Magic realism: the Emergence and Development


Magic realism is a world-renowned direction of modern literature. Everyone heard about it and probably read the works related to magical realism. However, as it turns out, we often attribute opposite and incompatible things to the original concept of magical realism. That’s why let’s insight this literature direction and unveil its main features together with Lucy Adams, a blogger from

The Origin of the Genre

The term “magical realism” was first used in 1925 by German art critic Franz Roh regarding works of young avant-garde artists. Then it popped up in the lexicon of European critics of the ’30s, and then suddenly disappeared.

The official birth date of magical realism as a literary concept was 1948 when the Venezuelan critic A. Uslar-Pietri used it to refer to the original works of several Latin American authors. Accordingly, magic realism originally denoted the direction in the Latin American literature of the XX century. It is believed that the ancestors of the movement were Alejo Carpentier with his “The Kingdom of This World” and Miguel Angel Asturias with his “Men of Maize” (both works date from 1949).

These works were followed by the emergence of a large number of Latin American authors, including Julio Cortazar, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, etc. They are considered classic representatives of the genre.

The essence of Latin American Magical Realism

What was the identity of magical realism, offered to the reader by Latin American writers of the mid-twentieth century? Why are works of Latin American authors were identified a separate genre?

Of course, the reason for that were certain distinctive features that have made these works quite different from any other prose of the time. As you can guess, the first characters were Indians and Black people – that is, direct carriers of a bright Latin American identity, radically different from the European worldview. Accordingly, the ideas of conveying their unique views of the world became the main feature of the direction. The essence of these views lied in the plane of irrational consciousness of the carriers, in which various magical and fantastic manifestations were something quite ordinary.

Roughly speaking, a meeting with spirits would be something out of the ordinary for a person of Western culture and would be considered by him as something extraordinary and fantastic, causing incredible surprise. But for an Indian or any other carrier of pre-rational consciousness, this meeting would be quite a common event that doesn’t cause any surprise, because they perceive mysterious as the part of the world.

Characters are, first of all, carriers of collective mythological consciousness. Often, the author manages to put a common image for the whole genus or even a whole nation. And this sort of thing does not surprise the other characters because such things are quite normal for their mythological worldview.

Thus, magical realism treats magical and fantastic manifestations as real and everyday things. According to Latin authors, the combination of the real and the fantastic is the most appropriate method of artistic display of South American culture. Magic realism here is firmly in folk beliefs, and it differs from our usual fiction mainly by the commonness of things that seem fantastic to the reader.



European Magic Realism

Of course, the boom of magical realism in the ’60s –‘70s could not go unnoticed. Many authors were considered as participants of the genre just because they harmoniously added some fantasy elements to their books (for example, Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita.”). But I believe such inclusion is very and very conditional, in part because Latin American writers put in their works a somewhat different meaning, trying to show other phenomena than Bulgakov and other authors working at the intersection of fantasy and realism.

In my opinion, today’s authors like China Mieville, Haruki Murakami, and others often related to magic realism, can’t be called such in the canonical sense of the term. Why call magical realism everything that exists outside the genre of fictional prose?

I don’t think this approach is correct. I believe it negates all the original flavor of Latin American magical realism because one of the key themes in it was the inconsistency of the worldview of the indigenous population of South America with a worldview of Western society.

The modern authors, of course, go far away from this topic. So considering numerous works on the verge of fantasy and reality as magical realism is possible only with certain reservations. But this, of course, is only my opinion.

Feel free to share in comments what you think regarding about this; it will be very interesting to know. I hope you were able to understand what magical realism is, and under what circumstances and why it was created.

Lucy Adams is a blogger and freelance writer. This erudite easily hopes with different topics, from business to psychology. Lucy is always in touch and ready to help. Feel free to share your ideas with the diligent author and get high-quality blogs from her side.


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