- In the first volume of his 2002 memoir, "Living to Tell the Tale" or "Vivir para Contarla", Colombian author and Nobel Prize in Literature winner Gabriel García Márquez wrote: "Life is not what one lived, but rather what one remembers, and how it is remembered to tell the tale."
And while Marquez was specifically referring to the nature of autobiography, it is hard not to hear his words and specifically relate to them the sub-genre of fiction that he helped spearhead, magical realism.
(upbeat bright music) Broadly speaking, magical realism is a literary fiction style that paints a realistic view of the contemporary world, while also adding magical elements, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality.
While the label itself is kind of nebulous, professor of English, Wendy Faris, mapped out several tenets that she believes are the building blocks to the genre.
And as luck would have it, everybody's favorite fictional author, Jimmy Squibbles, is working on his magical realist sequel to his first novel, "Hype House Bloodbath".
TENET NUMBER ONE: An "irreducible" magic which cannot be explained by typical notions of natural law.
In this case, Jimmy Squibbles wakes up one day to realize he has been turned into a horse.
TENET NUMBER TWO: A realist description that stresses normal, common, every-day phenomena, which is then revised or "refelt" by the marvelous.
Extreme or amplified states of mind or setting are often used to accomplish this.
This distinguishes the genre from myth or fantasy.
In this case, Jimmy's Hype House roommates, Chad and Kyle, do not seem to mind that Jimmy is now a horse, continuing to film their 15-million follower vlogs without his human presence, and no one in the comments seems to notice his absence either.
Jimmy lives his life as best as he can in horse form, but finds challenges in trying to go lifting at the gym and meeting girls at the club.
TENET NUMBER THREE: The novel causes the reader to be drawn between the two views of reality.
The reader is meant to question if Jimmy is better off as a horse, freed from the constraints of celebrity, or if he should find the solution to turn himself back into a YouTube superstar.
TENET NUMBER FOUR: These two visions or realms nearly merge or intersect.
Jimmy the horse begins to see the value in equine freedom after romping the fields with his fellow horses.
His YouTube audience finally discovers his secret.
TENET NUMBER FIVE: Time is both history and the timeless; space is often challenged; identity is broken down at times.
Jimmy decides he IS the horse.
He opens a Hype House stable for his new equine friends.
Historically, the term was coined as a comment upon the emergence of a certain kind of realism in the visual arts.
It was first used in 1925 by art critic Franz Roh to define art that contrasted with realism, that included elements identifiable as "real", but were mixed with aspects of the uncanny or fantastic to the point where one questions the "real".
From Gustave Courbet's realist masterpiece, A Burial At Ornans, wherein everything from subject matter, form and presentation are near photographic in how close to reality they are, to something like Rene Magritte's The Son of Man, which juxtaposes objects pulled from real life in a manner that heightens them to fantasy and mystery.
And, once again, we are working in loose terms here.
As a literary movement, however, magical realism's roots are fairly global.
Loosely, it began in Europe, in the 1910s-1920s, with works like Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis", in which its workhorse salesman, Gregor Samsa, is turned into a giant bug within the novella's very first sentence, and has to confront the reality of his otherwise ordinary life as a massive bug; and more than 100 years later, it is still relatable as a surreal commentary on the grind of existence.
But the major turning point was Roh's writings on art being translated into Spanish with the assistance of major Spanish philosopher and essayist, José Ortega y Gasset.
And from there, as Latin American writers were traveling between their home countries and European cultural hubs, authors began cheerleading the genre and publishing works that formed the basis of the genre across the continent, like Jorge Luis Borges' 1935 "A Universal History of Infamy" and Alejo Carpentier's "The Kingdom of This World".
In the 1960s, however, magical realism finally came to the forefront of world literature with Latin America's Boom Period of writing, where authors like Gabriel García Márquez first came to international prominence with perhaps the most famous magical realist novel, his 1967 opus "One Hundred Years of Solitude".
Written by Márquez in 1967 translated into 46 languages with over 57 million copies sold, "One Hundred Years of Solitude" tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family, whose patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, founded the fictional Colombian town of Macondo after having seen it in a dream.
