Magical Realism is one of those subgenres that I stayed away from for most of my reading career. It always felt that there was something about it that made me extremely cautious to even use the term. I could never quite get a grip on Magical Realism as a subgenre. And google never was a help.
Latinx and poc bloggers were a great help. I have learned a lot through them, just by listening to whatever they were willing to share. I’ll be dropping some names at the end for you to check out. But when it comes down to it, it shouldn’t endlessly by their task to explain this to the rest of the whole world.
And that is this: What a lot of you have been calling Magical Realism, isn’t.
So I am once again doing a fantasy subgenre comparison here during Wyrd and Wonder to hopefully help you guys figure it out. There is a lot of debate, I will add that, to a portion of this. But I do think that this is how it works. Nuances are always present.
Magical realism, as the name suggest, is a kind of genre that has fantastical elements in the real world. Yet it is certainly not like contemporary fantasy. Where contemporary fantasy hardline creates creatures seperate from reality, with magical realism there is a much more blurring of the line of what is real and what is fantasy in magical realism. Authors withold information about the magic to make it seem more matter of the fact and a normal part of the world.
While the term magical realism was initially coined in 1925 in Germany it became truly apart of literature and art when it made its move to Latin America. There it became more politically charged when it was often used as a critique on society and how those who were others were treated. Often focused on political movements like marxism or a critique on the elite of the world. Adding onto that is that it is discusses colonialism and its repurcussions.
There is much more to this portion of magical realism that I just cannot fit into this article nor have a good of a enough handle on to share with you. But Latinx bloggers have been talking about this for a while.
Fabulism is in fact very similar to magical realism. It also sets the fantastical in the ordinary as if it were the norm. However here the difference is, is that fabulism is more often non-political, does not address colonialism and the repurcussions, and in general is by authors who are not latinx.
A book by a non-latinx author can’t be magical realism?
The short answer, it can’t be. The long answer is, it is a little more complicated than that. The problem with calling any book magical realism is that the political and social portions of what magical realism is to the Latinx community (colonialism) is often forgotten. A lot of books that are being called magical realism do not have that portion.
Take for example Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Often seen as magical realism. But the commentary or critique on society/politics is not there. Adding onto that is that Neil is a British author and as such was on the other end of colonialism. So it is fabulism.
You must also take into account that most of us as white people have no idea what it is like when people appropiate your things and use it as their own. While you might not see the problem using the term magical realism for everything, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt a portion of our blogging community.
Bloggers to check out
Edit: I cleared up a few things that apparently weren’t clear enough. (May 12th)