Snippets of Magic Realism

CharlasMagical Realist and Fantastic Literature

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Snippets of Magic Realism

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Ene 7, 2008, 3:36pm

Sometimes we read something that is such a great example of MR that I thought maybe we could share them here. Folks who haven't caught the MR bug are always asking, yes, but what IS it?

I've just read a sentence that is such a concise peek into what's wonderful, delicious, and simple about Magic Realism as practiced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His autobiography Living to Tell the Tale is written as though it were a first-person novel, with all the joy of his way of seeing things. He's on a journey (at age 21) with his mother back to his family's home town that had been made prosperous by the banana magnates. But political upheavals chased the 'gringos' and the prosperity away; since then, rumors always came up about the possibility of the gringos coming back. Picture a lush, humming economy that quickly diminished to dusty almond trees, dilapidated wooden houses with rusting tin roofs and the observation many years later that

"The gringos are never coming back." The only certainty was that they took everything with them: money, December breezes, the bread knife, thunder at three in the afternoon, the scent of jasmines, love.

The mix of the ludicrous with the practical, to me, is such a perfect example of the delicacy of his touch. Obviously they couldn't take the breeze or the thunder that crashed daily at three to wake them from siesta, but throw in the mundane bread knife and you just have to smile, don't you? I just had to share my love for this.

mayo 10, 2008, 11:22pm

That is a wonderful example and I can remember when I was first exposed to MR and I couldn't describe it, I couldn't explain why I LOVED it, and how I wanted to write it. It really appeals to me because I think it is a matter of interpretation by the author. We can all be looking at the same thing but one person can see the magic or the peculiar in a situation while someone else sees only the commonplace. I think Alice Hoffman does a wonderful job of making her stories have a delicate touch of magical realism. She is not too heavy-handed with it, I think she has quite a talent! I will be back with an example of MR as soon as I can find one! Happy Mother's Day! Mary Beth

mayo 10, 2009, 4:39pm

Mary Beth, I'm so glad you joined this thread (I love this subject when it doesn't become too academic).

Another odd book I read that is filled with exactly what you said about looking at an ordinary thing and seeing the magic in it is Brooks Hansen The Chess Garden. I think I may be ready to even read it again. It made me think about things I take for granted differently while wrapping a good story in bits of fairy tale images. It's very different from his other books--this is the only one I recommend--I think he might have had a co-author now that I think of it.
Happy Mother's Day to you too!

mayo 20, 2009, 12:28am

B, Would you say that Barbara Kingsolver's trio,The Bean Trees,Animal Dreams and Pigs in Heaven are magical realism? Yeah, right? I simply never wanted those books to end. I'm sotired that i've had this laptop on my lap for hours while I doze off. Good night!MB

mayo 25, 2009, 4:04pm

MB, I read those a long time ago and honestly don't remember thinking of them as MR at the time, but I'm not sure I was aware enough then. One bit I do remember from one of the books was her writing about driving up a particularly steep hill that looked like it ended in the clouds and commenting about the 'possibilities that lay unseen over the rise' (I'm paraphrasing like mad). For some reason, that stuck with me as a metaphor for approaching life with the sense of possibility instead of impending doom. I loved it.