Gabriel Garcia Marquez died last week. Despite having won a Nobel Prize for Literature, his name usually fails to resonate with American readers due to a woeful disregard in our English classrooms for Latin and South American writers. He was, however, one of the most influential novelists of the past fifty years. Marquez is often noted for his role in advancing the narrative technique known as magic realism. Although he did not coin the term, and other South American writers, such as Juan Louis Borges, had already been dabbling with the device, it was Marquez’s stories that popularized magic realism.
Magic realism has been described as a storytelling device that blurs the distinction between fantasy and reality. According to Naomi Lindstrom in her text “Twentieth-Century Spanish American Literature,” “Magic realism fuses (1) lyrical and, at times, fantastic writing with (2) an examination of the character of human existence and (3) an implicit criticism of society . . . they accept events contrary to the usual operating laws of the universe as natural, even unremarkable.” For movie buffs, consider such films as “Donnie Darko,” “Synecdoche, New York,” “Big Fish,” “Like Water for Chocolate,” and “The Green Mile;” they each fit the definition. Marquez described his relationship with magic realism in this way: “My most important problem was destroying the lines of demarcation that separates what seems real from what seems fantastic.”
In GOODNESS FALLS, I leave my comfort zone of realistic fiction and narrowly employ magic realism through the character of Angel Mortis, a death metal guitarist/substitute English teacher whose arrival in the village suspiciously aligns with a series of tragic events that he may or may not be responsible for. The technique fits my story’s attempt to draw attention to the blurry line that separates sanity from insanity, reality from illusion, good from evil, and ultimately, life from death.
In “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” Chaucer chides the Catholic Church for chasing all of the fairies and elves and much of folkloric fantasy from the world. Six centuries later, Marquez fought back, and the world of fiction, at least, is much richer and more real because of it.