Subgenre of the Week: Magical Realism

03 Aug

Sub-genre of the Week: Magical Realism

Last week I talked about the New Weird.  This week, I’ll be addressing another fringe genre, Magical Realism.  I enjoy this genre because of its focus on character and the oddities in our everyday lives.


Magical Realism is a sub-genre of either general or speculative fiction, depending on how you choose to see it.  It incorporates light fantastical elements which are both unexplainable and unexplained in the context of the story.  One of its major features is authorial reticence, the practice of with-holding information about those unexplainable events.


The term “Magical Realism” first appeared in reference to literature in 1955, it was applied to a strain of German art by critic Franz Roh in 1925.  However, literary magical realism originated in Latin America and reached its peak in late 40s and early 50s.  However, books have continued to come out, especially in non-Latin American countries at a steady rate.

Common Tropes and Conventions

Magical Realism tends to lack tropes and conventions, as such.  However, light fantastic elements, strong internal conflicts, and a presentation of the fantastic as no more surprising than the everyday are common among most stories in the genre.  A sense of the unexplainable and the possibility of meta-fictional elements are also commonly present.

Genre Crossover

Magical Realism has some cross-over with many genres.  Slipstream, New Weird, and the literary end of Urban Fantasy all share many features, such as the subtle presentation of the fantastic elements, an emphasis on layers of the story beyond just the plot, and an attention to description.


Most Magical Realism is in novel or short story form, excepting movie adaptions.

Future Forecast

Magical Realism has been doing well, and authors from countries all over the world have been throwing their hat in the ring, and in many languages, as well.  As more books are written in more countries and languages, both the visibility and perceptions of the genre will no doubt bring even greater popularity.


1.  One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

2.  The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

3.  Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

4.  Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

5.  The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

6.  Green Angel by Alice Hoffman

7.  Chocolat by Joanne Harris

8.  Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

9.  The Enchantress of Florence by Salmon Rushdie

10.  Skellig by David Almond

Goodreads list of Magical Realism

Next week: High Fantasy


Posted by on August 3, 2013 in genre, Genre of the Week


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3 responses to “Subgenre of the Week: Magical Realism

  1. Sarah Weaver

    December 4, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Can magic be cross-combined with science fiction? I’ve always appreciated stories that are set in dystopic futures, yet include fantastic elements. I’m thinking particularly the anime Wolves Rain — if I’m remembering correctly.

    Often I don’t think about it, it’s just — you know what whatever talking wolves.:P

    • atsiko

      December 4, 2013 at 10:03 AM

      You can certainly do that, although I imagine it’d fall under science fantasy, post-apocalyptic fantasy as opposed to Magical Realism.


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