The narrative follows roughly seven generations of the family in Macondo, from their origins in an isolated, primitive village, to civil war, to striking, to state-sponsored massacres, to ultimately ending up a ghost town wiped from existence.
Suffice to say, it's A LOT.
While this is far from Márquez's only dalliance into magical realism, like "Love in the Time of Cholera", it's his most notable.
But its intensity and bold embracing of both the supernatural and the historical struck audiences immediately.
Said author Toni Morrison upon reading "One Hundred Years" for the first time, "There was something so familiar about the novel, so recognizable to me.
It was a certain kind of freedom, a structural freedom, a different notion of a beginning, middle, and end.
Culturally, I felt intimate with him because he was happy to mix the living and the dead.
His characters were on intimate terms with the supernatural world, and that's the way stories were told in my house."
Author Pablo Neruda referred to it as "The greatest revelation in the Spanish language since Don Quixote of Cervantes".
So what makes it magical realism?
Besides, you know, it being about a town discovered through dreams and people flying up into the sky?
It's not just the emphasis on dreams, but on the mixing of real aspects of Colombian culture and history, with Márquez alluding to or directly folding in events like the Thousand Days' War and the Banana Massacre.
Then there are the "impossible" things happening.
the last surviving Buendía's son, a product of unknowing incest, being born with a tail or, more infamously, Remedios Buendía, the beauty of the family, rising up into heaven one day while folding laundry.
Said Yale Professor Emeritus of Hispanic and Comparative Literature Roberto González Echevarría, "In 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' myth and history overlap.
The myth acts as a vehicle to transmit history to the reader.
García Márquez's novel can furthermore be referred to as anthropology, where truth is found in language and myth.
What is real and what is fiction are indistinguishable."
The Buendías' lives and magical exploits are so entwined with the history of Colombia and the very land itself, that the fantastical and real blend together into one liminal space, where the false heightens the drama and pain of real life into the magical, and real life becomes a place to ground the mysteries of things inexplicable.
Said Author Salman Rushdie in his 2014 New York Times obituary for Márquez, "We live in an age of invented, alternate worlds.
Tolkien's Middle-earth, Rowling's Hogwarts, the dystopic universe of 'The Hunger Games', the places where vampires and zombies prowl: These places are having their day.
Yet in spite of the vogue for fantasy fiction, in the finest of literature's fictional microcosms there is more truth than fantasy.
In the Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez, imagination is used to enrich reality, not to escape from it."
To this day, the genre continues to be the source of some of contemporary literature's most popular authors, like Isabel Allende, Toni Morrison, and Salman Rushdie.
While magical realism is a movement that spans continents, it is most often associated with Latin America.
Some writers have argued the uniqueness of Latin American history has played a critical role in defining the genre, with Alejo Carpentier arguing in his essay "On the Marvelous Real in America": "Because of the virginity of the land, our upbringing, our ontology, the Faustian presence of the Indian and the Black man, the revelation constituted by its recent discovery, its fecund racial mixing, America is far from using up its wealth of mythologies.
After all, what is the entire history of America if not a chronicle of the marvellous real?"
Magical realism as a genre has been used to reflect the hard, ugly truth of real life, but it is also been used to find the extraordinary in the small moments, and these enduring qualities have made their home in a new generation of writers, from examples like Silvia Moreno-Garcia's "Signal to Noise" and Ta-Nehisi Coates' "The Water Dancer", to Zoraida Córdova's "The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina".
This is to say nothing of magical realism's impacts on other forms of media, in particular, filmmaking.
From "Amélie" to "Pan's Labyrinth", to Disney's newest animated feature "Encanto", which openly is a love-letter to Márquez and Latin American authors of the genre itself, magical realism is not going anywhere and that is why it is important to not just honor the genre, but the people it comes from and the reality of which they are speaking.
So to end with another Rushdie quote, "When people use the term magic realism, usually they only mean 'magic' and they don't hear 'realism', whereas the way in which magic realism actually works is for the magic to be rooted in the real.
It's both things.
It's not just a fairytale moment, it's the surrealism that arises out of the real."