhib- iting no surprise whatsoever (an essential element to Alazraki’s thesis). there is nothing to make us doubt the narrator’s story. […] It wasn’t so bad throwing up rabbits once you had entered the invari- able cycle. What is Cortázar trying to tell us? Firstly. Andrée. I quickly became scared (or was it surprised? No. This is due to the fact that such stories are based on a new conception of the real as an unstable entity where—in Borges’ words—there are “interstices of senselessness”. throughout the story it becomes clear that it is not a common and every- day event but is instead exceptional and therefore fantastic. five weeks. like an announcement of what my life would be like in his house. maybe six with a little luck. The phenome- non around which the Argentine writer’s story revolves—set in an every- day Buenos Aires—is a fact which is utterly impossible: the protagonist throws up small live rabbits. Thus. (1995: 26–27) It becomes clear that the protagonist is not worried about throwing up rabbits in itself (his lack of amazement allows us deduce that he has added this to his life as one more element of “normality”). but essentially as an intuition of that “second reality” which—according to Alazraki—cannot be literally presented. I thought I had the bunny problem cracked. This explains—as already explored in the previous chapters—the occasionally elusive meaning of the stories or motifs employed by Cortázar. shortly before leaving my home.

even if we accept that it is an impossible creature. This reason would mean that the guy who vomits rabbits is in fact a metaphorical intuition for that ineffable “second reality” whilst. the servant who has seen the damage caused by the animals. So why can’t a story about vampires (or about a double or any other “traditional” fantas- tic motif such as the ghost in Bécquer’s story) be read metaphorically? Why can’t it be seen as one more expression of that intuition of another order of reality in conflict with the one we inhabit? In my view. in this midday sun. or on the underground while you were on your way to this interview” (cited in González Bermejo 1981: 42). his body appearing beside the corpses of the rabbits. right now. to name but three authors from different periods who voluntarily moved away from the Gothic-horrifying to explore an increasingly everyday and . it is clear that the story revolves around the main objective of literature of the fantastic: the subversion of a world that is apparently governed by logic and the conventions of reason. The problem with this metaphorical conception is that it dooms “tradi- tional” narratives of the fantastic to a literal level (as Alazraki himself con- cludes. ROAS there is objective evidence (albeit revealed by the voice of the narrator): the letter he writes. a vampire would be reduced to a mere bloodsucking monster. As Cortázar’s critics usually say. 2001: 279). Meanwhile. Maupassant.58   D. in Cortázar’s words. this leads to the question. the problem boils down to Alazraki’s reduction of the fan- tastic in the nineteenth century to one of the many variants that were cultivated at the time and which we could term “Gothic-fantastic” which is seen. for instance. However. James or Lovecraft actually set: in far off and exotic worlds? Or rather in an everyday context where readers recognise them- selves and feel assaulted by the impossible? What Cortázar and Alazraki are really defining is one of the many mani- festations of the fantastic in the nineteenth century: that which presents the monstrous. Poe. as “a pre-fabricated fantastic […] which makes up an apparatus of ghosts. between you and me. apparitions and the machinery of horror in opposition to natural laws and which influences the destiny of the char- acters” (cited in Prego 1985: 154). the horrifying and the macabre. this metaphor is hard to translate: it is not easy to speak of an “exact” meaning for this phenomenon and the story it generates. Gautier or Maupassant clearly do not fit. This is a definition within which the stories of Hoffmann. where are the stories of Hoffmann. he views the modern fan- tastic as “something very simple which can happen in the midst of everyday reality. and so on. Of course.

what is absent in the vast majority of contemporary works of the fantastic is the fear experienced by the characters. Uqbar. but formulate a negative opinion of it. a fact that Todorov and Alazraki overlook. the problem is not quite resolved as. This metaphysical fear that assaults the characters is the same as the reader’s experience. However. in spite of Todorov and Alazraki’s observations. Of course. Likewise. Let us not forget that the protagonist of “The Book of Sand” describes the impossi- ble infinite book as a “nightmarish object. Orbis Tertius” when he communicates his anxiety facing the evidence that a made-up world has begun to replace the real world (we need only quote his opinion on the appearance of objects from Tlön—and therefore fictional and impossi- ble—in the real world: “The evidence of an object which was at once very small and extremely heavy left an unpleasant sensation of disgust and fear” Borges 1988: 34). They are the ones to problematise the phenomenon because it is impossible. Although this is true. Suffice it to remember the horror the protagonist of “Las ruinas circula- res” [“The Circular Ruins”] experiences on realising he isn’t real (he is another person’s dream. purged of all the excesses present in Gothic literature. we cannot forget that the receivers react with amaze- ment and disquiet at the presence of the impossible in their world. Nevertheless. Likewise.  FEAR   59 less “spectacular” conception of the fantastic. as it leads to death or absolute disrup- tion (if it does not drive them insane. there are many contemporary texts (some by authors they themselves analyse) in which characters are scared and amazed by the unequivocal presence of the impossible. but not the disquiet- ing impression on the reader. both refer to the lack of amazement at the impossible in the narrator and the characters as the essential explanation for the (alleged) radical transfor- mation from the nineteenth century to the contemporary fantastic. . By doom I mean the catastrophic effect that the impossible phe- nomenon has for the protagonist. or in “Tlön. an obscene thing that vilified and corrupted reality” (Borges 2003b: 136). the reactions of the protagonists (who are also narrators) of “The Aleph” and “The Book of Sand” who upon com- ing into contact with the fantastic phenomenon not only react with ­amazement and fear. Thus. these stories tend to share the same atmosphere of doom as in “traditional” stories of the fantastic. the metaphysical fear. There are many significant samples of this in the works of Borges. Therefore. it becomes clear to them that their world no longer makes sense). the effect of these manifesta- tions is one and the same: to incite metaphysical fear in the receiver.

ROAS in accordance with Reisz (2001: 193–221). is derived from an imminent threat of physi- cal integrity. Does this not define both the vampire and the rabbit-­regurgitator? Are not both exceptions to the habitual functioning of the real? . The same diversity of potential effects in reading can be observed within the works of a single author. as in those of the nineteenth century. as something beyond the norm by which we perceive and evalu- ate reality. be it Hoffmann or Maupassant. Borges or Cortázar. (Reisz 2005: 46) Choosing the path of the disquieting demonstrates that contemporary authors of the fantastic are placing themselves in a well-defined tradition. nor does 20th century literature simply propose alternative models of the real employing the tone of an epistemologist. the most universal and the most exploited by the Gothic variant of the fantastic. are renewing some of those devices. the other. One way. is related to anxieties or uncertainties of a metaphysical nature which can in turn be carried back to a generalised human fear of the unknown.60   D. forms that are in turn related to different ways of questioning and transgressing the limits of a notional reality that is enforced in every age and location: neither does 19th century literature exclusively feature ghosts and vampires. the impossible phenomenon is always posed as an exception. the absence of amazement in the characters (and even the narrator) does not mean that questioning the veracity of what is narrated has disappeared as a device. they are employing existent formal and thematic conventions but at the same time (and this is practically a rule in the history of this genre). but rather that the reader has been displaced. Metaphysical fear is therefore present in the tales of the fantastic of the nineteenth century and in its contemporary manifestations because its purpose is always the same: to bring down our conception of the real and thus disquiet the reader: It is also worth remembering that fear (or however we want to term the emotional reaction caused by a threat of any kind) can be depicted in many different ways. which not all humans share and can even take on varying intensity over a lifetime. Both literatures of the fantastic of the 19th and 20th centuries have incorporated to their imaginary various forms of fear. The story of the fantastic therefore takes on a new function as a contrast with regards to collective conventions precisely because it is perfectly equipped to problematise it. In this sort of story.

I insist—it is its essential effect. which is manifested in that threatening impression termed metaphysical fear. which does not allow itself to be reduced to a minimum degree of possibility (be it a miracle or a hallucination. The fear or anxi- ety it may produce. (Reisz 2001: 197) Perhaps the fundamental difference between the fantastic in the nine- teenth century and the contemporary fantastic could be expressed as fol- lows: what characterises the latter is the incursion of the abnormal in an apparently normal world. The following essays are particularly useful with regards to real fears in contemporary society: Bourke (2005) and Bauman (2006). similarly. 2. admitting the absence of an explanation—be it natural or encoded supernatural—for the event that goes against the forms of commonly accepted legitimacy. About the evolution of the vampire in fantastic fiction see Roas (2012. not to prove the existence of the supernatural but rather to pose the possible abnormality of reality to reveal that our world does not function as we thought it did.  FEAR   61 It is not the terrifying or disquieting nature of the event that makes it ­appropriate to fiction of the fantastic but rather its irreducibility to a natural cause or a more or less institutionalised supernatural cause. Notes 1. 2014b) and (2018). Of course. is just one of the conse- quences of this irreducibility: it is a feeling derived from the inability to conceive of—accept—the coexistence of the possible with the impossible or. . all of this is nothing more than another way of expressing the essential transgression that characterises literature of the fantastic throughout its history. depending on the reader’s sensitivity and their degree of immersion into the illusion generated by the text.

CHAPTER 5 Language I arrive now at the ineffable core of my story. Jorge Luis Borges. It may. without overlapping or transparency. discursive and structural devices in a significant number of narratives of the fantastic. exceeds the frontiers of language. In that single gigantic instant I saw millions of acts both delightful and awful. be worth asking if there is a language with a particular form of discourse that is natural to the fantastic. but is also manifested on a linguistic level (in literature. of course): the fantastic phenomenon. can I translate into words the limitless Aleph. they are not exclusive to the fantastic and are shared across literary language in general. And here begins my despair as a writer. then. I’ll try to recollect what I can. Nonetheless. The critics who have led the way in asking this question have all arrived at the same conclusion: whilst it is possible to detect various recurring rhetorical. What my eyes beheld was simultaneous. what I want to do is impossible.org/10.1007/978-3-319-73733-1_5 . There is no © The Author(s) 2018 63 D. which is impossible to explain. but what I shall now write down will be successive. it is by definition indescribable because it is unthinkable. for any listing of an endless series is doomed to be infinitesimal. How. not one of them occupied the same point in space. All language is a set of symbols whose use among its speakers assumes a shared past. “The Aleph” Abstract  The transgression proposed by the fantastic is not limited ­exclusively to its narrative and thematic concerns. Roas. therefore. because language is successive. which my floundering mind can scarcely encompass? […] Really. Behind the Frontiers of the Real. https://doi.

the narrator must present the world of the story in the most realistic terms possible. para- doxically. but rather a way of using language that generates a fantastic effect. I do not refer only to the requirements of plausibility that all readers demand of a narrative. it is necessary to employ this realistic construction so that the reader (and the characters) can perceive the possibility of an incursion by the impossible. but without forgetting that the fantastic narra- tive is extremely dependent on an extratextual notion that defines it as an expression of a confirmed reality. In addition. but also the fictional space tends to be a duplicate of the everyday environment in which the receiver moves. readers recognise the space represented in the text and acknowledge themselves within it. narratives of the fantastic employ the same devices as realist texts. establishing the “truth” of the represented world is an essential device in managing to convince the reader of the “truth” of the fantastic effect. The construction of the fantastic text will be. Even in narratives that create an ambiguity without resolu- tion (as in the aforementioned Turn of the Screw by Henry James). However. the polar opposite of mimetic literature. In other words. Therefore.64   D. If the story did not have this realistic and plau- sible construction. the . that is. but to the procedures employed to establish the reference points of the textual space to create a correspondence between the contents of the fic- tion and the concrete experience (devices such as precise dating. the reader would reject the possibility of the impossi- ble. the fantastic always establishes a transgression of the parameters that govern the reader’s (idea of) reality. guided by a “realistic motivation”. which is intrinsic to all stories of the fantastic. this is not just about reproducing its physical functioning (a necessary precondition for the fantastic effect to take place). To achieve this effect. This allows us to state that the fantastic depends on the real as much as more mimetic literatures do. ROAS language of the fantastic in itself. even if it never takes place. Keywords  Realism • Limits of language • Linguistic resources The Realism of the Fantastic As we have seen in the previous chapters. which invalidates the stereotype of placing said stories in the category of the illogical or the oneiric. In constructing the fictional space. logically it must first establish an identity some- where between the fictional world and the extratextual reality.

doubt their idea of the real. characters. In addition. this is what Barthes (1968) termed l’effet de Réel (the reality effect). to convince the reader. There are many varied discursive and narrative strategies to get the reader to leave their scepticism behind. (3) polyphonic nar- rative.  LANGUAGE   65 detailed description of objects. As this is. and so forth. as we know. The purpose of the fantastic. In short. The space created within the nar- rative is always an environment where everything must appear to be nor- mal. Therefore. the fantastic is a narrative mode that employs the codes of realism but is at the same time a transgression of this code. . To admit its supernatural origin is not the same as explaining it (understand- ing it). the greater will be the psychological effect provoked by this incursion of the uncanny event in such an everyday setting. Herrero Cecilia analyses some of these strategies in his essay Estética y pragmática del relato fantástico [Aesthetics and Pragmatics of the Fantastic Story] (2000: 145–238): (1) the authenticity of the fiction is created by presenting the story as a real document or a personal testimony. as Risco (1982: 89) points out. therefore. motivate their cooperative inter- pretation and finally get them to accept the impossible dimension of what is narrated. and (4) playing on the various modes of ambiguity: the narrator and/or the character’s ambiguity of perception. that its presence should appear to be plausible even if it cannot be explained. the narrator moves the real world into the text in its most everyday form. as we have already seen in the case of the protagonist of Borges’ “The Book of Sand”. rhetorical ambiguity as a strategy to suggest the mysterious identity of the impossible being or phe- nomenon. Thus. is to sub- vert the reader’s perception of the real world in a more intensified manner than other literary and artistic modes of expression. the greater the “realism” with which it is presented. or at the very least. all of the narra- tor’s efforts are aimed towards overcoming the predicted incredulity of the reader and managing to have the impossible event accepted. a form of literature which. The elements that populate tales of the fantastic participate in the plausibility and the “real- ism” of mimetic narratives and it is only the incursion of the impossible event along the central axis of the story that defines a clear difference between both forms. aims to make the unacceptable pass for real. information drawn from ­objective reality…). (2) the third-person “objective” storytelling (focused from the subjective perspective of one or several characters or from the narrator’s perspective).

