Written by Olivier Roux


Magic Realism and Latin American Literature

            I love everything about the Latin American culture. I love the Spanish language and I adore Latin American food. I know a few Latinos and Latinas and I enjoy spending time with these people. I live to play their sport, “futbol” and to hang out with them. I do not good writing, speaking, listening and reading skills yet, but learning to be fluent in Spanish is part of my future life plan. 

The Latin American culture fascinates me to the highest extent. I do not fully understand these peoples’ inner thoughts and feelings and I think this helps to building a certain adoration for them. I enjoyed reading Columbian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s story very much. I learned to discover Latin American literature with “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.”

Gabriel Gracia Marquez

In this story, Garcia Marquez presents an old man who has wings. He is integrated into the community and turns out to be an angel. Already with a short synopsis of the story we can feel a sense of magical realism, which incorporates magical elements in a realistic setting. Here is a short excerpt from Barbara L. Golden that comments on the integration of magical realism in Latin American Literature.

   “ In the late 1920s, a German art critic, Franz Roh, coined the term "magical realism" for painters trying to show reality in a new way.  A Venezuelan literary critic, Arturo Uslar Pietri, first associated it with Latin American literature.  However, it only attained popular usage when Miguel Angel Asturias used it to describe his own novels when he won the Nobel Prize. Magical realism has been popularized by Latin American authors as a literary form, and it has come to be (sic) global phenomenon in world literature.”



S. Erin Denney writes about magical realism in British fiction in his dissertation that I had the chance to find. Denney mentions that Latin American authors like Alejo Carpentier and Gabriel Garcia Marquez argue that magical realism arose from particular Latin American social and political contexts.

“Magic realism is considered to be inherently Latin American because many of its practitioners, such as Alejo Carpentier and Gabriel García Márquez, argue that it arises out of specifically Latin American social and political contexts. Because of the immediacy of Latin America's richly mythic culture and its history of political instability, writers like Márquez and Julio Cortázar believe that the reality of Latin America is already intrinsically marvelous and that, therefore, magic realism is the true expression of Latin America's world view.”


In addition, the themes introduces in Latin American Literature by magical realism are often related to carnival’s and political oppression. Lindsay Moore, of Emory University in Atlanta discusses this on her web page.


“Latin American magical realists, for instance, explore the bright life-affirming side of the carnivalesque. The reality of revolution, and continual political upheaval in certain parts of the world, also relates to magical realism.  Specifically, South America is characterized by the endless struggle for a political ideal.” (http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/MagicalRealism.html)


The themes mentioned by Moore are especially present in Garcia Marquez’ story. Underlying the text in the story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” lays a strong message of political struggle and an opposition to religion, which represents a supreme authority. Religion is an important factor in the story, however when the population need to understand the mysterious and unknown, they do not rely on religion.