Magical Realism





Magical Realism

The term magical realism first applied to a school of painters. It finds its origins in the art world. This was in the 1920s. Later on writers adopted it for the description of fictional works in their stories. One of these authors was Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The term magical realism was first affiliated to writers from Latin America, and then it spread to describe the work of writers from different parts of the world. This term described the liberty that the artists had undertaken in their work. For the writers, it highlighted their swerve form the norm. They were free to use situations that were not so conventional. This freedom did not stem from desperation to entertain the readers. They were compelled to make a representation of all sides of reality. The authors added life to the world perceived to be unreal. Magical realism also represented the kind of techniques that these authors had come to master. They would engage a subject matter from the real world and fuse it with aspects of mythical and scary tales. The result would be a free wheeling narrative. The stories blurred the demarcation between what was real and what was not. The tales gave life to fantasies and lured their readers to believe them as a reality. Magical realism expands the normal world to accommodate the extraordinary phenomena. It expands the imagination of individuals to see possibility in the impossible.

The term has a string of controversies following behind it. Some believe that it was a term used by the white people to refer to the fictional tales from other races. This perspective has a racial connotation to it. The white people believed that tales that did not originate from them were rather fallacies. Others believe that magical realism is not a feasible term of literature. This is because they hold the idea that it waters down fiction that is held with high esteem in other works of literature. Other individuals view it as a term to give some credit to the Latin Americans. They view it as a regional trend. A great deal of people believe that the term has in the present time lost its meaning and is now ambiguous. Many believe it to be used in different contexts to realize different meanings. Others believe that magical realism is escapist. They say that magical realism is a form of literature that only entertains its readers. On the contrary, I believe that magical realism is serious literature work. It should be respected as much as the other genres of writing. Magical realism seeks to bring out the reality in the unreal.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a big contributor to magical realism. He uses magical realism to do away with the difference that exists between reality and fantasy. A good example is when in his short story, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, a heavenly being falls on Earth due to a storm. Angels falling on Earth is a rather unreal situation. A neighbor who happens to have witnessed the fall is anything but shocked. This goes to display how the author has mastered the ability to represent an unreal experience in a realistic way. Martinez then displays humanity in the angel. He depicts the being as being compassionate and full of mercy. The angel’s arrival brought healing and financial benefits to a poor family. This creates reality in what is deemed unreal. The angel’s ability to act humanly challenges the reader’s capacity to view angels as real beings.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born on March 6, 1927 in Colombia in 1928. He grew up in Colombia in a small town that he would later turn to a magical world. The town would be transformed to Macondo. He initially began studying law but this changed when he started working as a journalist. He made a living from selling newspapers. He has a vast collection of fictional works that have built on magical realism. He interacted with many authors from Latin America who later came to be known as the Latin American Boom. Their work was well known around the world. The earliest form of magical realism influenced the work of these authors. The authors of these works were, Argentine Jorge Luis Borges and Alejo Carpentier. These authors used the techniques of fantasy to bring the aspect of time as a maze. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s early life was filled with numerous rumors of ghosts stories while at his maternal grandparents’ house. This had a large impact on his development of magical realism. He experienced a reality that was beyond the natural realm. A history of Colombia and his family helps in placing magical realism in a comprehensive context.

In the period of 19th century, Colombia went through a series of recurrent wars. This was in a bid to free them from the rule of Spain. These wars culminated in 1902 when Colombia lost a hundred thousand people. Marquez’s grandfather was one of those who fought in the war. This is how he, together with others who fought in the war, found immortalization in the tales of Marquez. He has featured such characters in his tales. Another incident that greatly influenced the work of Marquez was that of the atrocities faced by his fellow states men. Western imperialism had a toll on the people of Colombia. In 1928, workers took to the streets to protest against the inhuman treatment they were receiving. The ill treatment was form the American banana company that had monopolized the market in Colombia. The Conservative government then sent troops to quiet the masses. Unfortunately, hundreds of citizens were killed in the struggle between the troops and the citizens. This incident was later incorporated in one of Marquez books. The book is One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is understood that the realms of politics affected the development of magical realism.


The accounts in the book One Hundred Years of Solitude display defining aspects of magical realism. Some of these aspects are like those to do with time. In magical realism, time is not necessarily linear. The present can be presented as the past while the past can be presented as the present. Bowers points out other elements that are rather not conventional. He talks about unimaginable conditions like, “the death of those who are already dead” or “the life of watching over the living” (Bowers, 11). Another element is objectivity. When ideas are not rational, the thought of them being real is most of the times dismissed. An example would be emotions being able to end an individual’s life. This idea is easily deemed fantasy because the thought is not convincing. Marquez however presents it as a reality. Miracles are a common phenomenon in magical realism.

Magical realism narrates stories from the point of view of individuals who have experienced both our world and the world that many consider not to be objective. Magical realism simply brings out true life experiences of individuals. The problem only comes in when others do not identify with these experiences. Many will then term them as not being real. The existence of a concept, object or individual is not based on society identifying it. Gravity existed way before Isaac Newton discovered it. The existence of a ghost in a narration of magical realism represents the real world of an individual who has had encounters with ghosts. The aim of magical realism is to open up the minds of the readers to the possibility of what they view as not real to be reality. Magical realism does not compel anyone to believe in the stories that are being narrated. It instead gives the readers an opportunity to share in these experiences.

The book, Big Mama’s Funeral has had a large influence on the development of magical realism. The story uses fantasy to carry out its activism. The story is about the death of the ruler of Macondo the story has more to do with fiction than facts. In narrating the funeral, the author exaggerates a lot to bring out his freedom. The author also attacks the political system. Here he alludes to the political system in Colombia that was not effective in protecting its citizens. At the end of the story, the author leaves his readers in a maze. With the birth of a new era, after the death of the ruler, it is not clear whether change has actually taken place.


Work Cited

Bowers, Maggie A. Magic(al) Realism. London: Routledge, 2004. Print.

García, Márquez G, and Gregory Rabassa. Leaf Storm, and Other Stories. New York: Harper & Row, 1972. Print.

García, Márquez G.  “Big Mama’s Funeral.” Collected Stories. New York, NY: HarperPerennial. Print.

García, Márquez G. One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Harper & Row, 1970. Print.

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