The term magical realism may seem vague or confusing to those unfamiliar with its origin. The style of writing known as magic realism has roots in Latin America, but it has grown and spread worldwide since its inception in the early 1900s. Today, magical realism has been adapted and utilized by writers from various cultures and countries around the globe.
The term magical realism was first used in 1925 by Venezuelan writer Alejo Carpentier in the prologue to his novel, The Kingdom of This World. The concept itself has a long history in literature and can be seen in medieval romances, especially those that detail King Arthur’s court and its fantastical events, like Merlin’s prophecies.
Definition of Magic Realism
Magical realism is a genre that blends fantasy and the marvellous with elements from the tangible, observable world. It gives readers an extraordinary chance to view this natural world as unfamiliar. Magical realism originated in Latin America, where modernity and traditional culture collided. Writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez took inspiration from local folklore, their country’s history, and its people. For example, Marquez based his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude on Colombian culture, which was so intertwined with the supernatural that he called it magical realism.
Today, we see more modern iterations where authors weave reality with illusion to explore humanity’s impact on the planet. It has also found success outside of Latin America, with authors like Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, and J.K Rowling all employing the technique in their own unique styles.
Famous Novels Displaying Magic Realism
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
- Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
- The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
- Room with a View by E. M. Forster
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Examples from Literature
Magical realism is a term that initially emerged in the 20th century as a literary genre that unconventionally fuses fantasy and reality. Some literary critics interpret magical realism as a reaction against nineteenth-century bourgeois values of order, logic, linear time and Cartesian doubt.
A more Marxist reading links it with Latin American independence from Spain or the increasingly strict standards for physical beauty in post-World War II Europe. Still, others see it as an artistic step beyond modernism into what Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe calls the raw and the supernatural. In his Novel Things Fall Apart, he writes about African tradition is so powerful because people did not really think about things like witches.
Many historians cite Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, a 17th-century novel, a work of magic realism. The story centres on a nobleman who becomes obsessed with books of chivalry and sets out on adventures only to find they are all imaginary or real.
Another writer whose work would heavily influence magical realism is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of seven generations of one family as mythological events intrude into everyday life; this technique became known as magical realism.
To conclude, in magical realism, the boundary between reality and fantasy is blurred. First, Latin American authors took this approach in their writings by incorporating folklore into a contemporary society that was then going through modernization. Later, it influenced other languages around the world.
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