Magical realism is a term used by literary criticism and art criticism since 1925 to account for productions where elements collected and decreed as “magical,” “supernatural,” and “irrational” arise in an environment defined as “realistic” namely in a historical, geographical, and cultural linguistic context probable, and rooted in a recognizable reality.
This term is mostly associated today to certain works or authors of the few Latin American authors of twentieth century as the Mexicans Juan Rulfo and Carlos Fuentes, Argentines Julio Cortazar and Adolfo Bioy Casares, Bolivian Jaime Saenz, or Colombian Gabriel García Marquez awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. His novel One Hundred years of Solitude published in 1967 is often cited as exemplary. The origin of this term and its scope is much broader, however, because it was used to describe a wide variety of novels, poems, paintings, and films as well as to define different styles, aesthetics, genres, trends, movements, and schools, both in Europe and America, and expanded, in the newer way, to world literature.
The term “magic realism” was defined for the first time in 1925 by the German art critic Franz Roh in his book to describe four of the seven new trends he distinguished in the European pictorial production of the 1920s, in addition to the still dominant styles of impressionism and expressionism. However, the designation of “magical realism” was going to be retained in reference to some German, Flemish or Italian writers, such as Ernst Jünger, Jean Ray, Hubert Lampo, Johan Daisne, and Massimo Bontempelli.
Moving to North Europe writers and scholarship from North or South America (such as Jorge Luis Borges) will allow the importation of the oversea concepts. Thanks to the Spanish translation of a Roh’s book in 1928, the term “realismo mágico” gradually became popular in the first Latin American literary circles and from 1955 among Hispanic literature professors in American universities. Meanwhile, the launch of the competing notion of “real maravilloso” in 1948 by the Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier in the prologue to his novel The Kingdom of this world introduced some confusion still causing critical discourse today and prompted the creation of the term “wonderful realism” in the Caribbean and Brazilian literary circles.
Wonderful or magical realism generally aims to capture reality through painting daily life to reveal the fabulous substance, irrational, sometimes expending reality to the level of myth.
They propose a vision of reality renewed and expanded by taking into account the share of strangeness, irrationality, oddity, or mystery that the existence and the human mind contain. The traditional concept of “realism” is exceeded by the intervention of the fantastic into the work without changing the status of latter.
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