Hoffmann was the instigator of this first great revolution in the fantastic. However. above all. the streets. 2)—moved their fantastic stories to the present and. The transition from the Gothic novel to the Romantic fantastic tale is a perfect illustration of this process of heightening the everyday. pleasure in fear. as I have already explained. Romantic authors—tired like their readers of the Gothic clichés and responding to a different view of the real and the rational (once again I refer to the explanation in Chap. nevertheless. this realist (and also moral) conception of mimesis did not prevent the development of certain narrative and theat- rical forms that played with the supernatural and reflected these new aes- thetic concerns that were developing in the eighteenth century: the sublime. As already explained in Chap. His stories portray in detail the ordinary life of German cities of his time: the cafés. the receivers suspended their disbelief and “accepted” the presence of those supernatural phenomena without too much difficulty as they existed far from home in both space and time. I must. the rejection of belief in the supernatural brought with it a distaste for its literary and aesthetic applications due to its lack of truth and implausibility. storytellers have pro- gressively heightened the everyday in their stories. with the passage of time. the theatres. to environments the reader would be familiar with. the dances. are more and more aware of the formal and thematic conventions of the fantastic and. To this we must add the fact that this is also a way of generating the interest of readers (and spectators) who. One way of making—fictionally—acceptable the unbelievable events that populate supernatural Gothic novels was to distance the events in time and space. the university and legal environments… This was a completely believable world where—and this is its essential function—it seemed impossible that anything extraordinary could ever happen. It is not surprising that the basic effect of this sort of story was related to the macabre and the sin- ister rather than with transgression. the macabre. therefore. which is the hallmark of the truly fan- tastic and whose first true incarnation took place in Romantic literature. 2. point out that the way in which Hoffmann deals with the fantastic is far from the surprising “realism” that characterised the stories of Edgar Allan Poe.66   D. ROAS This need for realism has crucially defined the evolution of the fantastic: in order to make the extraordinary events narrated believable to increas- ingly sceptical readers. are harder to surprise. It could be said that by moving action to the dark ages and to such exotic locations—for an English reader—as Italy or Spain. the other essential figure in the evolution of the .

there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome—of detestable putridity. (Poe 1984: 842) . However. we could say that most of his stories have a nightmarish and insane atmosphere like that of The Cabinet of Dr. as if the events were glimpsed in a dream or the distorted gaze of a madman. Valdemar” (1845). and places us within the reference of a scientific experiment. but rather to a sensation akin to contemplating a reflection of the real world in a deforming mirror. Valdemar” (1845).  LANGUAGE   67 fantastic throughout the nineteenth century. Caligari (1919) by Robert Wiene. Poe himself explains in his Marginalia how this happened with “Mesmeric Revelation” (1844) and “The Facts in the Case of M. The situation moves away from the typical conventions of the ghost story and Gothic monsters. but also the authors of the fantastic sought the support of science to increase the realism of their stories. To formulate a cinematic simile. which poses an (alleged) justification of the impossible by speaking of magnetism (which was already present in some of Hoffmann’s stories) or developments in psy- chiatry. a story revolving around a sinister experiment in magnetism: the dying Valdemar is hypnotised just prior to death and when his vital signs cease he contin- ues to communicate with his hypnotist. I am not referring to a rational explanation of the impossible phenomenon (which would invalidate its fantastic effect). the impossible always ends up dominating the story and establishing itself as inexplicable. as is the macabre denouement to the story when after being awoken from his hypnotic trance months later: [Valdemar’s body] shrunk—crumbled—absolutely rotted away beneath my hands. This is what happens in the aforementioned “The Facts in the Case of M. All is very everyday in appearance but there is something in how the characters behave. However. Not only did this process of heightening of the everyday continue throughout the nineteenth century. This can be seen in several stories by Edgar Allan Poe. it is also clear that there is a loophole in Poe’s rationalism: even though his stories point towards various explanations that are based on new scientific practices. The impression of “reality” was such that some readers at the time took several of his stories as faithful scientific reports on real cases. Evidently. the impossible event is still obviously beyond the rational. none of this invalidates the fantastic dimension of Hoffmann’s tales. as well as in other German Expressionist cinema. for instance. Upon the bed. hallucinatory atmosphere. before that whole company. The German author’s stories are all steeped in a strange. how events unfold or even in some of the narrated situations that escapes a rational vision of the world.

as in Poe’s stories. Although this does not mean that a rational explanation to the supernatural phe- nomenon narrated was obligatory. ROAS Over the following decades. as well as the ambiguity of the story itself. people make him uncomfortable (although we do not know why). This is an essential detail. before entering his house. There is another aspect in that initial paragraph (as well as the doubts) which is noteworthy about the narrator: he is locked in an asylum. is ultimately unsat- isfactory. he begins to tell his story. However. the authors who emerged after Poe devel- oped a view of the fantastic in which the scientific angle (and the critical psychological dimension) of the American author’s works was linked to the requirements for “verification” of Positivism and the realist–naturalist stance: the need to create obvious cause/effect relationships. what he cherishes the most: it is a blow to his intimacy. His story “Qui sait?” [“Who Knows?”] (1890) is a good example of this. It appears. Everything begins in an absolutely everyday setting: the protagonist had gone to the theatre and was strolling home at night. This has led him to seek isolation from human beings and to surround himself with inani- mate objects amongst which he is happy. therefore. as this would destroy the fantastic effect. This led the literature of the fantastic to further examine the sanity/madness dichotomy that formed the basis of a great proportion of Maupassant’s fantastic stories. which would also point to a possible rationalisation for the story: he is mad and could be lying or narrating a hallucination. Once he has presented himself. “out of prudence and fear”. which sums up the narrator’s perspective regarding his story. However. the strangeness manifests itself through an intuition triggered within him that he cannot explain and which fills him with anxiety: “What . posing the madness of the character as a possible justification. The action takes place in France and begins with a device which has become a cliché of the fantastic story and which Poe had already used in “The Black Cat”: the narrator-protagonist confesses his doubts about the “truth” of the experience. a dreamer. an explanation. that he is fleeing or hiding from something. This doubt is already expressed in the title of the story. This triggers the mistrust of the reader. that is. rather that the issue of the subjective perception of the said phe- nomenon was intensified. This prologue also serves to characterise the narrator: he is lonely. as we will discover that the incursion of the impossible leads to the disappear- ance of those objects. which. we must pay attention to another of the narrator’s statements: he reveals that he entered the asylum voluntarily.68   D.

He explains this (from the present) with enig- matic words: “The same thing would happen again” (Maupassant 2006). The following morning. After this. after visit- ing Italy and Africa. It becomes even stranger when. the rest of the story discredits this possible justification. leads him to Normandy. the man has disappeared. one of his servants arrives telling him that all the furniture has been stolen. A few days later he receives a letter from a servant telling him that all of his furniture is back in his house. When they arrive at the shop. However. When the objects have all gone. is inexplicable? Perhaps? Who knows?” (Maupassant 2006). There he visits Rouen and its antique shops.  LANGUAGE   69 was it? Was it a presentiment? That mysterious presentiment which takes hold of the senses of men who have witnessed something which. he begins a long journey. under medical advice. On the other. On the one hand. he does not dare to tell anyone (they would believe him insane) and he prefers that everyone should think it was a robbery. We must bear in mind he is the only witness to the robbery and that his furniture was in the shop. Why? The character does not explain this. He adds then that . However. it does not explain what he saw. At this point in the story we might think that as he is locked up in an asylum that it has indeed simply been a robbery and that his mind—­ traumatised by the experience—has turned the event into something supernatural. as if it had never disappeared. In spite of it all he dares to enter the shop and after checking that it is indeed his furniture he goes to report the antiquarian to the police. This deeply shocks the protagonist who cannot believe the police’s promise to arrest the antiquarian. the possibility returns that it is a hallucination. traumatised by the robbery. neither does he want to purchase new furniture. which. The news cheers him as it acts as confirmation that the objects have disappeared and that it was not a hallucination or madness. which again fills him with anxiety. and in one he finds all of his furniture. the protagonist does not dare enter his house and he decides to return to the city and spend the night in a hotel. Finally. the sense of mystery and strangeness is heightened. an error in the protagonist’s perception. He knows they will never catch him and only he can find him again. the following morning. This is then the first impossible event occurs: the furniture storms out of the building and knocks him over. the character still refuses to go home. Thus. the protagonist returns with several constables and discovers that his furniture is no longer there and other pieces occupy their place. This generates two effects. to them.

Borges and later in the cen- tury.P. .70   D. the objects that make up his everyday intimacy. But what is essential about the story is not to “translate” Maupassant’s narrative. therefore. The reader’s first impression of this story is that the sense is elusive if we attempt to “translate” what has happened in a literal sense. However. literature of the fantastic had to resort to distant sacred tradi- tions and unknown. even there he is uneasy as he fears the antiquarian will go mad and be locked in there with him. enigmatic deities (the threat of the numinous). from the possibility of a different reality or the actual inexistence of our own reality as we conceive it. This leads to his voluntarily checking into an asylum. I will return to this point in the next chapter. as I mentioned before. Everything that is narrated (and the means used to do so) immerses the reader in absolute perplexity as several essential facts are left unexplained: how can the furniture move by itself? Does the antiquarian actually have something to do with all this. it would be authors like Kafka. the stories returned to primitive ages. Cortázar. once again came from outside humanity. In order to send a cold shiver down the read- er’s spine. However. which deals with postmodern narrative. but rather the central idea that resides beneath that impossible story: to paraphrase the protagonist’s final state- ment. Thus. The story ends on the enigmatic words: “Even prisons themselves are not places of security” (Maupassant 2006). Lovecraft were the main rep- resentatives of what has been termed “the archaeological or archetypal fantastic”. King or Fernández Cubas who would—as I have already indicated in previous chapters—take the stories of the fantastic to the fur- thest extent of the everyday. the fantastic story changed once again: the reality experienced by authors and readers required a fantastic form that could embody the new terrors of the era which were too vague. or is it in the protagonist’s distorted mind? Why does he react in this way? And. The threat. ROAS his life has become “impossible” and that he cannot live for the fear that it could all occur again. Arthur Machen and H. Towards the end of the nineteenth century and start of the twentieth century. in search of the most ancestral and recondite terrors of the human mind. it is essential to understand that the protagonist is attacked by what he most loves and what he has surrounded himself with to live in peace. what does he mean with his last sentence? We will never know. where chaos ruled. there is no safe place from the incursion of the impossible. irrational and cataclysmic to be expressed in familiar forms. if we wish to rationalise it. even prehuman. Thus.

 LANGUAGE   71 It is. the storm. Our century has seen a revolution: convictions about reality are in crisis at the same time as the sources of the ‘institutionalised’ absurd (religion. listen to and evaluate those narratives. the magi- cal. If the tradi- tional marvellous cast doubt on the physical laws of our world. (Segre 1985: 258)1 A good example of what I am referring to can be found in “La noche de Jezabel” [“Jezabel’s Night”] (1983) by Cristina Fernández Cubas. worth pointing out at this stage that the authors of the fantastic in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are very conscious of the need for realism and the everyday in their stories. The night. as both elements are an essential requirement for the creation of the fantastic effect: Up to the current century. only four tell stories. however. It should be noted that in addition all of the stories are presented as the personal experiences of the narrators (or someone close to them). it could be said that authors depart from empiri- cal conceptions. Laura and the narrator. with regards to reality. they address the religious. and the identifica- tion of the opposite is also compromised. the legendary. myth. each in their own way. The marvellous (understood in a negative sense: the absurd. The other two. incomprehensible. In order to find their opposing elements. the nightmare) nests in the everyday and makes it all the more impenetrable. the blackout. What is interesting about the gathering is that the stories told depict different ways of han- dling a narrative of the impossible. The story focuses on a gathering of several characters at the narrator’s house “to tell stories of ghosts and apparitions” (1983: 99). which can be read as a brief essay on the evolution of the fantastic and the various routes it has taken to arrive at the necessary everyday nature of the stories. or in other words. the mythical. etc. that is. the faults developing in all the household appli- ances… all of these act as a perfect cliché backdrop. unwelcoming. different modes of writing tales of the fantastic. The dialectic of reality/unreality estab- lishes itself ex novo and only in the fields of shattered and elusive reality. Of the six characters gathered there. […] the characteristics of the real become something fleeting. albeit fairly stable. as real events. The first to speak is Doctor Arganza who tells a story which begins in the field of the fantastic (a corpse cleans itself up and moves from where it appears to the house of the woman he loved) although this phenomenon is quickly forgotten and the story swerves .) dry up. the modern marvellous undermines the rules of interpretation that man has used for his own existence throughout the ages.

retelling a personal experience with a ghost as a child. Mortimer is the next to speak. What is most interesting about this opinion is that. since according to him “We cannot speak of spirits. which she says she enjoyed. common and everyday rural drama” (1983: 98). which leads him to define the characteristics that define these beings as his mother once explained to him (so that when he encountered them. This falls in particular to Laura. The last one to speak is an anonymous young man dressed in black who speaks to criticise ghost stories as obsolete. In fact. except for Jezabel’s. in second place. spectres or ghosts without incurring in a simple. lacking in energy and of few words. he would not be afraid). characteristics that are pri- marily stereotypical: excessive pallor. In other words. Only Poe is safe. Cristina Fernández Cubas reveals her own poetics of the fantastic. to censure those stories where the fantastic is merely a soon forgotten seasoning to focus on other elements (a stereo- typical love story in Arganza’s case). Through this ghostly character’s reactions. we witness the reactions elicited in a supernatural being by several supposedly supernatu- ral stories. Laura and the narrator do not tell any stories. as we discover at the end. As I mentioned. Poe’s story. who laughs out loud at all of them (the opposite effect their narra- tors sought). The young man in black advo- cates a vision of the fantastic which is less traditional but we could say is limited to the intervention of “hidden and unspeakable forces” that use day-to-day objects to manifest themselves and. as the narrator says. “Arganza had managed to corner the inexplicable in favour of a simple. ROAS towards the typical story of star-crossed lovers.72   D. The second character to speak is Jezabel (an old friend of the narrator who she cannot stand) who tells a fantastic story featuring her great-grandparents although in reality it is nothing more than a retouched version of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Oval Portrait”. except the one represented by Edgar Allan Poe. disposable anachronism. It is a metafictional game by which particular forms of cultivating the fantastic are presented and rejected. preference for white in women and black in men. Laura’s laughter serves. the beyond does not require fantastical apparitions to manifest itself” (1983: 117). finally. Their purpose is distinct: to evaluate the stories told. Thus. there is also a criticism of what appears to be a more contemporary vision of the fantastic but which is too exclusive. she mocks the tradi- tional ghost story (as demonstrated by the irony implicit in Mortimer’s listing of the characteristics of ghosts). that is. although it is curious that Cristina . profound sadness. and. it is emitted by an actual ghost. first of all. above all. to act against human beings.

