Magical Realism in Literature
Magical realism is a concept that has mostly been used in the art sector to refer to logical yet surreal art. However, due to its popularity and unique sense of style, magical realism has also been incorporated in literature.
Literary works of the magical realism genre are epitomes of paradox. Literary works of this nature present an amalgam of two opposing concepts. It is literature with an interplay of logic and magic, reality, and fantasy. This combination of contradicting concepts and ideas into a play of words is truly an art.
The use of the term “magical realism” to refer to such genre of literature was started by the German historian of art, Franz Roh in the early 1920s. However, Roh used the concept as a category of art. He wanted a category of art that is divergent from the conventional and strict guidelines of realism in art. He meant for the term to refer to works of art that showcase an artist’s understanding of expressionism while still portraying a concept that is objective and realistic. However, it was not until the early 1930s to the 1950s that the entire concept became a fad for literary artists, especially in Latin America where it was highly popularized by literary writers.
The things that separate magical realism to literary works of pure fantasy and purely objective reality is that it combines the best of both worlds. In magical realistic literature, everything that is happening in the story, everything that the characters experience in daily life, no matter how absurd or far-fetched, are considered ordinary in the story. For example, when an average man shoots an arrow towards a mark and the arrow transforms into a bird in mid-flight. When the arrow becomes a bird, the man does not think that there is anything wrong with it. To him, it is a regular thing. The transformation also happens without any prompt. There is no incantation or spell that the man utters before shooting the arrow. There is no machine that causes the arrow to transform either. The arrow just transforms on its own, as if that is what is the nature of arrows, to transform into birds. There is no reason for the arrow to transform. It just doesn’t happen in real life. Things like this are ordinary. They are considered daily occurrences in the story, so the characters do not have anything to be astonished of. This is what makes magical realism different from other genres that have a similar theme of Science Fiction or Magical Literature. Science fiction, for things like monsters, dragons, wizards, and transforming arrows to occur, there are mad scientists doing experiments or weird inventions involved. In Magical Literature, spells cast and wizards are necessary for these things to happen. In Magical realism, these extraordinary things just happen naturally.
A magical realist writer brings about things that only happen in dreams, nightmares, fantasy into reality. The finished work becomes an expression of reality with an infusion of magical elements that are normal and ordinary in the eyes of the characters and the readers. Writers of this genre employ a series of characteristics that, when combined, makes the genre different from the others and divergent from the norm.
In magical realism, writers incorporate hybridity in their work. There is a hybrid existence of two opposing ideas. It could be that rural and urban settings take place simultaneously. There could also be a mix of Western and Eastern culture. The genre thrives on the mixing of normally different ideas.
There is also a strong play of irony in stories of magical realism, where authors cannot fully write realistic ideas the same way they cannot fully write fantasy. There must be a balance between the two where even when they are intermingled and mixed in the story, the readers can still discern which is fantasy and which is a reality. Even when the readers realize that what is happening is unnatural and is completely irrational, it doesn’t overly concern them because it is the norm. The same way happens to overly realistic scenes. The authors expect them because they are realistic. They happen in daily life, essential eve, like drinking and eating but there is a hidden anticipation that moments can become surreal in every turn of the story. In that sense, the genre is truly a play of irony.
The genre is mostly associated with themes of terror like wars, political conflicts and others that happen in real life. There are also some prominent characters like soldiers, political figures, police and other authorities that sometimes commit the terror-filled acts. Time is also prominent throughout the genre. Time is used in a cyclical format. One event that happened 10 years ago in the story may happen in again the present. The mix of past and present is also common such the existence of robots in the early 1920s and more. The entire manner that the genre is written is founded on paradox and irony embedded in every moment of the story.
The entire manner as to how magical realism literature is presented by the authors makes the genre an increasingly popular find for avid readers and writers alike.