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PN Review 274
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This article is taken from PN Review 273, Volume 50 Number 1, September - October 2023.

Orlando Fantastico: Il non credibile vero Alberto Manguel
Forse era ver, ma non però credibile
OF, Canto I:56

We speak in a hall of dark mirrors. What we put into words seems to conjure up its opposite from the shadows, which in turn echo its own dark reflection. Nothing stands clearly on its own. A definition of fantasy, therefore, implies a definition of what is real, and what is real assumes the knowledge of what is fantasy. For a sixteenth-century Italian, reality is obviously different than for an Italian of our catastrophic times, and perhaps it was no less so for a Spaniard or a Portuguese of the same century. Plato’s heavenly spheres were real in the Ptolemaic universe; space travel was a fantasy, allowed only to heroes and magicians and the ancient gods. For us, today’s cosmological reality is that of which we dreamed, not so long ago, in our science-fiction stories. In the age of fake news and photoshopping, the distinction between what is real and what is fantasy is even more blurred. The mirrors of perception keep shifting and we are all, at some time or another in our lives, inside Atlante’s magical palace of illusions that are, to our conscious senses, real. Reality, as we know, is constructed from what we take to be our personal experience and from the received (and admitted) experience of others. But fantasy, too, employs those same tools. Realty and fantasy, real world and dream world, are in the eye of the beholder. Victor Hugo summed up this notion in La fin de Satan: ‘I know what Hell fits ...

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