6 KEY SIGNS OF MAGICAL REALISM

Magical realism is quite easy to confuse with similar genres that use the imagination. To be consistent with the tradition of magical realism, in my opinion, a work must have several (or better all) of these six characteristics:

  1. Situations and events that deny logic

In Laura Esquivel’s frivolous novel “Chocolate on Boiling Water” a woman forbidden to marry uses magic in cooking. Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” has a darker story: an escaped slave ends up in a house where the ghost of a long-dead child lives. These stories are not alike, and yet both take place in a world where anything is possible.

  1. Myths and legends

Much of the unusual in magical realism comes from folklore, religious parables, allegories, and superstitions. Abiku — child spirit in West African Tradition — tells the story in “The Hungry Road” by Ben Okri. Often, legends from different places and times merge, creating mind-boggling anachronisms and rich, complex stories. In the novel “A man was walking along the road” by Georgian author Otar Chiladze, the ancient Greek myth is combined with the turbulent history of his homeland.

  1. Historical context and social issues

Real-life political events and social movements are intertwined with fantasy to expose issues such as racism, sexism, impatience and other human flaws. Salman Rushdie’s “Children of Midnight” is a saga about a man born at the time of the liberation of India. Rushdie is telepathically connected to a thousand magically gifted children born at the same time, and his life reflects key events in the history of his country.

  1. Distortion of time and sequence of events

In a world of magical realism, like in postmodernism, characters can travel back in time, jump forward and zigzag between past and future. It is worth noting how Gabriel García Márquez deals with time in his novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. The sudden leaps in narrative and the omnipresence of ghosts and omens give the reader a sense of the cyclical nature of events.

  1. Real scenery

Magic realism — not about space explorers or wizards, forget about “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter”. In an article for The Telegraph, Salman Rushdie noted that “magic in magical realism has deep roots in realism.”. Despite the extraordinary events that happen to them, the characters are quite real people living in ordinary places.

  1. Serious tone

One of the most important features of magical realism is the dispassionate manner of storytelling. Strange events are described casually, detached. The characters do not ask questions about the surreal situations in which they find themselves. For example, in the short story “Our lives out of control” by Jackie Craven the narrator takes her husband’s disappearance for granted.

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