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TalkMagical Realist and Fantastic Literature

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1malinablue First Message
Aug 4, 2007, 8:38pm

I'm looking for others who share my love of magical realism and fantastic literature.

Aug 6, 2007, 11:30am

How do you define magical realism and fantastic literature? How is this different from the fantasy genre? Is it a subset of the fantasy genre? or is it simply books that are published as non-fantasy but contain fantastic elements?

Can you list some titles I might have read, so I've some idea what we are looking at?

Aug 6, 2007, 8:43pm

When I think of magic realism I think of Latin American writers like Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Isabel Allende. Examples: (The One Hundred Years of Solitude), (The House of the Spirits).

Aug 8, 2007, 1:21pm

I think mostly of Latin American writers too, as there are many of them. But there are also a lot of European writers whom I would deem magical realist as well. I think of magical realism as a book that takes place in what we call "reality," a real world like the one we live in. But inserted into that real world are magical or fantastic or supernatural elements that are accepted as part of that world and don't seem terribly strange to the people who live in it. Beloved, by American author Toni Morrison, strikes me as magical realism - it takes place in the US during slavery days, but the ghost of the baby comes back as a live woman and we accept that as real, not imagined. Now there are other authors I think of as simply fantastic - like Angela Carter. But this genre seems so akin to magical realism that I thought they should be together.


Aug 8, 2007, 1:23pm

p.s. If you click on my profile and then the tag labeled "magical realism and fantastic," you'll see many novels I consider in this class. I haven't had a chance to tag all my fiction yet, so this isn't all of them, but it will give you an idea how I define the group.


Aug 8, 2007, 1:25pm

This may sound elitist and many may not agree, but the primary thing for me that separates fantasy from the fantastic is the literary skill. There are many wonderful fantasy novelists out there, but so many fantasy novels are not terribly well-written and original.


Aug 8, 2007, 1:40pm

I don't know, I disagree that the literary skill is super relevant. I think message 4 gives the most important distinction, that the book takes place in something that is recognizably our world, but there is some element of that world we would consider magical. More non-Latin-American examples would be Haruki Murakami and Mikhail Bulgakov. The Master and Margarita takes place in something that is recognizably Soviet Russia, and there is plenty of gritty realistic detail, but there is also a large talking cat and, you know, the devil.

Aug 8, 2007, 2:00pm

I wonder if Clive Barker would fit in this category. Many of his novels, especially the later works, take place in our world with supernatural/fantastic touches. Galilee and Coldheart Canyon immediately come to mind. In fact, most of his work uses our reality as a base to which he adds fantastic and horrific elements. Sometimes they are extravagant in magic, others, as in Coldheart Canyon, use ghosts and the like to bring about an old story, but there's always evil involved in some way.

Aug 8, 2007, 2:14pm

Yes, both of those are magical realist favorites of mine. As far as the literary skill goes, I was thinking more of what I would call the "fantastic" as opposed to fantasy. Many fantastic novels, unlike magical realism, are pure fantasy. I think of Jeanette Winterson and Angela Carter, for instance, but also a lot of older supernatural writers. Many fantasy novels are sword and sorcery, mythical worlds types. But the fantastic is different. Jeanette Winterson's worlds are not like ours - but they're not the fantasy writer's world of mythical castles and kingdoms and heroes either. They're altogether stranger. And Angela Carter rewrites fairytales into something else entirely. They're satiric, darker, incredibly strange. She's not what I would deem magical realist, but fantastic. You could also label her fantasy, but she's so much better than the average fantasy writer. There are some incredibly good fantasy writers - I think of Catherynne Valente first of all. But then I might call her fantastic too. Her fantasy realm is so much stranger than that of the average fantasy writer. Her "The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden" is worth checking out. It's a story within a story within a story and somehow in the end all the stories link up into a whole. Amazingly plotted.

Aug 8, 2007, 2:16pm

p.s. I was talking about the Master and Margherita and the works of Haruki Murakami (esp The Wind Up Bird Chronicle) when I mentioned those were favorites of mine. I haven't read the Clive Barker ones mentioned yet.

Sep 4, 2007, 9:19pm

Malinablue, I see that you have Winter's Tale in your library. That's a wonderful example of non-LA magic realism!

12mtnbiker1 First Message
Oct 30, 2007, 10:33am

Although Clive Barker is one of my favorite authors, his later works do tend to skew more towards fantasy than towards horror. I would have to say that Coldheart Canyon was a ghost story with fantastic elements, not a horror novel. I think it could only be defined as a horror novel if you say it is written by Clive Barker. I guess in my mind, I think of "fantasy" as a genre as being sword and sorcery type novels, although when you read them books can be fantasy without being horror, like the books I mentioned above.

Nov 14, 2007, 5:36pm

I always wondered how Fantastic Literature differed from Magical Realism, aren't they the same thing?

Nov 14, 2007, 11:45pm

I think novels in the magic realism style start out seemingly as realistic and then some magical elements begin to intrude. Fantasy starts being fantastic from the beginning, if not the title.

Another term (I just read this in wikipedia) is slipstream for works by people like Paul Auster and Haruki Murakami which are closer to the mainstream.

Nov 15, 2007, 2:23am

Don't confuse fantastic with fantasy. The definition of fantastic literature is almost the same as the one you gave for magical realism. It's considered to be realism with a twist that makes it potentially supernatural. That's what I find interesting, is that lately what was considered fantastic literature is now magic realism. I'm tagging them as both in case some still use the old category. For example, for the longest time, Borges' work was considered fantastic. Looking at their definitions, I believe the fantastic is in fact more subtle than magical realism perhaps. Hey, to make things a little more confusing there's also fabulist literature. Kafka would be considered fabulist.

Jan 4, 2008, 11:57am

I agree. Fantastic and fantasy are entirely different. I faced the same dilemma with trying to differentiate between magical realism and fantastic. I found it so impossible, in fact, that I tagged books in that group "magical realism and fantastic." They seem so close as to be interchangeable, at least for some authors.

Jan 23, 2008, 10:40am

Good grief, did I kill this group by posting? Does that qualify for magical unreality? I sure hope I didn't mess this up.