Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Thin Veil: Magical Realism or Not?

When Gabriel García Márquez wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude, he was largely writing nonfiction, changing the names to protect the real people, and disguising reality with scanty costumes. The book took place in a fictional town called Macondo, which was really Aracataca (in Colombia), where he grew up. If you read about him and his role as a literary figure, you will find that he is known for popularizing a literary style labeled as “magical realism,” which is defined as a literary device that uses magical elements and events in order to explain real experiences. This is a typically “Western” or “Anglo/Euro” or “Norte Americano” perception of what Márquez does in his novels. According to Márquez, the truth is that his novels are not actually fiction at all and this “magical realism” stuff is real, no magic to it.

Here is a for instance. When Márquez was in his early 20s, his family, which was poor at the time, moved to a new town for his father to start a new job. They rented a small house and packed in their 11 children. Márquez was the oldest child in the family. In his autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale, Márquez writes that on their first night in that house, the ghost of a woman walked into the living room and frightened all the younger children, who fled to their parents’ bed. Every night the ghost entered the room and the children refused to sleep there. Márquez’s parents asked around in the village and discovered that everyone knew about the ghost, who was harmless but a bit unsettling (who wants a ghost walking through their house every night, right?), and that was why the house was so cheap to rent. Well, they didn’t want to have their young children in their bed every night, so they packed up and moved to another house. This entire episode made perfect sense to everyone in the town, but if Márquez were to write it into a novel, it would be defined as magical realism by those skeptics and naysayers who are so out of touch with the spiritual world that they don’t believe that such a thing would happen. For Márquez, of course, there was nothing magical about it. It really happened. His autobiography is full of such stories and reads like one of his novels.

What makes me think about this today is that last night Ron and I spent the evening with a couple, friends of ours who are grieving for a family member who recently passed into spirit. The man talked about his experiences communicating with and visioning entities from the spirit world. In the course of the conversation, the woman said something that I found striking. She said that she thinks that the thin veils between planes of consciousness, between spirit world and corporeal world, are becoming even thinner at this time in the course of human history and that more and more people are recognizing the ways in which their experiences are touched by spiritual entities from other planes. More and more people are communicating across the “spiritual divides.”

I hope she is right. Because I have a novel coming out in June that is written from my perspective of the world as I know it and it could easily be labeled as “magical realism.” But that bothers me because I am with Márquez. Not magical realism at all. Reality as I see it. For some readers, the experiences of the characters in my fiction will resonate with their own experiences and they will say “how wonderful that someone has written openly about this.” For others, those who would call it magical realism, my book will ask them to rethink, to expand their perception, to question what they have accepted as reality and to take a leap into the possibilities.


Bond said...

Does anyone but me ever comment on your blog? :) Just curious!

Amy at Woza Books said...

Hey Bond: Not many people read my blog regularly. I know that about 15 people follow my blog (goes to them as a feed every week), don't know how many others tune in from time to time. I am honored that you are reading every week and I appreciate your comments. Although no one else comments (so the answer to your question is no, other people don't comment) on the blog, I often receive emails from people about what I have written and sometimes it comes up in conversation later when I talk to people. I have the moderator setting on so I have to check for comments and allow them to post before they appear.