the most negative character in the story. giving rise to the actual and incontestable presence of the fantastic. Let us re-examine those four stories: in Doctor Arganza’s.  LANGUAGE   73 Fernández Cubas places the story in Jezabel’s mouth. but it actually happened” (p. the presence of Poe’s story has two main purposes: one would be Cristina Fernández Cubas giving her literary tastes a nod. there are no witnesses to the corpse’s post-mortem reanimation. Perhaps we should interpret this manoeuvre as a criticism of the lack of imagination of many authors who have done noth- ing but clumsily rehash existing models. p. as her interest in the American author’s work is well known and repeatedly expressed in various interviews and the fact that she com- pleted an unfinished tale by Poe (“The Lighthouse”). which is perfectly reflected in Mortimer’s reaction who. without great spectacle. which acts as a framework for all these stories. “was shaking like a leaf and looked like a frightened child” (p. Their initial reaction could be considered to be surprising when all of them—except for the protagonist—claim to have had experiences with the supernatural. as well as becoming a secondary element. beyond their possible . in spite of his vast knowledge of the ectoplas- mic. as just another anecdote. The incursion of the impossible embodied in Laura also explains the end of the story.  107). Likewise. is an essential element in creating the unexpected and disquieting denouement to the story. The absence of the spectacular is perceived in the text itself. the fact that only the narrator realises the plagiarism (or at least is the only one to express it) hides a veiled criticism—maybe I am reading too much into it—of readers who allow themselves to be seduced by such tawdry imitations. Jezabel—as also happens in Poe’s story—poses a disquieting game between the random and the supernatural. which she poses by means of the main story. Beyond this possible criticism. but she refers to it as just another event her family have experienced without difficulty. whose appearance has nothing to do with the ghostly stereotypes listed by Mortimer (she is “a small and plump woman […] exuberant and sponta- neous”. which establishes a pact of silence between the characters. She presents Jezabel with her version of Poe’s story as follows: “It isn’t as spectacular as a story about vampires or witches. However. perhaps they decide to forget this shared experi- ence because it is the only one that truly defines itself as having happened. mostly the reference to Poe is aimed at defending a way of dealing with the fantastic. Laura’s “normality”. However. 124).  102). and what Mortimer and the young man in black explain. where an apparently every- day and trivial gathering ends up. and as such is unacceptable to reason.

however. as we have seen.2 The fantastic phenomenon. they are trying to control what is by definition uncontrollable. All language is a set of symbols whose use among its speakers assumes a shared past. or if you prefer. Thus. “El Aleph” (1945). the narrator has no other means than language to evoke the impossible. to impose it on our reality: The author of the fantastic must force them [words]. However.74   D. that the narrator must offer a realistic and detailed descrip- tion of that world. when facing the representation of the impos- sible. that is to say. their expression often becomes obscure. the vision that the characters have of reality (which is the same as that of the reader) does not escape unharmed. This is a process by which reality. that is to say. can I translate into words the limitless . And here begins my despair as a writer. to act as if there were no cohesion between meaning and des- ignation. to produce what ‘has not yet been said’. How. ROAS uncanny dimension has a fundamental objective: they are both in their own way imposing rules on the fantastic. aphorism 5. that night they are all witnesses to Laura’s presence.6). which is impossible to explain. impossible to forget. But the strategy does not work as the narrator-protagonist decides to tell us what happened that fateful night. clumsy or indirect. exceeds the fron- tiers of language: it is by definition indescribable because it is unthinkable. As Wittgenstein points out in one of his most famous aphorisms: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” (Tractatus logico-­ philosophicus 1921. as if there were fractures in one or other of the systems [language/ experience] that do not correspond to their expected counterparts. for the same reason. That is why the characters try to take refuge in forgetting. the Borges-character lucidly states: I arrive now at the ineffable core of my story. when he must describe what he sees in that Aleph. However. then. However. a phenomenon that escapes their com- prehension and their control. At the Frontiers of Language The desire to build a fictional world similar to that of the reader implies. to mean the undesignated. (Bellemin-Noël 2001: 111) Borges perfectly reflects on that vertigo in literature of the fantastic in one of his most famous stories. and narrate those events which are impossible to accept and. at a certain point.

but what I shall now write down will be successive. In that single gigantic instant I saw millions of acts both delightful and awful. As Mellier (2000: 41) points out. neologisms. To attempt to define what is by definition indescribable requires employing a “rhetoric of the unspeakable” (Bellemin-Noël 1971). oxymo- rons. the attempt at representing the said phenomenon is the crisis in that illusion of the real that I discussed in the previous section. because language is successive. without overlapping or transparency. (Borges 2003a: 191–192) The coherence established between the fictional world and the extra- textual world shatters at the point at which language must give an account of the impossible phenomenon. analogies.  LANGUAGE   75 Aleph. a tex- tual machinery that allows the incursion of the impossible in the fictional world. “phantasmagorical”. I’ll try to recollect what I can. synecdoches. . What my eyes beheld was simultaneous. The fantastic phenomenon is a chal- lenge to writing. This is what Mellier (2000: 42) terms “the indeterminacy of the fantastic”: writing and narrative procedures envelop the notations of the text in ambiguity by means of expressive imprecision. as well as the repeated use of heav- ily weighted adjectives such as “sinister”. as the critical representations of declarations and the narrative activity are constant (“It is impossible to describe…”) as well as playing with metafiction. These are discursive strategies (and also thematic) that Bozzetto (1998: 176) names “operators of confusion” and which intensify the uncertainty in the face of the impossible phenomenon: meta- phors. antitheses. for any listing of an endless series is doomed to be infinitesimal. “I believed I saw”. It is a series of textual marks that signal the exceptional nature of what is represented. metafiction designs some textual strategies that create a crisis in the illusion of reality that mimesis ­postulates: by showing up its purely linguistic and ideological nature. a very frequent device in contemporary narrative in gen- eral. and ambiguous expressions of the sort “I thought I saw”. not one of them occupied the same point in space. rather. which my floundering mind can scarcely encompass? […] Really. This intensifies the perception of the fan- tastic phenomenon as impossible. what I want to do is impossible. “unbelievable” and others in the same semantic field. Nonetheless. The representation or. This rhetoric of the unspeakable also possesses a clearly self-reflexive dimension. “it was as if”. the representa- tions of the text are deconstructed. “terrify- ing”. parallels. comparisons.

76   D. Thus. It is. “leprous bell-towers”. therefore. We could. not just in its thematic aspects but also in its linguistic dimension. ­ (Lovecraft 2005: 194) The passage exceeds the describable and leaves it to the reader to imag- ine the unimaginable. indepen- dently. trying to find resemblances for such horrors in something real that the reader can imagine. as it alters the representation of reality established by the system of values shared by a community in posing this description of an impossible phenomenon within said system. states: The Thing cannot be described—there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy. Lovecraft’s style acts as a perfect example for this. as occurs to the narrator of “The Call of Cthulhu” (1926). the narrator’s discourse in a fantastic text is profoundly r­ ealistic in its evocation of the world in which the story unfolds. He tends to resort to oxymoronic or paradoxical constructions in his descriptions of the super- natural beings and phenomena that populate his stories: “obscene archi- tecture”. who when describing the monstrous creature of the title. therefore. one of Lovecraft’s best stories. and cosmic order. The narrator is forced to an uncanny combination of names and adjectives to intensify the capacity for suggestion. Whilst the non-fantastic text provides means to expose the presence of the identical or of the similar and grants itself the means to . Indeterminacy becomes an artifice with which to kick-start the reader’s imagination. such eldritch contradictions of all matter. correspond to objects and properties from our reality. and can do no other thing that resort to devices that can make their words as suggestive as possible (comparisons. A mountain walked or stumbled. ROAS Therefore. becomes a profoundly subversive category. the expression of the unnameable that acts as a dislocation of rational discourse. metaphors. neol- ogisms). “unwholesome age”. The fantastic narrates events that go beyond our frame of reference. in many stories there is an interesting game played between the impossibility of describing something alien to human reality and the will to suggest that terror by means of imprecision and insinuation. The fantastic. say that connotation replaces denoting. but often becomes vague and imprecise when it comes to describing the horrors that assault this world. force. “obscene angle”. “pestilent tempests”… These are syntagmas that suggest something impossible in our reality by means of nouns and adjectives which. therefore.

Bozzetto. The critics who have led the way in asking this question (Todorov. between literature of the fantastic and mimetic literature. elision of the term for designation. the fantastic traces a route of the unsaid and the unseen in culture. a general (and provi- sional) list of the formal and linguistic devices employed in the creation of the fantastic effect may be drawn up (Rodríguez Hernández 2008: 54): a) Devices related directly to the narrative instance: first person narra- tive. meta- phorical metalepsis. Therefore. amongst others) have all arrived at the same conclusion: whilst it is possible to detect various recur- ring rhetorical. b) Devices related to syntactical aspects and narrative organisation: the particular time of the statement. use of the mise en abîme. Bellemin-Noël. implied adjectivisation. Erdal Jordan.  LANGUAGE   77 declare it. but is also manifested on a linguistic level. As I was saying. narrator-protagonist identification. regressive denouement. anthropomorphisation of synecdoche. the transgression proposed by all tales of the fantastic is not limited exclusively to its narrative and thematic concerns. narrative equalling of the natural and the supernatural. as Jackson (1981) explains. at least not at first and from a linguistic perspective. Fantastic of Perception / Fantastic of Language3 As has been demonstrated. Thus. Lord. interpretive hesitation or ambiguity. Belevan. Bessière. there are no substantial differences. it may be worth asking if there is a language with a particular form of discourse that is natural to the fantastic. parabasis. alterity—without being able to declare it” (Bozzetto 2001: 234). Based on the aforementioned theoretical texts. the possibility of the existence of a . absence of causality and finality. c) Devices related to the discursive aspects or at a verbal level: literali- sation of the figurative sense. “the fantastic text announces the presence of the unspeakable (the other side of the speakable)—that is. In this sense. discursive and structural devices in a significant number of narratives of the fantastic. Campra. they are not exclusive to the fantastic and are shared across literary language in general. and there- fore becomes a form of subversive social opposition that counters the ide- ology of the moment in history in which it arises.

some researchers have tried to differentiate between the fantas- tic in the nineteenth century and the contemporary development of the fantastic based on an alleged particular usage of language. above all reflected in the absence of causality and finality. the fantastic as a phenomenon of language domi- nates twentieth century literature (and the twenty-first century so far). Campra proposes in her article that the twentieth century has produced a fundamental change: the passage from the fantastic as a phenomenon of perception to the fantastic as a phenomenon of inscription. There is no language of the fantastic in itself. Even so. ROAS l­anguage of the fantastic per se is analogous to differentiating between a non-­mimetic use of language from a mimetic use or. factual from fictional language. It must also be said that Todorov (1970) had already posed this distinction when differen- tiating between perception of the fantastic and discourse of the fantastic. but also of writing it.78   D. that is. ultimately. the transgression is expressed by means of certain types of ruptures . Campra (2001) was one of the first to offer an analysis of this fantastic. the fantastic as a phenomenon of perception was characteristic of the nineteenth century and is defined by the dominance of classic themes and motifs (the ghost. where the transgression is fundamentally based on the formal and discur- sive devices (and not so much on what is going on at a semantic level): Contemporary literature of the fantastic has switched its axis to another angle: with the fantastic theme’s ability to scandalise exhausted. as exceeding the limits between two orders understood to be incommunicable (natu- ral/supernatural. This leads to the conclusion that the fantastic is not just a way of perceiving the represented world. the animated object…). the double. normal/abnormal). as the negation of the transparency of language (for instance. on a syntactical level (narrative structure). the vampire. Ultimately. and on a discursive level. which are directly related to the semantic level of the text. the use of adjectives with strong connotations. These oppositions and transgressions do not function purely as fea- tures of the content. establishing a lin- guistic transgression at all levels of the text as a characteristic feature of the fantastic: on a semantic level (reference point for the story). as we have already seen). or at least eroded. the thematic. but rather a way of using language that generates a fantastic effect. According to Campra. of language. the premonition. they are also present to subvert the rules of narrative syntax and the meaning of discourse as alternative means of transgression. On the other hand. a rupture in space–time coordinates.

we must bear in mind that transgres- sion on a linguistic level is not absent from the literature of the fantastic in the nineteenth century. 6. as Rodríguez Hernández (2008: 35) points out. as a means to express a reality that is ultimately depicted as distant and unattainable. The concepts in vogue during Romanticism and Realism illustrate that the configuration of the “traditional” fantastic is always formed based on a phenomenon of perception. a confidence which is common to Romanticism and Realism (Erdal Jordan 1998: 10). (Campra 1985: 97) Although this is a fascinating idea. dedicated to the fantastic in postmodernity. Thus the transgression within perception takes place in the narrative as an “event” and is intensely manifested in the aspect of discourse where the conflict between the reality presented (lan- guage) and extratexual reality (the world) is more evident. that is. was marked by the break in confidence in the relationship between lan- guage and the world. . According to Erdal Jordan. as Saussure formulated (the thesis on the arbitrary nature of the sign) and argued philosophically in Wittgenstein and Derrida’s early works. whilst the trans- formation that is sparked by this crisis of confidence in language deter- mines that the configuration of the phenomenon in the contemporary fantastic may be to do with both perception and language (or to be more precise. and (2) the incursion of a supernatural element that subverts the functioning of the intratextual reality (which is a reflection of the extratextual). on the syntactic level. The paradigm shift. that is. In Hoffmann’s narrative we may perceive the combined use of two essential elements: (1) mimetic language and various devices that challenge it (to attempt to describe phenomena that are beyond that mimetic language). Thus the form of perception is linked to a conception of language characterised by confidence in its iconic properties and representational capacities. but rather the insoluble lack of connec- tion between the distant elements of the real. A break in confidence that also appears in literature of the fantastic—an aspect I will return to in the Chap. It is not so much the appearance of the ghost that counts to define a text as fantastic. the relationship between the fantastic and the evolution of the conception of language allows us—as noted by Rodríguez Hernández (2008: 36)—to distinguish between the two opposing modes. in the semantic aspect.  LANGUAGE   79 in the organisation of content—which are not necessarily fantastic—. This calls into question the very capacity for lan- guage to signify the world. both at once). that is.

