Sunday, January 24, 2010

Magic Realism

An angel walks into your local grocery story with shiny wings and a glowing halo. Everyone accepts this as a natural occurrence and doesn’t bat an eye. This is a simplistic example of the Fantasy sub-genre of Magic Realism. It is a growing part of Fantasy that hovers on the edge of classic literary works and mainstream fiction. Books in this sub-genre can be difficult reading, but are rich in description and can be very rewarding.

Magical Realism is a Latin-American influenced sub-genre. It consists of stories where the lines of reality and fantasy are blurred. Fantasy elements are matter-of-fact in the real world. The books usually include an examination of the character of human existence and some kind of criticism of society. The Latin-American contribution is felt by some experts to be a way for authors to deal with two separate realities. Many fine authors have been a part of this sub-genre, contributing intriguing books that provoke a lot of thinking.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of th ˇe prominent authors of Magic Realism. His book, One Hundred Years of Solitude, tells the story of the Buendia family in the village of Macondo. It is a vivid story with memorable characters in a realistic setting. Fantasy elements are subtle and give a powerful addition to the story. The poignant scene of a ghost searching the house for water to wash the wound he died from is powerful, especially when the wife puts containers of water all over the house. This is one of many moving scenes in this great book.

Isabel Allende is a writer of powerful Magical Realism too. Her books are full of astonishing images and interesting characters. For example, House of Spirits is the story of three generations of the Trueba family in a fictional Chile. One of the characters has supernatural abilities. The powerful themes and fantastic elements blend with realistic characters to become an excellent book to read.

Ben Okri is an author from Africa and has contributed to Magic Realism. The Famished Road is the story of * the spirit child. He breaks his promise to return to the spirit world after being born as a human, becoming fascinated by his family and refusing to return to the spirit world. His fellow spirits torment him as he lives through an impoverished life in Africa. Mr. Okri brings Africa to life with complex characters and vivid images. His works depict the struggle for Africans to overcome the chaos in their countries.

For those interested in the topic of Magic Realism in more detail, there is Magic Realism: Theory, History, Community edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. It contains in depth essays on the history of the sub-genre. The essays talk about how Magic Realism has become a part of world literature instead of w just a Latin American phenomenon.

“Chocolat” is a movie based on the book by Joanne Harris of the same name. It’s the story of a woman and her daughter that come to a French town. She opens a chocolate shop to sell her special chocolate candies that help people. A group of the more conservative town’s people want to get rid of her because they think she is a witch. This magical movie was nominated and won several Academy Awards.

Magic Realism is a sub-genre of Fantasy increasingly being explored by many authors. Once primarily a part of Latin American literature, it has found its way into the literature of many other cultures around the world. Works in this sub-genre are powerful literary stories with realistic characters and fantastic elements. Other writers in this sub-genre are: Alejo Carpentier, Jorge Amado, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar, Maria Luisa Bombal,


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