Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Absurdist Fantasy

Given the definition of Fantasy used in this encyclopedia – a central thread of which is the argument that fantasy narratives tend to be Stories which end with a sense that a meaningful tale has been both told and understood – this term will not often be found.

The Absurd, as a critical concept, was generated as a response to the works of Albert Camus (1913-1960), who used the term to describe the gap between the need for order – for stories which tell the tale of the world and are true and humanly meaningful – and a world which does not supply that need. Although Camus himself came to a philosophical position which trumped the Absurd through a grimly exultant stoicism about the human condition, the term itself, as normally used, refuses any such transcendence. The plays of Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) and Eugene Ionesco have frequently been described as defining a "Theatre of the Absurd": their eschewing of consistent character development and of linear plots – their refusal, in other words, to fabricate story – represents an antithesis to fantasy, though the works may be Fantastic. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.