a process that can be perceived as a deictic game but not visually. No one.80   D. if we move just a little we bump our heads or tails into another of our kind. We notice the passage of time less if we stay still. every ten to fifteen seconds the little branches would quickly stretch out and fold back again. . (Cortázar 1995a: 143) At the end of the story the transformation takes place and the protago- nist claims to see himself from the other side of the glass. problems arise. the rupture in confidence. Rodríguez Hernández (2008: 75–76) proposes “Axolotl” by Julio Cortázar as an example of this sort of narrative of the fantastic as it relies on a rhetorical game that allows the narrator to metamorphose into the amphibian that lends its name to the text. It was the liveliest thing about him. The unfolding of the narrative means that from the outset the reader identifies the grammatical first person as the protagonist. We will find a good example in the description of one of those beings (note the play on pronouns and deictics): On either side of the head. This is the case given that the transformation takes place thanks to the progressive identification of the narrative self with two entities that are both semantically and logically distinct (human and animal). or at least its ­ uestioning. also in those opening lines. the narrative voice that is identified as an individual progressively introduces in his discourse sequences that refer to another entity (an axolotl)—without changing focal point— although this does not change the identification in the use of the first person. impatience. where the ears ought to have been. grew three little red branches that looked like coral. Sometimes a foot would barely move. a plant-like excretion. fights. now turned into an axolotl who nevertheless continues to tell his story. ROAS In the case of language. I could see the tiny toes touching down softly in the moss. the character who goes to the aquarium every day and thinks of the axolotls in the third person. From this point on. the branchia I suppose. allows for the fantastic to be configured based on an essen- q tially linguistic transgression given that words in themselves only signify themselves. The thing is we like to move a lot and the aquarium is so small. aside from the narrator and the reader witnesses the fantastic phenomenon because it appeals to a purely intellectual (and grammatical) understanding: an epistemological transformation which—as Rodríguez Hernández con- ­ cludes—does not refer to a positive and verifiable “event” but to discourse itself and only takes place in the protagonist’s thoughts. the grammatical first person says that he is an axolotl in the present (“Now I am an axolotl”). that is to say. However.

from my perspective. which acts as a “backdrop” against which to determine the impossibility (and transgressive qualities) of the narrated phenomenon. once again. Rodríguez Hernández (2008: 42–43) adds another essential thought to the mix: critics have spoken of the impossibility of representing the fantas- tic. the narrative text—be it fantastic or not—can never dispense with an idea of reality even if the aesthetic context it arises from has denied words any direct power of representation. but never a semantic void. . What is narrated in “Axolotl” is not just a transgression on a discursive level. in other words. but also strikes against the idea of the real that the reader and the authors (and the characters) share. rhetorical or discursive transgression that ignores the semantic aspect is epistemologically unsustainable and therefore the demands of a referential reading of the fantastic text continue to be valid. literature of the fantastic draws attention to the problematic rela- tionship established between language and reality as it attempts to represent the impossible. as it would discount any possibility of understanding the text. its absence of reference points. leads us to the necessary refer- ential reading of any fantastic text. language cannot dispense with reality: the reader needs the real to understand what is being expressed. its void of meaning and its “intransitive” nature. In any case. they need a pragmatic reference point.4 On the other hand. In spite of the conception of language with regards to prior eras. we cannot forget that as occurs in the literature of the fantastic of the nineteenth century. go beyond language to transcend accepted reality.  LANGUAGE   81 Although this is all true. there may be a referential void in meaning in any term that does not signify a situation or entity within the empirical world. This is only really applicable to the nineteenth century conception of language (that identifies the meaning with the reference point) but not to the context of postmodernity where the relationship between language/ world has been rebuilt. This. to put it in touch constantly with our idea of the extratextual real in order to be able to determine its fantasticity. In other words. although it manifests itself linguistically. contemporary nar- ratives of the fantastic continue to demand a referential reading to be able to establish their fantasticity. However. the fantasy of the story does not reside solely in the problematisation of the deixis of the pronoun as a device for the fantastic transgression. As I have already warned. in other words. the notion that language may be configured from a purely formal. but it continues to appeal to an extraordinary causality that is discordant with the extratextual conception of the real. according to which a human being cannot undergo the metamorphosis that Cortázar narrates in his story.

Likewise. Tahiche Rodríguez Hernández’s MA thesis. Erdal Jordan (1998: 111) agrees. 4. Once again. See Belevan (1976). has been invaluable: La conspiración fantástica: una perspectiva lingüístico-cognitiva sobre la evolución del género fantástico (2008). Of course. after defining the contemporary fantastic as a linguistic phenomenon. of contrasting the narrated phenomena with the conception that the reader holds of the real to be able to identify a text as fantastic. In drafting the section. Campra (2001: 191) herself ends up rec- ognising the need for a referential reading. Segre clearly refers to what we have termed the “fantastic”. ROAS To conclude. With the term “marvellous”. . 2. In the following chapter I will examine other forms of linguistic trans- gression as devices that create the fantastic. the transgression in perception is not exclusively semantic. Notes 1.82   D. this should not be taken as a fixed or unshakeable rule for all stories of the fantastic. nor is the transgression in language exclusively formal or rhetorical. which I supervised. See also Rodríguez Hernández (2010). she also considers “said narrative to be extremely dependent on an extratextual notion that defines it as an expression of a confirmed reality”. as this linguistic imprecision is not always present. “The Book of Sand” is a good example: this infinite book gen- erates no problems in its representation as it has the same appearance as any book. 3. its fantastic dimension arises from its impossible existence according to the parameters that govern our reality. but also of inscription”. Ceserani (1996) and Bozzetto (1998). After stating that the fantastic “is not just a fact of perception of the represented world.

functioning and effect of the fantastic. However.org/10. after all. and wonder when and if some of these impossibilities might enter the ranks of the everyday. Keywords  Postmodernity • Neofantastic • Contemporary Spanish narrative © The Author(s) 2018 83 D. Behind the Frontiers of the Real. the last section of this chapter analyses the work of several contemporary Spanish writers to propose a poetic of the postmodern fantastic. this assumption does not mean that the conflict between the narrative and the (idea of ) extratextual reality should not still be neces- sary for the fantastic effect to take place. Its essential objective is. Michio Kaku. https://doi. it is worth going back to the question posed in Chap. As an example of the survival of the fantastic in Postmodernity. CHAPTER 6 The Fantastic in Postmodernity I still daydream about my lifelong love affair with the impossible. As it is shown. the contemporary fantastic assumes that reality is a product of a construct that we all partici- pate in. 2 with regards to the validity of this category in contemporary fiction.1007/978-3-319-73733-1_6 . to question this idea. Roas. Physics of the Impossible Abstract  Having explored in previous chapters four essentials concepts in defining the meaning.

the protagonist’s transformation into an insect) for which there is no explanation and. the “aver- age” human being is precisely the fantastic being. this process has been inverted: from the supernatural we arrive at . manifests itself as a self-sufficient entity that does not require the confirmation of an outside (“real”) world in order to exist and function. a novel which obviously describes an impossible phenom- enon (as is well known.84   D. the fantastic effect based on this transgression. it is worth going back to the question posed in Chap. the impossibility manifested in the twentieth century of believing in an immu- table reality (a conception more at home in the previous century) elimi- nated all possibility of transgression and. to add to the confusion. According to Todorov. Todorov himself states that the said category has no reason to exist in the twentieth century as it has been replaced by psy- choanalysis. According to the Bulgarian critic. the fantastic becomes the rule rather than the exception. We must add another essential aspect to this: according to Todorov. manifested through the treatment of taboo issues. and that thanks to psychoanalysis those issues have lost this mantle and so it has ceased to be necessary. the impossible. The basis of Todorov’s reasoning can be found in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. vacillation no longer makes sense because its purpose was to suggest the existence of the fantas- tic and to establish the passage from the natural to the supernatural. If postmodern narrative. defined by its distrust of the real. ROAS Having explored four concepts that I believe to be essential in defining the meaning. fear and language). causes no vacillation or astonishment in the narrator. 2 with regards to the validity of this category in contemporary fiction. Kaf ka’s text breaks the patterns estab- lished by traditional literature of the fantastic: within. therefore. His statement is based on the idea that the fantastic has lost the social function that it possessed in the nineteenth century. the protagonist (Gregor Samsa) or his family. functioning and effect of the fantastic (the real. In Kafka. can we conceive within those parameters of a mode of narrative that configures itself in opposition to a concept of extratextual reality (which is conventional and arbitrary)? Is there a reason for the fantastic to exist in the contemporary world? Should we redefine it using other parameters that exclude the extratextual real? The Case of Kafka At the end of his famous work The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1970).

although Todorov notes this. As Reisz points out. an inverted world in which the fantastic is no longer an exception but instead the rule by which that world functions (similar to what Alazraki terms the neo-fantastic). Finné (1980: 45) bases his denial on what he describes as the obvious symbolism of Kafka’s novel. places The Metamorphosis closer to the functioning of a fairy tale where the super- natural is not questioned. This is very different to what occurs in the literature of the fantastic in the nineteenth century. Given that the metamorphosis represents a trans- gression of natural laws. mean- while. according to which first the existence of the real is posed in order to place it in doubt. Thus. Kafka’s world is considered. In Kafka’s case. albeit distinct from the metamorphosis itself. the non-questioning of this transgression is per- ceived as a transgression of the psychological and social laws that together with the natural laws form part of our notion of reality. amazement in Kafka’s characters throughout his works has led other critics to reject their fantastic components: thus. which.   THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    85 the natural. he does not bear in mind that the absence of amazement or disquiet in the characters does not mean that the reader is not surprised by the story. where the supernatural event was ­perceived as such as it is projected against the backdrop of what is consid- ered normal and natural (it transgressed the laws of nature). above all. . the impossible event produces no vacillation because the world described is completely strange. basing herself on the concept of vacillation. (Reisz 2001: 218) This is the perspective from which we must evaluate the functioning and meaning(s) of the contemporary fantastic. on the other hand and in my view responds with- out a doubt to the function and effects of the fantastic. That Gregor Samsa’s transformation into an insect is presented by the nar- rator and absorbed by the characters without question is perceived by the receiver as one of the impossible elements of the story. The absence of an explanation for the phenomenon and. The process of literature of the fantastic is thus inverted. Vax (1960) suggests that The Metamorphosis rather than belonging to the genre of the fantastic matches psychoanalysis and mental experience. and is as abnormal as the event that it is framing. Surprisingly. the absence of vacillation eliminates the possible fantastic compo- nent for a story. according to Todorov. as a result. Ryan (1991).

He goes to the bar. arriving at a party. haven’t we? FRED I don’t think so. The first is drawn from David Lynch’s film Lost Highway (1997). we will now look at scenes from two works—one a film and the other literary—which we would not hesitate to describe as postmodern. and as he drinks it he watches a strange character arrive (very pale. the protagonist. Don’t you remember? FRED (surprised) No. hair combed back with gel and with a disturbing appearance). takes out a cellular phone and holds it out to Fred. In fact. Where was it that you think we’ve met? MYSTERY MAN At your house. .86   D. The conversation they maintain is overwhelming: MYSTERY MAN We’ve met before. In the movie we witness Fred. I’m there right now. FRED (incredulous) What do you mean? You’re where right now? MYSTERY MAN At your house. The Mystery Man reaches into his coat pocket. ROAS Fantastic Postmodernity Taking quite a leap through time. no I don’t. orders a drink. FRED That’s absurd. Are you sure? MYSTERY MAN Of course.

laughs. dials his number. MYSTERY MAN (CON-T) Dial your number. Fred snickers. like this is a bad joke.   THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    87 MYSTERY MAN Call me. The Mystery Man puts the phone into Fred’s hand. suddenly turns serious—it’s obvious he’s thinking now of the videotapes. FRED How did you do that? The Mystery Man points to the phone. MYSTERY MAN Ask me. MYSTERY MAN (CON-T) Go ahead. Fred hesitates. FRED (angrily) How did you get into my house? . He speaks into the phone. We hear a pick up as we stay on Fred’s face. puzzled. still holding the phone. PHONE VOICE OF MYSTERY MAN I told you I was here. Fred. Fred. stares at the man standing in front of him. Fred shrugs. as if it is a party trick of some kind. mirthful at first.

Fernando is improvising on his electric guitar. and he slowly passes the phone back to the Mystery Man who takes it. FRED Who are you? The man laughs—identical laughs—both over the phone and in person.88   D. the 82 Pontiac Trans Am stops at the gas station” (Fernández Mallo 2007: 105–106). a fictional character and protagonist of the aforementioned series. but speaks again into the phone. a situation is described which at first glance could be considered fantastic: at an abandoned gas station in Albacete. The man in front of Fred reaches out his hand for the phone. The man walks away from Fred. Fred looks at the man in front of him. The other scene I am referring to is drawn from Agustín Fernández Mallo’s novel Nocilla Dream (2007). ROAS PHONE VOICE OF MYSTERY MAN You invited me. What is truly surprising about the scene is that the person who steps out of the car is none other than Michael Knight (who the narrator refers to with a concise “Michael”). Fred hears the line go dead. All of a sudden. who then chats with Fernando as if they were old friends: “Usually—the narrator tells . who will recognise the reference to the TV show Knight Rider cannot help but smile and imag- ine—mistakenly—that it belongs to some outlandish character who has not only bought a Pontiac. In chapter (or fragment) 55 of the novel. but had it decorated with the lights that adorn the nose of the fictional car. and puts it in his pocket. With the grace of a film. PHONE VOICE OF MYSTERY MAN Give me my phone back. folds it. MYSTERY MAN It’s been a pleasure talking to you. The reader. the narrator says: “A black car draws near with a line of lights on its front grill that move from left to right. It’s not my habit to go where I’m not wanted. that is.

