Tag Archives: Magical Realism

100 years of solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

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I have discovered a writer who didn’t write a story with words, but wove a mysterious living thing from strands of his soul. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez is a book that hardly requires additional praise. It was awarded the Nobel Prize, has been translated in every major language, and is considered one of the first major works of magical realism. What can I add that hasn’t already been said? It’s a waste of time to write a review, and so I’ll try instead to write about the experience I had.

To give you a little background, the story is about the founding and collapse of an imaginary town named Macondo, whose existence is intertwined with the bloodline of the man that founded it. Immediately the storytelling quality mixed with real historical events reminded me of the way my grandparents told us stories. It starts off as a realistic account of something that happened a longtime ago which can be verified by relics and people who are very old now. Things were different back then. Incredible things were common occurrences in the past that were simply accepted into daily life. Restless ghosts wandered through the streets, people died and returned from death, and there were those who predicted the future in order to buy bread. In those days people suffered more, but they also loved harder in a way that was more painful. Those time are forever receding away from now.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a living remnant of that time. It is a lucid dream existing in the wakened world. What is the use in trying to make sense of a dream? That is how this book tells the history of the Buendía family and Macondo. It is played out like a wonderful nightmare that is infused with a religious quality and is nostalgic for love and life. Do not expect a traditionally written book. Some will hate it because it does not follow the rules. García is a literary anarchist who is only concerned with driving his story like a healing weapon at our soul. I feel more human having read this novel.

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“Amrita” by Banana Yoshimoto: Tokyo pop culture and Magical realism

Amrita is the latest book I’ve finished. What a trip! It’s sort of difficult to pin this one down. All of Yoshimoto’s books read like the dairy of a Japanese high school girl or college student. What keeps her work from becoming another piece of YA (young adult) kid’s stuff is her fascination with death and the psychological depth of her characters. This is her longest novel, weighting in at 366 pages. Something told me there was a special reason behind the extended length of this book. Her other works are much shorter. It sat in my library for months. I’d pass it by wondering if it was the right time to pick up Amrita. My assumptions were correct. Amrita was a bomb of a book that went off in my brain.

The story is told form the first point perspective of a young Japanese girl, Sakumi, who lives at home with her family. The death of two family members greatly impacts everyone. Sakumi later suffers a serious head injury in which she loses her memories. Piece by piece she stumbles upon her old life. This sounds like the plot line of a stereotypical daytime TV drama but Amrita is anything but shallow. The characters are flesh and bone. Even people who only make brief appearances have a complete life of their own. What is so interesting about this book is the strong supernatural element in the book. Everything will seem entirely normal and then something surrealistic will occur, but it will happen in a way that’s eerily believable. It is a place where telepathy and the ghosts of the deceased are just the tip of the iceberg. Yoshimoto weaves a tapestry of reality, and then stretches it until the threads begin to bust. This is Magical Realism.

Amrita was a very enjoyable book that reads very modern despite being almost 20 years old. Sometimes I feel that her writing is better geared towards women readers because of her feminine style. When you read Amrita, you are in the mind of a young Japanese girl that thinks and talks like one. The quality though, is that of an experienced young writer. I believe Yoshimoto wrote this around the age of thirty. The greatest quality of this book is the voice. It is soft but strong. The story puts Sakumi through a lot of pain. The agitation in her soul is clearly reflected in her literary voice. Her inner strength is remarkable. What keeps the Amrita universe going is love. Whether it’s being shared between family, friends, or lovers, love is a central theme in this book. Yoshimoto’s genuine understanding of love allows her to create and destroy it as she wishes. She uses it to paint a sublime canvas. Magical, is how I describe Amrita.

You don’t have to be familiar with Yoshimoto’s older works to fully enjoy this one. Do not hesitate to experience the life contained in these pages.

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“Hard boiled wonderland and the end of the world” Japanese cyberpunk with a noir twist

Prepare to trip balls.

Murakami Haruki’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is imagination dynamite. The story opens up with a sci-fi, noir attitude told from a Japanese perspective. My immediate impression was, “This is gonna cool,” and it was. Haruki throws a bit of everything into the pot: surrealism, mystery, metaphysics, magical realism, to name a few. The story itself is one of the most strangely unique I have ever read. I think Haruki enjoys messing with our heads. He’s aware of the tired-out clichés and sets you up to believe you know exactly where the book is heading, then busts your bubble and blows your mind. For a book that was written back in 1985, it reads like a bestseller hot off the press. If Franz Kafka was into cyberpunk, occasionally took hard drugs, and reincarnated as a Japanese man, he’d probably write something like this.

The story is such a bizarre odyssey that I wouldn’t dare spoil any of it for you. I can’t even tell you the general plot–it’ll ruin the surprise. I’ve read some reviews of this book, and all I can say is that I’m glad I read the book first and avoided the spoilers. It does have some hardcore cyberpunk elements and Johnny Mnemonic did come to mind–but was much more than that. The book has an amazing sense of duality. When you first come across this, you’ll wonder what the hell is going on. As the story progresses, Murakami weaves a dangerously magical world that breaks the spine of traditional modern writing. It’s a gritty fairy tale that you’ll fall into like a deep well. His use of Gutter Surrealism is masterful. This review is vague, and I apologize. But once you begin Hard boiled Wonderland and the End of the Word, you will see my intentions were sincere. Murakami drives his imagination like a stolen car in this book. I suggest you get in and enjoy the ride.

The end of this book stunned me. It was the type of conclusion that sort of breaks your heart and leaves you with the feeling that a longtime friend and lover had disappeared from the planet. I’ve taken reconciliation in the fact that Murakami’s other works contain the same magical nature I was introduced to in Hard Boiled Wonderland. I loved this book and I hope this review inspires you to read it too. Despite Murakami’s international acclaim, he remains largely unknown to American readers. This I cannot accept. Magic Realism of this caliber should be shared to everyone. Let’s all trip out together.

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Magical Realism and Black Literature Meet in Sula by Toni Morrison

 

Sula reads in such a wonderful manner, but when you stop and look back on what you’ve read, it’s somewhat disturbing. “Sula” is definitely an example of black literature, yet what sets it apart from other works is the thin layer of “magical realism” put over it. Magical realism is writing style which takes an ordinary story, and slips just a little bit of LSD into the punch bowl.

The story itself is about love, family, sex, and friendship existing within the backdrop of a 1920’s racially segregated American countryside. You follow a set of characters growing up. Some are children and they become adults, while others become older folks. Their lives feel real and Morrison does an excellent job of portraying their psyches twisted under the distortion of racism. Though the book takes place in the 20’s, it reads very modern and avoids an old time prose which turns off a lot of readers.

Sula is one of those really great books that doesn’t get talked about enough. A beautiful little book that has a lot of fucked up personal issues. It’ll swallow you in the lives of these people. Morrison doesn’t attempt to make life grander than what it is. She gives it to you as it is, an amazing experience that will one day end for all of us. I will be sure to read the rest of Morrison’s books.

Photo credit http://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/11346.Sula

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