Historical Context

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As a literary movement, Magic Realism was part of a larger cultural development in the mid-twentieth century among a group of Latin-American writers in the Caribbean, South America, and Mexico who contributed to the creation of an innovative approach to writing called “the new novel.” Some generic aspects of the “new novel,” as defined by Philip Swanson in his introduction to the anthology Landmarks in Modern Latin American Fiction, are interior monologues, multiple viewpoints, fragmented or circular narrative structures, and an overall distorted sense of reality. Thus, to understand the social, political, and cultural climate that engendered magical realist fiction, one must first view it as being a reaction to the narrative Realism that attempted to mimic reality. At the same time, “the new novel” arose as a response to the increasing understanding that Latin-American society was changing, particularly as it became increasingly urban and modernized by new technological innovations. Thus, many writers responded to these changing conditions by experimenting with new forms and genres that presented reality as ambiguous, complex, and disorganized rather than orderly and meaningful. This style of writing reached its height in the Boom period of Latin-American literature, a period from the early 1960s to the mid- 1970s, in which a number of extremely important works, most notably Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Cortazar’s Hopscotch, became internationally recognized.

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As one literary development among many occurring at the time, Magic Realism focused on the fantastical elements of everyday life as found in imagined communities situated primarily in Latin America. Its specific influences are found in the surrealist movement in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s of which Asturias, Borges, and Carpentier, three early magic realist writers, were exposed to while studying in Europe. In fact, the first magic realist movement was centered in Europe, especially Germany and France where the major exponents of Surrealism were Franz Roh and Andre Breton, respectively. During the 1920s, these critics and their cohorts declared the “marvelous” not only an aesthetic category but a whole way of life. These critics influenced and learned from artists like Max Ernst, whose painting Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale brings together a random association of images to jar the viewer’s conventional sense of what the contexts for the images should be. Ultimately, the work of Ernst, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, and others, as well as the writings of Breton and other surrealist thinkers, sought to utterly confuse the distinctions between art, thought, ideas, and matter.

This interest in an ultimate union of all things was not shared by the first major proponents of Magic Realism in Latin America. This second movement, whose best known figures were Borges and Carpentier, both of whom lived as young men in Europe, borrowed from the surrealists’ style and shared in their fascination with the fact that a banal everyday object could become magical simply by having extra attention called to it. But these writers practiced their versions of Magic Realism almost exclusively in narrative fiction rather than visual arts, and each had his philosophical difference with the European movement. Borges, a staunch philosophical idealist, rejected the attempt to unify all categories. Instead, he wrote stories and essays that consistently embraced the notion of an orderly universal realm of thought that was confused by a flawed (and utterly separate) world of matter. Carpentier also rejected the surrealists’ attempt to impose the magical on everything. But in his rejection of surrealist unity, he went in the opposite direction from Borges. In his 1949 essay, On the Marvelous Real in America, which was a prologue to his novel The Kingdom of this World, Carpentier argues that the very material history of the Americas is essentially magical (or “marvelous,” in his own terminology). Specifically for Carpentier, this magical element comes from the rich religious mixture, heavily invested in magic, which manifests in Afro-Carribean culture. This essay by Carpentier is considered a landmark because it is the first attempt to describe Magical Realism as uniquely Latin American. Thus, whereas Surrealism focused on dreams and the unconscious in creating new kinds of images and experimental writing styles through the juxtaposition of unrelated objects, both Asturias and Carpentier returned to their homelands in Latin America and infused their writing with mythic, historical, and geographical elements found in their local environments.

The historical and political currents that are often an indelible aspect of magic realist writing reflected a variety of social and political ills that individual countries were undergoing or had undergone at some prior time. More specifically, Latin America’s history of conquest, slavery, imperial domination, and subsequent attempts to self-govern become the backdrop as well as the primary “raw” materials for many magic realist writers. For example, Carpentier in The Kingdom of This World focuses on the slave uprisings in Haiti, which occurred in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Other writers, like Fuentes in Where the Air is Clear, probe the issue of national identity in contemporary urban societies like Mexico City or Havana. In Allende’s and García Márquez’s work, historical events of the recent past tend to appear as pivotal scenes. For example, American multinational companies’ entrance into Latin America economies in the late nineteenth century resulted in exploitation, alienation, and sometimes death of workers. The consequences of American economic imperialism is referred to in the massacre scene at the banana plantation in One Hundred Years of Solitude in which hundreds of demonstrating workers are killed and thrown into the sea. This scene is based on the 1928 banana strike by United Fruit Company workers in Colombia, many of whom were gunned down by the army. Similarly, both The House of the Spirits and One Hundred Years of Solitude reveal the rise of military dictatorships that created an endless succession of civil wars and political coups in countries like Colombia and Chile.

