The Magic of Realism

Gabriel Garcia Marcez_wl (2) (1)It is true that creativity is considered to be the strongest asset of a writer. The power of creation. Their creations become their legacy, one that goes much beyond their own lifetimes. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a world-renowned Columbian writer, is remembered as one of the creators of an entire genre; that of magical realism. The term, almost oxymoronic in nature, is a tricky literary designation, but is employed ingeniously by writers like Marquez to bring to the fore the murky history of their own society and country. One Hundred Years of Solitude, unanimously hailed as Marquez’s masterpiece, is one such work that has become a pioneer in the genre of magical realism and traces the history of Columbia through the use of symbolism and metaphors.

Magical realism, in a nutshell, uses fantastical and supernatural elements in a mundane, historically realistic setting. Gabriel Marquez, through the book, became a prolific figure in what came to be known as the period of “Latin Boom” of the 1960s and 1970s, which characterized a growth and popularity of Latin-American writing in Marquez’s native Latin America. His work during this period gave him a strong foothold and eventually earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. The initiation of magical realism as a literary genre was a prominent feature of this period. It subsequently became a strong tool for writers to write about issues like oppression and social injustice, one of the most recent examples being another Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison’s widely acclaimed novel Beloved that talks about black slavery.

downloadIn One Hundred Years a Slave, Marquez traces the tumultuous history of his hometown Aracataca through the province’s fictional counterpart, Macondo. Broadly, the book talks about the Liberal political reformation of colonial life, the dominance and impact of foreign fruit companies in Aracataca, and its eventual decline into poverty due to capitalism and foreign influence. Macondo, the city of mirrors (claimed to be symbolic of self-reflection and introspection) is made to echo all these political incidences, wherein it begins as a simple, Utopian settlement and in the end is literally destroyed due to a hurricane. Maconda also undergoes frequent changes in government, which echoes the unstable, inefficient government of Latin America itself. Through the story of Maconda and the Buendia family, and recurring supernatural elements like ghosts, Marquez presents a harsh critique of dictatorship and colonialism, which is surprisingly microcosmic to not only his own country but also to the entire human experience of alienation and solitude.

A writer, then, is not defined by quantifiable figures of his/her works, but, like in the case of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, by how well his/her stories stand the test of time.\

Swara Shukla

About For a book lover, writer, interestingness hunter and a curious mind at large. We are blurring the lines between reality and fiction.

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