Magical Realism

What's the name of the literary genre utilized by Gabriel García Marquez in his 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude?

And the answer: magical realism.

According to Gabriel García Marquez, magical realism sprang from Latin America’s history of vicious dictators, romantic revolutionaries, and long years of hunger, illness and violence. In 1982, the author won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Before magical realism took center stage in Latin American fiction, the 19th century realist movement set the tone for art and literature. As photography began to develop as an art form and means of documentation, so too did the need to depict the world as it came – blemishes and all. The poor were no longer cleaned up for paintings; literature portrayed even the most banal of existences.

But just as realism was a response to romanticism, magical realism was a reaction to realism. In the constantly-evolving political climate of Latin America, authors such as García Marquez found solace in blurring the line between fantasy and reality, using the surrealist tendencies of the genre to depict the actuality of life in a chaotic climate. For García Marquez, the power of the genre could be found in the seamless convergence of the two halves: reality and fantasy, each heightening the other. In a 1981 interview with Paris Review, the author recalled his grandmother's influence on such storytelling:

"She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness. … What was most important was the expression she had on her face. She did not change her expression at all when telling her stories, and everyone was surprised. In previous attempts to write One Hundred Years of Solitude, I tried to tell the story without believing in it. I discovered that what I had to do was believe in them myself and write them with the same expression with which my grandmother told them: with a brick face.”

This "brick face" form of storytelling went on to win the author a Nobel Prize, and an immortal place in Latin American literature. Buy García Marquez's transcendental text One Hundred Years of Solitude here.

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