With a term that sounds a tad contradictory, magical realism is one of those literary genres that appeared as a reaction to some previous literary genre. How can you place magic and realism into the same sentence? If there is a magical element in it, isn’t that a fantasy?
What is magical realism?
Magical realism, also known as magic realism or marvellous realism, is a literary genre that encompasses a range of different concepts. This genre of narrative fiction expresses a primarily realistic view of the everyday world while adding a certain magical element. When we use ‘magical’, we don’t mean the trickery that illusionists and magicians use to entertain the masses.
“Magical realism” it is most often used to refer to fiction and literature in particular, with the magical or supernatural element presented in what is otherwise an everyday or real-world setting.
Although the term was first introduced by a German art critic in 1925, magical realism is most often used to describe the work of Latin American writers in the 1950s. Most prominent figures of this sub-genre include writers like Jose Marti, Ruben Dario, as well as one of the greatest Latin American authors, who is considered one of the fathers of this genre – Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The Popularity of Magical Realism
There have been three main surges in the genre of magical realism. The first took place in Europe in the 1920s and 30s with writers like Franz Kafka. The “Neue Sachlichkeit” movement became popular at this time due to Franz Roh’s definition who intended “magical realism” to be synonymous with the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) as a whole. However, this movement didn’t achieve the popularity of magical realism because it was heavily focused on philosophical critiques.
The second surge happened in the 19540s and 50s in Latin America. The writers of Latin America combined the French surrealist concepts of the marvellous with Roh’s original theories of magical realism and added their own indigenous mythologies.
The popularity of magical realism happened during the third surge, at the times of the “Boom Period” of 1962-1967, when the literature of Latin America took off internationally. During the 60s and 70s, Latin America was in a political turmoil due to the diplomatic strategies created by the Cold War. When writers from the region became unified for nationalization after the Cuban Revolution, the eyes of the world turned to Latin America.
One of the hallmarks of the Latin American boom of this period was the use of magical realism. Since then, many writers from around the world have used magical realism in their works, but, still, the best and most popular works of the genre continue to be those from the Latin American boom.
If you are interested in the genre, you can start off by reading such books as Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Borges’ Ficcones and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.Read More »