Magic realism

style of literary fiction and art

Magic realism, or magical realism, is a genre where magical events invade a realistic environment. It is

"what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe".[1]

The surprise effect of magical realism probably stems from the Western reader's separation from mythology. Mythology is a root of magical realism more easily understood by non-Western cultures.[2][3]

A characteristic of magic realism is the way a novel might start with a mundane, even boring situation. Examples of writers of magic realism are Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Miguel Ángel Asturias and Ernst Jünger. So, in Mikhail Bulgakov's short story Diaboliad, we find the central character sitting at an office in a typical Soviet organisation:

"Comrade Korotkov was working solidly in the permanent post of Chief Clerk...".[4]

Gradually things start to go wrong... And before long, the events seem quite unbelievable. Yet, underneath, some accurate truths about Russia in the 1920s are strongly hinted.

The genre has been applied to other art forms, but it is mostly used about fictional literature.


  1. Strecher, Matthew C. 1999. Magical realism and the search for identity in the fiction of Murakami Haruki. Journal of Japanese Studies. 25, p267.
  2. Faris, Wendy B. and Lois Parkinson Zamora. Introduction to magical realism: theory, history, community, pp. 3-4.
  3. Angel Flores, qtd. in Simpkins, Scott (1988), "Magical strategies: the supplement of realism", Twentieth Century Literature, 34 (2): 140–154, doi:10.2307/441074, JSTOR 441074, p. 142
  4. Bulgakov, Mikhail [1925] 2010. Diaboliad and other stories. transl. Hugh Aplin, Oneworld Classics. ISBN 978-1-84749-153-4