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The decay of magic: Karen Tei Yamashita’s postmodern fable

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  1. Introduction
  2. The magic-commodity-death pattern
  3. The role of chance
  4. Relevance of magic in the post modern world
  5. Forms of destruction of magic
  6. The apocalyptic symphony
  7. Devaluation of postmodern excess
  8. The function of Chico Paco's radio station
  9. Conclusion
  10. Bibliography

In her satirical, surreal debut novel Through the Arc of the Rainforest, Karen Tei Yamashita asks us to believe in magic. She puts forth five original miracles at the beginning of the story: a lucky man named Kazumasa who happens to have a sentient ball floating around his head; feathers that can heal anything; plastic that can recreate life; pigeons that can tell the future; Gilberto, a paralyzed child who learns to walk again. These miracles are all improbabilities in her consumeristic, globalized world, which stretches with little effort from Brazil to New York City to Japan. In a world of skyscrapers and profit reports, these five miracles are fleeting triumphs of one of the few remaining unclassifiable world forces. And, of course, they are quickly exploited: throughout the novel, we see them follow a neat and terrible plot arc of growth, abuse, and death. The mass movements that at first multiply and popularize the magic end up destroying it, and in this we see the larger goal of Yamashita's capricious universe. The world bursts with people who ache to believe in something new, who will travel across the world to see a miracle or at least listen to it on the radio. And indeed, the global climate seems ripe for magic, and for brief moments magic springs into being and grows. But ultimately, Yamashita's world it can only handle simulacra: organic magic becomes postmodern magic, explosive and manufactured, decaying as fast as it appears.

[...] Trans. Sheila Glaser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press Cook, David, and Arthur Kroker, The Postmodern Scene. New York City: St. Martin's Press D'haen, Theo L. ?Magic Realism and Postmodernism: Decentering Privileged Centers.? Magic Realism: Theory, History, Community. Ed. Faris, Wendy B., and Lois Parkinson Zamora. Durham: Duke University Press 192-208. Debord, Guy. Comments on the Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Malcolm Inrie. London: Verso Fokkema, Douwe. Semantic and Syntactic Organization of [...]


[...] In this we see the ultimate results of Yamashita's deliberate creation, of a world that is prime and ready for magic but can love it only by producing strange reproductions. The postmodern world cannot control its excess in any sense, and despite the ecstasy that floods Through the Arc of the Rainforest, it is a tragedy. What remains after Yamashita's apocalypse is only the memory of spectacle and excess, of headlong trust in televised miracles. At the end, there is no more magic. Works Cited Baker, Stephen. The Fiction of Postmodernity. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. [...]


[...] She is cognizant of the postmodern truth that ?images chosen and constructed by someone else have everywhere become the individual's principal connection to the world he formerly observed for himself? (Debord 27). And truly, which is more beautiful: the original image of ?Mane feather? lounging around the sidewalk café with a feather behind his ear or the wildly extrapolated image of the mystic feather worshipers who strive for ?hallucinations, intense training in bird language and the always dangling promise of the potential power of flight?? [...]

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