“Through the Arc of the Rainforest” and Magical Realism


In Yamashita’s novel Through the Arc of the Rainforest we are shown an alternative world sculpted through the magical realism genre.  Intrinsic of miraculous occurrences which are motivated through the class divide which takes place in a third world society.

Through the Arc of the Rainforest is presented in a genre is defined as a piece of literature which seems to take place in a realistic setting on the surface, but fantasy elements arise when the story unfolds. Either the character/s  can break the rules of the real world, or the world is invaded by something so strange, we can’t believe that it’s real in ‘our’ world.

We are shown many examples of this is, as one of the novel’s main character’s known as Kazumasa Ishimaru has a ball which is attached (or even floating close) to his head, this ball formed/came into his existence when he was in an accident as a Japanese born child.  The ‘ball’ is narrating the actual story (novel) from Kazumasa’s head.

It’s existence, as well as many other details in this book, like the three armed American corporate worker turned famous celebrity JB Tweep and his discovery of chemicals found in rural Brazil’s city of Matacao.  This chemical has the ability to cause complex genetic mutations so the consumer public can grow extra appendages!  These elements in the novel are not deemed as something which would naturally occur in our ‘real world’, but in the world which we are brought to in this story.

“There were, of course, the extravagant cars and the mansions with a hundred maids just like Lourdes. Then there were the great causes and small causes, businesses and hotels, plantations as large as the island of Shikoku, great poverty, great politics, great futures.”  (Yamashita, K.T., Kindle Pages 944-946). We are shown that this is a world which has extreme wealth and extreme poverty, a world which captures the essences of our third world which defines a struggling society in Brazil.

Kazumasa moves from Japan to Sao Paolo, a major city in Brazil(where his Japanese cousin resides), mainly for a change in career, but fortune shows up unexpectedly for him in Brazil.  His neighbor has created a huge local attraction of his written‘ prophetic messages’ delivered to him by his beloved pet, a pigeon.  The public looks at these messages as a sign, an indicator of good fortune.  One of the message sent spoke of a Japanese man with a ball on his head, shall give big fortunes, a message which captured the attention of many of Brazil’s societies.  Kazumasa then turns into a guru/healer, a man where hundreds, even thousands of people flock and line up for days to see him.  A man who can attain money as an endless fortune, and seeks to help people for properties of healing.  Not a man of money, but characterized as a man of charity, giving actual funding to people in need.

The Through the Arc of the Rainforest

“Through the Arc of the Rainforest” By Karen Tei Yamashita

The author’s seems to create a world which is more magnified, with a lot of religious affiliations in the use of saints which touches on religious symbolism, Catholic symbols are used to make sense of their world. Their world, in a funny sense has much more vivacity and dynamism compared to ours, specifically in the way they react towards  a person who is supposedly gifted with supernatural/ prophetic powers, the everyday citizens people of Brazil don’t seem to show skeptic towards a man of this nature.    “In a country where the disparity between wealth and poverty is great, the news of instant wealth spread in and out of every obscure crevice of that massive and unexplored land. Kazumasa became a household name, like a character in a nightly soap opera, on the tip of every Brazilian tongue.”  (Yamashita, K.T. Kindle Pgs. 923-925).  This reminds us of the third world The aspect the gap between wealth and poverty which then motivates people living in poverty to turn to tools/instruments in society which give them hope in a time of suffering.  According to Nations Online Project is a pioneer website in providing information about countries,  the term Third World, today is used basically describe the countries in development, countries like of Africa, Asia and Latin America.  These are more developing and technologically less advanced nations of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin American countries.


The Christ Redeemer overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 


Sao Paolo, Brazil


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