another reference for connoisseurs of the show. In this case. he sums up). Meanwhile. Fernández Mallo’s text does not problematise the reader’s cognitive and hermeneutic codes: the presence of Michael Knight and KITT is just another possibility in this world. This translates into the inevitable feeling of disquiet with which we view the scene. Let us not forget that both take place in spaces that the receiver rec- ognises as similar to the extratextual world. Of course. We are in Albacete. three and a half” (2007: 106). the receiver reacts like the characters: the inex- plicable duplication of the character in Lynch is perceived as a transgres- sion of the conception of the real by both the character and the viewer. 106). in the novel Fernando (and also the narrator) behaves with normality in a situation in which. a setting that has nothing to do with the TV show.1 arisen straight from the collective unconscious and. in order to be able to evaluate and interpret a scene like this we must not forget another recurring factor in postmodern narrative: parody. Faced with both scenes. as the text suggests. the intratextual everyday reality is not altered (it has even occurred on other occasions). One important factor in evaluating the meaning and effect of said scenes is the character’s reactions: the protagonist of Lost Highway cannot believe what is happening (“That’s absurd”. In other words. he per- ceives the conflict with his conception of the real. The presence of the car and the fictional character who drives it in this space leads us to ask if we should interpret it as Fernando’s heat-induced hallu- cination. The scene (and fragment 55) ends with the Pontiac pulling away while Fernando “begins to play around with the chords from Knight Rider” (p. in this case. feeding from TV? The narrator says nothing. Today.   THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    89 us—he is three feet taller than Fernando. Not only that. The (apparently) extraordinary event in the fragment from Nocilla Dream arises from the rupture in the borders between reality and fiction. after a brief conversa- tion “Michael pays him with a cheque from the Foundation for Law and Government” (p. with his new snake-skin boots. Fernández Mallo’s novel requires the reader to . 106). We must now consider what these scenes trigger within the receiver and why. Or is this a “semiotic ghost” like those that assault the protago- nist of William Gibson’s story “The Gernsback Continuum”. that is. nor is there a conflict—as does occur in Gibson’s story—due to the presence of KITT and Michael Knight on the level of reality (or fiction) which Fernando inhabits.

by extension. at the same time. ROAS undertake a conscious reading of the parodic nature of the text that ­collaborates both in creating the verisimilitude of the narration (the text explicitly recognises its artificial nature) as well as in erasing the borders between reality and fiction. The logic of the text is not ruptured. ourselves. reality is not denied. which implies accepting the artificiality of our idea of real- ity and. narrative of the fantastic and postmodern narratives (still speaking in very general terms) offer up revelatory coinci- dences. which implies a con- stant reflection regarding the conceptions we develop in order to explain and represent the world and the self. they both question the idea of a rational and stable world and. therefore. In postmodern novels we do not see this conflict between different orders as everything shares the same level of reality (or fictionality): we assume that everything that is narrated fits within the same code of internal verisimilitude. pacts of fiction) that they demand. The difference between narratives of the fantastic and (according to the general definition that is often applied) postmodern narrative resides in the various modes of reading (and. the fantastic reveals the complexity of the real and our inability to understand and explain it. which is akin to what magical realist texts articulate. A good example of this is . and this is done by means of the transgression of the idea (con- ventional and arbitrary) that the reader has of reality. whilst postmodern narrative (speaking in very general terms) erases them and therefore harmonises what we would identify as either real or imaginary.90   D. However. there is no external truth to unify or verify what has been expressed and the text recognises its identity as an artefact and not a simulacrum of an “external reality” (Hutcheon 1988: 119). but what becomes evident—by vari- ous means—is that our perception of reality is formed by means of verbal representations. We question our knowledge. Thus. the difference is that the fantastic problematises the limits between reality and unreality (or fiction). the possibility of knowing and representing it in literary terms. which many critics have overlooked. Taking different routes. We could even go so far as to say that we witness an integration and complete equivalence between the real and the imaginary. This leads us to another aspect that is worth underscoring (and the reason why I was insisting on speaking in general terms): not all postmodern lit- erature rests on the concept of self-referentiality. Postmodern narrative does this by means of being self-referential: as Hutcheon says. On the other hand. which is not problematised. In both cases. therefore.

this assumption does not mean that the conflict between the narrative and the (idea of) extratextual reality should not still be necessary for the fan- tastic effect to take place. Thus. Cristina Fernández Cubas expresses a similar concern in her story “The Angle of Horror”: in order to explain to his sister what is happening to him. a pact of fiction. in fact question the validity of this notion. although this may sound obvious. This allows us to silence certain negative voices that have denied its rele- vance or view it as an outmoded form. It is for this reason Juan José Millás recognises his preference for “those stories which depart from very familiar situations where suddenly c­ hanging an adjective in enough to modify perspectives on that reality which goes from being everyday to being disquieting” (in Casquet 2002). but also to reveal the strangeness of our world. to question this idea. alongside other completely made-up facts. All of this leads us to the conclusion that the fantastic continues to be relevant and have a place within the postmodern literary panorama. this narrative subgenre is characterised by the insertion into the story of various real elements related to the biography of the author (beginning with their own name. which is identical to that of the narrator and protagonist). which we all participate in. However. con- temporary narrative of the fantastic does not attempt to abolish the extra- textual reference (“it will always be the limit by which its transgression is measured”). but rather it attempts to create new referential systems or “alternative worlds” which. on being incorporated into “the real”. the protagonist defines a new perception of the world that he has acquired without knowing how and which greatly disturbs it. the text induces the reader to accept a pact of referentiality but also. As Casas (2012) illustrates. What we must now demonstrate is how the fantastic has transformed itself (whilst still conserving many of its formal and thematic conventions) based on how our dealings with the real have changed. Its essential objective is. As Erdal Jordan (1998: 59–60) points out.   THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    91 one of the most widespread genres in contemporary narrative: autofiction. simultaneously. Contemporary authors employ the fantastic not just to denounce the arbitrary nature of our conception of the real. after all. The contemporary fantastic assumes—as I have already stated—that reality is a product of a construct. it is postmodern literature. Moreover. describing it in the following manner (in his words it is enough to replace the term “house” with “reality” for the text to take on its full dimension): .

and (4) the combination of the fantastic and of humour. Because it was precisely this house. There is nothing to console us in this new perspective on reality. devices and themes: from those who choose more traditional routes to those who explore new forms and motifs that are directly linked to the aesthetic and ideological concerns of postmodernity. Juan Jacinto Muñoz Rengel and Miguel Ángel Zapata. and they have taken on the mantle of develop- ing the fantastic with great confidence. Ángel Olgoso.2 Some of the various aspects that define what we could term the poetics of the fantastic of contemporary authors could be summed up in four essential points: (1) the juxtaposition and conflict of different orders of reality. David Roas. Juxtaposition and Conflict of Different Orders of Reality In contemporary stories of the fantastic this juxtaposition tends not to be established too raucously: minimal alterations in the order of reality in . I would not term this a “generation” (a concept now banished from literary historiography) but rather they share an interest in the fan- tastic short story manifested through a wide variety of styles. all we can see is the horror. I could contemplate it from an unbelievable angle. Pilar Adón. Manuel Moyano. (3) the device of giving voice to the Other. the house we have spent every summer since we were born. José María Merino or Juan José Millás. (2) alterations in identity. Ignacio Ferrando. This list of authors could include (amongst others) Fernando Iwasaki. the house you and I are in right now. Félix J. there was something very strange about it. ROAS It was the house. however. They are the inheritors of the great masters Cristina Fernández Cubas. of turning the narrator into the being on the other side of the real. But. A Sample of New Spanish Writers of the Fantastic In the last decade a great number of Spanish writers born between 1960 and 1975 have opted to cultivate the fantastic as their primary means of expression. Palma. Patricia Esteban Erlés. […] A strange angle which is no less real for all the horror it inspires in me… I know I will never in my life be able to break free from it. but because of some strange gift or punishment.92   D. (Fernández Cubas 1990: 109) The problem of the fantastic is that when we catch a glimpse from that uncanny angle.

this accentuates its normality. however. An excellent example of this sort of narrative can be found in Félix J. above all. the character does so under the weight of the anxiety of knowing they face the incomprehensible but. everything seems to point towards the ­apparent normality of the situation. In spite of all this. this slide from one reality to another is always traumatic because it is impossible. In most instances. he goes to the supermarket and finds that venco does in fact exist and that there is a freezer full of it. She leaves him a recipe pinned to his fridge for “Molinera style Venco”. Palma’s story “Venco a la Molinera” [“Molinera style Venco”] (com- piled in his book El vigilante de la salamandra [The Guardian of the Salamander]. After suffering very bad turbulence on a flight. When Mónica arrives. the protagonist arrives at home. This is when the second strange event takes place: the protagonist states that he would have pre- ferred to cook a chicken.   THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    93 which the protagonist lives end up revealing that a definitive shift towards another reality has taken place which the protagonist must deal with. knowing there is no way back. Everything that takes place in this story stems from encountering an unknown word: the venco from the title. As we might expect. Thus. the protagonist is surprised because he is not familiar with the word venco at all. We get the sensation that they are as lost in one reality as they were in the other. This is a new word which. and this creates the fantastic effect. later it will become clear why I mention this detail). implies a new (and unknown) reference point which in turn brings with it a new order of reality. Again. As we can see. 1998). contrary to his expectations she is not impressed by the venco. Before leaving he had asked his neighbour Berta to look after his flat and recommend a simple recipe with which he can impress his friend Mónica. He suspects that it might be a type of fish or a sophisticated culinary delicatessen. Unlike texts from other eras. but also that it is very simi- lar to chicken. he returns home and begins cooking. the transgression in ordinary language subverts the actual perception of the real. and this is the essential and disquieting part. We might say that for now the prob- lem pertains to the protagonist and not reality. to which Mónica replies that she has never heard . To this end he dons an apron he had bought a few days previously to impress Mónica (and which he considers ridiculous as it is decorated with some incoherent blue chickens. After his purchase. the actions of the characters appear to be less dramatic. Inevitably. This is something the character must absorb with- out ever being able to understand it.

However. thick and short legs and its tail topped with an eye-catching orange feather” (1998: 195). instead the encyclopaedia offers up the word venco in its corresponding alphabetical location: “The definition described it as a young avian born of the hen. She even asks him if it is a type of fish (the same reaction as him when he read the word venco). in the tome ORNI-PROS the word for chicken (pollo) does not appear. and on the other hand. My parents’ bed was really big! Once I took the flashlight from the nightstand and told my sisters that I was going to explore the depths of the cave. And. the story revolves around the verifications and thoughts of the protagonist attempting to understand (and accept) what is happening to him. ROAS of that word. Everything leads him to the conclusion that. Two new fears arise in him: on the one hand (as he discovers). but here it does the opposite (as happened to Borges as the protagonist of “Tlön. A reality very similar to his own. the awful turbulence on his return flight is to blame. that venco may not be the only anomaly in this reality. then they got nervous and ended up . as the reader will have already guessed. although the best game was the cave. and that in the absence of another rational explanation. he is no longer in the same reality and that—using his same words—a “decanting” has taken place between “parallel dimen- sions”. Uqbar. a common dish be it fried or roasted.94   D. At this point his world begins to break down. The very same blue birds that were drawn on the ridiculous apron with which he wanted to impress Mónica. knowing that he will always be out of place because this world is not exactly his but it is where he will be forced to live. in spite of the clear similarities. alongside a sketch depicting it in a corral. Sometimes we played that it was a tent and other times we pretended it was an igloo in the North Pole. Orbis Tertius”). The short short story “La Cueva” [“The Cave”] by Fernando Iwasaki (compiled in Ajuar funerario [Funerary Objects]. its feathers an unexpected light blue. The ency- clopaedia is an instrument that orders and legitimises (as well as institu- tionalises and shares) our reality. 2004) is another excel- lent example of this new reaction from characters in the face of the impos- sible decanting of reality: When I was small I loved to play with my sisters under the sheets in my parent’s bed. At first they laughed. From this point on. as habitable as the original… but without chicken. stuffing itself with seed. The protagonist needs to understand what is going on and refers to an encyclopaedia to demonstrate his friend’s mistake.

  THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    95

screaming out my name. But I paid them no mind and kept crawling until
I couldn’t hear them screaming anymore. The cave was huge and when the
batteries ran out it was impossible to go back. I don’t know how many
years have gone by since then, because my pyjamas are worn out and I have
to tie them around myself like Tarzan.
I hear my mum has died. (Iwasaki 2004: 23)

As we can see, on terming the bed as a cave, it becomes a new reality
thanks to a recurring procedure amongst new authors of the fantastic: the
literalisation of the metaphor (a device I will return to later). Iwasaki’s
text is reminiscent of another disquieting short short story: “El pozo”
[“The Well”] by Luis Mateo Díez, where the narrator-protagonist’s
brother falls down a well and enters a new dimension from which, years
later, he manages to send a surprising message: “This is a world just like
any other”. Although there is an essential difference between both texts,
it enhances the fantastic dimension of Iwasaki’s short short story: the nar-
rator is the impossible voice of the person on the Other side. How then
does it return to us?

Alterations in Identity
Alongside the questioning of the real, the transgression of the traditional
notion of identity is another of the central concerns of new narratives of
the fantastic. These stories offer a portrait of the contemporary individual
as a lost soul, isolated, rootless and unable to adapt to the world, as unfo-
cused as the reality they are forced to exist in (this also leads to the explo-
ration of dark pathologies and eccentric or ridiculous behaviours which,
occasionally border on the Kafkaesque and humorous). They are beings
that seek an unattainable identity as it becomes clear that it is always
­provisional and changing. These are characters adrift in a reality that is a
sea of indecipherable signs, fruitlessly attempting to adapt it to their ideas
and desires, of installing an appearance of order, which they can inhabit
with a degree of peace. Thus, in extreme cases, we even witness the com-
plete dissolution of the self, both by means of transformation into another
being or by losing their physical form and disappearing.
The double, therefore, continues to be a device in constant use.
However, in these cases recent narrators are also developing new means of
exploring a motif as hackneyed as narrative of the fantastic itself (let us
remember “The Sandman” by Hoffmann or “William Wilson” by Poe).

