Fantastique

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Literature • Francophone literature

Fantastique is a French term for a literary and cinematic genre that overlaps with science fiction, horror, and fantasy.

The fantastique is a substantial genre within French literature. Arguably dating back further than English language fantasy, it remains an active and productive genre which has evolved in conjunction with anglophone fantasy and horror and other French and international literature.

Definition

What is distinctive about the fantastique is the intrusion of supernatural phenomena into an otherwise realist narrative. It evokes phenomena which are not only left unexplained but which are inexplicable from the reader's point of view. In this respect, the fantastique is somewhere between fantasy, where the supernatural is accepted and entirely reasonable in the imaginary world of a non-realist narrative, and magic realism, where apparently supernatural phenomena are explained and accepted as normal. Instead, characters in a work of fantastique are, just like the readers, unwilling to accept the supernatural events that occur. This refusal may be mixed with doubt, disbelief, fear, or some combination of those reactions.[citation needed]

The Fantastique is often linked to a particular ambiance, a sort of tension in the face of the impossible. A good deal of fear is often involved, either because the characters are afraid or because the author wants to provoke fright in the reader. However, fear is not an essential component of fantastique.[citation needed]

Some theorists of literature, such as Tzvetan Todorov, contend that the fantastique is defined by its hesitation between accepting the supernatural as such and trying to rationally explain the phenomena it describes. In that case, the fantastique is nothing more than a transitional area on a spectrum from magic realism to fantasy and does not qualify as a separate literary genre.[citation needed]

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