Published on April 18th, 2014 | by Michaela Buckley0
Magic Realism – Then and Now
One Hundred Years of Solitude – 1967
At the peak of the Latin American Boom in the late 60’s and 70’s, One Hundred Years of Solitude was published by Columbian author, Gabriel García Márquez, and is known today as the seminal novel of Magic Realism, incorporating themes of love, loss and as eponymously suggested, solitude.
The novel follows several generations of the Buendía family who founded a town called Macondo in Columbia, which forms the setpiece to the story as the time passes. There is no particular focus on any of the characters for the duration of the novel, as such, there is no protagonist, however certain key members do subvert the paradigm, which in turn reinforces many key themes throughout.
Set in the late 1800’s stretching through seven generations and a hundred years, there’s an enormous sense of time and its passing in the shift of history, which is outlined with the backdrop of the Thousand Days’ War, a civil conflict between the ruling conservatives and the liberal revolt, sparked by the conservative government rigging elections. The town of Macondo exudes Latin American culture, while also maintaining the unique magic which gave birth to an entire genre of writing. Each time the allusions come across as handed down, conceivably mad and somewhat sardonic, yet it’s more a case of representing the people of Macondo, than the atmosphere.
A smart novel that treads softly between modernist Magic Realism, and folklorish whispers, that allow the novel the freedom to explore the fantastic in a serious tone, and the melancholy with fortitude.
Cloud Atlas – 2004
Amidst all the blandness of the noughties, books other than Harry Potter were published, read and well-received, such as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. It was nominated for several big name awards such as the Booker prize as well as Sci-fi gaff, like Arthur C. Clarke and Nebula awards – a rare occurrence that, for me, necessitated reading, fortunately the release of the film by the Wachowskis rendered this book cheaper for me to obtain and so I finally managed to read it after 10 years.
Featuring 6 inter-woven stories, the novel is a vignette spanning hundreds of years, from the colonisation of Australia to years in the future, after humanity has forsaken itself. Likewise, the writing style is changeable, from sweeping and existential (in the pop philosophy sense) to subjective and momentary.
Although not in a modernist style like Marquez’s work, Cloud Atlas enjoys sci-fi elements as well as philosophical musings that inform the plot rather than the feel of the novel, each character feels like an outsider rather than a part of a whole, and the many genres allow freedoms to express the characters better, such as the conspiracy plot and the young journalist.
Unlike many newer novels that attempt to emulate older style writings, Mitchell is able to pull it off, with correct use of archaic language and ideas, the novel works as well as a piece of historical fiction as it does anything else. There is less obvious Magic Realism at work, with the cloud hanging over it mostly, rather than being steeped in it like One Hundred Years, it would little affect the composition if taken out, but adds as it is.
There is no real comparison to the two, despite being the same genre Cloud Atlas and The One Hundred Years of Solitude are very different pieces, whose only real similarity is the allowance of realistic freedoms in order to engage their readers and form worlds more exciting and realistic than even our own.
Whilst writing this Gabriel García Márquez passed away on 17th April 2014, aged 87, as such I have decided not to edit my piece on the novel, for fear of revisionism, despite my favourable opinions. However, what one can say is that, he not only created the seminal novel of Magic Realism, he also defined a country’s literary perception the world over, with his tales of fantasy that transcends eras and cultures.
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