96   D. ROAS

In my view, one of the most innovative and also disquieting variants is
that of the double that is not an identical reflection of the protagonist but
rather an alternative, as if at some point the character’s life had split down
two paths developing independently and simultaneously. Rather than
duplicated beings in the traditional sense, we might say that these are
“forked” beings. In many instances, in an ironic twist, this forked double
leads a better life, which by comparison leads the protagonist to the con-
clusion that their life is a failure.
This is what happens in “Roger Lévy y sus reflejos” [“Roger Lévy and
his reflections”], by Ignacio Ferrando (compiled in Sicilia, invierno [Sicily,
Winter], 2008), a genuine transgression of the traditional motif of the
doppelganger, where the protagonist does not face a single double, a sin-
gle fork in the unfolding of his life, but many. The story begins in an
apparently classic style: Roger Lévy is about to begin a duel with his dou-
ble (a  scene which is clearly influenced by the end of Poe’s “William
Wilson”). While the judge counts to ten, the narrator tells the whole story.
At the start of the First World War, the protagonist is hesitating between
enlisting and staying in his village beside his beloved Laurie. He finally
chooses to enlist, a decision that leads to the appearance of another Roger
who remains in the village with Laurie (although the original will only find
out about his existence much later). The narrator explains the phenome-
non in the following terms: “Clearly when someone takes a decision they
are renouncing something, another life, a series of events that will cease to
belong to them. The problem arises when this something takes the liberty
of becoming a sentient entity and wanders around as a duplicate, as an
identical copy that no one would be able to tell from the original”
(Ferrando 2008: 68).
However, this is not the end of the story, nor does it explain the duel
with which the story opens. Once the war is over, the forks succeed one
another: every time that Roger the soldier shows an interest in another
woman, the memory of Laurie (his guilt) comes to mind which leads him
to leave the new woman. At the same time, this generates a new fork and
thus a new double: “he had been duplicating himself, scattering the world
with reflections of himself that enjoyed a life they had stolen from him”
(2008: 76). Sick of all the duplicates, Roger the soldier decides to track
them all down and kill them.
Once this disturbing mission has been achieved, he becomes convinced
(no one has told him anything, how could they?) that Laurie has married
the Roger who stayed in the village. Therefore, he decides to return home

  THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    97

to finish off the last of his reflections and restore order to his life. The story
ends—as we might expect—with the death of the last two (or first two)
Roger Lévys during the duel.
As we can see, the reference to “William Wilson” is once again invoked.
The big difference is that Ferrando’s story does not revolve around the
traditional pressure of an evil alter ego or a double who intends to replace
us, as happens in Poe’s story or in José María Merino’s “El derrocado”
[“The Deposed”], to cite but one other example. Additionally, Ferrando
does not use the motif of the double to reveal expects of ourselves
unknown to us (Jekyll and Hyde). “Roger Lévy and his Reflections” rup-
tures the expected binary of the double (intensifying its fantastic dimen-
sion) to lead us to a disturbing reflection that subjects the common notion
of identity: which one of all of them is the real Roger Lévy? Moreover, can
there be a true Roger Lévy? How can we determine who is real and who
the impostor?
As Coates (1988: 35) points out, throughout the twentieth century the
divisibility of the self is no longer debated, inevitably affecting its represen-
tation. However, at the same time the fissures in the self are multiplied and
become a multitude of impulses that cannot be conceptualised in a single
other. Instead we see many others and, in all cases, the appearance of the
double of oneself will be a banal fact of everyday life rather than a sinister
presence. This is why the double, as Vilella (2007: 196) adds, functions
very well in postmodern narrative: it represents a depth charge targeting
the integrity of the individual and as it is inconceivable it is an ideal instru-
ment to generate doubts regarding what is (or what we consider to be)
conceivable.
Stories about the double relate directly to others that also reflect on
identity, above all the loss of identity. We may also identify thematic and
formal variants that depart from classic motifs but represent a new spin on
the issue.
Thus, we may view stories where characters suffer a metamorphosis in
the same light (usually this is manifested by means of a process of animal-
ization) or exchange of bodies (which in turn implies and exchange of
identities). Nevertheless, there are occasions in which they do not experi-
ence the process directly but are witnesses to them, which lead them in
most cases to be the victims of these monsters. This is what happens in
Iwasaki’s overwhelming short short story “La ratonera” [“The Mouse
Trap”] (in Funerary Objects):

not surprisingly. The door won’t open. the protagonist is surprised by the strange appearance of the passengers. One resembled a rabbity gorilla while another had a mousy expression with small glassy eyes and a marmot festooned with necklaces was picking at her nails until her little worm-like fingers were raw. rabbits. Iwasaki is once again playing with the device of literalisation of the metaphors and com- paratives. This lady was sucking in air through her incisors. (Iwasaki 2004: 81–82) As we already saw in his short short story “The Cave”. The bus suddenly emerged from the mist. Beside her. The boy with the popcorn wants to be the first one to take a bite. is deserted when she arrives. On board- ing the bus. rounded heads and teeth designed for gnawing and destroying. The noise com- ing from a lady opposite me dragged me from my daydreams.98   D. the reader is not expecting what Iwasaki does next. Her expression was unpleasant. The text opens using clichés recognisable to the reader. How could he wolf down so much food? He looked like a hamster with a neck full of peas. hamsters. the protagonist has just missed the last bus and not only has to take one that passes at midnight (a clichéd time if ever there was one). marmots…). once the bus arrives “through the mist”. As I paid the driver. I thought of the driver’s plush gaze. scrunching up her nose and lifting her upper lip. I was overwhelmed by his gaze that resembled that of a sad stuffed toy. generat- ing certain expectations regarding the possible unfolding of the story towards a horror story. which inevitably leads her to think of different shapes and sizes of rodents (squirrels. However. like an obese squir- rel. Little by little I noted with unease the uncanny air of kin all the passen- gers on the bus shared: they all had noses moistened with sweat. we know that nothing good can happen. Thus. but also to top it all off the stop where she must board the bus is at a place called “Plaza de las Ánimas” (Square of the Souls) which. There was no one at the stop and the cold was condensing ghosts that arose in sinister breaths. I mused that this might resemble the Cheshire cat wearing a disconsolate expression and I sat thoughtfully in the first seat I came to. swollen cheeks. ROAS I missed the last bus and had to walk to Plaza de las Ánimas to take the midnight bus. monsters that . a little boy with enormous front teeth was voraciously dis- patching a tub of popcorn. I heard the dental breathing that echoed around the bus and I decided to get off that mouse-trap at the next stop. like a decrepit bear or a rat wanting to better itself. However—as hap- pened with the bed that became a cave—what appeared to be simple com- parisons become reality: the passengers become animals. With this opening.

As Tahiche Rodríguez (2010) points out. eaten by an ineffa- ble creature that emerges from the toilet. 2002) by Ángel Olgoso. b) the literal sense of a figurative expression in lexicalized sentences: in “Macao” (Cuentos de otro mundo [Tales from Another World]. resignification and versatility of the deictics—Casas makes it clear that the contemporary fantastic is not just a semantic phenomenon but also linguistic (as we saw in Chap. once the ambigu- ity has disappeared. given that in many stories the fantastic transgression takes place on the level of enunciation. from the hairdryer to her new boyfriend. […] Only at the end. a phenomenon of ‘resignification’ . where the known kleptomania of the magpie is exaggerated to an impossible extent as the story sees all sorts of things stolen from the narrator. 2008) by Miguel Ángel Zapata. prior to perishing in the toilets at a gas station. Based on examining three essential processes—semantic impertinence. Ana Casas (2008) and (2010) has demonstrated the importance of lin- guistic transgression as a key device in the creation of the fantastic in con- temporary Spanish short short stories.   THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    99 end up attacking her. d) and comparison: for instance. as in “Desposesión” [“Dispossession”] (in Baúl de prodigios [The Trunk of Wonders]. 5). one of Fernando Iwasaki’s best and most ironic short short stories. in “Dulces de convento” [“Convent Sweets”] (Ajuar funerario [Funerary Objects]). “precisely because they function within an aesthetic-literary context that allows […] the imposi- tion of a linguistic reality on an empirical reality represented in the text”. two apparently disconnected orders are juxtaposed: the “black. has walked down a “corridor devoured by the shadows” without suspecting that this was precisely the destiny that awaited him (to be devoured). cruel and agile” dogs that protect the convent and the apparently harmless nuns who live within. 2004) where the charac- ter. thanks to the use of simile. does the reader understand that the nuns possess the ability to become furious dogs and will we be able to decipher the meaning (in this case literal) of the comparisons that have been made throughout the story. […] c) the metaphorical image: predictive in the case of Fernando Iwasaki’s “W. the ­literalisation becomes a central device in tales of the fantastic that base their construction on linguistic transgression.” (Ajuar funerario [Funerary Objects]. Therefore. This article proposes an insightful systematization of the vari- ous ways in which the device of the literalisation of the metaphor is used: a) hyperbole.C. where it rains cats and dogs.

There is a very simple reason for this: the fantastic being is beyond the real. therefore. The fantastic story has always come to us from the same perspective: the human voice. Giving voice to the impossible represents a radical transgression of one of the traditional conventions of the fantastic because “the other. ROAS has taken place—the term was coined by Paz Soldán (2009)—which has produced a semantic displacement that has transgressed linguistic doxa. there is a much more disturbing fact: “This change in perspective allows us to place ourselves on the other side. beyond the human and. vampires or revenants) or by individuals who have lost their humanities and have metamorphosed into monsters. reducing their ‘otherness’. The stories I am currently analysing radically invert this situation and generate a dual effect that was unthinkable in other eras: on the one hand giving voice to the Other implies humanising them and bringing them closer to the reader. where the narrators tell their stories from the new dimension they now inhabit.100   D. We are the fantastic” (Muñoz Rengel 2010: 10). “that of the protagonists—a victim of those undesirable encounters with creatures from the other side—or that of an external and neutral narrator but who nevertheless is placed in a homogenous space. Its perspective on the action did not interest us because we were reflected in the human—the protagonist—who suffered the assaults of the impossible being. a metaphorical space to which the reader also belongs” (Campra 1991: 57). to the being that has crossed beyond the frontiers of the real. is the appearance of many stories that give voice to the Other. in the hidden dimension. has always been the source of the conflict and danger. directly related to the new paradigm of reality and the post-modern vision of the self which I have already referred to. This is a device we have already seen in stories such as Palma’s “Molinera style Venco” or Iwasaki’s “The Cave”. Voices from the Other Side One of the general symptoms of this exploration of new paths for the cre- ation of the fantastic. both historically and fictionally. This grouping of stories also includes those narrated by beings who have returned from the great beyond (usually in the form of ghosts. is aphasic to those who judge it based on reality itself” (Campra 1991: 59). All of this explains why the stories where the narrative voice belongs to the fantastic being are not common until very recently (although there are . on the other.

the Other through their discourse makes us the accomplice in their experiences and feelings. but the frontier is still . Merino. However. the voice that speaks to us is that of the murdered little girl. adding another degree of impos- sibility—of fantasticity—to the story: “A vampire telling us his story shows the collapse of the frontier between life and death. it has only been since the works of Fernández Cubas. reducing their other- ness as I have already indicated. But it does. intensifying the hor- rifying scope of the story (the infant narrator is another recurring device in recent stories of the fantastic). For this reason. Muriel Spark or Ann Rice). such as “Día de difuntos” [“Day of the Dead”]. Thus. in the latter. 2008. 2010). Enrique Anderson Imbert. perfectly at home (sometimes even satisfied) by their new condition: this is what we see in Miguel Ángel Zapata’s short short story “La verdad sobre la transmigración de las almas” [“Truth in the Transmigration of the Souls”] (in Baúl de prodigios [The Trunk of Wonders] 2008). this does not imply that the reader takes on the situation posed in the story as something normal. 2) Narratives where the voices from the other side tell us their stories as terrible monsters. Millás or Marías that the device has become ever-present in contemporary narrative of the fan- tastic. where an individual is transformed thanks to a transfu- sion of leopard blood into a form of human-feline hybrid. or in several texts narrated by ghosts (“La mujer de blanco” [“The Woman in White”] or “La casa embrujada” [“The Haunted House”] amongst many others) or vampires (“Réquiem por el ave madrugadora” [“Requiem for the Early Bird”]) that Iwasaki compiles in his Funerary Objects.   THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    101 important precursors by Horacio Quiroga. “La habit- ación maldita” [“The Cursed Room”] and “No hay que hablar con extraños” [“You Shouldn’t Talk to Strangers”]. communication with it should not take place. which tends to use one of two main strategies: 1) Stories that reveal the disconsolate or perplexed state of the character facing their new condition (from which there is no way back as in the aforementioned stories) as occurs in “Cantalobos” and “Hungry for your Love”. Speaking of the panorama in Spain. as the presence (existence) of that being is still perceived as impossible. This humanises them. or in several of Iwasaki’s short short stories from Funerary Objects. and Azul ruso [Russian Blue]. by Patricia Esteban Erlés (compiled respectively in Manderley en venta [Manderley on Sale]. some- thing beyond their conception of the real.

The Fantastic and Humour To conclude. As a result of this process. turns reading into a fantastic act. As I have already pointed out. Humour. Thanks to the distance (intensified by devices such as hyperbole. using humour would (apparently) contradict the main struc- tural and pragmatic features that define the fantastic: to introduce this . ROAS there and this demolition is still a rational scandal because the world that the text has erected is—and still is—a world that responds to the principle of non-contradiction” (Campra 1991). I would like to focus on another recurring feature visible in many contemporary authors: the unexpected (and effective) combination of the fantastic with irony and parody. This is because the basic objective is to subvert the conception of the real. as they also feel that their own idea of the real has been transgressed by the fantastic phenomenon that erupts in the world of the fiction. This causes the empathy. the world the character inhabits (and by extension. Therefore. As Henri Bergson (1900) says. to be able laugh we need “a momentary anesthesia of the heart”. emotional (and intellectual) attachment of the receiver with the characters in the story. at the same time. the fantastic or the tragic to provoke the receiver’s laughter. incongruence or par- ody). however. Thus. Black humour shows the absolute need and efficiency of this distancing as the comic in this case is mixed with elements drawn from the terrifying. also the reader) ceases to be familiar and becomes something incompre- hensible and therefore threatening. This is a combination that at first glance should not work. commiseration or similar emotions instead have a humorous effect. pity. which. depends on a process that is the reverse of the prior description: for someone to laugh they need to be distanced from the object of their laughter. the fantastic is based on the confronta- tion between the real and the impossible and for this to take place the stories are always set in a world that functions just like the reader’s. certain themes and arguments that would otherwise—from another perspective—cause terror. The voice that comes from the other side—and the fact that we can even hear it—subverts the codes we have designed for thinking and understanding reality. the impossible emerges from the emission itself. That is. they need their emotional attachment (their empathy) to be reduced or absent with regards to the being that is the object of their laughter. in this sort of story.102   D.

  THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    103

distance facing the narrated events would cause the disappearance of—
similar to what we saw with the grotesque (Chap. 3)—the necessary iden-
tification between reader and character that is established in all stories of
the fantastic, both in terms of the emotional attachment of the former and
the projection of their conception of reality in the text. This establishes
what we might call a “safety distance” between us and the impossible and
would strip the narrated story of its possible fantastic effect.
However, this does not happen in the stories I am referring to, nor does
it happen in some of Calvino, Monterroso or Cortázar’s stories (in par-
ticular in his Cronopios y Famas)—to cite three famous examples. These
stories are not designed to make us laugh out loud, as this would cancel
out the fantastic effect in favour of the comic: the distance required by
humour nullifies the transgressive and disquieting effect of the impossible
story. I should insist that the fantastic always implies a projection towards
the world of the reader as it demands cooperation, and at the same time as
it envelops them in the narrative universe.
This explains why so many recent authors of the fantastic employ pri-
marily irony and parody and not pure comedy (Roas 2014a), as these are
both humorous devices which intend to question the supposed order of
the conventions on which reality3 is based, an effect that the fantastic also
pursues, albeit obviously using other means. Thus, the combination of the
fantastic with irony and/or parody intensifies the distorting effect of the
story without the narrated phenomenon losing its quality of impossibility,
given that such devices are never placed ahead of the main objective of the
fantastic: to transgress the reader’s conviction regarding the real, projected
in the fiction of the text and thus to provoke their disquiet. Initially we
might smile at the absurd notion of a world without chicken that is posed
in “Molinera style Venco”, as well as the—often ridiculous—reactions of
the protagonist. However, the smile dies on our lips when we understand
the dispiriting purpose of this story when we inevitably share his anxiety
faced with the dissolution of his reality, because it is our own. We may also
smile at the ingenious comparisons that Iwasaki’s bus passenger comes up
with, until it becomes clear that she is not seeing grotesquely deformed
human beings but actual monsters that end up devouring her.
However, irony and parody are not only employed to intensify the dis-
tortion of the real. These devices are also used by authors seeking new
means of expression for the fantastic, new forms of carrying out an (always)
necessary updating of its motifs and conventions. As I already pointed out,
the history of the fantastic has been marked by the need to surprise the

104   D. ROAS

reader, which forced creators to hone their wits to come up with uncanny
motifs and situations that can rupture our expectations. If we examine the
history of the fantastic, we will see that its evolution has always been con-
ditioned by two intimately related aspects: a progressive and unceasing
intensification of the everyday, linked to a constant search for new ways of
communicating and objectifying the impossible.
Irony and parody are therefore two ways of giving new life to devices,
themes and clichés that have been overused both in literature and cinema
of the fantastic. Thus, motifs, which, if handled traditionally would appear
hackneyed or worn-out (and therefore predictable) are renovated by
means of the ironic and/or parodic treatment without this implying the
loss of its disquieting dimension. These are not humorous stories.
For example, thanks to a parodic game (necessarily intertextual) many
of these stories are structured around intelligently playing with clichés in
order to challenge the reader’s expectations as aroused by their familiarity
with these clichés. This is what happens in Iwasaki’s excellent “La mujer
de blanco” [“The Woman in White”] (in Funerary Objects):

When I told them that I had seen a woman dressed in white drifting amongst
the headstones, a frozen silence of lost souls overwhelmed us. Why did they
keep coming back after so many blessings, spells and exorcisms?
After all, the woman in white was a friendly apparition, always holding a
bunch of flowers in her hands and as if floating through the mist, but all the
same we fell upon her as she passed by the crypt.
She never again returned to leave flowers in the old cemetery. (2004: 26)

As we can see, what the clichéd title appears to announce is inverted in the
text, thanks to playing with the reader’s expectations when faced with
weighted images from fantastic tradition, as the truly impossible phenome-
non is not the woman from the title, that “woman dressed in white drifting
amongst the headstones”, that “friendly apparition […] as if floating through
the mist”, which is what Iwasaki wants the reader to believe. The ironic
inversion, playing with clichés, the cruel joke at the hands of the ghosts,
which the poor woman is the subject of, and the resultant amused surprise of
the reader are factors which clearly do not cancel out the uncanny dimension
of the story. We still witness an impossible event (this is the essence of all
these types of stories). We must add another essential aspect that intensifies
the fantasticity of the story, as we saw in the previous section: the voice that
narrates is on the Other side; it is the fantastic being itself that recounts this
outrageous adventure to us. It represents another spin on the impossible.

  THE FANTASTIC IN POSTMODERNITY    105

Notes
1. The protagonist in Gibson’s story, travelling across the United States in
search of examples of “retro-futurist” architecture of the 30s and 40s, is
assaulted by visions of machines, buildings and beings that respond to this
style and which cannot be where he finds them. His friend Kihn, a specialist
in paranormal phenomena, UFOs, and so on, explains the reason for his
hallucinations: “If you want a classier explanation, I’d say you saw a semiotic
ghost. All these contactee stories, for instance, are framed in a kind of sci-fi
imagery that permeates our culture. I could buy aliens, but not aliens that
look like Fifties’ comic art. They’re semiotic phantoms, bits of deep cultural
imagery that have split off and taken on a life of their own, like the Jules
Verne airships that those old Kansas farmers were always seeing. But you saw
a different kind of ghost, that’s all. That plane was part of the mass uncon-
scious, once. You picked up on that, somehow. The important thing is not
to worry about” (1986: 29–30).
2. About the contemporary Spanish fantastic narrative see Roas and Casas
(2008: 41–52) and (2016), Roas and López-Pellisa (2014) and Roas
(2017b).
3. As Linda Hutcheon (1988) points out, the generalised scepticism that char-
acterises the postmodern rhetorically translates into the device of irony,
parody and play, employed to indict various basic concepts: the authority of
institutions, the unity of the self, and the coherence and borders between
discourses, genders, arts and disciplines. A rupture and response to the
established is thus formulated.

as it fundamentally depends on the effect that the fantastic fiction inspires in its receiver. formal or even stylistic concerns. Keywords  The fantastic • Mimesis • Supernatural literature • Uncanny As will have become clear throughout the preceding chapters. structural. the definition of the fantastic that I am proposing is clearly pragmatic. https://doi. formal or even stylistic concerns. as it fundamentally depends on the effect that the fantastic fiction inspires in its receiver. beyond any thematic. and (2) for this conflict to be clear. Roas. the definition of the fantastic that I am proposing is clearly pragmatic.1007/978-3-319-73733-1_7 . Behind the Frontiers of the Real. © The Author(s) 2018 107 D. structural. My definition is thus based on two basic premises: (1) the effect of the fantastic arises from the conflict between the impossible and the possible. CHAPTER 7 Conclusions At the edges of things we do not fully comprehend we invent fantastic tales to suggest hypotheses or to share the vertigo of our bafflement with others. beyond any thematic.org/10. Adolfo Bioy Casares Abstract  As will have become clear throughout the preceding chapters. the fictional world is always a reflection of the extratextual world because the impossible is identified as such by confronting it with our idea of the real (or the possible).

so just as occurs with the marvellous and. beyond its formal and thematic features. the discourse of the fantastic is a discourse in constant intertextual relation with the discourse of reality. Finally.108   D. This is also what differentiates the fantastic from other non-mimetic categories such as the marvellous. the receiver projects their vision of the external world on the fictional world to interpret what is happening within it. Consuming fiction implies connect- ing it to our experience of the world. We know that a fiction is fantastic due to its conflicting relation- ship with empirical reality. In other words. the impossible—the supernatural—does not take place in such works because everything that occurs in the fictional world is natural provided that we read these events within their own conditions of reality). ROAS In other words. the fantastic. be it a fantastic text or “realist” (mimetic). science fiction proposes an expansion of our framework of reality by means of scientific speculation (present or future. to a certain extent. Meanwhile. understood as a cultural construct. while the fantastic is articulated by means of the disquiet- ing incursion of the impossible in a world similar to that of the receiver. this does not mean that the reader will whimsically determine the fantastic qualities of a work. Therefore. is built—as I have argued—with the purpose of subverting the idea of extratextual reality. which creates a curious hybrid of the fantastic and the marvellous. the objective (and purpose) of all work of the fantastic is to transgress our concept of the real. but rather that every fiction of the fantastic. Thus. magical realism creates a harmonious coexistence between the natural and the uncanny in an everyday world. science fiction or magical realism. It is essential to bear in mind the reception of the text because—and I insist—the effect of the fantastic is fundamentally directed towards the receiver: the impossible phenomenon has no other purpose than to make us question our idea of reality. the fantastic will always depend on what we consider to be real and the real directly stems from what we know. strictly speaking. always based . in my view. in which this subversion does not take place and there- fore no fantastic effect (uncanny or disquieting) is generated in the receiver. the (apparently) impossible ceases to be perceived as such as it has a logical explanation. the marvellous aims to create an autonomous world governed by a set of rules that function radically differently to those of empirical reality (thus. more than any other category (or genre). human or alien). with magical reality. we cannot limit our reception to the intratextual reality. However. It is clear that in every process of reception. This implies that when we consume works of the fantastic. forces us to consume text refer- entially. However.

2 Two other all-encompassing proposals are slightly closer to the mark as although they both construct a macro-category gathering various forms of non-mimetic expression. Thus. the marvellous. proposed all non-realist fiction as fantastic. who in a work now considered a classic. works of science fiction appear alongside fairy tales and Edgar Allan Poe along- side Lewis Carroll” (Bozzetto 2002: 35). including two genres as distant from the impossible as crime novels and science fiction. magical realism and science fiction under a single heading. This macro-category is too vague and confusing due to its scope. in the English-speaking world the term fantasy has arisen as a non-mimetic macro-category: “a set of works that may appear to be het- eroclite and which refer to the imaginary in its various states.  CONCLUSIONS   109 on certain scientific and technological developments presented as possible within the strict margins of the text. Thus. all-­ encompassing theoretical approaches have proliferated in an attempt— from different perspectives—to gather together the fantastic. Approaches such as that of Rabkin (1976) could be included in this framework. All three retain a thematic restriction: the fictional universe described in each case is not intended as . Fantasy and science fiction: two literatures of the imaginary] (1992). Berthelot (2006) goes even further and “divides the literatures of the imaginary into three greater genres by order of historical appearance: the marvellous. the fantastic and science fiction. the problem is that he places any form of narrative that moves away from our agreed concept of reality within the term fantasy. they do not confuse the functionality of the vari- ous “types” they cover. as if all of these forms could compose a single category. when these categories present very different means of transgressing the limits of mimetic realism. in spite of the great differences between the four categories (although they do share some common features). The Fantastic in Literature. This can be seen for instance in Roger Bozetto’s L’obscur objet d’un savoir. as it does not bear in mind the functionality and effect of the different “variants” that it includes. It is therefore surprising that.1 Meanwhile. Hume (1984) used the concepts of mimesis and fantasy to define the two basic narrative impulses in western fiction: either imitate reality or move away from it. Once again. On the one hand are the works which employ the concept of littéra- tures de l’imaginaire coined by francophone criticism to encompass the various literary genres that subvert the frontiers of the real. Fantastique et science-fiction: deux littératures de l’imaginaire [The obscure object of a knowledge.

when they are more different than similar.110   D. Basing himself on Furtado’s thesis. which appear recurrently in the work of various Portuguese and Brazilian researchers. This explains how García also establishes clear differences between the fantastic. incoher- ent being. the marvellous. the strange. On the other hand are the concepts of literatura do sobrenatural [supernatural literature] and insólito [uncanny]. which would encompass (arguing for its common fea- tures) an infinite number of genres. in particular the marvellous. the presence of the uncanny would make it possible to establish clear similarities between various genres and/or modes that propose a subversion of the conventions with which we think and represent reality. unusual. situation or phenomenon which subverts everyday expecta- tions). although proposing to link them via the concept of the uncanny (García 2012. as inevitably it turns them all into mere variants of a greater form. . Furtado himself proposes the category of the modal fantastic. ROAS a mimesis of the real world but instead breaks away from it by means of the introduction of one or more divergent elements that exceed the limits of the possible in this world. a systemic arch-structure—defined by its opposition to the real-naturalist system—this would include several forms of non-mimetic literature as subgenres (in line with Furtado’s the- sis): from the strictly fantastic (I will use my own definition: stories articu- lated by means of a conflict between the possible and the impossible in a world like ours) to magical realism and the marvellous. I believe that applying the same label to such different forms of non-­ mimetic expression (in terms of objectives and above all effects) as the fantastic. The way in which Berthelot presents these genres relies on Darko Suvin’s definition of distanced fiction although it does not mention it” (Steimberg 2013: 121). the marvel- lous and magical realism. sometimes this macro-­ category ends up being termed with the same name given to one of these variants (the fantastic is the most common). As if this were not enough. Confronted with these theoretical approaches. a very unscientific decision that only serves to further confuse the issue. magical realism and science fiction does not help to improve our understanding of how they all function. Conceiving of a macro-genre. abnormal. some stronger than oth- ers. Thus. the fantastic and science fiction. The former is used by Furtado (1980: 21) “to generically classify all works that employ uncanny phenomenology”. 2013). Flavio García has developed his own theoretical thought on the insólito (a strange.

does not prevent us from continu- ing to produce and consume works of the fantastic today. philosophy. concepts which are central to my definition of the fantastic. The pragmatic concept of the fantastic that I defend explains the struc- ture to the chapters of this book. To undertake this journey it was essential to rely on the assistance of physics. it is first necessary to ask what idea of reality we are dealing with. to understand the implications of the confrontation between the real and the impossible which defines the fantastic. However. its function and its effects. this reflection on the real is essential to determine by con- trast the frontiers of the possible and the impossible. is and will be to reflect on (our idea of) reality and its frontiers. the fantastic from its very origins opens a constant debate with extratextual reality: its fundamental objective was. related to this. Therefore. which may be more or less isolated. quantum mechanics. where I deal with the concept of the impossible based on an examination of the function of the fantastic compared to other non-mimetic categories: the Christian marvellous. None of these categories—even though they meet with the fantastic in their desire to transcend the limits of mimetic realism—generate the disquieting effect . the grotesque. This leads us to Chap. To be able to deal with this complex issue it was necessary to take the reader on a quick journey from the beginnings of the fantastic in the nineteenth century—a period marked by a stable and mechanical (Newtonian) idea of reality—up to the conventional or even arbitrary (but shared) vision of the real that post-modernism advocated and which. are very different. As I argue. an overlooked aspect in most prior studies on the fantastic. as I have already pointed out. Chapter 2 aims to reflect on how our idea of reality has determined—by contrast—what we consider impossible and therefore fantastic. a commercial identity (these books tend to occupy the same space in bookshops). and which have no place in the empirical (real) world” (Steimberg 2013: 121). Compared to them all. 3. neurobiology and cyberculture. on our awareness of it and on the validity of the tools that we have developed to understand and represent it. 6. magical realism.  CONCLUSIONS   111 This does not mean that there are no connections between the various aforementioned non-mimetic categories: they all “share a certain reader- ship and. as I later suggest in Chap. science fiction and various forms of what have been termed the “pseudo-fantastic”. In fact the feature common to all of them is not hard to spot: all suggest worlds in which elements appear.

Bozzetto. and is present in many fictional genres that seek to startle the receiver by purely natural means. Lord. a by-product of that transgression of our idea of the real which I have been arguing in favour of throughout this work. Erdal Jordan. This translates into a sensation of disquiet in characters and. discursive and structural recourses common to narratives of the fantastic are not exclusive to the category. This also leads me in this chapter to ask if there is a specific language for the fantastic. As I have been argu- ing. If the fantas- tic phenomenon is always impossible to understand and therefore explain. ROAS that is the hallmark of the fantastic. my intention here is not to define the fantastic purely based on the use of fear but rather suggest that this is a necessary condition for the creation of the fantastic as it is its essential effect. However. as I explain in the chapter. above all. in the receiver. The former is related to physical threats. These thoughts on reality and the intervention of the impossible in the framework of such reality lead us to another concept which is central to my definition: that of fear. In conclusion—in line with other preceding theorists who have already reflected on these issues (Todorov. there is no substantial difference between literature of the . as none of them set out to subvert our idea of reality (their objectives and functions. In the words of Wittgenstein: “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”. 4. this disquieting experience provoked by the fantastic is very dif- ferent to what is generated by other genres and aesthetic categories. 5 I deal with a strictly literary issue—language—but the formal and thematic implications of which may be applied to other artistic media. Belevan. However. in Chap.112   D. Campra. this also implies that many stories subvert the frontiers of language as the phenomenon exceeds the possibility of describing or representing it. amongst others)—the rhetorical. Bellemin-Noël. the fantastic is the only aesthetic category that provokes what I have termed “metaphysical fear”: a disquieting experience that may be experienced by the characters but which is primarily directed at the reader and which takes place—once again—when our convictions regarding the functionality of the real cease to operate. This is what led me to propose a distinction between “physical fear” and “meta- physical fear”. From a linguis- tic perspective. Unlike this sort of work. to which I devote Chap. are very different). the fantastic is a category that presents phenomena and situations that are a transgression of our conception of the real as they are impossible or unexplainable phenomena according to such conception. Bessière. After proposing this theory on fear and the fantastic. death and the materially horrible.

crucially. However. ballad. short story. narratives of the fantastic are highly dependent on a notion of the extratextual that defines it as an expression of a confirmed reality. 6 returns to the question posed at the start of the book on the validity of such a category in contemporary fiction. Traill’s approach is very different: departing from the theory of possible worlds. After exploring the four concepts I consider essential to define the meaning. using both literature and cinema. the contemporary fantastic assumes that reality is a product of a construct we all participate in. Notes 1. we must not forget that—as Erdal Jordan pointed out—in spite of these linguistic transgressions. This is so because the world of contemporary fiction of the fantastic continues to be our world. Our codes of reality—arbitrary. but also they always act as a counterpoint or contrast to phenomena whose impos- sible presence problematises the precarious order or disorder in which we pretend to live more or less at peace. As I have tried to demonstrate. we continue to see ourselves depicted within it. to question this idea. she describes the fantastic as a “universal aesthetic cate- gory” that is manifested through any type of artistic expression: “It may be a play. function and effect of the fantastic (the real. fear and language). but this does not imply that the conflict between what is narrated and the extratextual idea of reality does not remain necessary for the fantastic effect to take place because its essential objective is. or perhaps a symphony or an opera” (1996: 7). we may find it in the form of a painting or a statue. See also Cornwell (1990) and Attebery (1992) on the concept of fantasy. made up but. 2. Chap. To sum up. novel. the impossible. it is always—and above all—a phenom- enon of perception. shared—not only don’t cease to function when we consume fiction of the fantastic.  CONCLUSIONS   113 fantastic and mimetic literature: there is no language of the fantastic in itself. although the fantastic may manifest itself as a linguistic phenomenon. after all. Nancy B. rather a way of using language that generates a fantastic effect. .

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19. 65 C Baudelaire.. Roas. 50. 19. 14 Beckmann.. 31 Calvino... H. L. Austen. 64. F. 20. 18 Bozzetto. 52. Anderson Imbert. P. M. 7 Berthelot. 42 “Qui sait?”. 75. 30. J.. 49.. Borges. 57 75. 38 Baronian. Anna Laetitia. R. J. 65. 49 Barthes. I. 65. 54. D. 110 Alazraki. 77. 54. 16 See also Lovecraft. 99 Bonaparte. 71 Belevan. 112 Autofiction.. 35. 49. 35 109. 7 B Buzzati. R. 56–59.. I. 103 © The Author(s) 2018 123 D.. 4. 38. J.1007/978-3-319-73733-1 . 70. 109.-B. 37. 75. https://doi. 60... Bozal. V. Index A Bécquer. 85 Bessière. 77 Addison. E. E. I... 75. J. Behind the Frontiers of the Real... F... 13. Boileau. 24. 12 Burke.. J. 102 Aikin. A. M.. 13 Calinescu. J.. J. T. G. 77 Aikin. 101 53. 43. 68 Bontempelli. 59. 43 Asimov. 18 Bruner. 50. N. 31 Bakhtin. 27. 49 Baudrillard.... 77 Ambiguity. 91 Brown. 64.org/10. 7 Bellemin-Noël.. 52. 57.. J. R... 74. 37. R. 10. 74. 39–41. J.. M... M. 31 See also Todorov. 7 Bergson. 46–48. C. 58 Absurd. 6 77. H.. H. 54.. 68. M. 94 Archetypal fantastic. 8. 48. 70 Bouvet. Anguish. 39 Caillois. 55.

23. 77. L. 47. 31 See also Metaphysical fear.. 13 Ferrando. G.. 40.. 66. 31 Fernández Cubas. 8. 14. 102 71. 12 Fantastic of Language. 103 49.. 35 Constructivist philosophy. 24.. 31 Gautier. 16. 97 Dick.. 35 Cyberculture. 82. 54. 77–82 Fantastic transgression.. 20. 39. 66–68.-G.. M. 7 G García Márquez. J... 39. 11 Dickens. P.. J. J. Delumeau.. A. 46 Physical fear Derain. N. 55.. 59. Everyday fantastic. 25. Enlightenment. 11.. 85 Díez.. 4. 77–79. 71–73. 37 Chamisso. 52. Einstein. G. 77–82 cyberspace. J. N. 50 70–74. P. 91. 100.. 58. 28. 12. Fantastic explained. 64. W. 50. 79 Fernández Mallo. 16–18.. 91 Gibson. 92 Derrida.. 52. 12 See also Pseudo-fantastic cyberpunk. 71. P. 31 “La noche de Jezabel”.. 77. 54 See also Metaphysical fear See also Lovecraft. 95–97 See also Uncanny “Roger Lévy y sus reflejos”. 101. J. A. 34.. 5–7 89. 35. 70. 80. 1.. 70. S. 48. 51 Drake. 47 Double. 5. 44. 64–67. 18–21. 103 Cosmic terror. 109 Evolution of the fantastic. 100. 97 Fabre.. 50–52. 89 Esteban Erlés. 24. 4 Feynman. 43 .. 92. 51 F Coates. 88. C. Carroll.. W. 46–61.. 82... 79. 17. T. 89 Deutsch. L. P. 12 Fear. see Fantastic D effect Damasio. 104 Carrà.. 58. 101 Goethe. 8 Everett. 92. 6. 49. A. 10 Gogol.. 104 Erdal Jordan. 67. 36 Finné. 10. 71–74 Carroll. A.. 96. 43. 80–81 Fantastic of perception. 91. 79. 9. A. J. 91. 95 Freud. 48. von. 70. 52. 46. R. 70 De Chirico. F. 25. 110 The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.. D. 9 52.124   INDEX Campra. 37. 57.. 60. P. R.. 36. 11 Fantastic effect. 26. 96 Furtado. 99 Castex. C. 13 “Axolotl”. 50 E Ghost. M. Cortázar. 104 Casas. G.. 78. H. K. 91. I.. H. N. 41. C. 59–61.

47–49. 20. 76. 24. 52. F. D. 110 Impossible. 52. 64 Mellier. 49.. 8. 48. 101 . 7 Greene. 94. 8. 99 Humour. 10. 16. 54. 36. 58. 95. 67.. 75 Herrero Cecilia. 18.. Horror. 11 Kayser. 13 frontiers. 98 operators of confusion. 66 Kafka.. 10. N. J. 46. 34 Ligotti. 34 Kaku. 17 Insólito. 93. Inexplicable.. 11. 17 J Maturin. 14–16.. 8. 71 Lewis. K. W. de. 89 54. 2. 77 Maupassant. 82. 49. 95. M. 41. Jakobson. 40.. 86 Irony. Littératures de l’imaginaire. 70 “Loss of Breath”. 15. 90 Legend. 92. 65 linguistic transgressions.. 109 resignification. 43. 109 24–27. 58. 75 delightful horror. H. 37. 68 James. Lord. 6... T. 8. T. 7. L. M. 55. 36 Merino. 75 Joshi.  INDEX     125 Goodman. 76 See also Impossible Lugones. 8. 9 indeterminacy. R. 77 74. 40. Hoffmann. C. M. 34. 102. 52.. W. 50. 36–44 King.. 110 Lynch. 52. 59. 15. 33. 85 sentimental gothic. 70. 38 Grotesque. 107.. 19. 108 Lovecraft. 48. 99 66. C. G. 58. 98. 102–104 Iwasaki.. D. S. 9. 99 53. 39 Hutcheon. 97. 34 Jackson. 103 Laughter. 4. G.. 18.. 102 See also Fantastic of Language distance. 36. 70 Magris.. 41 60. L. F. 70. A. S. 37. 8. 84.. B. I. 53. 41–43 L H Language Heim. 99–101. 35.. H. 58. 58. 79. 16. M.. 67... 92. 52. 66 Kant. M. 58. R. 104 M Machen. 46. 13 Hume. 84 supernatural gothic. E.. 75 black humour. A. 97. 27–30. P. 36 I Literatura do sobrenatural.. 12 K Gothic novel. 54.. 102–104 rhetoric of the unspeakable. T.. 15. 50. 69. 38. 59. J.. 92.. 80. 4–6.. 7 referential capacities. 78. 95 literalisation of the metaphor. 74–77 Heisenberg. 36.

41. 52. 100 See also Reality effect Penzoldt. I. A. 84. 21. 45 See also Realism of the fantastic . H. 108. 79. 101 67. 17. 41. 54–55 49.. O.. 91. 93–94 “Carta a una señorita en París”.. 93. 14–16. 11 constructed. 77. 92. 85 border. P. 102–104 virtual reality. Quiroga. 39. 103 Moral effect. 14. 18. C. J. 11 empirical. 95–97. 92 Rabkin. 53–61 Venco a la Molinera. 92. 31 Metamorphosis. 84–104 Metaphysical fear. L. 41. 57 Pseudo-fantastic. 91 frontier. 10. 12 P theory of relativity. 12. 97. E. 12–14.. J. 109 The Metamorphosis. A.. 92. 100 73. “El monte de las Ánimas”. 98. 16 Nodier. Poe. 14. 58. 54 See also Metalepsis See also Metaphysical fear Metalepsis. 14 Other (as narrator). 79. 109 Multiverse. 34. 16 Parody. 11 Palma. 20. 50. M.. 13 Paz Soldán. 97. S.. 72. 80. 16. 100. 4. 9 relativism.. 64–74 N realistic motivation. 34–36 “Continuidad de los parques”. 85. 47. 18 Radcliffe. J. 20 Physical fear. J. 85 Post-modernity. 64 Nandorfy. 6 Millás. 50 Rationalism. 19 Reality Neo-fantastic. 56. 19... 72. M.. 17 O mimesis. 50–52. 99 mimetic contract. 11 social construction. 57. 9. 24 Neurobiology. 36 R Moyano. 91 Newton. 33. 19. 100 Rank. 67 Realism of the fantastic.. A.. F.. 75 Phantasmatic. 25. E. 101 Mimetic literature... A. 100–102 objective.. 21. 11 Ovid. 64. 64. 50 paradoxical. 66–68. 5. E. 9–11 Monster. 9. 84. 89. 50. 41.126   INDEX Metafiction. 65 Perutz. 34–36. 101. 100 unreality coefficient. 77 Picasso. 20. 54 Muñoz Rengel. 58. 8. 6 Olgoso. 18. 19. J. 89. 6. 81. 20. 109 Q See also Reality effect Quantum mechanics.. 28. 92. 54 See also Physical fear Pseudo-Longino. 103 Monterroso. 49 Reality effect. 81. 28 extratextual. P.

53. 56. 43 Steimberg. 28. S. F. M. E. 102 Rodríguez Hernández. 101 . 39. 58. 92. 20 Z Suvin. 28. 31 Romanticism. 8.. 25.. 74. 19. M. T. 92. 56. 73. 43 science fiction. 59. 31 Fantastic (see Fantastic effect) Vilella. 38. 25. 24. 101 Supernatural. Sublime. 39. I. 31–33 Surrealistic literature. 54. 50. 27. 26–30. 73. D.. 108–110 Watzlawick.. 99 77. Christian Marvellous. 76. 17. 51. B. 25. 34. 66 100. 6. 50. A. 50.. S 92.. 15. 19. 13.. 85 U Uncanny. L. 6. 65. F. 79–81. 36. 31–33 Marvellous. 101 Valle-Inclán. T. M. 7. 55. 18.-L. Todorov. 6. 111 Vampire. Roas.. 61. 31 W normalization... G. 47. 101 Terror.. 31–33 Walter.. 27. 79 Ryan. 37. 78. 112 Verisimilitude. del. 110 Zapata.. Vax. 78. 79 unheimlich. 66. 29 Vian.. 14.. 24. 24.. Supernatural Simulacrum. 47. 14 See also Reality Soldevila. 27. 48. L. 104 Saussure. P. 27–34 52. A. 97 fantasy. 6. 28 V Spark. 7. M. 34. Stevenson. 85 49. 16. 109 Magical Realism. 24. de... A. 29. 65 46. 60.. 49. 12 supernatural horror. 50. 39. 36. 60. 7. 8.  INDEX     127 Reisz. 90 explained. 85 Roh. 84. 35. 36 See also Reality effect fairy tale. 47 Self-referentiality. 26. 85 T Rice. 20. D. Risco. 70. 79 “Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes”.. 53. A. 49 Wittgenstein. 51 52–54. 5. 28. 77. 103 76. L. R. 43. 90 See also Impossible. R.