(spoilers on One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera both by GGM)
Sometimes called Marvelous Realism, Magic Realism has been my primary genre of writing for years. It achieves so many things including offer a brand new perspective of events.
I will try to describe it to the best of my ability, but I am not (yet) an expert in this genre. If there are experts reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Basically, magic realism pertains to the kind of literature that combines realistic events and characters with marvelous or magical events and characters. One of my favorite authors of all time, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, wrote most of his fiction in magic realism.
In his famed book One Hundred Years of Solitude, there are many many instances of magic realism. One includes a girl suddenly rising to heaven one afternoon, bringing her relative’s blanket with her and the only response toward this bizarre event was the relative complaining about the blanket. A key scene I like to pay attention to is Jose Arcadio Buendia’s witnessing of the banana massacre incident.
It is quite bizarre to have a large prominent man go unnoticed and unharmed in a literal fight to the death. He was the only one that wasn’t the opposition that both witnessed the event and stayed alive aside from the little boy that was a reference to Garcia-Marquez’s childhood.
This is quite the contrast when you compare it to the sheer realism the massacre was presented in. The workers all died because they were fighting for their rights, something all too familiar to Garcia-Marquez and fellow colonized nations.
However, the attention is not centered on the massacre. The attention is brought upon Jose Arcadio, who then goes to tell the townsmen of what he saw. You would think people would believe the (great grandson? great great grandson? it’s hard to keep track) close relative of the founder of Macondo, but they called him crazy and even went so far as to say that nothing bad has happened in Macondo and no one has died.
We are left to become frustrated on the side of Jose Arcadio, since we know that he was telling the truth. However, this dismissal of the oppressed is not there just for theatrics. It is there to illustrate how the colonizers would have so much control over the ideologies and history of the colonized that they would believe the colonizers rather than their own people.
It is quite a scary idea that the mere concept of reality can be changed by a dominant structure. I believe this is one of the most significant impacts of Magic Realism. By shifting the attention of the readers toward the strange and the magical, we are left to question what we really believe and what we choose to pay attention to.
Do we choose to be controlled by whoever is allowing history to be revised? Or do we step back and try to assess if what we know is really unbiased?