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Why Are Magical Realist Novels so Different?

Sep 11, 2008
Magical Realism is a very unique genre that introduces elements of the mythological and fantastical into conventional literary settings. This unusual blending creates a genre that is loved by many readers, writers, and academics, and also hated by many of the same.

One thing about magical realist literature is that the style and voice varies greatly from work to work depending on what part of the world the magical realist novel is from.

One aspect of magical realism is that the "magic" or mythological part of this genre comes from the author's background and culture. This is why a novel of this genre from Latin America will read, sound, and feel completely different from an Australian Magical Realism story.

Because of this, there is a lot of variety within the genre that is broadly labeled "magical realism." The following is a list of some of the most popular and famous books in this style of literature, and should offer a buffet style variety of what the genre has to offer.

1. "Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie (Indian-British)
2. "Illywhacker" by Peter Carey (Australia)
3. "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, (Colombia). This is probably the most famous example of magical realism ever.
4. "Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka (Czech) this book was written before the term "Magical Realism," but Kafka's works fit, especially depending on interpretation
5. "Nights at the Circus" by Angela Carter
6. "Immortality" by Milan Kundera
7. "La Casa de los Espiritus" (The House of Spirits) by Isabel Allende
8. "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
9. "The Sugar Queen" by Sarah Addison Allen
10. "Electric Jesus Corpse" by Carlton Mellick III
11. "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel" by Haruki Murakami

This is a great list that provides more than enough examples of magical realism literature for any reader to decide whether or not this is a genre they're going to enjoy.

Reading a great variety is very important, because you may find that you don't like magical realism from Latin American authors and influences, but you love the genre from the Czech or Australian perspective.

Magical realism in some ways is a controversial genre, but enough of the novels have made the "canon" of classic literature to assure that it's not going away.

Some readers love these books, others hate them, but one thing is for sure: there's no other style of writing that matches the strangeness of what magical realism accomplishes.
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