December 18, 2010

Magical Realism as a more ‘Literary’ Genre - One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez [review time]

Nobel Literature Prize winner  1982
What is it that gives One Hundred Years of Solitude its critical acclaim, where many high mimetic fantasies go unrecognized? This book kept me delightfully shocked and appalled with its depravity and bleakness, but what makes it more ‘literary’ and likely to be studied in a high school English class then the charming tale of a wizard going off to defeat his arch-enemy? Is fantasy silly and childish? Because the Buendia family is reminiscent of a never-ending chain of eight-year-olds playing in a sandbox and fighting like savages over whatever their hearts desire. Harry Potter is more mature than Jose Arcadio. This is the story of the lost boys never growing up, but in this story their bodies mature and they have adult desires that they gratify however they can, whether it be with their aunt or a donkey.

Is realism just more literary than magic? What about the striking contrast between the verisimilitude of Maconda and the sudden appearance of ghosts or mile-long trails of blood or women suddenly floating up to heaven? These things seem much less realistic in contrast with their real-world setting. Yet we don’t consider these things silly. Wand-waving in a completely separate and magical universe is more likely to be thought silly. The fact that magical realism is so well received among literary circles is counter-intuitive to me. One Hundred Years of Solitude is deliberate, artistic and crafty, but it is also ridiculous, over-the-top and at times childish. It really speaks to the human condition that this kind of debauchery is what we value over an imaginative epic of good versus evil.

By the way, One Hundred Years of Solitude was a great read. It deserves every bit of positive critical acclaim it has received. It's incredibly engrossing and just taps into the darkness in humanity that we love to watch from afar.

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