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How to identify the best works of Magic Realism

Post by: Kabita Sonowal

Magic Realism as the phrase suggests is not just about mere magic or dreamlike suggestions, content, or fine arts. It delves beyond the arena of fantasy. It observes and describes the banality of human existence via magical lenses. It has been portrayed time and again in literature and paintings and several contemporary writers such as Ben Okri, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, and Salman Rushdie write along the lines of magic realism. The beauty of it lies in finding a dreamlike sense in the mundane existence and it is worth noting that it is a form that exists in sharp contrast to surrealism. While surrealism is woven in dream analysis and interpretation, magic realism lays emphasis on reality and the world. This is very well-illustrated among South American writers and South America is also considered to be the birthplace of magic realism.



Massimo Bontempelli, Fascist Italian poet, playwright, and novelist was the man behind galvanizing magic realism. He started the 900 magazine that had editors such as James Joyce. German art critic, historian, and photographer Franz Roh was the first person to use this term. Painters such as George Tooker were influenced by magic realism in the 1950s. Further South American writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez took it to an exalted platform of magic realism. His book One Hundred Years of Solitude is a wonderful depiction of magic realism. This style of writing by Marquez is also representative of the Latin American Boom of the 1960s and 1970s. It was a literary movement which had a tumultuous political backdrop and the effect of the Cold War in Europe and Communism. South America by then was also a notorious hotbed of human rights abuses and dictatorships. Therefore opinions, experiences, and perceptions influenced the course of writing in a seamless narrative style based on reality: from international events, provincial to urban settings, regional politics, history, and the ability to reason.



Ben Okri is yet another author who is popular for his books based on the magic realism themes. His book, The Famished Road is yet another paradigm of this literary style. It is based on Azaro, a spirit child born into a family with regular problems and concerns. What sets this story apart is the fact that it narrates a blend of the real and the supernatural in a real world which also forms the basis in a lot of African literature.



Salman Rushdie’s book, Shalimar the Clown is also an illustration of magic realism. Rushdie, in his well-crafted love story, speaks of Shalimar the Clown from a fictitious village in Kashmir. Rushdie takes us to Delhi with the American ambassador’s tale to his daughter’s arrival in India with whom Shalimar decides to settle his score through murder. The story moves on to terrorist camps in Afghanistan and the Philippines where Shalimar the Clown goes for training. The bottom line of the story lies in the political chaos of Kashmir that was once a paradise.



Some of the other must-reads are Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez, the Ground beneath Her Feet, Kafka on the Shore by Murakami, and Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami.

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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's THE MISTRESS OF SPICES is also a good example of magic realim.
Wed,Nov 23rd 2011 8:51 AM