On the other hand, a much-lauded event in Latin-American countries, where divisions between the rich and the poor were and still are extreme, was the socialist revolution in Cuba in 1960. The overthrow of a long-standing despot ushered in an optimistic era among socially minded Latin- American artists and intellectuals who were fueled by the socialists’ hopes for an egalitarian, classless, and safe society. Thus, despite the many horrific atrocities that many magic realist works depict, the movement’s adherents have often been seen as delivering a hopeful message in their work, revealing at its roots a joyful engagement with life that is bound together with the utopian vision that destruction and violence will be overcome.

Literary Style

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Genre
An innovative technique of magic realist writers is to experiment with incorporating different kind of genres into the novel and short story form. Genres are different kinds of literary forms that share certain characteristics. Thus, plays, short stories, novels, biographies, and poems can all be seen as having specific characteristics that set them apart from each other. In magic realist fiction, genres such as the epic, autobiography, historical documents, essay, and oral storytelling are used as a way of blurring the lines between fact and fiction. One of the earliest magic realist writers, Borges, is known for his use of the short story form that uses elements of the essay and autobiography to question the ability of language to represent observed reality. His stories also make use of the parable, a genre found most frequently in the Bible, in which brief narratives stress a philosophic statement about existence through the telling of a story. Other magic realists, such as Asturias, rely on older storytelling traditions from pre-Columbian times and thus incorporate tall tales, nonlinear narrative sequences, and repetitive phrases that are also onomatopoeic: they attempt to imitate sounds they denote. A genre used by Carpentier in The Kingdom of this World is the travel narrative, specifically those written during the centuries of exploration in the New World that described in detail the flora and fauna found in Latin America.

Hyperbole
Hyperbole, or overstatement, is a figure of speech, or trope, that makes events or situations highly unlikely or improbable due to its gross exaggeration. Hyperbole is often associated with the folk tale to make an event that may be commonplace appear larger than life. It is often used for dramatic affect, such as to invoke comedy or irony, yet it may also have serious underpinnings. Magic realist texts tend to use hyperbole for both comic and serious effect. In engaging the reader with bizarre and catastrophic historical events that have occurred in Latin America, magic realist authors use hyperbole to dramatize the emotional and traumatic effects these events had on the people affected. At other times, hyperbole may be used to make what is commonplace seem extraordinary and magical. This is a technique that García Márquez uses quite effectively to convey the mystery that ordinary objects, such as ice, for example, can have for those who have never been exposed to them: “When it was opened by the giant, the chest gave off a glacial exhalation. Inside there was only an enormous, transparent block with infinite internal needles in which the light of the sunset was broken up into colored stars.” Thus, hyperbole has the effect of making the ordinary appear extraordinary through excessive and outlandish description.

Imagery
Imagery is an essential stylistic device used in magic realist works since the attempt to create aspects of reality that are unfathomable must appear likely through the development of convincing images. Thus, the use of concrete language in detailing supernatural events and conjuring a sensual world that is both mysterious and based in material reality is key. Allende, García Márquez, and Carpentier use extensive description in their works, detailing the worlds they create with sensory images that communicate the mysteries of the natural world. In The Kingdom of this World, a description of the sea is like peering into a kaleidoscope: “It was garlanded with what seemed to be clusters of yellow grapes drifting eastward, needlefish like green glass, jellyfish that looked like blue bladders.” The wonder and amazement at the varied diversity of life forms found in the New World is part of Carpentier’s construction of “the marvelous real.” Images of the natural world also pervade Men of Maize, in which, as the title indicates, maize is an essential life-force for the people who grow it. Thus, as the maize’s sacred powers are destroyed by outsiders, the traditional ways of the Indians are eroded.

Point of View
A main feature of magic realist writing is its attempt to incorporate numerous points of view into their narrative, many of which are drawn from popular or folk tales and are thus based more on popular understanding of events rather than originating from a specific character. Point of view traditionally investigates the formal dimensions of how a story is told and who is telling it. Magic realist texts often subvert these traditional notions of who is telling a story by presenting different versions of a particular event through a collective perspective, thus raising the question of which version is true. For example, in One Hundred Years of Solitude, the disappearance of Remedios the Beauty is described as having two versions. The more descriptive one that is promoted by Remedios’s family is that she ascended into heaven, holding her bed sheets tightly in her hand, whereas the more mundane story has Remedios running off with a suitor. However, because the village people of Macondo believe the family’s story, it is that version that becomes privileged despite its outlandish cast. Thus, point of view in this context suggests that reality is ascribed not by any sense of rationality but by what people tend to believe.

Movement Variations

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Once writers like Asturias and García Márquez began using magic realist narratives to critique the role of imperialism (especially U.S. imperialism), it should not be surprising that the style became well known and popular in other regions of the world where writers, readers, and thinkers found themselves in similar political and social predicaments. Thus, Magic Realism has emerged in fictions in various parts of the postcolonial world such as South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East while also influencing many writers in the United States and England. In turn, it has reemerged in Latin America with a particular focus on women’s writing.

In the years between the end of World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the political predicament of imperialism and the social catastrophes of dictatorship and underdevelopment were very common throughout developing regions such as South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. For example, in Salman Rushdie’s second and most celebrated novel, Midnight’s Children, the Indian-born author creates a narrator who is born at the very moment that the British leave the subcontinent and when India and Pakistan are partitioned on midnight, August 14, 1947. This point of departure allows the narrative to relate a series of accounts of the climactic events in India’s colonial and postcolonial history from the perspective of a very ordinary Indian family. The resulting effect suggests that free movement of South Asian history does not obey the narrow empirical rules of European historiography and that history is rewritten from the perspective of one born into the legacy left by the British colonial enterprise. In other well-known works such as V. S. Naipaul’s The Bend in the River and Ben Okri’s The Famished Road, narratives are infused with narrative surprises and events that jar the reader’s sense of reality.

Meanwhile, in Latin America female novelists revised the traditional genre with a feminist slant in Allende’s The House of the Spirits and Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, two novels that focus on the experiences of women and their roles within the family and state. Feminist Magic Realism was combined with a connection between Third World oppression and oppression of African Americans in the works of Toni Morrison and Ntozake Shange and also among Native-American and Latino writers such as Sherman Alexie, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Rudolfo Anaya. In her book Show and Tell: Identity as Performance in U.S. Latina/o Fiction, literary critic Karen Christian notes that magic realist approaches to Latino fiction are found in the 1971 novel Bless Me, Ultima by Anaya: “Anaya’s novelistic portrayal of rural Chicana/o life and folkore, set in northern New Mexico, offered readers access to mythical, magical, and spiritual aspects of Chicana/o culture.” However, Christian is quick to note that although influences of Magic Realism are found in contemporary U.S. Latino fiction, it does not necessarily mean that there is a Latino “mystical essence” that derives from Latinos connection to their ethnic roots. Instead, she claims that these magic realist tendencies are used to perform a certain kind of Latino identity that in fact may parody magic realist techniques rather than imitate them.

In another recent incarnation, the magic realist movement has begun to influence Western writers in what is seen as an ironic circling back to Surrealism in the work of Czech writer Milan Kundera in such works as The Joke and the Italian writer Italo Calvino in a Borges-like blurring of genres book called Cosmicomics.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources
Alegría, Fernando, “Latin America: Fantasy and Reality,” in Americas Review, Vol. 14, No. 3, 1986, pp. 115–18.

Allende, Isabel, The House of the Spirits, translated by Magda Bogin, Bantam, 1985.

Anderson, Jon, “The Power of Gabriel García Márquez,” in New Yorker Magazine, September 27, 1999.

Asturias, Miguel Ángel, Men of Maize: The Modernist Epic of the Guatemalan Indians, translated by Gerald Martin, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993.

Brushwood, John, The Spanish American Novel: A Twentieth Century Survey, University of Texas Press, 1975, pp. 157–304.

Carpentier, Alejo, The Kingdom of This World, translated by Harriet de Onis, Noonday Press, 1989.

—, “On the Marvelous Real in America,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke University Press, 1995, pp. 75–88.

Christian, Karen, Show and Tell: Identity as Performance in U.S. Latina/o Fiction, University of New Mexico Press, 1997, pp. 121–28.

Danow, David K., The Spirit of Carnival: Magical Realism and the Grotesque, University Press of Kentucky, 1995, pp. 65–101.

