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Writing Style

Magic Realism

The Definition:

In literature it has been defined as a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the ‘reliable’ tone of objective realistic report. Designating a tendency of the modern prose to reach beyond the confines of realism and draw upon the energies of fable, folk tale, and myth while maintaining a strong contemporary social relevance.

This term defines two conditions — first, where a fictitious reader enters the story within a story while reading it, making us self-conscious of our status as readers — and secondly, where the textual world enters into the reader’s world. 

The Characteristics:

  • Hybridity Magical realism plot lines characteristically employ hybrid multiple planes of reality that take place in inharmonious arenas of such opposites as urban and rural, and Western and indigenous.
  • Political CritiqueMagic realism contains an “implicit criticism of society, particularly the elite. This is a mode primarily about and for “ex-centrics”: the geographically, socially and economically marginalized. Therefore, magic realism’s ‘alternative world’ works to correct the reality of established viewpoints like realism, naturalism, modernism.
  • Sense of MysteryMagic realist literature tends to read at an intensified level.  The reader must let go of preexisting ties to conventional exposition , plot advancement, linear time structure, scientific reason, etc., to strive for a state of heightened awareness of life’s connectedness or hidden meanings.
  • Collective ConsciousnessMagical realism is an attitude on the part of the characters in the prose toward the world, or toward nature. If you can explain it, then it’s not magical realism.
  • Authorial ReticenceIs the deliberate withholding of information and explanations about the disconcerting fictitious world. The narrator does not provide explanations about the accuracy or credibility of events described or views expressed by characters in the text. 
  • Metafiction With its multiple realities and specific reference to the reader’s world, it explores the impact fiction has on reality, reality on fiction and the reader’s role in between; as such, it is well suited for drawing attention to social or political criticism. 

Magic Realism primarily a Latin-American narrative approach that is characterized by the fusion of facts with fantastic or mythical elements into ostensibly realistic fiction. The term was first applied in the 1940’s by Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier, but the most famous among the Latin American magic realists are the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez, the Brazilian Jorge Amado, the Argentines Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar, and the Chilean Isabel Allende.

The fantastic attributes given to characters in such prose; levitation, flight, telepathy, telekinesis ——–are among the means that magic realism adopts in order to encompass the often phantasmagorical social political realities of the 20th century.

Note: Meaning of “phantasmagorical” – is characterized by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtapositions.