What is Magical Realism in Literature?

Updated: June 09, 2023
Magical realism is a genre where magical elements are used in a realistic setting. It often uses elements from folk tales and legends to explore social and political issues.
Detailed answer:

Magical realism is a literary genre that mixes reality with magical or dream-like events. It can be found in many forms of literature, including poetry, drama, and prose fiction. Magical realism is characterized by the use of magical elements (e.g., enchanted objects) in an otherwise realistic setting and/or the inclusion of supernatural forces into an otherwise naturalistic setting.

Magical realism originated as a movement in European literature early in the 20th century but has since become more widespread globally as well as more diverse in its themes and approaches. Its roots are found in various literary traditions: Surrealism (1925–1950), Dada (1916–1923), Symbolism (1870–1910), Parnassianism (1820–1860), German Romanticism (1798–1832), Gothic fiction (1764–1803), English Romanticism (1798–1832) and Romantic Orientalism (1798–1832).

The term “magical realism” was coined by the Mexican writer Alejo Carpentier to describe Latin American literature. Magical realism is used to describe works of art that are so realistic they seem magical. It’s not a genre per se, but rather a technique or style used in writing or painting.

In magical realist fiction, there are no clear distinctions between what is real and what isn’t: The characters might perform miracles or see visions; ghosts may appear as if they were real people; animals might talk or fly; and objects might emit strange sounds when touched. As with other genres of fiction such as science fiction or romance, there are many different types of magical realism — some authors use more fantasy than others while others rely more heavily on historical detail.

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What is Magical Realism in Literature?. (2023, Jan 21). Retrieved from