Durix, Jean-Pierre, Mimesis, Genres, and Post-Colonial Discourse: Deconstructing Magic Realism, Macmillan Press, 1998, pp. 102–48.

Esquivel, Laura, Like Water for Chocolate, Doubleday, 1991.

Flores, Angel, “Magical Realism in Spanish American Fiction,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke University Press, 1995, pp. 109–17.

Galeano, Eduardo, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, translated by Cedric Belfage, Monthly Review Press, 1998.

García Márquez, Gabriel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, translated by Gregory Rabassa, HarperCollins Publishers, 1998.

González Echevarría, Roberto, Alejo Carpentier: The Pilgrim at Home, Cornell University Press, 1977, pp. 107–29.

Graham-Yooll, Andrew, After the Despots: Latin American Views and Interviews, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1991.

Harss, Luis, and Barbara Dohmann, Into the Mainstream: Conversations with Latin-American Writers, Harper & Row, 1967.

Higgins, James, “Gabriel García Márquez,” in Landmarks in Modern Latin American Fiction, edited by Philip Swanson, Routledge, 1990.

James, Regina, “One Hundred Years of Solitude”: Modes of Reading, Twayne Publishers, 1991.

Leal, Luis, “Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature,” in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke University Press, 1995, pp. 119–24.

Lindstrom, Naomi, Twentieth-Century Spanish American Fiction, University of Texas Press, 1994.

Mendoza, Plinio Apuleyo, and Gabriel García Márquez, The Fragrance of Guava, Verso, 1983.

Nadeau, Maurice, The History of Surrealism, translated by Richard Howard, Belknap Press, 1989.

Saldívar, José David, The Dialectics of Our Americas: Genealogy, Cultural Critique, and Literary History, Duke University Press, 1991, pp. 90–96.

Sommer, Doris, and George Yudice, “Latin American Literature from the ‘Boom’ On,” in Theory of the Novel: A Historical Approach, edited by Michael McKeon, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000, pp. 859–81.

Williams, Raymond L., Gabriel García Márquez, Twayne Publishers, 1984.

Zamora, Lois, and Wendy Faris, Introduction, in Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, Duke University Press, 1995, pp. 1–11.

Further Reading
Asturias, Miguel Angel, Men of Maize: The Modernist Epic of the Guatemalan Indians, translated by Gerald Martin, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993. This critical edition of an early magic realist masterpiece includes a series of critical essays by wellknown critics and writers of Latin-American literature that cover a variety of topics related to Asturias’s work.

Bruner, Charlotte H., Unwinding Threads: Writing by Women in Africa, Heinemann, 1994. This is a collection of short stories by African women from all parts of the continent. Divided by region, the book provides a comprehensive view of the variety and diversity of African women’s approaches to imaginative writing. Many well-known and new writers are represented.

Graham-Yooll, Andrew, After the Despots: Latin American Views and Interviews, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1991. Collected in this book are interviews, observations, and political analyses about Latin America by an Argentine journalist. Written in a style á la the New Yorker, Graham-Yooll has his finger on the pulse of the current literary and political currents of his time. A number of pieces focus on Latin America’s leading writers: Allende, García Márquez, Borges, and Fuentes.

James, Regina, “One Hundred Years of Solitude”: Modes of Reading, Twayne Publishers, 1991. This informative book engages in a number of readings of García Márquez’s masterpiece. It provides biographical and historical context as well as a good discussion of the novel’s form and content.

Owomoyela, Oyekan, ed., A History of Twentieth-Century African Literatures, University of Nebraska Press, 1993. A range of bibliographic articles covering African literary production in all European languages represented on the continent. In particular, chapters on women’s literary production and on East African English-Language fiction are particularly relevant to Ogot’s work.

Parekh, Pushpa, ed., Postcolonial African Writers, Greenwood Publishing, 1998. This is a reference book that covers individual authors of postcolonial Africa, including biographical information, a discussion of themes and major works, critical responses to the works, and bibliographies.

Williams, Raymond L., Gabriel García Márquez, Twayne Publishers, 1984. Williams’s book is a literary and biographical account of García Márquez, discussing not only his career as a journalist and writer but providing an in-depth account of his literary output over a period of thirty years.

Zamora, Lois, and Wendy Faris, eds., Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, Duke University Press, 1995. This recent collection of essays provides an historical overview of the various scholarly approaches to interpreting Magic Realism. Of particular importance are the essays by Carpentier that describe the importance of Magic Realism to the geographic and political climate of Latin America.

Compare and Contrast

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1950s–1960s: Many Latin-American writers rely on aspects of indigenous cultures, especially their customs and beliefs that flourished before the Conquistadors arrived in America, as material for their writing.

Today: Many indigenous cultures of Latin America are celebrated all over the southern hemisphere through the reenactment of traditional songs, dancing, and music by national and international groups and organizations.

1950s–1960s: The Magic Realism writers mix elements of fantasy and fact, history and mythology as a way of capturing the social and cultural complexity of Latin America and exposing social injustices and political instability.

Today: A new generation of Latin-American writers such as Elena Poniatowska and Carlos Montemayor rely on documentary realism to expose the contradictions and corruption that make up the contemporary urban realities found in Latin-American countries.

1950s–1960s: Very few Spanish-American writers are translated or taught in English classes in high schools and college classrooms in English-speaking countries such as the United States and England.

Today: Teaching literatures from India, Nigeria, Latin America, Egypt, and East Asia has become a staple of the English classroom as more and more novels by non-Western or non- English speaking writers are translated and become part of the literary canon.

1950s–1960s: Many Latin-American countries are controlled by military dictatorships that often resort to violence, suppression of rights, and censorship to maintain their power.

Today: Most Latin-American countries have moved toward democratic forms of government, although corruption and human rights violations continue to exist, especially in countries such as Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador where drug trafficking creates regional and national conflicts.

Representative Works

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Aura
Aura, a novella by Fuentes, was published in its original Spanish in 1962 and later translated into English in 1968. Narrated by a young scholar who has been hired by an elderly woman to write the memoirs of her husband, a deceased general, the novella reveals how the past and present are often interlocked and how time is fluid, rather than progressive, through the figure of Aura, who is a projected ghostlike image of the general’s widow at her most beautiful. In this novella, Fuentes’s use of the second person “you” is meant to pull the reader into the web-like reality that the scholar is caught up in. He cannot escape the past nor extricate himself from others as his identity slowly transforms into that of the dead general. Because of its accessibility and brevity, Aura has been anthologized widely as a classic example of Magic Realism’s ability to transform what people think of as reality into something mysterious and grounded in the supernatural.

Fictions Originally published in Spanish in 1944 as Ficciones, Borges’s collection of short stories could more aptly be described as essays and parables rather than fiction. Embroidered with images of mirrors, circular towers, mazes, gardens, swords, and ruins, these concise, broadly imaginative sketches are meant to be viewed as allegories of different states of consciousness. Rather than creating fully developed characters and traditional narratives, Borges creates characters who appear to have no relation to contemporary reality but who are, for different reasons, on a quest for some kind of knowledge. Unlike García Márquez, who views the specific historical and political reality of South America as having certain magical or “unreal” aspects to it, Borges uses different settings, historical characters, and fantastical plots as a way of exploring ideas about politics, philosophy, world events, art, and above all the limitless power of magic to envision a better world. Fictions offers readers a series of inventive worlds that are intellectually challenging but are not situated in current Latin-American politics and history. Both in its maze-like narratives that often pose questions that are never answered and in its excessive use of details, Fictions presents reality as a linguistic puzzle that needs to be obsessively figured out.

The House of the Spirits Allende’s 1982 novel, La casa de los espíritus, published in English in 1985, immediately became an international best seller among the literary crowd who had followed the older “Boom” writers like Marquez, Fuentes, and Borges. The narrative follows four generations of an upper-class family in Chile, revealing the political and social upheaval of that country as witnessed by various members of the family. The novel is a reconstruction of history that has been undertaken by Alba, who is a recent descendent of the family and its current social commentator. Its fierce political critique of the Pinochet dictatorship as well as its use of fantastical description and supernatural acts places it well within the parameters of magic realist fiction. As many critics have noted, in tone and content this novel is similar to García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, yet its focus on women as agitators and writers of history demands that it be viewed as a work that is not completely derivative of García Márquez’s. Feminist critics have applauded the novel’s ability to portray women not as passive victims of political and social injustice but as active resisters to political and sexual oppression through their desire to write about these experiences.

The Kingdom of this World The Cuban writer Carpentier, one of the earliest writers of Magic Realism, is best known for his novel, El reino de este mundo, published in 1949, and later translated into English in 1957. This seminal work, set in both Cuba and Haiti, follows the story of Ti Noël, a slave who recounts the numerous insurrections by slaves who were aided by magic and the natural world against their oppressors from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. Its emphasis on Afro-Caribbean life, with its roots in African spiritualism, music, magical and healing practices, reveals the vitality of a culture that refused to be completely assimilated into Western cultural practices. Critics claim that this novel paved the way for a new generation of Spanish American writers who used the novel as a form of social protest that related particularly to the political, social, and physical conditions found in Latin America. The novel can be seen as a fictive extension of Carpentier’s essay on “the marvelous real,” an essay that argues that the rich cross-fertilizing of different cultures in South America engendered the literature that has come to be called Magic Realism.

Love in the Time of Cholera Originally published in 1985 as El amor en los tiempos del cólera, this novel is another lavishly drawn epic written by García Márquez. However, unlike many of his previous novels and short stories that focus on the political and social upheavals in Latin America, Love in the Time of Cholera relates the intricacies of Florentino Ariza’s love for Fermina Daza, a love that is requited after nearly sixty years. The novel is a tribute to the longlasting abilities of love to succeed in a corrupt and unpredictably violent world. The bizarre and unlikely political and social events that become commonplace in One Hundred Years of Solitude take a backseat in this novel to a lyrical and deeply affecting portrait of the everyday lives of a group of people who are intimately connected to each other. Because this novel lacks some of the political punch and narrative improbability that much of his previous work had, it has not received as much critical attention, yet for many Love in the Time of Cholera reveals the same intelligent and forceful wit at work that emphasizes the magic inherent in the everyday.

Men of Maize
In 1949, Asturias published his novel Hombres de Maize, which was later translated into English as Men of Maize. Although the book may be viewed as too early to be part of the Magic Realism movement, the novel’s focus on politics, the effects of colonialism, and the fantastical qualities of reality certainly shares characteristics with many later novels. Influenced by both European Surrealism and the indigenous myths of pre-Columbian Latin America, Asturias’s novel reveals the plight of indigenous Guatemalans as their world becomes increasingly subjected to exploitation by the encroachment of whites. The novel’s magical qualities invoke indigenous myths of the power of transformation through humans’ ability to assume animal shapes. Critics have pointed out that its narrative nonlinearity, shifting points of view, and magical aspects were informed by the sacred Mayan book The Popol-Vuh.

One Hundred Years of Solitude
A book that put the term Magic Realism into circulation, García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad was first published in 1967 and later translated into English as One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1970. The book, amazing in its ability to cover the intricate lives of several generations of the Buendia family, has sold more than thirty million copies worldwide and has been translated into over thirty languages. Through his penetrating analysis of Colonel Aureliano Buendia and his subsequent descendents, García Márquez provides the reader with a micro-history of Latin America that pushes the limits of what readers think of as reality. His ability to mix historical and political events with fantastical and often outlandish events in the village of Macondo on the Colombian coast has given this book the title of a masterpiece. Although the novel ponders serious questions about the nature of reality and the effects of colonialism, progress, and imperialism on so-called Third World countries, it is also comical and ironic in tone.

Media Adaptations

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On its release by Miramax in 1993, the Spanish- language film Like Water for Chocolate, based on the novel by Laura Esquivel, was an instant international success. Revised as a screenplay for film by Esquivel and directed by her husband, Mexican director Alfonso Arau, the film effectively translates the fantastical qualities of Magic Realism to cinema.

As a series of cassettes produced by National Public Radio in 1984, Faces, Mirrors, Masks provides a good introduction to twentiethcentury Latin-American fiction writers. Authors represented include Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel Ángel Asturias, and Alejo Carpentier. Each tape provides an in-depth discussion of an individual author that includes interviews, music, and excerpts from stories and novels.

Gabriel García Márquez: Magic and Reality is a an hour-long biopic on the life and times of the Colombian author and Nobel Prize winner. The film (written, produced, and directed by Ana Christina Navarro) is distributed by Films for the Humanities and Sciences and was released in 1995. It covers Márquez’s life, the sources of his books, his development of Magical Realism, and a history of Colombia. Interviews with him, his friends, and critics are an integral part of the presentation.

The Modern Word, an Internet resource for contemporary authors, has an informative web site on Gabriel García Márquez at http://www .themodernword.com/gabo/index.html with many links to other related sites and sources.

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